Italian POWs Speak Out At Last: Fomer Prisoners of War Break Their Silence By Carlo Ferroni


Wars may be examined on many levels. On the grandest scale one can see them as the movements of masses of troops across a map with arrows and denotations of decisive battles. With a finer lens one can attempt to comprehend wars from the statements of national leaders or the strategic feints, thrusts, and parries of generals who order individual units across the battlefield. As valuable as these frames are in seeking to understand the reality of war, it is only by adding the perspectives of the individual soldiers that one can try to complete a thorough portrait of human conflict. That most critical and fine of lenses is the focus of this book.

This is the story of World War II from the individual soldier’s view as told by the men who fought for Italy on the Axis side and finished the conflict as prisoners of war (POWs). Through their accounts readers see the war as they experienced it. It is told in their own words, carefully documented in a series of interviews conducted in their native language and held in their homes and gathering places throughout Italy. Guards and labor employers who knew some of the Italian POWs that were interned in the United States supplement it with key recollections of the men and their lives in the camps.

Some of the former POWs were men who supported Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator. Others opposed him. A few of them had been officers in the Italian military, but most of them served in the ranks. Together, they include soldiers who participated in all of the major campaigns of the Italian forces in World War II. Some of them had marched into Ethiopia in Mussolini’s first bid for empire. Others had fought against regular armies and partisans in Mussolini’s attempt to expand his conquests into Albania, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Still others had suffered through the cold of the Russian invasion or experienced the great desert war in North Africa. Wherever they served, these men ended their participation in the war as captives. As POWs, they were interned in camps in North Africa, South Africa, Australia, India, England, Germany, and the United States. It is out of this common experience that the individuals in this book present the accounts of their service in World War II so that the reader may know it as the Italian soldier saw it.

In this fascinating study, Dr. Carlo Ferroni has pulled together an account based on numerous oral interviews with Italian POWs. The insights into the ground-level experience are valuable for both scholars of history and the general reader.

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