Fort Riley will honor international prisoners of war during a German and Italian Memorial Ceremony on Thursday at the post cemetery.
During World War II, Fort Riley was designated as one of about 600 prisoner of war camps in the U.S. From 1943 to 1946, about 4,500 POWs were incarcerated at Fort Riley, where they performed farm work, road work, laundry services and building maintenance for a stipend of 80 cents per day, according to Steven Balderrama, operations specialist, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
After World War II, some of the POWs stayed in the local area and were later buried at Fort Riley. Today, there are 62 German and 11 Italian POWs interred at the cemetery.
The annual German and Italian Memorial Ceremony provides an opportunity to remember the POWs and recognize their contributions to Fort Riley, Balderrama said.
“So that we don’t forget, just like we do for Memorial Day,” he said. “I think it’s definitely the right thing to do that we recognize them.”
A delegation of German and Italian liaison officers stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., will visit Fort Riley for the ceremony, including guest speakers Col. Carsten Treder of Germany and Lt. Col. Massimiliana Mongillo of Italy.
“They give wonderful speeches,” Balderrama said of past delegates, adding they often speak of their countrymen, as well as Soldiers of many nations and wars.
After the speeches, wreaths will be laid by the graves of the POWs.
The ceremony also will include a salute by a firing detail, and both German and Italian taps will be played. The ceremony is open to the public, and many German and Italian nationals attend each year, Balderrama added. Both Germany and Italy observe days of remembrance during the month of November. U.S. military installations that have German or Italian Soldiers buried in their cemeteries also conduct memorials throughout the month.