During World War II, more than 45,000 Italian prisoners of war were held in the United States. Two separate groups, totaling some 500 men, spent part of their 1942–45 captivity in West Virginia. The first and largest contingent arrived in the summer of 1942 to build Camp Ashford, a standard U.S. Army double-barbed wire compound near White Sulphur Springs. While so engaged, many also helped Greenbrier Valley farmers to make hay and harvest the year’s crops. The Italians moved on in October, replaced by the German POWs who worked at Ashford General Hospital. Ashford General was operated by the military at what was formerly (and later) the Greenbrier resort.
The second and smaller group of some 175 Italian POWs was assigned to Camp Dawson, Preston County, the long-time (and still) home of the West Virginia National Guard. Their main task, under U.S. Army direction, was to build and repair roads. During their stay they became well-known to the many Italian-American families in northern West Virginia, who visited the prisoners on Sundays at Camp Dawson for picnics and entertainment. The Italians were glad to be safely out of the war, and after their repatriation in 1945, many returned to build new lives in America.
This Article was written by Louis E. Keefer
Keefer, Louis E. Italian Prisoners of War in America. New York: Praeger, 1992.
Keefer, Louis E. The West Virginia World War II Home Front: POW: The Italian Prisoners at Camp Dawson. Goldenseal, (Spring 1993).
Cite This Article
Keefer, Louis E. "Italian Prisoners of War." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 02 March 2012. Web. 21 November 2014.