During World War II, the U.S. government interned more than 1,200 captured Italian soldiers at the Letterkenny Army Ordnance Depot near Chambersburg, Pa. These troops collaborated with the United States in a collective effort to defeat the Axis powers. They formed the 321st Italian Quartermaster Battalion, and their work consisted mainly of stocking and shipping materials — ammunition, military vehicles, weapons, and machinery parts — to war fronts in the European and Pacific theaters of operation.
For entertainment, the soldiers formed an orchestra, a band, and several soccer teams. As a sign of their faith, they built a chapel and bell tower that are still used today.
Countless Italian Americans provided them emotional and material support, and many forged deep friendships with Pennsylvanians from all over the Commonwealth. Indeed, after the war, a few even married their sweethearts and returned to live in the United States.
Explore this fascinating story during this special program in the History Center’s Detre Library & Archives. Oral histories from surviving POWs, memoirs and photographs generously donated by family members of ex-prisoners, and rich information newly available from archival material in Italy, aided by documents found in the U.S., make this historical experience come alive more than 70 years later.