German and Italian POWs Lie in Oklahoma Graves on U.S. Route 66

Along America’s most fabled road, Route 66, lie the almost forgotten graves of German and Italian prisoners of war brought to Oklahoma some 70 years ago and who now rest in the red soil of a former Wild West pioneer outpost. All but ignored by the thousands who travel Route 66 each year on nostalgic tours in search of bygone America, there are few signs and little fanfare surrounding the cemetery housing the remains of 62 German and eight Italian soldiers.

You can read the interesting story in a Reuters article by Heide Brandes at http://goo.gl/ZQdk8p.

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My grandparents lived a bit farther west on old Route 66 in Hydro. At the end of the war, the bunks from the POW facility were sold and my grandparents bought a set. In the 1980s I took the bunks to a slum area just east of Mexico City and later passed them on to neighbors. So somewhere in Mexico, people are sleeping today on bunks that once were used by Germans or Italians in Oklahoma.
The bunks were of sturdy construction, painted with metal springs, and had US Army carved into the wood.

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Interesting. While researching Camp Rupert, the POW camp west of Paul, Idaho, I learned that the eight German prisoners who died while at Camp Rupert or its sub-camps were buried there. After WWII when the camp was decommissioned, the eight were disinterred and sent to the Golden Gate National Cemetery in California where they were re-buried near other prisoners who had died in the western USA. A news article I read stated that all POWs who died while in the USA were similarly moved to a National Cemetery, but this article disproves that report.

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I have visited this old fort, “Fort Reno”, and it’s cemetery. It is very interesting. The grounds are kept up nicely by inmates from the nearby minimum security Federal prison camp.

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Find A Grave have memorials for the German and Italian prisoners of war listed in the Fort Reno Cemetery, OK

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My mother lived in a small town named Fayette in Utah was she was growing up. Once when visiting Fayette with her she mentioned to me that there had been a German POW camp in Salina, which was a bigger town to the south. I was surprised that they would put a big POW camp out in the middle of nowhere like that. I later found out that one of the reasons they did it was so that the German soldiers could help with the crops, since all the young men were in the war. My mother did mention that the camp allowed for local families to have a prisoner come to and work at their home for the day if the family would feed the prisoner three meals. The prisoners liked it because they got out of the camp and ate better food. And there was no point to escaping because it was in the middle of nowhere.

She also told me about an incident wherein in the middle of the night one of the guards manned a machine gun and fired on the prisoners. Mom said there were ambulances driving through town all night long. Her town was on the road to Provo and Salt Lake City, the locations of the two biggest hospitals in the area. I later discovered that this was known as the Midnight Massacre (1945), where Private Bertucci did open fire and kill 9 German POWs while injuring 20 more. Here is the Wikipedia entry on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midnight_Massacre_(1945)

One other touching story. My mother said that they really couldn’t communicate very well with the soldiers because nobody spoke German. But one soldier still stood out in her mind. My mother had a younger brother, Craig, and this soldier kept motioning to Craig. Then he teared up as he looked at Craig, which caused them to think that this soldier had a son like Craig and he was homesick. That incident changed the way my mother thought of the soldiers after that.

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