POW legacy lives in stone
August 27, 2008
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. (Army News Service, Aug. 27, 2008) - The legacy of a World War II prisoner of war lives on through a rock that marks the entrance of Camp Atterbury. Libero Puccini, one of the crafters of that monument, recently passed away.
Col. Barry Richmond, Camp Atterbury commander, said that Camp Atterbury was blessed by the opportunity to share Libero's life.
"That big stone that Libero carved over six decades ago still marks our entrance. And it stands not only for our legacy of traditions in training excellence, but as a promise to the future that Camp Atterbury will remain a premiere training center."
Puccini and thousands of other Italian Soldiers were brought to Camp Atterbury in 1943, as prisoners of war after surrendering to American troops.
While here, the Italian POWs were hired out to local farmers and tomato canneries. When not working, the POWs completed special projects to pass the time. Two of those special projects, the POW Chapel and Camp Atterbury entrance stone, still stand today serving as memorials to the war prisoners.
While hundreds of POWs worked together to build the chapel, only Puccini and one other Italian were selected to carve the colossal rock to sit near the front gate of the camp.
Retired Col. Jorg Stachel, a former Camp Atterbury commander and friend of Puccini's, said the commander at the time was looking for someone to complete the project for the entrance and sought out Puccini.
"Puccini was quite an artist so it was no surprise that he was approached with the task," he said. "Every time I pass that rock, I think of Puccini."
In an anecdote from The Atterbury Files, a reference book about the camp written by Custer Baker Middle School students in the 1980s, Puccini said some of his most interesting experiences as a POW at Camp Atterbury were attributed to being involved in that special project.
The project was an "exercise of artistic skill that would mark the entrance of the camp, the date of its establishment and symbolic sword on a large glacial stone," he said.
Puccini said in the article that the project could have been accomplished in two weeks time but he extended the process.
"I was assigned another POW to work with me. Having not much to do and being it was a pleasant summer we decided to do a little goldbricking and prolonged the enterprise for the rest of the summer," he said.
"The rock is now in a prominent position where I hope it will remain as a memory of the time," said Puccini, in The Atterbury Files.
"The Atterbury Rock" has attained a certain fame in the local area. Just as his biography states, it has become the face of Camp Atterbury, used on plaques and official photos as well as its Web site; and just as he hoped, the rock remains and will continue to be a reminder of the Italian POWs' contribution to the installation.