Killing Of German Prisoners After The End Of WW2 Is Remembered At Utah Museum

German prisoners of war.
German prisoners of war.

The murder of German prisoners of war shortly after WWII ended is to be remembered with a new museum at Salina, Utah.

Dee Olsen and his daughter are working to restore a trio of buildings remaining from the POW camp. Next month the story of the massacre will be told at the museum.

The city was the site of one of the several camps across the United States where prisoners were held and while waiting to be sent home later.

Farmers in the area became acquainted with some of the prisoners, as farms could ask that the prisoners work as free day workers.  Dee Olsen’s family was among them.

The older German prisoners kept very much to themselves.  “Their English and my German was about the same, so we were able to talk quite well with the younger men,” Olsen recalls.

Late one night in mid-summer 1945, Army Private First Class Clarence Bertucci was wooing a girl at a local café in the city.

“He told the waitress that something sensational was going to happen that night,” Olsen said, “and then he came up to the camp, got into the tower and shot a large amount of .30-caliber machine gun slugs.”

Other soldiers quickly moved to stop the firing but not before the damage was finished.

Nine of the prisoners died, and many more were wounded, Olsen said.

The dead were buried at the military cemetery at Fort Douglas in Utah’s capital. Bertucci was sent to a psychiatric hospital, and the camp was closed.

Olsen said some of his friends in the community were not in favor of turning the area into a place of remembrance.

One friend thought they were out of their minds and that the building should have been destroyed, he recalls.

Olsen’s daughter, Tami Olsen-Clark, supports the project.

These young men that were captured were doing what their country asked of them, as our young men were doing what they were asked, she said.

Clark added that it’s important, even when it’s unpleasant, to remember history, Fox 13 reported.

The museum grand opening and dedication will also honor a Civilian Conservation Corps camp that was located at the same site.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE