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Louis VanSlooten of West Olive, Michigan, was one of nine former POWs of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars to be honored today in Michigan.
The Holland (Michigan) Sentinel covered the event:
Veterans to receive medals in special ceremony today
By ROEL GARCIA
The Holland Sentinel
Louis VanSlooten was captured in Africa, taken to Sicily and finally northern Italy during World War II.
He calls it a time of starvation. Prisoners were given one bowl of water and a few pasta pieces once a day. He lost about 60 pounds while a prisoner.
VanSlooten and another man escaped on Sept. 14, 1943, after being prisoners since Dec. 10, 1942.
The friends spent nine months living off the land — eating acorns, chestnuts and dandelions — until they met up with the Allied armies in Italy.
“I lived on a daily basis,” said VanSlooten, 88, of West Olive of his life after the escape.
VanSlooten, serving in the Army as a member of the Combat Engineers with the 1st Armored Division, should have received the Prisoner of War Medal but he never got it.
On Monday, June 30, he and eight other veterans will get the opportunity to receive medals they earned.
U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, will present the veterans their medals in a ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at Evergreen Commons, 480 S. State St.
“It’s been 66 years and I didn’t even know anything about the them,” VanSlooten said of the medals.
This ceremony is different, since there are veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, where the focus was on World War II veterans before, Hoekstra said.
“We’ve got the full complement of people,” Hoekstra said.
While VanSlooten will receive eight medals, Navy veteran Donald Bouman will receive 11.
Bouman served in the Navy during World War II aboard the destroyer Collett.
Bouman has his own piece of history attached to his service during the war.
He was aboard the Collett when the Japanese surrendered.
“We were a short distance from the Missouri where the papers were signed. I watched it all with my binoculars,” said Bouman, 86, of Zeeland.
About the medals he will receive, Bouman said it’s important for his family more than himself.
“I’m anxious to find out about the medals. It’s not so much for myself but for my kids,” he said.
Louis VanSlooten is here shown with U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra.
The medals Louis is holding are: Prisoner of War Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Button, Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar.
Robert Dickinson kept a diary from November 23, 1941 to September 3, 1944—from the date of his capture by the Germans until six months before his death.
Robert titled his diary “Servigliano Calling.”
The diary chronicles Robert’s transfer from camp to camp, his escape, and his involvement with the Partisan resistance movement. In the diary, Robert details day to day activities and events at the Servigliano camp, including football matches, camp cooking recipes, mail and food parcels received, special holiday activities, and escape attempts. “Servigliano Calling” also includes drawings and poetry created by fellow prisoners.
Some time after the war, the diary was discovered during renovations to a farmhouse in Gassino, Italy—a house where the Partisans had hidden Robert—and it was returned to Robert’s family.
Parts of “Servigliano Calling” are shared here by Robert’s nephew, Steve Dickinson, who transcribed the calendar. The binding of the diary cover (shown above) is made from Cocoa tins. According to Steve, “Even to this day the diary has a slight aroma of Cocoa.”
The page shown below is the diary’s title page.
This is a record of the main events which took place after my capture by the Germans near Gambut Aerodrome on Nov. 23rd 1941.
Captured by the Germans at 8:30 in the evening near Gambut Aerodrome about 12 miles south of Tobruk.
Handed over to the Italians and joined up with approx 2,000 other prisoners, then transported to the ‘Pen’ a barbed wire enclosure about 50 miles from Tobruk, being bombed and shelled by our own forces on the way.
Arrived Derna at 6 O’clock in the evening, still sleeping in the open without ground-sheet or blankets, rain and very cold.
Arrived Benghazi prison camp at 5:30 in the evening feeling hellish hungry
Letter card home and Red Cross
Birthday, ½ mess tin of watery macaroni, ¼ tin of Bully (Iti) and 1½ rolls of bread
Boarded a destroyer along with 100 officers and 150 men, split up from Pollard and most of the ‘Boys’, only 4 of us together now. Hellish night, believed to be chased by the ‘Navy’, everyone seasick.
Arrived Tripoli at 5 O’clock in the evening and taken in lorries to Tarhuna about 50 miles, arriving at midnight.
Met 4 of the guys from the Battery and found they were captured 2 days before I.
Hair cut right off!! and a shower bath, also blankets issued. Firsts nights sleep with any covering for a fortnight, but on a tiled floor no ground-sheet or mattress.
Christmas Day, food just the same, bar for a lemon. Luckily I exchanged my cheap wallet for 20 cigs. Or else the boys and I would not have had a smoke.
Forty of us taken to Castel Benito aerodrome and by plane at 2 O’clock in the afternoon and arrived at Trapani in Sicily at 5pm; from there taken to a new camp being erected; and found only one tent with 116 POW’s already in.
Finished erecting the second tent and half of us move in, league of nations tent personel consists of Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, 1 Indian (Sikh), 3 Polish, 2 Greeks, 2 Libyans and of course English; in all 72. Everyone talks in their own languages or dialects. What a row!!
A letter was sent to the family of Robert Dickinson soon after Robert’s death in Italy by Varesio Vincenza. Her family had cared deeply for Robert, and this touching letter reflects that deep affection and their grief in losing him.
Following is a transcription of the letter:
The scope of this letter is because of a sworn promise that I would send you news of your dear Robert. Unfortunately he is dead. He was killed by some ex fascists and Germans. He died on the 3rd March 1945. Dear Robert was seriously wounded in one of his legs but was able to draw himself as far as our village where his wounds were immediately attended to. He placed his machine gun and ammunition in a house from which he kept on firing right up to the last as a real warrior would do after which he took the smallest firearm and endeavoured to make his way to join his comrades, however, being wounded could no longer walk and because of firing against the Republic stayed near a small stream. All of a sudden he was surrounded by three ruffians who beat him to death. Poor Robert, whilst he could, he always called for his dear mother and family but no one could go to his help at that moment. When he died he was abandoned and he was eventually found by our partisans during the night when together with his friend, who was also killed, they were brought to a house and after a few days they were given a most honourable burial. His honour was very great. We cannot pray for him because we belong to a different religion, but this notwithstanding, I never miss to go to his grave every Sunday and place flowers on his grave.
The cemetery he is buried in is quite near to us. He has been placed in two coffins one of wood and one of zinc.
He always did his duty and always carefully listened to the advice of his officers, but destiny would be barbarously cruel to him. He told me a good many of his experiences. Now he is reposing and resting in peace. When his body was brought in I was able to wash him and clean him up. I have done so to a great many of the wounded. Robert did not seem to me he looked any different to when he was alive.
Do pray for him and always remember him because he was really good and a great warrior. To be able to write all about Robert it would take me a book. Many, many times he came to our house and have happy days but the Fascists would kill him. Now he rests in peace and do pray for him because he was such a good lad.
With kindest regards and with deepest sympathy
My father, Armie Hill, kept a clipping from Yank magazine for many years. The article, dated September 1, 1944, is “The Partisan from Brooklyn,” by Sgt. Harry Sions. It tells the story of Manuel Serrano’s involvement with the Italian Partisan underground movement after his escape from Camp 59. Links to the three-page article are below.
What I know about Manuel Serrano is limited to information available through his enlistment and POW records at the National Archives:
Manuel S. Serrano was born in 1919. He enlisted in the army on February 5, 1942 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. His term of enlistment was “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to the law.” He is listed as single and his education is given as “grammar school.” According to the record, he was Puerto Rican and a resident of King’s County, New York.
Serrano’s POW record at the Archives indicates he was a first sergeant in the Army Parachute Infantry, and that he served in the North African Theatre. The record confirms he was a prisoner at “CC 59 Ascoli Picenzo Italy 43-13.”
Yank magazine was published weekly by the U.S. Army during WW II. The magazine was written entirely by enlisted rank soldiers and it was available, for five cents per issue, to servicemen overseas.