John W. "Bill" Rolen, 74, a retired electrician who was interned at German labor camps during World War II and who later became an activist on behalf of prisoners of war, died of cancer Sept. 14 at his home in Alexandria.

For the last five years, Mr. Rolen was executive director of American Ex-Prisoners of War, based in Arlington, Tex.

He started the nonprofit organization's Northern Virginia chapter in 1984, served as its first commander and helped to organize the group's activities in the Washington area. He also served on the association's national legislative committee.

He was born in Alcoa, Tenn. In World War II, he was a member of the 45th Infantry Division that saw action in Italy and France.

While he was involved in trying to secure the city of Epinal, France, German soldiers threw concussion grenades in and around his foxhole.

He was captured and taken behind German lines. He was interrogated, shipped to various camps in Germany and forced to repair railroad tracks damaged by Allied bombers.

At the end of the war, he returned to East Tennessee, then took courses at an electrical engineering school in Chicago. He came to Washington in 1950 and took an electrician's job with the Defense Department. He retired in 1984 after 33 years with the Army Strategic Communication Command at the Pentagon.

He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veterans organizations.

Survivors include his wife, Mary Ethel Rolen of Alexandria; two children, Phoebe Rolen of Alexandria and Charles Rolen of Annandale; four sisters; a brother; and two grandchildren.