Category Archives: Louis VanSlooten

Louis VanSlooten’s Story

Louis VanSlooten before going overseas

I have known Louis VanSlooten’s son Tom VanSlooten since 2008.

Tom was one of the first family members of Camp 59 POWs I met when I began my research into the camp’s history. I met him through email the same month I began this site.

Tom’s dad was living and active then.

At the time, Tom wrote, “My father has been writing his story off and on for many years and has recently started writing again. It has been a difficult task for him. He told me just a week ago when we were at our family cabin in Northern Michigan that he has spent 65 years trying to forget what happened, and now is having in some way to go back and relive it again to write it all down.”

Louis came close to finishing this memoir before he died in 2011. His granddaughter (Tom’s niece) Jessica Lyn VanSlooten edited and completed the story, which I am pleased to share in this post.

The story is full of excellent detail. Of particular interest to me are the attentiveness and lifesaving efforts of the camp medical doctors, Captain J. H. Derek Millar and Adrian Duff. In his research, Giuseppe Millozzi references Dr. Duff as having cut his own arm, collected blood, and then donated it to his patient through a rubber tube. As it turns out, Louis was a witness.

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A Visit to the Palmoni Home

On a sunny morning late last September, Marino Palmoni and his son Antonello took a group of us to see the area of Montefalcone Appennino where, during World War II, the Palmoni family sheltered escaped prisoners of war.

Along for this tour were: Anne Bewicke-Copley and David Runciman (who own a home in Montefalcone), Aat van Rijn (from the Netherlands, now a resident of Montefalcone), Steve Dickinson (visiting from England), and Mark Randolph and I (visiting from the United States).

The road to the Palmoni home—Casa Palmoni—in Montefalcone Appennino, Italy.

Casa Palmoni.

Casa Palmoni and the Marziali Property

This is the house where the Palmoni family lived for over 100 years. There were over 20 people living in this house during the war: Mario’s grandparents—Iginia and Luigi Palmoni—Luigi’s four brothers and their wives, and all their children.

They were contadini—sharecroppers working on the property of the rich Marziali family. The Palmonis didn’t own the house.

Marino remembers—as a boy—taking food to the prisoners who were hiding in the woods above his home. His family looked after four of the prisoners who stayed with them in the house—two English soldiers and two Americans (Louis VanSlooten and Luther Shields).

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A Season for Visits

John Davison, his family, and new Italian friends explore the grounds of the old Cararola farm, where Norman Davison was at first assigned to work and where he later found shelter.

Steve Dickinson and Dennis Hill were among visitors to Camp 59, where Steve’s uncle Robert Dickinson and Dennis’ father Armie Hill were imprisoned. At center was the hole in the wall—since mortared shut—through which many prisoners escaped from the camp.

For three individuals who have an intimate family connection to the prisoner-of-war camp at Servigliano, this fall was a unique time for discovery.

John Davison this year made contact with descendants of Giovanni Bellazzi, the northern Italian farmer who sheltered his father, escaped prisoner G. Norman Davison. Giovanni and his friends helped to arrange for Norman’s safe passage to Switzerland.

Norman had been a prisoner at Camp 59 before he was transferred to camps farther north, where he was required to work on farms.

In early September, John and his family visited the town of Vigevano and experienced a thrilling welcome. (See posts In Their Fathers’ Footsteps, Part 1 and Part 2).

Then, at the end of September, Steve Dickinson and I were among visitors to Camp 59 in Servigliano, where Steve’s uncle Robert Dickinson and my father Armie Hill were interned.

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Marino Palmoni on the Sheltering of the POWs

I nonni Iginia e Luigi_g150

Marino’s parents, Iginia and Luigi Palmoni (Marino genitori, Iginia e Luigi Palmoni)

This recollection of the experiences of Marino Palmoni during the long winter of 1943–44 was provided by his son Antonello Palmoni. Antonello interviewed his father for this story in May 2009.


Marino Palmoni

The story is presented here in Italian and translated into English.

First, the English translation (Tradotto in inglese):

In September 1943, my grandfather Luigi, my father Marino (10 years old), and my uncle Gino (5 years old) were plowing the field near the woods beneath the cliff, when out of the woods came a man. Although he did not speak Italian, we understood from his gestures that he was hungry.

Grandfather asked my father to return home and bring something to eat, so Marino did and returned with bread and cheese. Our family was poor and large; there were more of us at home.

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Louis VanSlooten Honored

Louis VanSlooten of West Olive, Michigan, was one of nine former POWs of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars to be honored today in Michigan.

The Holland (Michigan) Sentinel covered the event:

Long overdue

Veterans to receive medals in special ceremony today

The Holland Sentinel

Louis VanSlooten was captured in Africa, taken to Sicily and finally northern Italy during World War II.

He calls it a time of starvation. Prisoners were given one bowl of water and a few pasta pieces once a day. He lost about 60 pounds while a prisoner.

VanSlooten and another man escaped on Sept. 14, 1943, after being prisoners since Dec. 10, 1942.

The friends spent nine months living off the land — eating acorns, chestnuts and dandelions — until they met up with the Allied armies in Italy.

“I lived on a daily basis,” said VanSlooten, 88, of West Olive of his life after the escape.

VanSlooten, serving in the Army as a member of the Combat Engineers with the 1st Armored Division, should have received the Prisoner of War Medal but he never got it.

On Monday, June 30, he and eight other veterans will get the opportunity to receive medals they earned.

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, will present the veterans their medals in a ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at Evergreen Commons, 480 S. State St.

“It’s been 66 years and I didn’t even know anything about the them,” VanSlooten said of the medals.

This ceremony is different, since there are veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, where the focus was on World War II veterans before, Hoekstra said.

“We’ve got the full complement of people,” Hoekstra said.

While VanSlooten will receive eight medals, Navy veteran Donald Bouman will receive 11.

Bouman served in the Navy during World War II aboard the destroyer Collett.

Bouman has his own piece of history attached to his service during the war.

He was aboard the Collett when the Japanese surrendered.

“We were a short distance from the Missouri where the papers were signed. I watched it all with my binoculars,” said Bouman, 86, of Zeeland.

About the medals he will receive, Bouman said it’s important for his family more than himself.

“I’m anxious to find out about the medals. It’s not so much for myself but for my kids,” he said.

Louis VanSlooten is here shown with U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra.

The medals Louis is holding are: Prisoner of War Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Button, Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar.