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Possibly from The Wishek [North Dakota] Star
Circa April 1944
“Somewhere in Italy for five months, between October, 1943, and March, 1944, a North Dakota man, Sgt. Arthur T. Sayler of Wishek had been fighting his way back to Allied forces after being a prisoner in Italian camp 59 since his capture at Tunisia March 10, 1943.
“His parents, Mr. and Mrs. F. J. Sayler of Wishek, had received no word since getting a letter written July 28, 1943, until word came from the war department April 8, informing them their son had reported back for duty March 25.
“No authentic details of his escape are known here.
“Sgt. Sayler entered the army April 10, 1941. He received basic training at Camp Claiborne, La. [Louisiana], and before going overseas in January, 1942, was stationed at Fort Dix, N.J. [New Jersey]. Northern Ireland was his first station overseas. From there he was sent to North Africa, and participated in the battle for Tunisia at which time he was captured. He is assigned with the infantry.”
See also “See also “Arthur T. Sayler—Capture and Escape.”
After Elwyn “Buck” Vanous passed away on January 7, 2011, his obituary in the Bismarck [North Dakota] Tribune began, “Today we remember a true American hero and a North Dakota Cowboy.”
Like many soldiers of his generation, Buck Vanous identified first and foremost with his service to country and his roots.
Buck was born in 1916 and grew up on his family farm near the small town of Driscoll, North Dakota. He was drafted into the Army in 1941, and he served in combat during World War II.
The obituary says Buck was captured in North Africa and was a POW in three prison camps for a total of one year and one day. He then escaped and walked across Italy, traveling at night, until he reached friendly lines. He received medical care and was sent home.
At war’s end, he was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant.
Buck returned to North Dakota and married Helen Attletweedt in 1946. For years they farmed in the Driscoll area. The family lived in California for a while, but eventually returned home to North Dakota. Over the years, Buck worked in construction and cattle ranching. Buck and Helen had five children together before Helen passed away in 1966.
In 1969, Buck married Helen Jenner.
The obituary had this to say about Buck’s interests:
Arthur T. Sayler
“My father was an American who escaped from Camp 59 when the Italians surrendered,” Susie Wickman wrote to me from her home in Colorado last November.
“He lived in a cave with help from the Italian people, until he was approached by an Italian man who offered to take him and his partner back behind Allied lines. I am trying to find information about this man who helped my dad and “Buck” Vanous. [See “Elwyn “Buck” Vanous—P.G. 59 Escapee.”]
“I recall my dad said this man approached them and told them his story.
“He had been living in America, when he was overheard to say on the phone, ‘I’ve got the package’ during the time of the Lindbergh kidnapping. He didn’t have anything to do with that, but he was deported. He told my dad that he loved America and was helping the Allies all he could so he could get back to America.
“He asked my dad to sign something like a petition at the time, but my dad was suspicious and did not. I don’t know if he was a member of the Italian resistance, or what.
“I would like to thank this man, or his family, as well as to accurately capture the story. If anyone has any knowledge of him, would they let me know?
“I have my father’s POW disability statement where he mentions Camp 59 by name.
“We know the name of the family in Italy that helped him—the Catalano family. The Catalanos were from Le Piane, Abbateggio [Pescara]. They had twin boys who eventually emigrated to America, and my dad was friends with them his whole life.
“I am still in touch with one of them, Romolo Catalano.”
Arthur Sayler’s Story
The following account of Arthur’s experience is derived from the disability application Arthur filed after the war.
ARTHUR T. SAYLER
Army Serial Number 37025925
On April 11, 1941, at age 23, Arthur Sayler of Wishek, North Dakota, was inducted into the U.S. Army at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. He was assigned to Infantry Company A, 135th Infantry First Battalion, 34th Infantry Division.
From there, he was sent to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, where the Louisiana Maneuvers of the Red and Blue Armies were conducted.
Gino Beer, with some girls at Farneta, near Montefiorino, 1944
I corresponded this week with Italian Michele Becchi concerning Gino Beer, who as a young man served in the fighting group headed by escaped POW Victor Styles. (See “Trooper Victor Styles—P.G. 52 Prisoner.”)
Michele Becchi researches WWII British Liaison Officers in Italy, ex-POWs, and downed pilots trying to reach the Allied lines. He is particularly interested in partisan warfare in his area of Italy, as well as Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) missions.
Michele knows and has interviewed Gino.
Michele wrote, “Victor Styles was leader of a special ex-POW fighting group working for the ‘TOFFEE’ mission. I’m trying to find the names of other POWs and Italian partisan members of that group. Gino served in the group.
“I meet Gino Beer years ago, when I was researching ‘Operation Tombola,’ an SAS [Special Air Service] operation against a German headquarters not far from my town.
“Gino was an Italian Jew from Genoa; he and his family was persecuted by the Nazis and fascists due to his origin. After a brief spell with the Ligurian partisans, Gino and his family transferred to Modena, in 1944, to avoid death. But the situation worsened, and Gino was forced to join the partisans of the Reggio-Modena mountains.
Trooper Victor Kensett Styles
I received a note recently from Vic Styles, a nephew of Victor Kensett Styles. Trooper Victor Styles, Royal Armoured Corps (RAC), was captured in North Africa and interned at P.G. 52 Pian de Coreglia (Chiavari).
“Like a lot of servicemen, he did not talk about his activities in Italy—we only got snippets of information,” Vic wrote.
“He was offered a commission, and later he resigned and went into teaching.
“He did not trust any politicians or whizz kid bosses. He was a very good manager in the flats where he lived in West Hampstead London NW6. He coached the tenants to buy their flats through the legal jargon. He was extremely clever in administration and with his hands.
“In the 1950’s my father fell out with him about a car deal, and they broke contact with each other. So I got info—but not much—second hand.
“Victor complained that when working with the S.O.E. [Special Operations Executive] he was never paid because he officially had been in a POW camp.
“He married twice and was divorced. He had no children.”
Victor was recommended for a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his acts, but he never got it because his file was kept secret for 85 years under the Official Secrets Act.
Victor was honored with an Italian Star in 2007, and Vic feels he should also be recognized with an Italian Garibaldi Medal for his work with the Italian partisans.
“In 2001, I applied to open his file,” Vic wrote. “They agreed, and that’s what you see on this report.”
Trooper Harold George Knibbs
I heard earlier this fall from Don Knibbs, who lives in the village of Sheet, which is in Hampshire, in the south of England. He wrote:
“I came across the Camp 59 Survivors web site today. What a great shame my dad isn’t still here to have seen it. He was Trooper Harold George Knibbs of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC).
“He was captured in June 1941 in the desert, close to Tobruk. He was transported to Italy where he spent time at Campo Concentramento Prigionieri di Guerra N.73, and Campo Concentramento PG.59.
“I’m afraid I don’t know the dates for when he was at each of the camps. I know from his records that he was still in Italy in 1943, but be was transferred to Stalag IVB at some time before Christmas 1944. I’m guessing that will have been after the Italians capitulated in September 1943.
“He had very few mementoes of the times, but amongst his many treasures was a currency note from Camp 59 (above).
In 2013, researcher Brian Sims gave me access to his photographs of the complete contents of a booklet entitled Italy: Imperial Prisoners of War Alphabetical List, Section 1, British Army, which is archived at the British National Archives.
The Alphabetical List contains the names of thousands of British prisoners of war interned in Italian camps, apparently compiled in 1942 or the spring of 1943.
This post, which contains Alphabetical List soldiers N–Z who were documented as P.G. 59 internees, is the completion of the list, which I have been posting in installments on this site.
A key to acronyms and abbreviations follows the list.
Nalty, T. – Cpl. – 56457 – R.A.S.C. – R.O. No. 29
Natt, A. E. – Pte. – 5509810 – Hamp. – R.O. No. 23
Neale, L. W. – Tpr. – 7879821 – R.A.C. – R.O. No. 3
Nelson, R. D. – Pte. – S/153793 – R.A.S.C. – R.O. No. 29
Nelson, A. E. – Gnr. – 1070139 – R.A. – R.O. No. 5
Newman, C. E. – Pte. – 6285518 – Buffs – R.O. No. 23
Newman, C. W. – L/Sjt. – 6968938 – R. Bde. – R.O. No. 24
Nicholls, J. W. – Bdr. – 6100128 – R.A. – R.O. No. 5
Nichols, W. H. – L/Sgt. – 6842964 – K.R.R.C. – R.O. No. 24
Noble, A. P. – Gnr. – 1430659 – R.A. – R.O. No. 43
I received an email recently from Adam Rolloff. He sent me photographs of a Bronze Star Medal awarded to William Kornrumph, as well as the American serviceman’s separation papers.
He wrote, “I enjoyed reviewing your site while researching William J. Kornrumph. The attached discharge papers should answer your questions about his escape and recapture.
“Unfortunately his military service file was destroyed in a fire at the records center in 1973 and I’ve been unable to find any additional information on his military service.”
I asked Adam is he is related to William Kornrumph.
“I’m not related to Kornrumph,” he answered. “I collect U.S. military medals and I’ve had his Bronze Star Medal in my collection for about 25 years. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to locate the citation with the specifics of what he did to earn the award. Based on the brief information in his discharge papers, he must have had some amazing stories about his service.
“Feel free to post details from the paperwork and how I contacted you. The discharge papers came from Kornrumph’s VA claim file. I was able to get a copy under the Freedom of Information Act.”
Scotsman Tom Kelly
I hear this week from Linda Veness, daughter of R. J. “Jimmy” McMahon. Her father’s story is covered in two posts on this site, “R. J. McMahon, Part 1—Battle and Captivity” and “R. J. McMahon, Part 2—Escape and Beyond.”
Jimmy McMahon said in describing his escape from P.G. 59, “I suggested to my mates, one Scot and five other Aussies, that instead of digging our way out we should try going over the top. We nutted this plan out and thought there would be enough time while the guards, patrolling the wall, were having their halfway talk and smoke, giving us about five minutes.”
Linda wrote to me that the Scot was Tom “Jock” Kelly. According to Linda, four other Australians who made this break were Tom Alman (from Kalgoorlie) Jack Allen (Kalgoorlie), Les Worthington (Wiluna) and J. Feehan (Geraldton). The men went over the wall on a ladder constructed with nails smuggled into the camp by a visiting priest.
It seems most likely this escape occurred in early September 1943.
This week Linda sent me a photo of Tom that she found. She wrote, “It looks to me as though it has been taken at ‘home.’” Whether it was taken before or after the war is unclear.
On the reverse side of this photo is written: “Trooper T Kelly / 7904262 / Camp 59 (?) 8th 3300 / section 48 hut 14 / Italia.”
Tom Kelly is among the men recorded in the “Alphabetical List” (“The Alphabetical List—British Soldiers K–M“). His service number in the booklet matches the number on the back of the photo. He is identified as a trooper in the Royal Armoured Corps.
1st Lt. Robert McIntosh (right), U.S. Army Air Force
Photo—Young-Nichols Funeral Home/family photo
Eddy Arnold’s Back Home Again in Indiana, one of the state’s most beloved songs, is an expression of sweet, sad longing for a return to the past—to youth and the comfort of a loving rural home.
The song has had a special resonance for me and many others here in Indiana this week, as the state welcomed home a native son, U.S. Army Air Forces’ 1st Lieutenant Robert McIntosh. Robert was killed in Italy during the Second World War.
The 21 year old pilot was on his way back to base from a strafing mission against an enemy airfield in Piacenza, Italy, on May 12, 1944 when his aircraft went missing.
Sixty-nine years later, during a crash site excavation in Santa Cristina, Italy, Robert’s remains were discovered by Archeologi dell’Aria, a group of Italian avian archaeology volunteers. U.S. government DNA testing confirmed the plane’s pilot was Robert McIntosh.
Robert’s remains were flown to Indiana on Tuesday.
A public funeral will be held today at the Tipton High School auditorium, and burial with full military honors will follow.
You can watch a memorial video that aired Tuesday on 13 WTHR Indianapolis on the channel’s website, wthr.com.
Also, read a story about Robert’s life and the return to Indiana by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
Robert McIntosh was flying a single-seat P-38 Lightning aircraft, as shown here, before he was reported missing in action. Photo—United States Air Force
Listen to an arrangement of Back Home Again In Indiana by Straight No Chaser. The professional a cappella group began at Indiana University, where Robert was a student before enlisting in the Army.
See also “After 72 Years—Dewey Gossett Home at Last.”