Franklin County Visitors Bureau is pleased to host “Letterkenny World War II Italian Prisoner of War Experience,” a new exhibit in the lobby of the Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center. The exhibit showcases more than 400 photographs, excerpts of memoirs, and document facsimiles to tell the story of repatriated Italian POWs, housed and working at Letterkenny Depot during World War II. Letterkenny Chapel is a lasting artifact of these men, who visioned and created the place of worship. A special dedication and welcome to Italian family and friends of the repatriated men will take place at 9:30 AM on September 10, 2022 at the 11/30 Visitors Center. The public is invited to attend.
Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and propelled the world into war. By September 1943, Italy signed an armistice with the Allies and in October 1943, Italy declared war on Germany. More than 50,000 Italian Prisoners of War, detained in the United States, were offered the opportunity to sign a statement of allegiance. A majority of nearly 90% repatriated and supported the American war effort. In May 1944, 1250 repatriated Italian soldiers came to Letterkenny Depot. They formed the 321st Quartermaster Battalion and helped to order, stock, and ship military supplies from Letterkenny Depot to Ally efforts in the Pacific and Europe.
The men of the 321st Quartermaster Battalion spent seventeen months at Letterkenny Depot, supporting the Allied effort. In their spare time, the men of the service unit applied their skills and created a lasting landmark. Using the materials from the farmhouses, barns, and other structures razed to construct the Letterkenny Depot, the men built Letterkenny Chapel. Today, the chapel stands as a lasting reminder of these men and a significant time in world history. Letterkenny Chapel is a prime representation of Italianate architecture with the characteristic square tower, quoined brickwork, and curved arches above the windows and doors.
The service unit returned to Italy in October 1945 after an international agreement was reached. “Letterkenny World War II Italian Prisoner of War Experience” tells their unique story.
“Letterkenny World War II Italian Prisoner of War Experience” is a joint effort of Dr. Alan Perry, Giorgia Magni , Historic Letterkenny Committee, and the Franklin County Visitors Bureau with exhibit design by Visitors Bureau senior designer Patricia Bunn. The exhibit remains open through November 11, 2022.