This year the high school Gifted and Talented students participated in a two-day activity designed to acquaint them with Italy, World War II, and two nearby historical sites.

The first day, the students took a short field trip to St. Mary's Church in Umbarger, Texas, where they saw paintings, carvings, and frescoes created by seven of the several thousand Italian prisoners of war who had been incarcerated just south of Hereford, Texas, between 1942 and 1946. Here they met two ladies who had known the seven prisoners while they were working at Umbarger. On the way back to school, the students stopped at the site of the Prisoner of War camp (officially known as the Hereford Military Reservation and Reception Center) to see a memorial chapel built by other Italian POWs to mark the gravesite of five prisoners who had died during their imprisonment. To view map, click here.

Various local Earth area residents and community members filled the second day with presentations.

Mrs. Libby Geissler began the program with a slide show outlining the progression of Italian art from its origin to the present, including its influences on ancient and modern art and civilization.

Next, Mrs. Clara Vick from Dimmitt showed a short video describing the restoration of the POW chapel and the first visit of the former Italian prisoners to the site where they had spent most of World War II. She was personally acquainted with a number of the Italians and told several stories about them, their families, and the POW reunions she has attended in Italy. She also shared more information about the POW camp and the building and restoration of the chapel.

After learning more about the Italian POWs, their camp, and the memorial chapel, the students visited with two Earth residents, Mrs. Ann Kelley and Roger Haberer, a World War II veteran. Mrs. Kelley told the students some things she remembered about the community and the United States during the war, and Mr. Haberer shared his memories of fighting in Europe. Coach Kent Bode followed up on this with a timeline of Italy's involvement in World War II.

For lunch, the student sprepared and ate an authentic Italian meal with the help of Ms. Kathy Beck. While they finished eating, Mrs. Delores Moore read some passages from Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl was a POW at Auschwitz, and the students learned of his struggle to survive and were able, in part, to imagine the Italians' state of mind during their imprisonment. (However, the Italians were treated much better than POWs in other countries, although they did suffer from hunger near the end of the war.)

To end the day, Mrs. Barbara Huckabee helped the students learn to speak Italian and the Springlake-Earth Siren (online newspaper) class conducted interviews.


Amberg, Marion. "Gifts of Peace." St. Anthony Messenger, December 2001.


Kilday, Anne Marie. "Italian POWs Brought Culture to the High Plains." Texas Co-op Power,
April 2002, pp.20-21.

Williams, Donald Mace. Italian POWs and a Texas Church: The Murals of St. Mary's. Lubbock, TX:
Texas Tech University Press, 1997.