The Adventure of a Lifetime

This article was published one year ago in the Murray Ledger & Times (Murray, Kentucky). Victoria Vaughn has offered a few corrections, which are in brackets throughout the article.

Victoria Vaughn, far left, and sister Judy Ingersol, middle, are shown during their 2006 visit to Servigliano, Italy with former Italian soldier Minetti Nello, second from left, Francesca Cesari and Adele Cesari, both members of the family that gave help to the sisters’ father, Luther Claude Vaughn, as he dodged the German military in World War II. The Cesari house is shown in the background.

Adventure of a lifetime

Murray’s Ingersoll tells story of meeting family who helped dad in World War II

Murray Ledger & Times
Saturday/Sunday, November 11-12, 2017

MURRAY – On the occasion of Veterans Day, a local woman says she owes a debt of gratitude to the Italian family that kept her injured father safe while he was fighting in Europe during World War II.

Judy Ingersoll said this week that the reason she had not gone public with the story of how her father Luther Claude Vaughn had survived his Army duty of WW II was because she did not think anyone would be interested.

“There are a hundred stories just like this here in Murray alone,” Ingersoll said.

However, there is another part to this story, one that happened about 11 years ago in a small town in Italy, the same place her father had spent a lot of his time during the war. It wouldn’t be called a reunion, because she and other family members had never met the Cesari family of Servigliano, the family that provided safety as Vaughn and others tried to hide from German troops.

“When I told friends about that part, they immediately said, ‘Judy, you have to tell this story! You just have to,’” said Ingersoll on Wednesday, just days before America observed Veterans Day, a day that acknowledges soldiers who emerged from combat alive, as her father somehow did in 1945.

Vaughn had left his home in Webster County to join the Army in 1940, well before the war started. He would marry his sweetheart, Anna May Muye, of Evansville, Indiana while on leave in the summer of ’41, having asked a member of his platoon for $10 to borrow. His bride would eventually work in an Evansville factory helping manufacture airplane wings during the war.

[Judy explains, “My mother, Anna May Muye was actually from Clay, Kentucky, also but was living in Evansville, Indiana, working first as a hospital aid to help pay off her father’s medical bills and later ‘Rosie the Riveter’ working on the wing of an airplane. (My mom is still alive and living in Florida).]

Meanwhile, Vaughn and his outfit, Battery C of the 27th Armored Field Artillery unit based in Fort Knox, were thrust into war preparation after the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. By early ’42, the unit was being shipped by the British luxury liner The Queen Mary to the European theatre of the way to battle Germany and Italy.

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Jimmy Feehan—Enlistment

Jimmy Feehan enlisted in the Australian Special Forces on June 18, 1941, at the age of 22.

Front and side photos of him taken on that day are in his service records at the National Archives of Australia.

Katrina Kittel kindly shared copies of these records with me.

James William Feehan WX14364 was born in Three Springs, Western Australia, on February 10, 1919. His trade is listed as laborer and he was single when he enlisted.

Next of kin listed was Mrs. May Cain of Perenjori, Western Australia—his adopted mother.

Jimmy was one of nine Australians to escape from P.G. 59 in September 1943. The others were: John “Jack” Albert Allen, Thomas David Alman, Arthur George Bell (sometimes known as A. G. Jux), Lawrence Mortimer “Lawrie” Butler, Vaughan Lawrence Carter, Robert Edward Albert Edwards, Ronald James “Jimmy” McMahon, and Leslie Worthington.

See also “Jimmy Feehan and Thomas Penman,” “>Tom Alman—Back Home in Western Australia,” and “Tom Kelly—Escapee from P.G. 59.”

Also, use “Categories” on the home page to search for other “ANZAC Prisoners” posts.

Sixty-eight Australians Who Passed through P.G. 59

Katrina Kittel visits with Bill Rudd, who turned 100 last December, at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance’s “Resistance: Australians and the European Underground 1939–45” exhibition this past summer.

My first post on this site concerning an Australian was in 2009—a short post entitled “Simmons’ Address Book—the Lone Australian.”

Since then, I’ve been contacted by several families of Australian soldiers—and one New Zealander, 3624827 Maurice French—and I’ve added their stories and photos to this site.

Now, thanks to the generosity of researcher Katrina Kittel, I’m able to share the names of 68 Australian POWs who passed through Camp 59—a complete or nearly complete list.

In addition to Australians on Katrina’s list, nine Western Australians were still in the camp at the time of the escape in September 1943.

Those P.G. 59 escapees were: WX12806 John “Jack” Albert Allen, WX14635 Thomas David Alman, WX10180 Arthur George Bell—who sometimes went by A. G. Jux, WX5012 Lawrence Mortimer “Lawrie” Butler, WX11634 Vaughan Lawrence Carter, WX17234 Robert Edward Albert Edwards, WX14366 James William Feehan, WX4445 Ronald James “Jimmy” McMahon, and WX4449 Leslie Worthington.

Katrina’s source has been digitized Red Cross cards at the University of Melbourne Archives and records in the National Archives of Australia (NAA).

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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 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.

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Remembering Keith Killby

Keith (on left) with his father; Keith in his Special Air Service uniform

Keith with Letitia Blake

J. Keith Killby
June 15, 1916–September 7, 2018

Keith Killby, a former prisoner of war and founder of Monte San Martino Trust, died yesterday at his home in London.

About 10 years ago, I first learned of the Trust.

At the same time, I discovered Keith Killby had been interned at P.G. 59 and escaped though the same hole battered through the camp wall that my father passed through on the night of September 14, 1943.

In planning a trip to the UK in 2012, I reached out to Trust secretary and trustee Letitia Blake. Might she arrange for me to meet Keith?

A few weeks later, on our first day in London, Letitia met my partner Mark and me at the Swiss Cottage tube station and together we walked several blocks to the quiet street where Keith lived.

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Memories of Manuel Serrano

Manuel Serrano in an undated photo. Courtesy of Marie Galarza-Ruiz.

Manuel and friends. Courtesy of Marie Galarza-Ruiz.

One of the most interesting Camp 59 POWs by far is Manuel Serrano—a young paratrooper of Puerto Rican descent from New York City’s Brooklyn borough.

Even during the war, Manuel gained recognition as a tough, colorful character when his exploits behind enemy lines in Italy were profiled in Yank magazine. See “The Partisan from Brooklyn.”

I was so pleased to hear recently from Marie Galarza-Ruiz, who shed further light on, and a glimpse into a tender side of, this enigmatic character.

Marie wrote, “Manuel Serrano was a very close friend of my parents, Ignacio and Maria Galarza, and our family.

“I can’t tell you how surprised I was to find the clipping of him on your site. I have the same clipping in a scrapbook I keep of him to this day. He was such a special man and I absolutely adored him. His military service record is incredible and a testament to his strength and courage.

“He also led a very interesting life after leaving the military. He had small parts in a few Hollywood movies and lived most of his life in Europe, where he married his wife Adrienne in France.”

“He had a small part in the Valachi Papers and a larger role in Land of the Pharaohs, starring Joan Collins. He played her personal guard. He looked terrific in an Egyptian costume.

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Manuel Serrano—The Partisan from Brooklyn

In 1999–2001, Italian historian Filippo Ieranò conducted a number of interviews with Italians of the Marche.

The collection was published as Antigone nella Valle del Tenna, or “Antigone in the Tenna Valley” in 2002 by Consiglio Regionale delle Marche. The stories highlight the reception of fleeing Allied POWs and Jews after 8th September 1943 in the Tenna Valley—examples of nonviolent resistance against Nazi-Fascists.”

Filippo included a memoir by Manuel Serrano in this volume:

Il partigiano di Brooklin
The Partisan from Brooklyn

[…] Erano passati due mesi dalla tragedia di Pearl Harbor, quando mi arruolai volontario nel corpo dei paracadutisti e fui mandato al corso di addestramento di Fort Benning, nello Stato della Giorgia. Dopo qualche mese fummo inviati in Inghilterra per un po’ di tempo e poi partecipammo all’invasione del Nord Africa.

[…] Two months had passed since the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, when I volunteered for the paratroopers and was sent to the training course at Fort Benning, Georgia. After a few months, we were sent to England for a while and then we participated in the invasion of North Africa.

La nostra prima missione era di far saltare un ponte, ma il 27 dicembre 1942 fummo catturati e condotti a Tunisi, dove ci caricarono su una nave italiana di nome ‘Zeno,’ destinazione Palermo.

Our first mission was to blow up a bridge, but on December 27, 1942, we were captured and taken to Tunis, where they took us on an Italian ship called the Zeno, destined for Palermo.

[…] Dopo due ore, arrivammo col treno a Servigliano provenienti da Porto S. Giorgio. La gente sembrava più cordiale, ci offriva anche del pane, nonostante la contrarietà dei carabinieri presenti.

[…] After two hours, we arrived by train in Servigliano. Coming from Porto S. Giorgio, people seemed more cordial there—they even offered us bread, despite the opposition of the carabinieri present.

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