Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Camp Atterbury Prisoner of War Camp
May 1943 to June 27th, 1946

1929 Geneva Convention

Old POW Camp Just a Memory

1537th Service Unit Operates Prisoner of War Camp

Prisoners Buried at Camp Atterbury

--Burial Site moved to Springfield, Illinois

Camp Crier Article - Prisoners of War - 06/25/1943

Prisoner of War Camp (Atterbury File Article)

Coupon "Money" Used by the POW's

Photos

Ex POW Remembers the Camp

Shrine Built in Prisoner of War Camp The Chapel in the Meadow

German Appreciation Document to Commanding Officer

 

More Italian POWS Arrive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1929 Geneva Treaty Governs Conduct of War Prisoners

Major General Allen W. Guillion, the Provost Marshall General, explained the treatment of prisoners of war on the "Army Hour" broadcast this week. He explained that the treaty drawn up at Geneva in 1929 governs such treatment. The United States, Germany and Italy ratified the treaty, but Japan did not.

Gen. Guillion further stated representatives of Switzerland have made frequent visits to the prison camps where Germany and Italy hold our men as prisoners of war. Over 125 reports from these representatives assure us that both Germany and Italy are complying with the treaty and are treating our men well.

"The history of war shows that retaliation upon prisoners should never be employed without positive proof that our enemy had been mis-treating our prisoners. Otherwise rumor races with rumor in each of the belligerent countries, the spin of cruelty ascends and prisoners suffer without any compensation gain."

"What I have said applies not only to corporal punishment but also to matters as food, lodging and pay. At first blush, it would seem very reasonable not to permit the prisoners of war in our hands to have the full army ration while hard working civilians in the immediate vicinity, under the political system have less. But the treaty requires that prisoners be given the same rations that our soldiers enjoy. Should we begin to deviate from that treaty requirement, not only the Japanese, but also the Germans would immediately retaliate and our boys in enemy hands would be given ersse food and very little of that.

"I know that the American people understanding these facts, will appreciate the reasons why prisoners in our hands are being treated kindly, though firmly, and that kindness in no way indicates weakness or sentimentality."

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos

Pictured interviewing Italian prisoners of war interned here are Col. Welton M. Modisette, post commander, left, and Lt. Col. J. L. Gammell, commanding officer of the internment camp. Faces of the prisoners are blotted out in accordance with War Department regulations (U. S. Signal Corps Photo)
Camp Crier - 06.25.1943

Italian POWs march along the road of the internment camp at Camp Atterbury, June 1943. (Associated Press) Camp Crier - 06.25.1943. The prisoners are walking towards the West, and are just about to pass through the inner patrol road.

Bishop John O'Hara, vicar ordinariate for Army and Navy chaplains, recently celebrated outdoor mass for Italian Prisoners of war interned here. He visitd the camp over the weekend and expressed complete satisfaction with the prisoner of war setup in Atterbury. (U.S.Signal Corps photo) Camp Crier - 06.25.1943

Pictured above is the staff of Lt. Col. J.L.Gammell, commanding officer of the 1537th Service Unit which guards and administrates the Internment Camp. Seted, left to right: Capt. R.S.Thomas, supply and engineer officer; Lt. Col. H.E.Johnson, troop commander and executive officer; Lt. Col. J.L.Gammell, commanding officer; Maj. J.T.Nelson, inspector and post liaison officer, and Capt. R.E.Hill, surgeon. Standing, left to right; Lt. H.N.Berry, Finance; Lt. W.R.Moffett, Adjutant; Lt. A.A.McCormick, internal security, intellignece, public relations; Lt. J.Liffshin, special services, athletics, mess; Capt. B.A.Sweigart, operations and training; Lt. F.E.Osman, postal, canteen; and Lt. W.J.Kelly, personnel adjutant (U.S.Signal Corps photo)
Camp Crier - 06.25.1943

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prisoners of War
The Camp Crier - Friday, June 25, 1943

Reporter Writes of 'Happy' Italian War Prisoners Here
Press Reveals PW Daily Life
Post Internment Camp to House 3,000 Prisoners
By Boyd Gill, Franklin Evening Star.

A few hours after Washington announced that 36,688 enemy prisoners of war are now being held in this country, newspapermen and photographers were invited to Atterbury for a tour of the internment camp.

Built to accommodate 3,000 war prisoners, the internment camp is situated in the west section of the military reservation, well apart from the cantonment in which American soldiers live and train.

Lt. Col. John L. Gammell, commander of the internment camp and the 1537th Service Unit which serves as the escort guard, said there are no commissioned officers among the prisoners here.

The camp is organized as a regiment of three battalions of five companies. Each battalion is composed of one escort guard company and four PW (Prisoner of War) companies. The escort guard company, of course, is an American Army unit. The PW companies are made up of the prisoners themselves.

HAVE "OWN LEADERS"

The PW's have one regimental leader, three battalion leaders and twelve company leaders. The leaders are the intermediaries between the army and the prisoners. Leaders are appointed by the camp commander, according to relative rank. All leaders are non-commissioned officers, and are know as sergent maggiore, sergents, corporale maggiore and corporale.

On arrival at Camp Atterbury, all sick and wounded are rushed to the Post Hospital. All the other prisoners or war are marched to the internment camp, where they are searched, examined physically, given a shower bath, fed a good meal and then allowed to rest. The next day they are processed. Each individual is interviewed relative to his name, age, date of capture, grade in the army, civilian occupation, name and address of nearest relative, army occupation and serial number. He is then issued individual equipment and assigned to a company for work duty,

Before the newsmen were admitted to the internment camp, Col. Welton M. Modisette, Atterbury Post Commander emphasized the fact that prisoners of war here are treated not as criminal prisoners, but just as thought they were captured American soldiers.

HOPE FOR RETURN TREATMENT

They are subject to the same requirements relative to custom and courtesies as the soldiers of the United States Army, and to the same disciplinary action when necessary. "They are in a position that a lot of our soldiers might be." said Col. Modisette. "We hope that by adhering to the Geneva rules we can expect in return for our soldiers held prisoners by enemy nations to be treated likewise."

Immediately after a prisoner of war arrives in camp, he is given a basic course, which for the most part includes courtesies and English. This course includes training in recognizing the National Anthem, "T the Colors", bugle calls, and insignia of rank; understanding and executing commands. Most of the commands are simple ones, such as "halt," "attention," "at ease," "forward march," etc., but one command the prisoners are taught is "same thing". This command is used when it is desired that a prisoner obey a verbal order, which the person issuing cannot express in the language of the prisoner, but can illustrate by his own actions.

Prisoners of war receive the same ratios as are issued to the soldiers of the United States Army with the exception that, due to their own personal desires, extra flour is issued in lieu of a portion of the meat. The Italians are strong on starchy foods, such as spaghetti and bread. They don't care much for vegetables and will get along fine without much meat.

PW WELFARE

Two canteens are operated for the benefit of the prisoners. The purchases for the canteen and expenditure of profits are determined by a canteen council composed of the canteen officer - an American - the three battalion commanders - Americans - and the camp and three battalion leaders - PWs. The clerks in the canteens are prisoners. All profits made in the canteens are used for the welfare of the prisoners. Each prisoner, whether or not he works, is granted an allowance of ten cents per day, starting at the time of his capture. Prisoners who are detailed on labor not for the personal benefit of the PW's are paid eighty cents a day in addition to their monthly allowance of $3.

But neither the allowance nor the pay for labor is transacted in actual cash. The prisoners are paid in coupons, redeemable only at the PW canteens. They receive coupons once a month, but not for the full amount due them. They may receive one-half their monthly pay, but not more than $10, plus the $3 monthly allowance. A possible maximum total of $13 is available in coupons for them to spend during a month. The remainder of their pay is put in trust with the government until they are repatriated as required by the Geneva convention.


"Coupon" issued by the 1537th Service Unit at Camp Atterbury

LIFE INCLUDES PLAY

PW's are required to work when so detailed. They are now working on projects on the Atterbury reservation and also on nearby local farms. The working day is limited to a maximum of ten hours, including travel time to and from work. The number of working days is limited to six days a week.

Work on civilian projects is limited to agricultural pursuits, and only when all other sources of labor are exhausted. The farmer who applies for and received prisoners of war to help him on the farm makes a contract with the government and pays the government directly.

Life is not all work and no play for the prisoners. A large recreation field provides facilities for three soccer fields, six volley bal courts, one boxing ring, three boccie fields, and a gymnasium area in which are erected horizontal bars, parallel bars and other equipment. Boccie is one of the Italians' favorite games. It is a cross between bowling and pitching pennies to a line. A cue ball is placed on the ground and the players roll other balls to see who can come closest to the cue ball.

Plans are being made to organize a 100-piece band, providing instruments cane be solicited for such a project. A glee club is now being formed among the prisoners, most of whom are good singers. There is a PW club in each battalion, equipped with furniture which has been donated.

"HUMAN INTEREST" NOTES

The "human interest" angles of the internment camp for Italian prisoners of war at Camp Atterbury are many and varied.

The Italian prisoners prefer fruits and flour dishes to meats and vegetables.

At a conference between the leaders and the camp commander, the prisoners' only complaint was that the guards should not carry arms.

Lawn mowers were a novelty to the prisoners. They actually expressed a personal desire to be employed on lawn mowing work.

The prisoners were fond of sining and often sing while marching to and from work. Strange to relate, one of their favorite marching songs is "Beer Barrel Polka," sung in Italian.

The prisoners are talented in artistic work, such as sculpturing and masonry. Many of them have indertaken projects of this type on the reservation around their quarters. Several prisoners, for example, are fashioning an American flag with a 15-foot banner in small pieces of stone on the side of a little hill in the internment camp area.

"INDIA" PERPLEXES ITALIANS

On their arrival at Atterbury, many of the prisoners could not understand how they got to India. They believed that Indiana was a part of India. Some expressed wonder at how New York City could have been rebuilt so quickly. They had the impression that New York had been destroyed by bombs. When asked what they desired to be put in stock in their canteens, they were unanimous in requesting suspenders, hair oil, hair tonic, facial creams and hand lotions.

The prisoners have one characteristic common to the American soldier. They all expressed a desire to have juke boxes placed in their canteens and radios and victrolas in their club rooms.

 

Camp Crier - October 20, 1944
1537th Service Unit Operates Prisoner of War Camp

An efficient Army organization and capable business management are combined in the 1537th Service Unit, in charge of operating the German Prisoner of War Camp here. The organization and camp are under the supervision of the post commander, Col. Welton M. Modisette. Col. John L. Gammell is the commanding officer of the unit.

In addition to the base camp here, four branch camps are now operating in Indiana, giving the unit a large area to cover in their work of guarding, utilizing and maintaining prisoners of war.

The organization is largely self contained and to a certain extent, self supporting, since the revenue realized from prisoners of war labor in outside civilian activities and turned over to the federal treasury may amount to $135,000 monthly, the figure anticipated for October.

STANDARDS SET: Administration of the camps, in addition to being governed by Army Regulations, must also meet the exacting rules set forth by the Geneva Convention. These principals agreed to by the major powers, set the standards of treatment and care of all prisoners of war. In addition to the administrative problems posed by these international rules, the camp is subject to many inspections. It has been visited by representatives of the International Red Cross, the YMCA, protecting neutral powers, the Swiss legation, State Department, the Provost Marshall General's office, the House Military Affairs Committee and two personal representatives of the President of the United States.

COL. GAMMELL COMMANDS: Col. Gammell, commanding officer, is a veteran field artillery officer of the Regular Army and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action in World War I, during which he took part in four major American campaigns and one while attached to the French Army. He came to Camp Atterbury in December 1942, from Ohio State University where he was on the ROTC staff as a professor of military science. He is a graduate of Brown University, the School of Fire at Ft. Sill, and the Command and General Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth. He also attended Oxford University in England, and was a newspaperman and football official for many years.

FOUR BRANCH CAMPS: The Service Unit is made up of headquarters and guard sections. There aare now detachments stationed at branch camps in Vincennes, Austin, Windfall and Morristown, Ind. The enlisted strength of all sections has been increased recently by transfer of men from other stations. Members of headquarters section staff the various offices and sections of the unit and also form the administrative personnel of the prisoner of war units. The latter group is in charge of the prisoner of war companies and battalions in the stockade. These prisoner of war groups have their own non-commissioned officers, functioning under the supervision of American officers.

GUARD SECTION: The guard section which is responsible for guarding prisoners of war, both on and off the post, is under the command of Capt. R. L. Tate.

The establishment of four addition camps, together with their work program at a maximum during the summer and fall, has necessitated the officers and men working on overtime schedule. Leaves and furloughs are necessarily reduced to a minimum. However, when possible, enlisted men guard prisoners of war on transfer to other camps near the formers home are granted delays enroute to compensate for the lack of usual furloughs.

Much of the organization's work is concerned with utilizing to the maximum prisoner of war labor. Prisoners of war are not permitted to work on projects directly connected wit combat war effort. Those working are paid 80 cents a day for each full day's work. This is in addition to the 10 cents a day allowed all prisoners of war, whether they work or not. Payment is made in the form of coupons which are honored only in the prisoner of war canteens.

While many are engaged in maintenance work on the post, may more are used to relieve the labor shortage in near-by plants, and in harvesting and processing farm crops.

320 DETAILS USED: As many as 320 different details of prisoners of war, numbering from one to a hundred men, have been used in one day, and the distance to the various jobs varies from one to 50 miles. All arrangements for details, which are made on a daily basis, must be made between noon and 1630 of the preceding day.

Among the factors to be considered in planning a single detail are the number of men to be used, the classification of the prisoners of war, the number of guards needed, mess arrangements and the transportation required. Three eight hour shifts are used with most of the details leaving for work at 0700. Other shifts move out at 1300 and 1700.

Contracts for labor on civilian projects are made by the 1537th contract section after the project had been certified by the War Manpower Commission, which determines whether there is a need for labor which cannot be met through civilian channels. The agreement with the contractor covers the wage scale, hours and other conditions of employment.

TRANSPORTATION PROVIDED: Transportation is provided by the contractor and allowance made for this expense in the contract, according to the distance between the camp and place of work. The average daily wage of prisoners of war is $4.00, the labor being classified as "unskilled" on the majority of projects. Payment is made monthly on all projects, except those of short duration, directly to the unit, then turned over to the federal treasury.

In addition to preparing and maintaining all prisoner of war forms and records of the work performed each day by each prisoner of war belongs to the prisoner of war personnel and finance section. A form is opened for each prisoner of war upon arrival, and thereafter daily entries are made accounting for the hours worked, wages, project and the kind of work performed. Over 22,000 entries a day are made on this form alone for the camp here and the branch camps. This form originated with the 1537th SU and has now become standard in most prisoner of war camps throughout the country, as have other forms and methods used here.

An assembly line technique is used by the 1537th in receiving and processing prisoners of war upon arrival. Before each train bringing in a shipment of prisoners of war arrives at the camp loop, it is boarded by a staff officer who lines up the prisoners of war in their coaches, luggage in hand. When the train stops, the prisoners of war file out on the double between rows of guards and are counted. Immediately they are marched to the stockade, where they are stripped and given a medical examination. They then bathe and are issued a complete set of clothing and fed. Recently a very large shipment was received and completely processed in two hours from the time the train arrived until the last prisoner of war was fed.

Three dispensaries staffed by post medical and dental officers are kept busy. Since may prisoners of war are received direct from overseas, the percentage of men needing medical attention and care is high. In a recent shipment, many were found to have malaria; others suffered from sand colic, There are some cases requiring care in the PW wards at Wakeman General Hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old POW Camp Just a Memory
by Kevin P. Kilbane

 

 

40 Years Later, Ex-POW Remembers Atterbury
January 11, 1987

It had been 40 years since Peter von Seildein of Stuttgart, Germany, had been in central Indiana but last month he returned to an area where he lived for almost two years,... as a prisoner of war. Now a professor of architecture at Stuttgart University, von Seidlein was in Columbus last month as part of a university tour group studying the city's architecture. Forth years earlier, he was at Camp Atterbury as a prisoner of war. While in Columbus he met Graziella Bush, director of the Visitor's Center. On arriving back in Germany, he wrote her detailing the experiences of a German soldier serving as a prisoner of war at Atterbury. Some of those memories are reprinted here.

From: Peter C. von Seidlein, Professor of Architecture, University of Stuttgart, Germany

To Graziella Bush, Visitors Center, Columbus

Thank you so much for sending me "The Atterbury File." When it arrived last week I was rather busy, but at 6p.m. I started to read the book and by 10 p.p. I had finished it.

Naturally it was the chapter on the POW camp which interested me most. But there were also some other parts I found most interesting, especially the one on life in the area before it became a military camp in 1942. When I was working with a detail cutting trees in the winter of 1944-45, we once spent much time in a deserted 19th century farmhouse. I always wondered what became of the farmers.

When I arrived at camp Atterbury in the middle of September 1944 (I was wounded and taken prisoner on August 20th in Normandy) life in the POW camp was heaven. We received a new U.S. Army outfit, got as much to eat as we could eat and slept in a bed with a mattress.

There were no German officers and no non-commissioned officers in Camp Atterbury, except for a short period of time when a few hundred officers passed through, which was probably late in 1945. The first few months I was working in one of the 12 kitchens within the POW camp, but I found this rather tiresome and volunteered for work outside the camp.

There is hardly a menial job I didn't do during the next year; picking tomatoes and apples, working in a slaughterhouse, driving a tractor, pressing shits and trousers, washing dishes and so on. Some of this work was done as far south a the Kentucky border and some as far north as Indianapolis.

During the winter I was orderly in an officers' club in Camp Atterbury, cleaning up the club and serving on the bar. My last POW job was interpreting for an "ash and trash" detail, which had to clean up barracks after they were left by discharged soldiers - one of the most sought after jobs as the GIs left all and everything they couldn't carry with them in the barracks.

I left Camp Atterbury after almost 22 months with the last transport late in June 1946, got on board a Liberty freighter in New York, arrived in Le Havre early in July 1946 and stayed at another POW camp, at Bolbec, afraid of being handed over to the French to work in a coal mine for another two years. Eventually we were put on a train to be discharged in Nuremberg on the 20th of July 1946.

Altogether there were 400,000 German POWs in the USA from 1942 to 1946. The military used the troop ships going back to the US for this purpose. I think that this was an excellant idea. The German POWs who were in America became friends of the United States, saw what democracy is like and told what they had seen to their friends and families when they came back.

 

 

 

 

Atterbury Prisoner of War Camp
The Atterbury File - Cindy Morris - Grade 8

The prisoner of war compound at Camp Atterbury covered 45 acres in the extreme western edge of Camp Atterbury, about one mile from the regular troop quarters. The compound, built to house 3,000 prisoners at one time, was enclosed with guard towers on all four corners in the alley between the fences. The prisoner compound, which functioned from May, 1943 to June, 1946, was equipped very similarly to the American soldier facilities.

The first public announcement about the internment camp and the prisoners of war at Camp Atterbury was made by Colonel Welton M. Modisette, Post Commander, on May 19th, 1943. The announcement stated that the prisoners of war at Camp Atterbury were available for agricultural labor in the surrounding five counties within a 25 mile radius of the Camp. Requests for prisoners of war for labor were made through the county agriculture agents to Lt. Col. John Gammell, the internment camp commander.

Lt. Col. John L. Gammell, the commanding officer of the prisoner of war compound at Camp Atterbury, was also in charge of the 1537th unit that was in charge of the camp. Gammell graduated from Brown State University and attended Oxford University in England. At Ohio State University he was on the ROTC Staff as a professor of military science. Gammell was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action during World War I. He was a veteran field artillery officer in the regular army, and fought in four major battles in WW1, one while he was serving with the French Army.

Colonel Gammell has been described as a humane and sympathetic man who tried to give the prisoners as much as he could without disobeying regulatios. He ran a very tight military operation and had frequent conferences with inmate commanders. Although he was on a personal basis with many of the prisoners, there was never any question about who was the commanding officer. Colonel Gammell remained the commanding officer eht entire time the prisoner of war compound functioned.

The first shipment of prisoners arrived 30 April 1943. They were Italians and had been captured in the African Campaign before a western front had been established. Before a train carrying a shipment of prisoners arrived at Camp Atterbury, it was boarded by a staff officer that lined up the prisoners with their luggage. After the train had stopped, the prisoners filed out between rows of armed guards. All the sick or wounded prisoners went to the post hospital. A high percentage of the prisoners needed medical care. Some suffered from sand colic and many had malaria. After they had been counted, they were marched to the prisoner compound. There they were stripped and given a medical examination. They took a shower, received an issuance of clothing, and ate thier meal.

Processing began the next day so the prisoners would have time to rest after their long journey. Each prisoner had an interview concerning his name, age, rank in the army, army occupation, civilian occupation, serial number and name and address of his nearest living relative.

On the arrival of a prisoner a from was opened concerning any hours he had worked, how much he had been paid, what kind of work he had done, and the nature of the job. Each prisoner had to send a card to his fmily or next relative immediately, telling them of his situation, safety, and well-being. After that, one card and two letters a week could be sent home. All mail was censored. Next the prisoners were issued a barracks bag, a hat, two coats, two blankets, a toiletry set, a razor, two pairs of shoes, a belt, two pairs of pants, two sets of underwear, four pair of socks, and two shirts.

After processing, the prisoners took a basic course that included instruction in the English language and military courtesies. This course taught recognition of the National Anthem, "To the Colors", bugle calls, insignia of rank, and several asic commands. The commands taught were: halt, attention, forward march, and at ease. There was a great language barrier between the American soldiers and the prisoners. To break down this barrier, the prisoners were taught to understand the words "same thing". When a soldier wanted to give an order to a prisoner he would say the words "same thing" and then provide an example.

The prisoners at Camp Atterbury had the same military discipline as any American soldier. They were to salute American Officers and the salutes would be returned. The times for getting up in the morning and going to bed were the same as the rest of the post. Regular inspections and occasional shakedown inspections were made. The rules at Camp Atterbury also required the prisoners to have proper health and a good appearance. They were expected to practice god hygiene.

The disciplining of the prisoners was apparently not very harsh. A prisoner being disciplined was usually restricted to his quarters. The prisoners had their own brig and a building in the compound where a prisoner could be incarcerated.

All prisoners had to follow all common military regulations and codes. In addition to these codes and regulations, prisoners were not allowed to have any item they could use as a weapon. Women were kept away from the prisoner compound. Pets were not allowed, although the adoption of a rabbit or rat was sometimes ignored. The prisoners could move freely inside the compound, but could not go outside the gates unguarded. All pictures of the prisoners that were going to be published or printed had to have the faces blotted out. Visitors were allowed twice a moth for two hours each visit.

The unit in charge of the prisoner compound was the 1537th Service Unit. This unit was formed on December 15th, 1942. At that time, the unit contained fifty enlisted men. These men then received specialized training for a job in the internment cmp during the next six weeks. On February 10, they moved to the prisoner compound to prepare for the arrival of the prisoners. Since there was no standard operating procedure for operating prisoner of war camps at this time, regulations, forms and records had to be made and a fiscal system set up.

Although the camp's security was not as tight as the nearby American stockade, it did require the services of approximately five hundred army officers and enlisted men in mid-1943. These officers stayed outside the compound in nearby barracks.

The Germans got special treatment at Camp Atterbury. According to the rules of the Geneva Convention, the American Army had to get orderlies for the German Officers. These orderlies were German enlisted men. A German Officer could nto be made to work outside the compound or on civilian projects. They specifically requested remunerative occupations and could not be assigned to supervisory work unless it could not be done by any other prisoner. These German Officers were paid their allowances according to their rank in the army. For warrant officers and first and second lieutenants, their allowance was the equivalent of twenty dollars a month, for captains it was thirty dollars, and for anyone in the rank of major and above it was forty dollars. These officers were reluctant to work at first, but after seeing other men earning money, they soon changed their minds.

The prisoners were treated very well, and some did not want to be sent home ater the war. One prisoner, a German, tried to escape when he found out he was going to be sent home. This prisoner did not object to the prisoner camp and was soon caught by the military police.

The prisoners of war at Atterbury were involved in a work detail program while they were there. Work inside the compound included keeping the grounds, working in the kitchens and laundries, decorative construction, maintenance and farming a 220 acre farm inside Camp Atterbury. In 1944 the yields of this small farm were: 40 tonsof tomatoes, 20 tons of squash, 86,700 ears of corn, 15,600 pounds of cucumbers, 8,830 pounds of turnips, 7,610 pounds of cabbage, 6,969 pounds of string beans, egg plants, green peppers, onions, radishes and watermellons.

For this work the prisoners received ten cents a day. They could earn as much as three dollars of flat allowance a month.

On May 19th, 1943, Colonel Modisette announced that prisoners of war at Camp Atterbury were available for civilian work projects outside the camp. The prisoners could not be forced to work on these project, but most did. At first they could not work outside a 25 mile radius of the camp, but this was soon lifted so the prisoners could work as far away as Decatur County.

Many tomato farmers used German prisoners to plant tomato plants, care for the plants as they matured and help harvest the plants once they ripened. At times the mortality rate of the newly planted seedlings would be higher than normal. It was later found that the cause of this as that some German prisoners would pinch the plants as they put them in the ground.

The first group pf prisoners arrived on April 30th, 1943. There were 767 and all were Italians. On May 1st, 1943, 400 more arrived and by September, 1943, approximately 3,000 Italian prisoners were at Camp Atterbury. When the Italians first arrived, they could not understand where they were. They thought Indiana was part of India. They also could not understand how New York had been rebuilt so fast. Mussolini had told them that New York had been completely destroyed by bombs.

Most of the Italians were skilled artisans in masonry, painting, wood carving and stone carving. These prisoners carved the words, "Camp Atterbury - 1942" on a large stone that sits at the inner east entrance to the camp. There were unveiling ceremonies at Camp Atterbury to commemorate the stone. When the stone was unveiled, many of the American officials were surprised to see that an Italian dagger was carved into the stone.

There is also a stone on which "Atterbury Internment Camp, 1537th S. U., 12-15-42" is carved. This stone is in the former compound area. The prisoners also made a fifteen foot American flag on the side of a hill in the compound area. They made the flag out of small pieces of stone.

On September 8th, 1943 the Italian prisoners were told of Italy's surrender. By January of 1944 the Italians were leaving Camp Atterbury to go to other camps before going home. All of the Italian prisoners were gone by May 4th, 1944.

May 8th, 1944, four days after the Italians left, the first group of Germans arrived. By June 30th there were 2,940 Germans at Atterbury and by September 19th there were 5,700. In October there was a maximum of 8,898 German Prisoners of war at Camp Atterbury. Even though most of the new prisoners were German, there were also Belgians, French, Hungarians, Mongols, Italians, Poles, Rumanians and Slovenes. This created language problems and required many interpreters.

It was not until more than a year after Germany surrendered in 1945 that the German prisoners began leaving Camp Atterbury. Some of the prisoners did not want to go back because they knew they would be returning to a divided and destroyed homeland. The last prisoner left Camp Atterbury, June 27th, 1946. The prisoner of war compound was then closed permanently.

The compound was inspected several times by representatives of the YMCA, protecting neutral powers, the Swiss legation, the International Red Cross, the State Department, the House Military Affair's Committee, the Provost Marshal General's Office, an apostolic delegate of the Vatican at Washington, D. C. and two personal representatives of the President. All of these groups said the prisoner compound at Camp Atterbury was one of the best in the country.

Francisco Tota died on February 28th, 1944 and became the first prisoner to be buried in the Camp Atterbury prisoner of war cemetery. In all there were nineteen prisoners buried at Camp Atterbury, there were Italians and sixteen were German. These prisoners all died of wounds or illnesses while at Atterbury.

Prisoners that were buried at Camp Atterbury are:

Italian Prisoners

Name

Rank

Date of Death

Francisco Tota

Soldat

2-28-44

Giovanni Trani

Seaman

4-19-44

Umberto Marrollo

Caporale Maggiore

4-31-44

 

 

 

German Prisoners

Wolfgang Robosik

Obergefreiter

9-19-44

Walter Kranenke

Obergefreiter

10-29-44

Andreas Kellner

Gefreiter

11-27-44

Emil Burmeister

Soldat

1-24-45

Heinrich Giere

Obergefreiter

2-7-45

Mathias Baschlemer

Gefreiter

5-17-45

Augustine Aisst

Soldat

7-13-45

Gerhard Pfadenhauer

Soldat

9-1-45

Willy Drajewsky

Obergefreiter

9-17-45

Heinrich Berghorn

Gefreiter

10-28-45

Gottfried Fuchs

Obergefreiter

11-2-45

Franz Thalberger

Gefreiter

11-15-45

Adolf Kandlbinder

Obergefreiter Infantry

12-2-45

Max Kraus

Feldwebel

12-25-45

Oaul Witt

Soldat

6-23-46

For many years after prisoners of war left Camp Atterbury members of the German-American Society and the Indianapolis Italian-American Club honored these prisoners by decorating their graves with wreaths and firing a twenty-one gun salute. In 1970 the graves were moved to Camp Butler in Springfield, Illinois. The Army did this so the graves could receive better care.

 

 

 

 

PRISONER OF WAR CAMP
Camp Atterbury, Indiana, USA

To: John L. Gammell
Colonel - U. S. Army Commanding

In appreciation of the exemplary treatment accorded to the German Prisoners of War at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, we dedicate to the Commanding Officer,

Colonel John L. Gammell

this special edition of the "Lagerstimme" as a remembrance of the time and work he devoted to our camp.

With this modest mark of appreciation the prisoners of war wish to express their gratitude to the officers of the camp, and to Colonel Gammell whose relentless consideration for our welfare, wise leadership, and fair, just and strict administration effected such an unhampered and successful cooperation during the two years of our captivity in the United States.

The Commanding Officer may rest assured that we shall depart from this camp with the best impressions of the United States Army and the country it represents. These years in America will certainly exert an important influence upon the future shape of our homeland which will undoubtedly be the best tribute to the activities of the Commanding Officer.

(Signature)
Camp Leader

DESTINED

To help you recall in years to come the events and scenes of Camp Atterbury, this special edition of the "Lagerstimme" was compiled. May it remind you of the German prisoners as well as it will always renew this friendly attitude which we cherish for you and your country.


(Signature) Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

POWs Reinterred at Springfield
July 2, 1970

Nineteen grave markers have been cleaned and reset at Springfield Illinois, where 19 prisoners of war were reinterred Saturday after removal from the cemetery at Camp Atterbury. Work began on removal of the bodies on June 22, under the direction of the Mutz funeral home in Edinburg. The remains were placed in new caskets here and then trucked to Springfield for re-burial in ground near the American national Cemetery at Camp Butler.

 

 

 

 

 

More Italian Prisoners Arrive in Atterbury
Camp Crier - September 10, 1943

Carrying their few belongings, these soldiers are the newest additions to the Internment Camp. The picture shows a portion of the Italian prisoners of war as they first marched in Atterbury recently, after coming here by special train. (US Signal photo)

Italian Prisoners Happy, Sad on Hearing Homeland Fate

The Italian prisoners of war stationed at Atterbury, when informed Wednesday that Italy had surrendered, expressed mixed sentiments of sorrow, relief, and happiness. They are glad the war is over for their distressed country, but they still are Italians and as soldiers feel keenly the natural humiliation of military defeat.

Col. Welton M. Modisette, post commander, talked with different groups at work and at exercises, and to skilled artisans working on frescoes on the Catholic Shrine they are building. The reaction was the same everywhere. Tears came into some eyes - the tears of defeated soldiers loyal to their country, tears of hapiness for the safety of their loved ones at home. Pictures of wives and children were shown, expressing their paramount feeling for their welfare.

Their thoughts also concerned the future of their country and the fear of the Germans there, and what Germany might do to Italy. They apparently dislike and distrust Germany and Japan and approved when told we would help drive the Germans from their soil.

All express a friendly attitude toward the United States and on hostility whatever is displayed as a result of our victory. Many have blood relatives in this country and some had the fear when fighting us that they might kill their own people who were Americans.

They are still soldiers of Italy. They realize that the cessation of hostilities will save lives of the people, especially from bombing. They do not want more war and more suffering for their country. They said they are proud they did their duty as soldiers, but they have the soldier's sadness of defeat. They worry about tomorrow for the homeland and their families they left behind.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

The Atterbury Crier - September 24, 1943
Build Shrine in Prisoner of War Camp

 

At the Prisoner of War camp, the Italians are constructing a Shrine, dedicated to the Blessed Mother, where the men might worship at any time. The huge tree stands behind the Shrine, adding beauty to the surroundings.

Catholic Shrine is Constructed by Italian Prisoners of War

Italians are shown decorating the Shrine in the Prisoner of War camp, assisted in their work by Chaplain Maurice Imhoff, second from left. The workman at the left is painting a Holy Picture on the wall, and those at the right are "touching up" the altar and floor. (US Signal Corps photo)

Catholic Shrine is Constructed by Italian Prisoners of War
Italians at the Prisoner of War camp here are building a Shrine to be dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Constructed of brick and stucco, the building is closed on three sides, the open side being approached by concrete steps. Behind the Shrine stand a huge tree, adding beauty to the structure.

Of their own initiative, the prisoners of war have designed the building and done all the work. Chaplain Maurice F. Imhoff, assigned to the camp, has aided them in their ideas and has furnished them small Holy pictures which they have copied and enlarged on the inner walls of the Shrine.

The permanent altar in the Shrine has been painted so that much of it looks like marble. Also a smaller altar has been constructed and this is placed at the front of the Shrine for the celebration of Mass in nice weather.

Approximately 98 percent of the prisoners of war here are Catholic and most of them gather around the Shrine when Chaplain Imhoff conducts Mass.

The Chapel in the Meadow

 

Formal Dedication of the Chapel in 1943
The Italian Prisoners of War are gathered in the foreground
(photo courtesy of INANG)

Rock engraved by the Italian POWs.
Inscription says "5015th Support Unit 12-15-42
Atterbury Internment Camp"

Many of the Italian Prisoners of War were skilled artisans. In 1943, a group of them received permission to build a chapel from Lt. Col. John L. Gammel, the commanding officer at the internment camp. The prisoners were encouraged to build the chapel by the priest at the camp, Father Imhoff.

The chapel is 11 feet by 16 feet and constructed of brick and stucco. It is enclosed on three sides and open on the south. There are openings in the shape of crosses in the east and west walls. A large cross is on the south pinnacle of the chapel roof. Inside the chapel, a permanent altar was constructed at the north end. It was painted in such a way that much of it looks like marble. A painting of a crucifix with two cherubs adorns the wall above the alter. The eye of God is painted on the ceiling and frescos of the Madonna, angels, St. Anthony and the Dove of Peace are painted on the walls. The floor was painted to simulate a carpet.

The prisoners had limited art supplies. They mixed dyes from berries, flower petals and plants and even used their own blood for the colorful frescos. The chapel was dedicated to the Blessed Mother and was named "The Chapel in the Meadow". Father Imhoff held Mass or the prisoners at the chapel on Sundays.

When the prison camp was closed at the end of the war, the chapel was neglected. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources now owns the land.


Ceiling - April 1981

Ceiling - October 1998

Right Front - April 1981

Right Front - October 1998

Right Rear - April 1981

Right Rear - October 1998

Left Front - April 1981

Left Front - October 1998

Left Rear - April 1981

Left Rear - October 1998

The Chapel - April 1981

The Chapel - October 1998

 

 The Chapel Alter in October 1998. See the 1981 Alter in the above left photo.

Since restoration, a glass door is fitted into the front of the chapel and entrance cannot be gained.

POW Chapel Will Be Restored
by Kevin P. Kilbane - Republic Staff Writer
January 19, 1985

It has borne years of damage inflicted by weather and vandals with silent acceptance, much like the Italian and German prisoners of war it once offered solace.

Now it seems prayers for the "Chapel in the Meadow" will be answered. The Indiana Army National Guard plans this spring to beautify the chapel site at the Department of Natural Resources Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area and possibly restore some of the chapel's fresco paintings.

"What we want to do is to rebuild, preserve and beautify and open it back up," said retired Col. Richard King, Atterbury Reserve Forces Training Area maintenance supervisor and a former Camp Atterbury Post Commander.

The chapel was built in the mid-1940s by Italian and German prisoners of war at the west edge of what was Camp Atterbury POW compound, said Howard Stinson, assistant fire chief for the U.S. Army at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. "The compound was torn down long ago but building foundations, fire hydrants and other remnants still serve as reminders of those days, said Stinson, a camp security officer in the 1960s.

The chapel's west wall bears the pock marks of two shotgun blasts. Standing at the open south end, a visitor faces the stone altar built against the north wall, its features cracked and damaged by vandals. Painting behind the altar have all but disappeared and parts of other frescos on the two other walls also have peeled and flaked off. A dove signifying peace or the Holy Spirit gazes down from the wood ceiling, its presence fading with the weathering of the timbers.