U.S. National Archives—Italian POW Records

Access to identity cards of American POWs of the Italian Army is now available on the website of the U.S. National Archives. Shown here is the front and back of the card for Delvaughn Elliot.

Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park (Maryland) has recently prepared a 76-page Draft Inventory of the Records of the Allied Screening Commission, Allied Screening Commission (Italy), and the Prisoner of War Claims Screening Commission.

Here is a PDF of the document:

RG 331 ASC series external

This inventory is meant to serve as a finding aid for researchers accessing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holdings of the Allied screening commissions as they relate to POWs, escapers and evaders, and their helpers in Italy.

Readers wishing to follow up with a reference request pertaining to these holdings can email it to archives2reference@nara.gov. Requesters should provide their full contact information with the inquiry.

In time, NARA may devote a web page to these records, as they have for other subjects and records, and over time more documents described in the inventory will be available online. In June, among the first of the records to become available online were the Identity Cards for American Prisoners of the Italian Army.

“The identity cards were created and maintained by the Italian Ministry of War during the war,” Greg explained. “The cards were, I am assuming, always maintained by the Ministry in Rome and were not sent to the camps. The cards were not only a means for the Italians to have records regarding the prisoners but also to meet the requirements (Articles 77–89) of the 1929 Geneva Convention.

“The cards, as best as I am able to determine, were loaned to the Commission by the Italians sometime after November 1944. The Commission intended to use them, as well as other documentation, as evidence of someone being a POW and to use information from the cards in the claims process. I do not believe any of the cards were returned to the Italians, and the cards for British and Commonwealth POWs ended up with the British. When the Commission was terminated, the cards, along with almost all of the other Commission records, were turned over to the U.S. Army. They were subsequently accessioned by the National Archives.

In addition to the identity cards for American prisoners of the Italian Army (UD 1024), NARA has cards for French prisoners of the Italian Army captured during 1941–43 (UD 1023), and Greek prisoners of the Italian Army captured during 1940–43 (UD 1025). There are approximately 2,400 cards for the French POWs (surnames A–Z) and 1,800 for the Greek POWs (only for surnames A-O).

“Below are my notes on the POWs that you may find of interest,” Greg wrote. “There are other non-America, non-British, non-French countries involved. One supposes the Italian Ministry of War had at one time cards for all the POWs of the various countries. I could not find clear documentation that any cards other than those of French, Greek, and American went to the Commission, but it makes sense the British (and Commonwealth) did.”

British Empire, USA, Free French, Norwegian, Swedish, and Polish POWs held in Italian camps as of August 15, 1943:

UK 42,194

Australians 1,979
Canadians 186
New Zealand 3,630
South African (white) 11,761
South African (colored) 2,593
Cypriots 458
Egyptians, etc. (Arabs) 402
Indians 5,117
For a total of 26,126, or a total of 68,320 for the Empire

Free French (white) 1,693
Free French (colored) 317
For total of 2,010 Free French

United States of America 1,310
Others, i.e., Norwegian, Swedish, Polish, etc. 49

For a total of 71,689 [1]

Greek, Yugoslav, and Russian POWs in Italian camps as of September 8, 1943:

Greeks 1,689
Yugoslavs 6,153
Russians 12 [2]

[1] Memo, H. J. Byrnes, Maj., Officer Commanding, Allied Screening Commission (Italy), CMF to G-2 (P/W), AFHQ, CMF, Subject: Allied prisoners of war held in Italian Concentration Camps prior to September 8th, 1943, January 15, 1945, File 2-5 Correspondence with G-2 (PW) AFHQ CMF File July 1944-March 1945, General Correspondence, Entry UD 1004, Allied Screening Commission (Italy) CMF, Records of the Allied Screening Commission (Italy) and Prisoner of War Claims Screening Commission, Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331.

[2] Memo, H. J. Byrnes, Maj., Officer Commanding, Allied Screening Commission (Italy), CMF to G-2 (P/W), AFHQ, CMF, Subject: Allied prisoners of war held in Italian Concentration Camps prior to September 8th, 1943, January 15, 1945, File 2-5 Correspondence with G-2 (PW) AFHQ CMF File July 1944-March 1945, General Correspondence, Entry UD 1004, Allied Screening Commission (Italy) CMF, Records of the Allied Screening Commission (Italy) and Prisoner of War Claims Screening Commission, Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331. Lt. Col. H. G. De Burgh, who had been one of the prisoners of war, estimated that there had been approximately 75,000 Allied prisoners of war in camps in Italy. H. G. De Burgh, Lt. Col. GS, Allied Screening Commission (Italy) CMF, The Origin of Allied Screening Commission (Italy), p. 1, War Diary, H.Q., Allied Screening Commission (Italy) CMF, From July 1944 to December 1945, Commanding Officer- Lt. Col. H. G. De Burgh, OBE, RA, n.d., File War Diary 1 of 3, War Diaries, Entry UD 1021D, Allied Screening Commission (Italy) CMF, Records of the Allied Screening Commission (Italy) and Prisoner of War Claims Screening Commission, Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331.

The Identity Cards for American Prisoners of Italian Army, captured during 1942 and 1943 in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy (UD 1024), consists of preprinted 5 x 8-inch cards labeled “Scheda Personale P.G.” The “P.G.” denotes Prigione di Guerra (Prison of War) and Scheda Personale translates as Personal Card.

The information provided on the cards, in most instances, is the prisoner’s name, names of father and mother, Army serial number, branch of service, date of birth and birthplace, nationality, marital status, religion, profession, current address, and date and place of capture. On the reverse side of the card prisoner of war camp information is provided.

Denise Henderson, Chief of Digitization for the Office of Research Services at NARA, shared this additional information about the project:

“As far as numbers go, 1,962 American cards were digitized. They all had fronts and backs, so there were a total of 3,924 images. We started with the Americans since we knew there was some interest in that particular series, but our plan is to do the series which relate to French and Greek prisoners as well.

“Currently, the cards are described and the images are in our catalog at the file level, so you can’t really link to an individual card at this point (you can only link to all the “F” cards, for instance). In a future enhancement of our catalog, it will be possible to link to individual cards.

“In the meantime, accessibility of the cards can be enhanced by either tagging the images with names or transcribing the entire card. It might be a great thing to feature on your website to encourage folks to tag and transcribe and help searchability!”

Anyone who is interested in adding tagging to or transcribing cards, as Denise suggests, can become a “citizen archivist” by creating a NARA user account online:

catalog.archives.gov/registration

The Citizen Archivist Dashboard provides excellent resources, including detailed guidelines for tagging and transcribing, and instructional videos. The dashboard also lists other topical missions you might be interested in contributing to.

Tagging and transcribing the identity cards is simple:

Select a card and click on the “View/Add Contribution” button. This button will either display below the image of the card (as shown here) or above the card, depending on your browser.

You will be presented with options to 1) tag the image, 2) add a comment, or 3) transcribe the contents of the card.

Below is my full transcription for Delvaughn Elliot’s card. Note that I have added translations of Italian terms and clarifications of abbreviated words in brackets:

FRONT:
SCHEDA PERSONALE P. G. [PERSONAL CARD of PRIGIONIERO DI GUERRA, prisoner of war]
Cognome e nome [Surname and name]: ELLIOT, DELVAUGHN
Paternità [Father]: William
Maternità [Mother]: Lana
Grado [Rank]: Pte. [Private]
Matricola [Service number]: 35214655
Arma-Corpo [Service unit]: Art. [Artillery]
Data e luogo di nascita [Date and place of birth]: 10-3-15 Ohio, U.S.A.
Nazionalità [Nationality]: American
Stato civile [Marital status]: Single
Religione [Religion]: Baptist
Professione [Occupation]: Farmer
Domicilio [Residence]: Proctorville, Ohio, U.S.A.
Data e luogo di cattura [Date and place of capture]: 6/12/42 Tunisia

BACK:
Giorno/Mese/Anno/Variazione
[Day/Month/Year/Change]
11/12/42 C. 66
13/1/43 C. 59

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s