Life Behind Barbed Wire: The Secret World War II Photographs of Prisoner of War Angelo M. Spinelli

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Fordham Univ Press, 2004 - History - 226 pages
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Sergeant Angelo Spinelli was captured in North Africa by the Germans on Valentine's Day, 1943, and shipped to Stalag IIIB near Furstenburg, Germany. Using cigarettes obtained from the Red Cross, Spinelli bribed a camp guard to procure a Voitlander camera and film. Life behind Barbed Wire features photographs Spinelli took during his time in prison camp. Of the more than one thousand photographs Spinelli risked his life to take, more than one hundred appear in this book. The remarkable photographs, enhanced by Lewis H. Carlson's explanatory text, feature prisoners trading with the guards' combating ticks, lice, and other vermin, preparing meager rations on ingenious cooking contraptions, fighting off boredom by playing baseball, soccer, and football, putting on musical and dramatic theatre presentations, and worshiping in a chapel the prisoners themselves built. These snapshots give us a window on camp life, where catastrophe was normal and normalcy was often catastrophic. In addition, there are dramatic shots of liberation from Stalag IIIA, where Spinelli and some thirty-eight thousand other Allied prisoners had been moved during the final months of the war. Mounted as a traveling exhibit by the National Prisoner of War Museum in Andersonville, Georgia, 92 of these photographs are currently on display at the Italian American Museum in New York City.

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Page 222 - He was awarded the Legion of Merit "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service...
Page 20 - Later that day we took another break, and as the guards were getting us back on the road we heard a shot. Apparently at the head of the column one of the Airborne guys didn't get up quickly enough to suit one of the guards, so he shot him right in the forehead. As we walked by, he was lying on his back by the side of the...
Page 18 - One time we heard an SS officer telling the officer in charge of our section that if we didn't move fast enough, he should order the guards to shoot us. Several times we had to step over the bodies of Americans who had been shot. At least one of our men who had stopped to urinate was also shot.2
Page 13 - We cannot commend and praise the YMCA too much for the magnificent work they performed for the prisoners of war, and we hold that it was largely through their efforts that the officers of the AAF prisoners of war returned to the United States in such fine mental and physical condition."1...
Page 10 - Cross parcels for minor infractions, insisting on puncturing all canned goods to prevent hoarding for escapes, and tossing offenders into the cooler with liberality. But in other ways the prisoners got away with a lot. There was an active trade in all commodities across the fences with the Russians and the French, and the Americans were given little or no punishment when caught.
Page 20 - One POW walked over to an old German woman standing by her fence and tried to trade a bar of soap for some food. One of the guards walked up behind him and smacked him in the back of the head with his rifle.
Page 21 - IIIA was equally bad. We lived under unspeakable conditions. A lot of the men were assigned to open areas with no protection. We were so crowded that it was absolutely impossible to maintain even the rudimentary conditions of cleanliness.

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World War II
G. Kurt Piehler
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About the author (2004)

Angelo Spinelli was a decorated combat photographer in the Signal Corps. Born in the Bronx, New York, he now lives in Hallandale, Florida. Lewis H. Carlson is Professor Emeritus of History at Western Michigan University. His books including We Were Each Other's Prisoners: An Oral History ofWorld War II American and German Prisoners of War and Remembered Prisoners of a Forgotten War: An Oral History of Korean War POWs.

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