By Kalene Lozick, Fort Riley Public AffairsNovember 22, 2017
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- To remember prisoners of war from Germany and Italy, Fort Riley called upon international partnerships to commence the German and Italian Memorial Ceremony Nov. 16 at the Fort Riley Main Post Cemetery.
During the height of WWII, 371,000 soldiers from Germany, 50,000 from Italy and 4,000 from Japan were detained in 700 camps throughout the U.S., said Col. Carsten Döding, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, German Army liaison officer to U.S. Army Combined Arms Center. Fort Riley was one of 16 camps in Kansas where about 4,500 prisoners were held from 1943 to 1946.
Among the soldiers buried at Fort Riley are 11 Italian and 62 German soldiers who died due to illness or accident.
To commemorate the German and Italian soldiers who died this way, Döding and Lt. Col. Antonio Laudando, Fort Leavenworth Italian Army liaison officer to U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, came to Fort Riley to remember those soldiers.
Among the guests were Lt. Col. Kosuke Suzki, Fort Leavenworth Japanese liaison officer to U.S. Army Command and Staff College, who represented Japanese POW soldiers buried at Fort Riley's Post Cemetery.
The memorial ceremony began with an invocation by Chap. (Maj.) Michael Frailey, installation chaplain resource manager, Fort Riley garrison.
Following the invocation, Döding honored the fallen soldiers with an address focused on trust, peace, freedom and human rights.
"In Germany, the National Day of Mourning was established in 1922 and was initially dedicated to the victims of World War I," he said. "The Nazis made it a national holiday and redefined it as an occasion to glorify war. In an effort to make a clear break with the fascist ideology and the Nazis' perversion (or distortion) of the holiday's initial aim, its date was changed from March to the end of the liturgical year in November, a time traditionally devoted to thoughts of death, time and eternity."
His speech brought nods of agreement to those who listened while others shifted in their seat when he spoke of war, terror, violence and tyranny.
He said the National Day of Mourning in German is not a day to glorify war, but to remember the soldiers who have fallen protecting the freedom of their country.
One soldier in particular was Gustav Dormann, a German Air Force officer. He was drafted during WWII and reported to his first duty station in North Africa. Dormann died as a POW, due to an accident Aug. 9, 1943.
During Döding's remarks, he gave the soldier's story and said why it is an honor for him to place a wreath for a fallen comrade in arms, like Dormann.
"A couple weeks ago, through the German War Graves Commission, I received a special request from his grandson, Michael Dormann, to lay a wreath on his grandfather's gravesite at Fort Riley's cemetery," Döding said.
When asked later about the story, he paused and said, Michael never met his grandfather, Gustav. For Döding, the placement of the wreath is an honor to help out the family who were unable to travel to Fort Riley from Germany, he said.
After the commemorative address by Döding, Laudando took to the podium to pay his respects to the Italian POW soldiers buried at Fort Riley's Post Cemetery.
"It is truly my honor to be here as a soldier to pay respects to the Italian and German soldiers buried here and to all soldiers who tried for their people in their nations," Laudando said. "It's in this, today, that you understand that freedom has a cost."
A cost of 60 million lost lives, Döding said.
The address from Laudando spoke on remembering those who have fallen captured during WWII. As a soldier himself, he spoke of the POW soldiers with formality and high regard by emphasizing that their stories must not be overlooked.
"Their sacrifices must not be forgotten," Laudando said. "So for me it is an honor to be here and to pay respect."
Both liaisons from Germany and Italy concluded their addresses with a prayer from their countries.
Döding and Sgt. Maj. Markus Hausleitner of Germany concluded with a prayer said at the official hour on the National Day of Mourning in the German Parliament.
The prayer was spoken in German and translated by Hausleitner in English.
After the addresses, the memorial ceremony concluded with the placement of wreaths by two living German officers and two Italian officers from Fort Leavenworth. It was followed by a three-round salute by Fort Riley Soldiers and concluded with German and Italian taps.
"The German and Italian comrades, which have found their last resting place here at Fort Riley, are part of world's history," Döding said. "More than 70 years after the end of World War II, they remind us that we have indispensable responsibility for peace and freedom in the world."