Twenty-five Years After the Escape

Felice “Phil” Vacca escaped from PG 59 in September 1943, along with fellow American prisoners Peter Calvagno, Edmond Petrelli, Joe Mandese, and Tony Spicola.

I have been in touch recently with Mario and Tony Vacca, two of Phil’s three sons. They’ve sent me a wealth of material that I will divide into separate posts.

This first post concerns Tony’s contact with the Virgili family and his first visit to Camp 59. That visit occurred in 1968, 25 years after Phil and his companions escaped from the camp.


Filippo Virgili at the gate to Camp 59 in Servigliano, 1968

While stationed in Pisa during the 1960s, Tony made contact with members of the Virgili family of Monte San Martino in the Marche—Sergio Virgili, and his sisters Luigia and Elena—who assisted his father during the war.

Tony explains, “It was on my second visit to the Virgili’s that I went to see the prison camp at Servigliano and to take photos for my father, per his request.

“Sergio Virgili guided me to the camp. It was a cloudy, dreary day. As we drove through Servigliano, I got an eerie feeling, as I could hear someone playing ‘Taps’ on the trumpet.

“Sergio took me straight to the main gate of the camp and we parked.

“That’s where I took the picture of Sergio standing at the front gate.

“It was like stepping into a ‘ghost town.’ It was very quiet—just Sergio and me – it was like the world stood frozen in time without occupants. The buildings showed signs of deterioration and were locked to prevent anyone from trying to live in them. As I walked around taking photos, I could not help but wonder what the living conditions would have been like for the prisoners. My father made very little mention of his experiences there.

“The only building that was pointed out to me was the guard shack by the gate. At the time I only speculated which buildings were the barracks.

“There were rectangular stone islands of sorts outside, located between buildings. They looked like some sort of outdoor wash stations.

“We also visited the train station across from the camp, which my father had told me about.

As a matter of fact, I have a small book, Il Campo Di Servigliano, 1915–1955, published by Casa della Memoria, which contains a map of the camp, with building locations, and some photos. The map layout is pretty much as I remember the building positions.”

See note after the photos.



Two views of the huts. A stone foundation is all that remains of a one hut that was razed—or possibly destroyed by fire.


A latrine between two huts.


The northwest wall of the camp.


A water source, possibly used for outdoor bathing.


Another view of the huts. Note the pigs in the foreground.


A brick structure, probably the camp infirmary.



Two views of buildings adjacent to the main gate, probably the command offices and guard barracks just inside the camp walls.


An open soccer field, probably in the area outside the camp that was section B during WW II (see the diagram below).


Pictured above is the page from Il Campo di Servigliano, 1915–1955 that Tony mentioned.

The diagram, from the state archives at Fermo, Italy, is a plan of the command offices, guard barracks, and the layout of the camp, as designed by engineer Eugenio Fagiuoli in 1915 to house prisoners during World War I.


Although the camp had two sections (A and B on the plan) in WW I, during the Second World War only section A was used to house prisoners (click on the image above to enlarge the diagram). The area in gray indicates the confines of the camp during WW II.

Several camp buildings outside the camp walls were used for guard’s barracks, offices, the commandant’s quarters, and storehouses. Inside the camp, there were 16 barracks, which were called huts, and eight latrines—one for each pair of huts. There was also a brick infirmary, two cookhouses, and at least one area for bathing.

Here is a translation of the diagram terminology:

Corpo di guardia—guardhouse
Cucina—kitchen, or cookhouse
Ferrovia—railroad (arrows on the diagram indicate the track directions to Fermo and Amandola)

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