Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When Italian-Americans were "Enemy Aliens"

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, at least 600,000 Italian-Americans were labeled "enemy aliens" Many were forced to carry identification cards, report job changes, follow a strict 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and could not travel more than five miles from home. Some who did not comply with one or more of these restrictions were arrested and imprisoned

Some Americans of Italian ancestry were forced to leave their homes and jobs and relocate to other areas or internment camps.

Even the fisherman father of baseball great Joe DiMaggio who had a 56-game hitting streak in 1941, was told he could not fish San Francisco Bay or visit the city.
In Pittsburgh, California, 2,000 Italians were told to leave. Many were fishermen, and their boats were confiscated.
"Some of them lost their homes. They had no way of making a living, and so a lot of the things they had, they lost," says Pat Firpo of the Pittsburgh Historical Society (Dornin)
Government-issued propaganda posters (see above) encouraged the suppression of the Italian language and culture. Many Italian-American parents stopped teaching Italian to their children.
"A bill in Congress, Wartime Violations of Italian American Civil Liberties Act (HR 2442) which has passed the House of Representatives, would require the U.S. Department of Justice to compile a report detailing injustices suffered by Italian Americans and would request a formal acknowledgement of these injustices by the President (
Dornin, Rusty "'Secret' of WWII: Italian Americans Forced To Move" 21 September 1997 CNN (
"When Speaking Italian Was A Crime: Don't Speak The Enemy's Language!" (

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