A shooting in a Salina prisoner of war camp killed nine prisoners and wounded over 20 others. The motive for the shooting remains unclear.
At 12:25 a.m. on Sunday, July 8, 1945, two months after Germany’s surrender in World War II, the report of a .30 caliber machine gun shattered the silence in the small southern Utah town of Salina. Private Clarence V. Bertucci, a 23 year old guard at a nearby prisoner of war camp full of sleeping German prisoners, sprayed the camp with three bursts of bullets. Bertucci fired two hundred and fifty rounds in fifteen seconds before being stopped by fellow camp guards. He had been on duty for less than a half-hour.
Two hundred and fifty German prisoners living in 43 tents populated the camp at the time. Bertucci’s rounds hit 30 of those tents. Wounded prisoners were sent to hospitals in Kearns, Ft. Douglas, Tooele, and Brigham City’s Bushnell General Hospital. The most seriously wounded prisoners received medical attention in Salina. A total of eight prisoners died on July 8. A ninth prisoner succumbed to his wounds on July 13, 1945. Twenty other soldiers were wounded. The uninjured soldiers went back to agricultural work in Sanpete County and around Salina the next day, though they had requested the day off.
On July 12, the eight dead were interred at the Ft. Douglas Cemetery. German POWs from Ogden purchased wreaths to adorn the U.S. military caskets bearing their fellow soldiers. The War Department allowed some German POWs to attend the funeral. The seventeen prisoners in attendance sang “Good Comrade.” No Nazi flags were allowed at the service.
Private Bertucci remains somewhat of an enigma. The motive for the shooting remains unclear. A few hours before the shooting, he reportedly drank a few beers then promised something big would happen that night. After the shooting, Bertucci went to Ft. Douglas for psychiatric treatment. He died in 1969.
Image: Composite image of the World War II prisoner-of war camp in Salina and a headline about the July 8, 1945, massacre by Private Clarence V. Bertucci of German prisoners held there. Courtesy of Tami Olsen Clark and the Salt Lake Tribune.
See news reports about the Salina prisoner of war shooting in the following editions of the Salt Lake Tribune: July 9, 1945; July 10, 1945; July 11, 1945; July 12, 1945; July 13, 1945; and July 17, 1945. Also see news reports in the Deseret News: July 9, 1945; July 10, 1945; and July 11, 1945. One retrospective article can be found in The Daily Utah Chronicle on November 11, 2002. Also see Ralph A. Busco and Douglas D. Alder, “German and Italian Prisoners of War in Utah and Idaho,” Utah Historical Quarterly 39 (Winter 1971): 55-72.