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Fort Drum community members joined Fort Drum Cultural Resources Branch representatives Nov. 4 to lay a wreath at the headstone of Pvt. Rino Carlutti, an Italian prisoner of war from World War II, buried at the Fort Drum POW Cemetery. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Fort Drum recognizes Italy’s National Day of Unity with wreath-laying at POW Cemetery

Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 6, 2023) - Every year, in recognition of Italy’s Armed Forces Day and National Day of Unity, a wreath is placed at the headstone of Pvt. Rino Carlutti at Fort Drum’s Prisoner of War (POW) Cemetery.

Fort Drum Cultural Resources Branch representatives and community members paid their respects Nov. 4 during a wreath-laying ceremony for the Italian POW. While there, members of Fort Drum Boy Scout Troop 26 learned about why POWs like Carlutti were sent to Pine Camp (now Fort Drum) during World War II.

POWs at Pine Camp

The first permanent WWII POW camp in New York was opened on Sept. 20, 1943, at Pine Camp to house roughly 1,000 Italian prisoners of war. They arrived from the North African and Sicilian campaign in poor health, by all accounts, due to prolonged duty overseas. POWs were issued new clothing appropriate for North Country climate, and they were paid a regular wage for their labor.

For 80 cents per day, the POWs worked on farms and in lumber camps where they helped harvest crops and cut wood for companies that contracted their services through the War Department and state government. This labor compensated for the loss of American workers who volunteers or were drafted into military service.

The internment stockade at Pine Camp included 20 barracks buildings, four dining facilities, a canteen, recreation building and other administrative facilities. Newspapers reported on the treatment of POWs, noting how a regular diet of American food improved their health. They also received weekly liberty for supervised travel to Watertown, under guard, after Italy surrendered to the Allies on June 6, 1944.

German POWs arriving to Pine Camp were moved to a separate compound, due to the high level of tension between the two nations.

Italian POWS remained there for nearly a year until the War Department initiated a voluntary training program called the Italian Service Units (ISU). Members of these units performed duties such as automobile maintenance and laundry services. Throughout late 1944 and 1945, several small ISUs trained at Pine Camp before relocating throughout the U.S. – mostly to quartermaster and ordnance depots.

The POW camp deactivated after the last German POWs were repatriated to their homeland.

Pvt. Rino Carlutti

Pvt. Rino Carlutti was born April 14, 1922, in S. Daniele del Friuli, Udine. While assigned to a logistics company in the Italian army, Carlutti was captured on May 11, 1943, in Tunisia and sent to the Pine Camp internment stockade. He died from injuries in an automobile accident on Oct. 17. 1944, at Sampson Naval Hospital, near Seneca Lake.

A second Italian soldier, Pvt. Renato Facchini, died June 27, 1944, and was buried at the POW Cemetery next to Carlutti. Faccini was disinterred from the cemetery on Aug. 6, 1957, by family request, and returned to Italy. Attempts made to locate relatives of Carlutti in Italy were unsuccessful.

The POW Cemetery, located on Route 26 next to Sheepfold Cemetery, also has six German POWs buried there. For more information, visit https://fortdrum.isportsman.net/Cemeteries.aspx.