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.