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Lost Canteen


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I found this canteen near the Camp Young site at the old Desert Training Center-California Arizona Maneuver Area in 1986, this was my backyard as a kid. For years I had no idea where it was from, it just looked foreign. Some years later it came to mind, so I dug it out of the confines of my garage and decided to do a little research. I learned it’s an Italian water bottle, Why was it in the California Desert.


I found the answer in this dusty little town near the camp site, a local man informed me that Italian POWs’ use to eat at a small restaurant there in town. I was not aware of any WWII era POW camp in that area, so I dug a little deeper.


After some text research at my local library, I found that an ISU-Italian Service Unit was assigned to Camp Young for maintenance duties, the 252nd Italian Quartermaster Salvage Repair Company. In March/April of 1944 the War Department declared the C-AMA surplus, closure of all camp sites and operations began. The U.S. Army used ISU POW’s as labor to help dismantle tents, structures and dispose of loose ordnance at the Camp Young site. Volunteer POW’s from Mira Loma Quartermaster Sub-Depot “Camp Ono” helped take on this task.


To further convince my theory of the canteen origin, I did little photo research in Los Angeles CA. To my surprise, I located some photos of Italian and German POW’s walking off ships on to U.S. soil with mess-kits and Canteens in hand. This information can easily be obtained today, but this research was done at a time of no “internet”, it took some leg-work. I found this canteen in a partial mineshaft on hillside terrain next to Camp Young, it kept it nicely preserved. My logical conclusion is that an Italian POW was trying to keep cool from the scorching sun and that is how this canteen ended it's journey in the Southern California Desert.



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did it still have water in it when it was found?


NO, bone dry, the water had long since evaporated. Interesting note, the canteen lid has a plug on top, water could be sipped through the cap without it being unscrewed. Kind of like a sports bottle. When I found this canteen it was incredibly soiled, I soaked it in a bathtub full of water. The General Patton Memorial Museum in Chiriaco Summit California had this type of canteen on display that someone else found in the desert also.



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thats very interesting how you found it where it was left since WWII and researched the area , it appears to be in great condition


sounds like those Italian POWs were well treated in the USA and got to dine in local restaurants

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about half an hour from where I lived in PA was a German POW camp during WWII...now a forest...always wanted to get up there with a metal detector but never did

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