2013-11-22 / Front Page

German, Italian WWII POWs buried at Fort Gordon remembered

By Bonnie Heater
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Among those paying their respects at Sunday’s remembrance gathering for German and Italian POWs are Grovetown resident Inge Trimble, Sgt. Aaron Mason, C Company, 63rd Expeditionary Battalion, and Grovetown resident Ervin Ingram. 
Photos by Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Among those paying their respects at Sunday’s remembrance gathering for German and Italian POWs are Grovetown resident Inge Trimble, Sgt. Aaron Mason, C Company, 63rd Expeditionary Battalion, and Grovetown resident Ervin Ingram. Photos by Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Fort Gordon officials and members of the Central Savannah River Area community gathered Sunday to place wreaths at the graves of 21 German soldiers and one Italian soldier who died inside prisoner of war camps in Georgia and South Carolina during World War II.

The U.S. Army Signal Corps Band played the German, Italian, and American National Anthems before Lt. Col. Frank Beyer, the liaison officer of the German Armed Forces, gave the introductory remarks. He talked about the German National Day of Mourning, the “Volkstrauertag” and its history.

It was first proposed in 1919 by the German War Graves Commission as a commemoration for German soldiers killed in World War I, according to Beyer.

He talked about coming together to remember 22 Italian and German prisoners who are buried at Fort Gordon.

“On this day we remember much more,” Beyer said. “We remember the service members buried all over the world – the Americans in Europe and Asia, the Germans and so many others of so many – too many wars – and from so many different nations.

“We remember the victims of violence and war…those who were killed because they resisted or held onto their beliefs or their faith,” he added. “We remember the victims of wars and civil wars of presentday and the victims of terrorism and political persecution.

“Today is not only a day of mourning and remembering, but also a day for confidence in the future, of optimism and of pride in what we have accomplished,” Beyer said. “With the support of this wonderful and great nation of the United States of America, Germany was able to learn its lessons. With your support we were able to establish a reliable democracy, create the biggest economy in Europe, become one of the richest countries in the world and have become respected partners in international relations.”

Nelson H. Keeler, deputy to the commanding general, U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, talked about coming together Sunday with mixed emotions. “It’s a time of reflection and remembrance over lives lost in bitter conflict, but it is also an occasion of honor and hope,” Keeler said. “It is very appropriate that we hold this event each year in November. This month is a time when all our peoples – American, German, and Italian – make a special effort to honor those who have served our nations in the military.”

Keeler went on to discuss the favorable conditions at Camp Gordon, now known as Fort Gordon. He explained how the POWs worked and earned money both on and off post. “It is especially telling that these POWS contributed more than $72,000 to the International Red Cross to aid victims of the war,” Keeler said. “This sum was equal to a month’s pay for every prisoner brought to the United States.

“I believe this generous act helped our nations take the first steps toward reconciliation {during World War II},” he added. “The strong bond between our countries is part of the legacy of the men buried here. They did not die in vain.”

The consul general of the Federal Republic of Germany, Christoph Sanders, then talked about the partnership the three nations share now. “Today, we stand together for freedom and liberty as partners and allies in NATO,” Sanders said. “German, Italian and American Soldiers fight shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan to defeat terrorism. We applaud the heroism and bravery and we do know their service comes at a high cost.”

Sanders thanked all the men and women serving at Fort Gordon and for all who had come out in the rain to pay tribute the fallen German and Italian soldiers.

After wreaths were placed, members of the Navy Information Operations Command Georgia rifle team lead by Navy Chief Petty Officer Miguel Farina, rendered the rifle salute and Spc. David Stonecipher of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band, played TAPS. Members of the German Friendship Club of Augusta and several other individuals provided authentic German dishes and desserts.

Return to top