Wreath-laying ceremony honors WWII Italian POW buried in Fort Drum cemetery

FORT DRUM, NY —  Fort Drum community members gathered at the Prisoner of War (POW) Cemetery on Nov. 4 to place a wreath at the grave of an Italian soldier, in honor of Italy’s Armed Forces Day and National Day of Unity.

During the ceremony, Col. James Zacchino Jr., Fort Drum garrison commander, spoke about Pvt. Rino Carlutti, and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Thomas McCort, Fort Drum garrison chaplain, led the group in prayer. Spc. Steven Vought, a bugler with the 10th Mountain Division Band, performed “Il Silenzio,” the Italian armed forces version of “Taps.”

The Fort Drum Cultural Resources team began placing a wreath at the grave site 10 years ago, until it became an official request from the Italian embassy, which provides the wreath for the ceremony.

“These graves are on Fort Drum, and so it is our responsibility to take care of them,” Zacchino said. “Just as it is equally important for us to honor these service members who died here, as we would want our Soldiers who died in other countries to be honored and remembered.”

Pvt. Rino Carlutti was born April 14, 1922, in S. Daniele del Friuli, Udine, to Giuseppina and Teodolinda Mengoli. Carlutti served in the Italian army, assigned to a logistics company during World War II. He was captured on May 11, 1943, in Tunisia. Carlutti joined scores of Italian POWs who were sent to an internment stockade at Pine Camp (now Fort Drum).

Carlutti, 22, was severely injured in an automobile accident and died Oct. 17, 1944, at Sampson Naval Hospital, near Seneca Lake. A second Italian soldier, Pvt. Renato Facchini, died June 27, 1944, in a drowning accident. Both soldiers were buried at the POW Cemetery, but Facchini was disinterred from the cemetery on Aug. 6, 1957, by family request, and returned to Italy.

Attempts were made in the early 1970s to locate relatives of Carlutti, through the Italian ambassador to the U.S. and Henry V. Cumoletti, a court stenographer at Camp Drum. Little else is known about Carlutti, but a history exists of the POW camp established here nearly 80 years ago.

POWs at Pine Camp

During World War II, Pine Camp (now Fort Drum) was the site of an internment camp for German and Italian prisoners of war.

Italian POWs were transported to Pine Camp from other internment camps throughout the country. They were organized as a temporary military unit with an Italian chain of command and assisted by American officers. The POWs were tasked with various duties to support the war effort.

“We know that they were sent up to the Adirondacks for logging, and they also picked vegetables and helped farmers during the harvest,” said Dr. Laurie Rush, Fort Drum Cultural Resources manager.

By all accounts, they were well-treated – POWs were instructed in English and were sometimes permitted to leave post.

“Italian families would welcome the Italian POWs into their homes, invite them for dinner, and there were all sorts of interaction,” Rush said.

By May 1946, all POWs had left the area, but the remains of several deceased soldiers were buried in what is now known as the POW Cemetery. A second Italian soldier, Pvt. Renato Faccini, was disinterred from the POW Cemetery and transported to Italy in August 1957.

In 1974, the Italian ambassador had attempted to locate Carlutti’s relatives, in response to a request by Henry V. Cumoletti. Cumoletti served as an assistant clerk and stenographer at Pine Camp and was an interpreter for the Italian POWs. After the war, he served on a court stenographer team at the first Nuremberg trials and later worked as a court reporter in the Watertown City Court.

Rush said that she first placed a wreath at the grave in 2012 before it became an official request of the Italian Embassy to conduct a wreath-laying ceremony to coincide with Italy’s Armed Forces Day. Nov. 4 is also National Unity Day.

The POW Cemetery is located outside the cantonment area on Route 26, next to Sheepfold Cemetery.

For more information, visit https://fortdrum.isportsman.net/Cemeteries.aspx.