Camp Atterbury Prisoner of War Chapel

Sep 09, 2019 265

Camp Atterbury, today an active National Guard base in southern Indiana, was built as an army training facility shortly after Pearl Harbor, and soon became the unlikely destination for about 15,000 POWs from Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler’s armies. The prison section of the camp, now a county park and fish and wildlife area, housed enemy combatants throughout World War II. In 1943, some Italian soldiers were given permission to build a tiny Roman Catholic chapel in a quiet corner of the camp.

Hidden away in this remote place, the remains of the POW chapel tells a quiet, if cryptic, tale about the other side of war. Prisoners weren’t allowed to use valuable construction material, so the chapel turned out to be a low-key affair, measuring just 11 by 16 feet. The Italians used leftover brick and stucco. When it came to painting the ceiling and walls, rumor has it that they used flowers and berries from the nearby marshes and woods as well as their own blood to create pigments. A U.S. Army chaplain, Maurice Imhoff, held mass on Sundays.

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