By Tina Luers
During World War II, thousands of Italian prisoners of war were sent to the United States to help fill labor shortages created by the war. However, following the fall of Italy to Allied Forces in 1943, a majority of those POW’s agreed to support the United States war efforts and joined Italian Service Units. These units were established to help streamline war manufacturing and provide logistical support to United States troops. Tens of thousands of Italian nationals participated in the Italian Service Units throughout the United States. Yet there remains relatively little documentation of these units and their contribution to the Allied war effort. The Special Collections Research Center recently acquired a photograph album of an Army Serviceman who worked with the Italian Service Unit program. The Salvatore Rocco Calandra Photograph Album of the Italian Service Unit Program (SC 01583) offers a vivid illustration of the Italian Service Unit camps; the album shows 17 of the camps and a number of the Italian men who worked within them. Calandra's album is a rich example of a primary source that documents this little-known, but highly important program of World War II.
Photos included in this post show the locations Calandra served as he trained various Italian units, other GI’s and a depiction of their barracks, an example of the types of jobs and material support provided by the Italian Service Unit, and the patches Italian units wore on their uniform in order to distinguish themselves from their American counterparts.