Italian Prisoners

Southeastern USA

      I was just a kid during the war. My father, Captain Martin R. Merlis, was a medical officer in the Army. Before he was shipped overseas, he was stationed at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, at Camp Rucker in Dothan Alabama and at a camp in Sardis, Mississippi, the name of which I have forgotten.

     I remember little of the era except that at one of these Southern camps, there were a lot of Italian POWs -- almost all of them old men and young boys. The Army used to rent them -- I guess that's the best term for it -- to local farmers to harvest crops because most of the local men were off in the Army.

     Another activity of the Italian POWs was babysitting me. I don't remember any of that, but my parents told me that they used to entrust me to one old man (he was probably 40 at the time but must have seemed old compared to all our young soldiers) and he used to play with me and sing to me.

     One day, a group of POWs return from a local farm in the back of the truck were all injured when another truck rode past too closely. It seemed that all the POWs were leaning over the edge of their truck, their elbows stuck way out and the oncoming truck swerved too close and broke the elbows of a lot of them. It was a pretty bad accident but probably a lot better than sitting in a trench with napalm or heavy ordnance falling on their heads.

----- George Merlis


Biography of Martin R. Merlis, Capt, Medical Officer, USA

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