Category Archives: Allied Screening Commission

The Departure of Heroes

Antonio Del Gobbo on his ninety-second birthday
Marino Palmoni is interviewed by Italian historian Filippo Ieranò (left) and Ian McCarthy (not shown), 2010

My father, American Sgt. Armie Hill, was a prisoner of war in P.G. 59 Servigliano during the Second World War.

He escaped from the camp in September 1943, shortly after Italy signed the armistice with the Allies. Although the Italian government had capitulated, much of Italy was still held by the Germans. Escapees from prison camps across central and northern Italy found themselves on the run in enemy-occupied territory—and were at the mercy of local Italians for protection.

The Italians themselves were divided between fascists, who cooperated with the Germans, and partisans, who fought for liberation of their country. Rural laborers and farmers, the contadini, were faced with an ethical dilemma when ragged POWs turned up at their doorsteps asking for food, shelter, or directions. 

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Onore al Merito—Search for a Long-Lost Film

I would like to draw readers’ attention to an interesting article that appeared last week on The Text Message Blog, on online publication of the U.S. National Archives.

“‘Let’s Make a Movie:’ The Allied Screening Commission (Italy) and the documentary Onore al Merito (To Whom Honor is Due), 1946″ was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

The story is intriguing. As early as April 1944, an idea was proposed for a film to recognize and honor the scores of Italians who helped Allied evaders and escapees from prisoner-of-war camps. The film concept quickly drew interest and support, and the work came to fruition in the summer of 1946, a joint effort of the Allied Screening Commission (Italy) and the British Embassy in Rome.

Entitled Onore al Merito (To Whom Honor is Due), the film was about 25 minutes in length. Both Italian and English language versions were produced.

The Italian version of the film premiered in the village of Camarda, Italy, where much of the film was shot. It was later shown both formally and privately in Rome. It’s doubtful the film was ever shown in the United Kingdom.

Greg Bradsher writes in his post that neither the U.S. nor British National Archives possesses a copy of the film.

“Perhaps a reader knows where a copy might reside,” he writes. “My guess is that it will be in Italy.”

If any readers of this post have knowledge of the film, please contact me at I will gladly pass along any information.

“A Symbol of the True Italy”


First page of Guido Calogero’s essay

Researcher Brian Sims discovered the following essay, entitled “The Handful of Flour,” among the files of the Allied Screening Commission (Italy) in the British National Archives at Kew.

The task of the Allied Screening Commission was to investigate and acknowledge Italians who helped escaped Allied prisoners-of-war.

The purpose of this essay among the commission’s files is not entirely clear to me. Although it includes information about a particular Italian “helper,” Nunziata, the essay doesn’t seem to be intended as justification for a specific recognition or compensation. Rather, it seems a broader appeal to the commission to exercise fairness and generosity in their task.

Brian wrote, “What ‘Handful of Flour’ tells me is that the peasants gave what they really couldn’t afford to, while such people as businessmen gave several thousand Lire without too much ill effect on their everyday life.”

The sacrifice is best measured not in what was given, but rather in “the cost to those who gave.”

Translation in areas of the essay seems a bit awkward, but the sentiment of Calogero’s message rings clear.

Guido Calogero was an Italian philosopher and essayist.

Read a Wikipedia biography of Calogero in Italian, or translated into English.

The Handful of Flour

In the Autumn of 1943, some groups of friends went into hiding in the mountainous zone of the Abruzzo, which surrounds the lake of Scanno. The Germans had already placed garrisons in the villages, and the proclamations in two languages menaced the destruction of the houses and the families where Allied prisoners were found being sheltered. However, the prisoners liberated on 8th September from the Concentration Camp of Sulmona continued to pass through the mountain paths, stopped over in the houses, proceeded towards the South. And I was often taken for one of them. “Lordship do you wish to stop?” the mountaineers used to ask me (down at Anversa red posters announced the execution that had taken place of a shepherd who had given something to eat to come prisoners in his hut). “Come and eat a little bread and cheese with us. We are friends of the Americans.” I tried to use my best Abruzzo accent to convince them that I was Italian. But they looked at me with unbelief, and almost rancor, as if I had shown that I did not trust them.

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