Posts Tagged ‘Confederate soldiers’

Anton Hilberath

Despite Arlington National Cemetery (MAP) usually being thought of as a place where America lays to rest its heroes and honored dead, there are also “enemies” buried there.  From its very beginning,  the cemetery has also been the final resting place of individuals considered to be enemy combatants.  It began with Confederate soldiers.  At the time they were buried they were considered the enemy.  However, most people no longer consider them as such.  In addition to the Confederate soldiers, I was surprised to learn that there are also three foreign prisoners of war from World War II laid to rest there.  So on this bike ride, I set out to find them.

During World War II there were approximately 435,788 prisoners of war held in more than 900 camps in 46 states, plus Alaska, which was not yet a state.  The vast majority of these prisoners were from the German military, although there were also approximately 51,455 Italians and 5,435 Japanese held in the United States.  Of these men, there is one German prisoner of war, named Anton Hilberath, buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  Although his is the only grave there, he is one of at least 830 German prisoners of war who died and were buried in the United States.  Of the Italian prisoners of war held in the United States, there are only two buried at Arlington National.  Their names are Mario Batista and Arcangelo Prudenza.  All three were captured and taken prisoner during the African Campaign in North Africa.  They were then shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and held on Maryland’s eastern shore.  There they were permitted to work on farms, for modest pay, since it was decided that they presented no risk to people in the area and likely would not try to escape.

All three died in captivity in 1946, and were buried in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, which stated that if a prisoner of war or a foreign national died in another country during World War II, they should be buried in the closest national cemetery of that country.  So with Arlington National being the closest national cemetery, all three men were buried there.

Little information is available about these three men, or most of the other prisoners, inasmuch as virtually all records of prisoners were transferred to military authorities in their home countries through the International Red Cross.  So unfortunately, the lost and the incomplete records that remain, compounded by the passage of time, means that it is likely we will never know much more about these men than the information contained on their headstones – their names, ranks, and when they died.

Having seen German, Italian, as well as Japanese tourists visiting The National World War II Memorial on the National Mall here in D.C., I find it increasingly difficult to remember how these people were so negatively viewed in this country less than a lifetime ago.  And that’s a good thing.

Mario Batista

Arcangelo Prudenza

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