Former Italian P.O.W.s make an emotional journey back to West Texas - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/9/09

Former Italian P.O.W.s make an emotional journey back to West Texas

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By Brittany Pieper  - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Four former Italian P.O.W.s, along with the Under Secretary of State of Italy came to West Texas this weekend for a special dedication to the prisoners of war. The P.O.W.s honored each spent time at a camp in Hereford, Tx during World War II. They were both excited and nervous to come back.

In the middle of a field, off the side of a dirt road in West Texas, stands a small white chapel. It's a modest building, but its walls hold an incredible story.

"I'm Adriano Angerilli, class of 1918. I was a Lieutenant, and I arrived in Hereford in January 1944," said one of the former soldiers. At only 15 years of age, Angerilli lied on his paperwork to join the Italian army. During WWII he was captured in North Africa and brought 10,000 miles away to a camp in Hereford, along with several other Italian soldiers.

During their time there, five comrades died. "We asked the camp commander if we could build a little chapel and fence the area where their graves were located," said Angerilli.  For three months, the Italian officers worked for hours on end to finish the chapel. When they returned home to Italy in 1946, they left it behind to commemorate their friends who could not return with them. "To remember those who will never see Italy and home again," said Angereilli. 

Recently, the Castro County Historical Commission, with financial help from the former P.O.W.s, restored the chapel. On Saturday, they rededicated it to those who spent time at the camp. Angerilli, now 92-years-old, and three other former soldiers made the trip from Italy to come to the ceremony filled with mixed emotions. "Of course, it was maybe not the best time of my life, but sure I have such good memories, and especially coming back now and seeing how actually, what kind of welcome I'm getting from the local people and how the chapel has been restored," said another P.O.W., Mr. Margottinie. 

Standing side by side, and shaking hands the men reminisced with their former enemies. "A soldier never cries in public. We will cry later, when we are by ourselves, alone," said Margottinie. 

Before they left, each P.O.W. took a chunk of dirt from the former camp site. They plan to place it in their graves when they die, because despite the harsh conditions of their stay, they consider Hereford a sort of home. "They actually feel that Hereford is part of them, you know. You will never forget it. It stays with you forever," said Angerilli. 

The Italians will stay in West Texas until Tuesday when they return home to Italy.  

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