A wreath-laying ceremony for former German and Italian prisoners of war will take place at Fort Riley this week. It will be at the Fort Riley cemetery on Thursday morning at 10:00.
The annual ceremony is held in remembrance of the POWs who lived and worked at Fort Riley between 1943 and 1946, specifically the 62 Germans and 11 Italians now buried here.
German Army Col. Carsten Döding and Italian Army Lt. Col. Antonio Laudando will be guest speakers at the event. Both officers are currently stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In 1943, War Department officials established Fort Riley as one of 600 locations across the United States selected to house German, Italian and Japanese POWs. The camps became home for 350,000 prisoners—enough to man 35 German army divisions; approximately 4,500 were held at Fort Riley.
The POWs filled a labor void on area farms, working on roads, laundry and building maintenance projects. Prisoners earned about 80 cents a day. After the war, some of the POWs chose to stay in the local area to live and work.
The German and Italian Memorial Ceremony is open to the public. Those attending who don’t have a Department of Defense ID card must stop by the Henry Gate visitor’s center (I-70, exit 301) to get a one-day pass. Learn more by clicking on the yellow “Accessing Fort Riley” button on the right-hand side of the page at www.riley.army.mil or by calling 785-239-3138.
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