Weekend events to commemorate Italian POWs who built Letterkenny Chapel

More than 1,200 repatriated Italian prisoners of war lived and worked at what was then known as Letterkenny Ordinance Depot after Italy surrendered during World War II in September 1943. While there, the POWs built the historic Letterkenny Chapel.

Saturday through Monday, family and friends associated with these men, who formed the 321st Quartermaster Battalion, will visit Chambersburg to commemorate their loved ones and their contributions to the local community.

Members of the public are invited to a series of events over the weekend to celebrate the battalion and the 77th anniversary of Letterkenny Chapel:

Saturday, Sept. 10

  • 9 a.m. — Opening of “Letterkenny World War II Italian Prisoner of War Experience” at the Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center, 15 S. Main St., Chambersburg. Official dedication begins at 9:30 a.m.

  • 1:30 p.m — Historic Letterkenny Chapel 77th Anniversary Celebration Program including dedication of memorials and gifts at Letterkenny Chapel.

Sunday, Sept. 11

  • 1:30 p.m. — 9/11 Ceremony at Letterkenny Chapel and Franklin County Veterans & 9/11 Memorial Park. Speaker: Deacon G. Bryan Salzmann, reflecting on the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, followed by dedication of Rev. Dr. William H. Harter Memorial Garden.

More about the history of Letterkenny's Italian POWs

From May 1944 to October 1945, 1,250 repatriated Italian prisoners lived and worked at Letterkenny Depot, ordering, stocking and shipping military provisions and equipment to the Allied Forces in Europe and the Pacific. The men, who took an oath of allegiance to support the Allied efforts, were well-treated with ample food, good health care, and access to music, sports and worship. These men formed the 321st Quartermaster Battalion. Many created bonds with the Chambersburg community.

More:An ocean apart for 70 years, sons of Italian POW meet for first time

During the seventeen months at Letterkenny, the men of the 321st Quartermaster Battalion struggled with feelings of loneliness and concern for their families nearly 5,000 miles and an ocean away. It was a difficult time. The men turned to their faith to guide them, seeking out counsel, who wisely suggested channeling the loneliness into beneficial tasks.

The men of the 321st Quartermaster Battalion designed and built Letterkenny Chapel, using materials from the farmhouses, barns and other structures razed to build Letterkenny Depot. On May 13, 1945, Msgr. Amleto Cicognani celebrated the Mass to consecrate Letterkenny Chapel. Today, the Italianate chapel stands as a lasting memory of the contributions of the men of the 321st Quartermaster Battalion.

This article originally appeared on Chambersburg Public Opinion: Events celebrate WWII Italian POWs who built Letterkenny Chapel