Restrictions on italian americans during world war ii


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Restrictions on italian americans during world war ii

  1. 1. Restrictions on Italian Americans 1 Running Head: RESTRICTIONS ON ITALIAN AMERICANS Restrictions on Italian Americans During World War II Diane Fittipaldi University of St. Thomas October 1, 2007 EDLD 911
  2. 2. Restrictions on Italian Americans 2 Restrictions on Italian Americans During World War II The circumstances and details surrounding the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II are well known and documented. In fact, with the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the United States government made its apology to Japanese Americans. This law also provided monetary reparations to survivors of the Japanese internment camps (Brooke, 1997). Most Americans are unaware that the federal government also placed severe limitations on the civil liberties of Italian Americans during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States government made plans to intern the Japanese. Similar plans to intern over half a million Italian and German immigrants existed as well. Ultimately, the logistics of relocating this many people along with the likely economic devastation of idling half a million workers, proved too costly and the government abandoned the program for mass internment (Fox, 1990). While they did not suffer internment during the early years of the war, many Italian Americans suffered severe restrictions on their civil liberties including arrests, detentions, forced relocations, internments, curfews, warrantless searches, and the confiscation of property. In addition, “a deliberate policy kept these measures from the public during the war. Even 50 years later, much information is still classified” (United States Department of Justice, 2001, p. v). As a result, scholars have largely overlooked this chapter in our history.
  3. 3. Restrictions on Italian Americans 3 The purpose of this review is to examine the limited literature available documenting the treatment of Italian Americans during World War II. I begin with the FBI’s surveillance conducted in the two years leading up to the war. As early as the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and for a period of nearly a year, the United States government issued a series of wartime orders and proclamations restricting the civil liberties of many Italian Americans. I focus on these events and review the available oral histories, which record the devastating personal and economic effects of these policies. Most recently, due to the diligence of a few notable historians along with several congressional leaders, the United States government compiled a public record of these events. After a review of these government documents, I conclude with a brief discussion of the dangers posed to civil liberties during times of national crisis when the mistrust of ethnicity fuels public fear. Pre-World War II and The Treatment of Italian Immigrants The ordeal suffered by many Italian Americans during World War II had its roots in the decades leading up to 1940. During this time, Italians were the most prominent group of immigrants in the United States. Between 1900 and 1920, more than 3.5 million people emigrated from Italy and settled in widely dispersed areas throughout America. Importantly, by the time the war broke out in 1941, a sizeable proportion of these immigrants, 42.5%, had not become United States citizens. As such, the government classified them as aliens. In her research, Branca-Santos (2001) points out that many Italian immigrants placed no or very low value on becoming citizens. Their daily lives and livelihoods did not depend on and were not enhanced by citizenship. She explores the
  4. 4. Restrictions on Italian Americans 4 factors that led to the decision not to apply for citizenship, factors such as poor education, illiteracy, the language barrier and the time required to prepare for the citizenship exam. She questions what it means to be assimilated and offers views on how all these factors affected public policy during World War II. Ultimately, she points out how the United States Government used the lack of citizenship to cast doubt on the loyalty of these immigrants, and to justify the policies that restricted their civil liberties. Two governmental actions between 1939 and 1941 set the stage for the restrictions levied against Italian Americans after the start of World War II. The first was the routine but clandestine surveillance conducted by the FBI. Second was the Alien Registration Act of 1940. Individual historians and United States Government commissions have researched and documented both of these actions and their affect on the lives of many Italian Americans. The “ABC List” and Clandestine Surveillance of 1939 The first of these actions dates back to 1939 when the United States began preparations for entering the war. The Department of Justice established a Special Defense Unit, which for a year and a half investigated suspicious activities by Germans, Italians and Japanese living in the United States (Scherini, 2001b). The Special Defense unit identified three categories of danger, A, B and C. People placed on the A list were deemed to be the most dangerous, people on the B list were less dangerous and people on the C list posed the least threat (Grodzins, 1949; United States, 1997). Placement on the list was based on affiliation and participation with ethnic cultural organizations (Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1949). Many thousands of Italian immigrants were placed on these lists.
  5. 5. Restrictions on Italian Americans 5 While the problems associated with compiling and maintaining these files were many, chief among them was the FBI’s inability to distinguish between ethnic affiliation and loyalty (Grodzins, 1949; United States Department of Justice, 2001). Regardless, once an immigrant was listed, the policy was unambiguous, calling for these men and women to be arrested and incarcerated in the event the United States entered the war (Grodzins, 1949). In addition to the FBI’s “ABC Lists,” a wide variety of government agencies and civilian organizations conducted their own surveillance to identify subversive individuals and enemy sympathizers. Knowledge of this surveillance was revealed many years later by the Untied States Congress, which in 1980 proposed the creation of The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC). The commission issued a report that is now the most comprehensive public record on pre-World War II surveillance on civilians (United States, 1997). This report identifies surveillance files compiled by non-government sources, primarily from newspaper reporters. These files were ultimately deemed credible and were subsequently forwarded to President Roosevelt for review. Not surprisingly, reports like these were influenced by rumor and by the fear brought on by the attack on Pearl Harbor. The CWRIC admitted that the intelligence was not scrutinized for objectivity and fell prey to prejudice and racism. As a result, the government, along with the public, deemed an entire class of civilians disloyal until proven otherwise (United States, 1997). Adding further credence to the claims of misinformation is research conducted by Scherini’s (1992). She compiled a review of FBI files obtained through the Freedom of
  6. 6. Restrictions on Italian Americans 6 Information Act. Her research reveals that many of the FBI reports were commonly littered with errors, incorrect facts and misinterpretation of innocent acts. As a result, authorities often misclassified responsible community members as dangerous, and arrested them. Incarceration sometimes lasted for years without due process. Alien Registration Act of 1940 Placement on lists and designation as “dangerous” was the first of a two-part problem for many Italian immigrants in the pre-war period. The second problem arose with the Alien Registration Act, passed by Congress in June 1940. This law required all non-naturalized civilians over fourteen years old to register and be fingerprinted (Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1949). This development is significant because as shown throughout history, immigrants who are not naturalized but who live in a nation at war with their homeland have a tenuous hold on civil liberties (Saunders, Kay and Daniels, Roger, 2000). Registration lists swelled to some five million people, each assigned an identification number and each required to check-in with authorities regarding their movement from place to place and state to state (Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1949; United States Department of Justice, 2001). Soon after the law was passed, the Labor Department shifted control over the registration program to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). With this shift and the United States’ declaration of war, all immigrants who were not U.S. citizens, were classified as “enemy aliens.” INS policy stripped these individuals of their constitutional rights and privileges (D’Amelio, 1999; Grodzins, 1949; United States Department of Justice, 2001). Because of their enemy alien status, the law provided for
  7. 7. Restrictions on Italian Americans 7 their arrest and removal without due process. Warrants did not need to specify the grounds for arrest and lawyers were not permitted to speak during arraignments (Saunders, Kay and Daniels, Roger, 2000). The First Ten Months of War: December 1941- October 1942 December 1941: Arrests, Hearings, and The Suspension of Civil Liberties Directly following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the round up began (Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1949). With the FBI’s “ABC Lists” in place, thousands of enemy aliens were arrested and many more suffered severe restrictions on their civil liberties. Many years later, the Wartime Violation of Italian American Civil Liberties Act of 2000, ordered the United States Government to make a full accounting to Congress of this period (United States Department of Justice, 2001). This congressional report offers a detailed accounting of what happened to Italian immigrants during this period. It encompasses the review of historical records and government documents as well as oral histories collected by renowned researchers in this field. From United States Department of Justice (2001) we learn how hysteria immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor shaped public policy. Government officials believed they needed to demonstrate a firm hand in protecting public safety and stem the public’s fear of internal enemy collaborators. The government intentionally publicized these arrests to prevent panic. After decades of research, DiStasi (2001) provides a human point of view on the tragic events of this time. His edited volume, Una Storia Segreta; The Secret History of
  8. 8. Restrictions on Italian Americans 8 Italian American Evacuation and Internment During World War II, is a collection of personal accounts, oral histories and photographs by those who were directly affected. Arrests began as early as the evening of December 7. In one such occurrence, Louis Berizzi was arrested, detained on Ellis Island for almost a year and then interned at Camp Meade until 1943. During this time, Mr. Berizzi was not told the reason for his arrest. His family was only able to secure his release years later on a personal appeal made to Washington by his daughter. The appeal focused on the fact that Mr. Berizzi’s son had been drafted and was about to fight for America while his father was interned as an enemy alien in the United States (Drypolcher, 2001). Similarly, Carmelo Ilacqua was arrested on December 19, 1941 and interned. The FBI searched his home for incriminating papers but found none. Instead, they based his arrest on his service in the Italian Navy during World War I and his subsequent work as a liaison for the Federation of Italian War Veterans. Mr. Ilacqua was interned at Fort Missoula, Montana and held until March 11, 1943 (Scherini, 2001a). Within two months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, 260 Italian resident aliens were arrested and interned. Because most news reports during this time were focused on the war itself, the media did not cover the arrests of Italian American immigrants (Scherini, 1992). Initially, all suspects were apprehended and detained in INS facilities until a hearing was arranged. Hearings culminated in one of three recommendations: release, parole or internment. According to Scherini (1992), half of those apprehended were interned. The Civil Affairs Division of the Army’s Wartime Civil Control Administration
  9. 9. Restrictions on Italian Americans 9 presided over the hearings. Detainees were given one week to prepare; they were permitted counsel, but counsel could not address the board nor call witnesses. As the country’s fears escalated, the military was granted authority over homeland security. Grodzins (1949) analyzes the consequences of this shift in power noting, “Military decisions are made without public discussion, are subject to no immediate criticism, and are calculated according to no rule of civil rights. Military rule, in effect, becomes one-man rule” (p.131). He goes further to warn that civil liberties are impossible to protect, once control for civilian safety is turned over to the military. Hearings were poorly documented and many court records were destroyed (DiStasi, 2001b). As a result, our understanding of what happened during this time comes from first hand accounts and recollections by relatives (Scherini, 1992, Fox, 1990). General John L. DeWitt and The Western Defense Command As a counter balance, Attorney General Francis Biddle stepped forward. He made many public appeals for fairness and justice (Grodzins, 1949). However, power and control over the arrests and hearings belonged to the FBI and the Civil Affairs Division of the United States Army’s Wartime Civil Control Administration. Ultimately, Attorney General Biddle was embroiled in a power struggle with General John L. DeWitt, the commanding officer of the Fourth Army and Western Defense Command (Fox, 1988). According to Grodzins (1949), this power struggle was pivotal. DeWitt pressed for the internment of all enemy aliens, Japanese, Italians and Germans alike. Because DeWitt ultimately won this power struggle, historians have dedicated much research to this topic. D’Amelio (1999), Fox (1988, 1990), Grodzins
  10. 10. Restrictions on Italian Americans 10 (1947), and United States (1997) all offer detailed chronological accounts of this power struggle based on reviews of government documents, memoranda, transcripts of speeches and phone conversations, personal journals, memoirs and news accounts of the time. In these accounts we learn that the west coast was designated as a “theater of operations” (United States, 1997) and that authority for this area was granted to the United States Army, specifically to the commanding general with field responsibility, General DeWitt. General DeWitt drew his information from both civilian and military sources (Fox, 1988). He was neither an analyst nor a deliberator (D’Amelio, 1999; Grodzins, 1949). His judgments were not carefully considered and he was easily swayed by “every rumor that came in” (United States, 1997 p.64). In the days after Pearl Harbor, DeWitt was convinced of a Japanese naval attack on California, reporting three false alarms of enemy ships headed for the west coast. His fellow officers had little respect for him and believed he had very little common sense (D'Amelio, 1999). December 1941: Confiscation of Contraband Items and Travel Restrictions On December 29th, 1941 General DeWitt ordered all enemy aliens living on the west coast to surrender contraband items. Included were radio transmitters, short wave radios, and cameras (D’Amelio, 1999; Fox, 1988; Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1947; United States, 1997). A few days later, the list was extended to include fire arms (D'Amelio, 1999; Grodzins, 1949). For the most part, items were turned in voluntarily, but raids and seizures were also common. DeStasi (2001b) documents the personal hardship experienced by many immigrants during these raids in his collection of oral histories. Here, rich detail is recorded and the human side of this tragedy is revealed.
  11. 11. Restrictions on Italian Americans 11 By January 1st, further restrictions went into effect. Aliens on the west coast could not leave their homes between 8PM and 6AM and they could not travel further than five miles from home without written approval from the United States Attorney (D’Amelio, 1999; Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1947; United States, 1997). Due to these travel restrictions, many Italian immigrants lost their jobs (Scherini, 2001b). January 1942: Registration, the Roberts Commission and Relocation In mid-January, 1942 Attorney General Francis Biddle ordered all enemy aliens to re-register at local post offices despite their earlier registration in 1940. Here they were fingerprinted, their pictures were taken and they were issued photo identification cards (D'Amelio, 1999). They were required to carry this identification at all times. Many immigrants considered these restrictions humiliating and demeaning because they felt targeted and profiled (DiStasi, 1997) During this same time, the public’s fear of another attack on the United States was growing. In response, General DeWitt was privately calling for the evacuation of all Japanese, Italian and German non-citizens on the west coast (Fox, 1988). On January 25, 1942, the Roberts Commission issued its report (Branca-Santos, 2001). This commission had been quickly assembled after Pearl Harbor to determine the factors contributing to the surprise attack. The Roberts Commission concluded that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was aided by inside enemy sympathizers (United States, 1997). This conclusion enflamed public sentiment and put pressure on the government to act. Much of Grodzins’ (1949) research focused on news accounts during this time. He documents the public’s cry for mass evacuations by citing the content, quantity and frequency of news accounts
  12. 12. Restrictions on Italian Americans 12 in the daily papers. Four days after the Roberts Commission’s report, the government accepted General DeWitt’s recommendations and issued enemy alien relocation orders (Branca-Santos, 2001; D'Amelio, 1999; Fox, 1988; Fox, 1990; United States, 1997) DeWitt was not yet publicly calling for mass evacuations. Instead, he set up prohibited zones along the west coast (D’Amelio, 1999; Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1949; United States, 1997). In all, over one hundred zones were established; most were along the shore or near airports, radio towers or other areas of strategic interest. Enemy aliens were required to completely vacate these areas by February 24 (D'Amelio, 1999; Fox, 1990; Fox, 2000). As a result, Italian American families comprised of both citizen and non-citizen members were split up. Baseball hero Joe Dimaggio’s mother was one such example (Ottino, 2001). DiStasi’s (2001) compilation of essays and articles offers an accounting of many such personal stories. In San Francisco, Monterey and other areas along the western seaboard, aliens were prohibited from living along the waterfront. Many made their livings as fishermen, and a disproportionate number of them were Italian (D’Amelio, 1999). With the growing fear of an imminent west coast attack, the fishermen suffered many restrictions. For example, they were told where and when they could fish, and many lost the right to fish altogether. They remained unemployed for the duration of the war because no one was willing to hire an enemy alien (United States Department of Justice, 2001). According to D’Amelio (1999), the United States Coast Guard seized 90% of the fishing boats along the west coast. They planned to convert these boats to minesweepers and submarine chasers. More than a year later, the Navy judged many of these boats to be
  13. 13. Restrictions on Italian Americans 13 inadequate for their needs. The fishermen lost their boats and their jobs for nothing (Colletto, 2001; DiStasi, 2001a). February 1942: Executive Order 9066 The most important action taken during this period was the signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 (D’Amelio, 1999; Fox, 1988; Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1949; United States, 1997; United States Department of Justice, 2001). With this order, President Roosevelt authorized the Secretary of War to “take any other steps deemed appropriate to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each military area, including the use of federal troops” (United States Department of Justice, 2001, p.15). These powers were sweeping and unprecedented. Incarceration of any American was now possible as the result of arbitrary judgments (D'Amelio, 1999). Executive Order 9066 gave the military far-reaching authority. General DeWitt drew up plans to evacuate 40,000 Italian enemy aliens (United States Department of Justice, 2001). D’Amelio’s (1999) research chronicles each step in a long series of events during this time. He describes how the Army gained power as these steps unfolded and how the Justice Department capitulated. On February 20, 1942, Secretary of War Henry Stimson ordered General DeWitt to begin mass evacuations (D’Amelio, 1999). Importantly, Stimson specified not to remove the Italians for the time being (Fox, 1988). Records show that it was DeWitt’s intention to remove the Italians as soon as the Japanese were interned (United States Department of Justice, 2001).
  14. 14. Restrictions on Italian Americans 14 March 1942: The Tolan Committee In February 1942, the public mounted pressure on the government to protect national security and take all precautions necessary to prevent another attack on America (Fox, 1990). Congress held hearings to determine the extent of the problem. Congressman John T. Nolan of California led these hearings immediately after Executive Order 9066 was signed (D’Amelio, 1999; Fox, 1988; Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1949). Known as the Tolan Committee, this legislative group called witnesses and heard testimony regarding the Italian, German and Japanese threat on the west coast (United States, 1997). The Tolan Committee’s preliminary report, released in March 1942, endorsed the evacuation and internment of the Japanese but concluded that the Italians and Germans posed no collective threat (D’Amelio, 1999; Fox, 1988; Fox, 1990; Grodzins, 1949; United States, 1997). The committee asserted that the majority of these two ethnic groups were loyal and recommended that any threat be determined on an individual basis (D'Amelio, 1999). According to Fox (2000), the Tolan Committee was one of the central reason Italians did not suffer the same fate as the Japanese. His research uncovered the role of racism in this decision. To support his point, Fox cites the testimony of Colbert Olson, the governor of California, who maintained that because all Japanese looked alike, authorities could not distinguish between those who were loyal and those who were not. As a result, the Committee ultimately recommended treating the Japanese differently than the Italians and Germans (Fox, 2001)
  15. 15. Restrictions on Italian Americans 15 D’Amelio’s research (1999) focused on a different aspect of the Tolan Committee’s proceedings. He points out that despite the committee’s recommendation to evacuate the Japanese, John H. Tolan, the chairman of the committee showed remarkable leadership. D’Amelio shows how Tolan analyzed the situation from a different vantage point, chosing to focus on both the economic and political consequences of interning the Italians. According to D’Amelio (1999), Tolan concluded that interning hundreds of thousands of Italian Americans would be devastating to the war effort and demoralizing to Italian American soldiers who numbered more than 400,000 and who were the single largest ethnic group in the United States armed forces. Tolan also worried about the impact on Italian American voters in the upcoming congressional elections and believed that alienating their vote would affect the administration’s war policy. Lastly, Tolan considered the economic devastation that would result from taking hundreds of thousands of much-needed workers out of the workforce (Fox, 1990). According to Fox (2000) Tolan set out to exercise a calming influence on the policy makers and on the public. Tolan personally knew many prominent Italian civic leaders and he called them as witnesses. He steered their testimony by asking questions, which elicited sympathy for the Italians. Tolan also pointed out the sacrifice made by Italian Americans who were soldiers fighting in the war against Hitler and Mussolini. Importantly, Tolan stated that treating these soldiers’ families as dangerous enemy sympathizers was not only miscalculated, but it was morally wrong as well.
  16. 16. Restrictions on Italian Americans 16 May 1942: The Tolan Committee Final Report On May 15, 1942, the Tolan Committee issued its final report. As in the preliminary report, the Committee supported the evacuation and internment of the Japanese on the west coast (D'Amelio, 1999). The committee accepted the fifth column argument relating to the attack on Pearl Harbor (United States, 1997). Importantly, the Committee’s final recommendation was to treat Italian and German aliens on a case-by- case basis as determined by local hearings (D’Amelio, 1999; United States, 1997). General DeWitt, despite the Committee’s recommendation, continued to advocate for the evacuation of all enemy aliens in the Western Defense Zone under his command (D'Amelio, 1999). In Personal Justice Denied, (United States, 1997), the United States Government outlined the details of the Tolan Committee hearings, including the chronology of witnesses and excerpts from of their testimony. From this account, we learn that the committee was “unwilling to challenge the need for Executive Order 9066” (United States, 1997, p.99). As a direct result, Congress quickly enacted legislation making it a crime to violate exclusion or internment orders. This action is significant because the Supreme Court gave strong consideration to this legislation in upholding the legality of the evacuations (United States, 1997). On the heels of the Tolan Committee Report, the FBI issued a similar assessment on May 25, 1942 (United States, 1997). In their report, the FBI stated that the majority of Italian aliens had been living in the United States for 20 years. Most had sons and daughters who were born in the United States and who were citizens by birth. A second
  17. 17. Restrictions on Italian Americans 17 FBI report characterized Italian aliens as hard working and law abiding. Both of these reports helped to change public sentiment and alleviated the pressure to evacuate the Italians (D'Amelio, 1999). While the Tolan Committee report prevented the mass evacuation of Italian enemy aliens (Fox, 1990), these residents remained bound to evacuate the prohibited zones established in January. Similar plans were carried out against Italians on the east coast under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Defense Command and in the south under the Southern Defense Command. The number of people affected in these areas was much smaller. Records show 59 people were excluded in the Eastern Defense Zone and 21 from the Southern Defense Zone while 174 were excluded in the west (United States Department of Justice, 2001). June 1942: Evacuation Orders Are Rescinded By June 1942, the mass evacuation of the Japanese on the west coast was complete (Fox, 1990). Pressure mounted on the Roosevelt administration to relax the restrictions on the Italian and German aliens. Although DeWitt continued to press for restrictions, his requests and recommendations were denied. He was authorized to proceed only in cases where aliens were confirmed to be dangerous and he was warned that his “job was to protect installations, not to persecute individuals” (Fox, 1990, p. 134). On June 27, 1942, under pressure from Washington D.C., General DeWitt rescinded the orders excluding Italian from prohibited zones (Fox, 1988). The curfew and travel restrictions remained in place, but excluded individuals returned home. The oral
  18. 18. Restrictions on Italian Americans 18 histories recorded by Fox (1990) detail how some of the Italians were notified that the restrictions were lifted. His research uncovered that some families were not notified individually. Rather, the government posted notices in local Post Offices and families discovered the news on their own. October 1942: Curfew and Travel Restrictions Lifted With pride, Italian Americans have long celebrated Columbus Day in honor of the discovery of America by the Italian explorer (Branca-Santos, 2001). In fact, Italian Americans campaigned to make October 12th a national holiday in recognition of Columbus. It wasn’t until 1934 that the holiday became official (Luconi, 2001). According to D’Amelio (1999) and Fox (1990), on Columbus Day in 1942, the government lifted the curfew and relocation restrictions placed on Italian Americans. Italian aliens were reclassified as “friendly aliens.” Fox maintained that the administration chose the date for its symbolic significance. In his research, D’Amelio (1999) uncovered that Italian Americans turned Columbus Day 1942 into a day of patriotic demonstrations. Italians used this day to call attention to anti-democratic policies and to speak out against fascism, feeling it was necessary to “exhibit their Americanism” (p.697). Michaud (2002) asserts there was another reason Roosevelt chose Columbus Day to announce the lifting of the restrictions. She concluded that the treatment of Italians had become a political issue. Because Italians traditionally voted as Democrats, Roosevelt could not afford to lose their support. With the national election in three weeks, Roosevelt needed to take bold action to assure the Italian vote.
  19. 19. Restrictions on Italian Americans 19 Why Italians Were Treated Differently Than Japanese Fox (1988) offers several factors that contributed to the difference between the way the Italians were treated and the way the Japanese were treated during the war. First the Italian aliens and their immediate families far out-numbered the Japanese. The Italian population was estimated at close to 1,000,000 while the Japanese were estimated at closer to 100,000. Policy makers considered the cost of relocating the Italians to be too high, not only because of the logistical costs but also because of the dislocation to the economy. Branca-Santos (2001) offers an additional consideration. She points out that the government needed the full support and loyalty of the Italians as Roosevelt prepared to invade Italy. But, Fox (1988) goes further to explain that the Italians had geography on their side. Unlike the Japanese who were living in enclaves in concentrated areas on the west coast, the Italians were scattered across the United States. It was impractical to round up the Italians. Lastly, Fox points out that many Italian Americans were public figures, among them the mayors of New York and San Francisco and the American League’s most valuable player, Joe DiMaggio. If the government interned all enemy aliens, these men would have to be detained as well. Wartime Powers Challenged in Court Grodzins (1949) notes that throughout U.S. history, the executive branch of government has exercised extraordinary powers. He mentions that historians often refer to Roosevelt’s presidency to debate the opposing forces of individual civil liberties and the protection of public safety during times of national crisis. In her research on this
  20. 20. Restrictions on Italian Americans 20 subject, Branca-Santos (2001) references Roosevelt’s first inaugural address in 1933 when he asserted that under certain conditions the president had the right to depart from the Constitution. In the United States’ system of government, the judicial branch provides the check and balance on the abuse of war powers and the protection of civil liberties. The legality of the evacuation and curfews imposed on enemy aliens during World War II was tested in court. Grodzins (1949) was one of the first scholars to study the case law on these issues. The Supreme Court ruled on two cases. The first was Hirabayashi v. United States and the second was Korematsu v. United States. These cases not only challenged the evacuation and curfew orders imposed on the plaintiffs, but also the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066 as well. Hirabayashi v. United States (1943) When General DeWitt ordered enemy aliens to evacuate prohibited areas and abide by curfews, a student at the University of Washington, Gordon Hirabayshi an American-born citizen of Japanese descent, intentionally violated these orders (Branca- Santos, 2001). Hirabayashi was a Quaker and a conscientious objector (Grodzins, 1949). He was arrested, tried and convicted in May 1942 (Branca-Santos, 2001; Grodzins, 1949; United States, 1997). His case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the original conviction (Branca-Santos, 2001). Grodzin (1949) points out that the standard the judiciary applied to this case was weak. The court ruled that the curfews and evacuation were related to the waging of war. Specifically, the court concluded that the
  21. 21. Restrictions on Italian Americans 21 curfew was constitutional, thereby upholding the lower court’s ruling. The court evaded the issue of exclusion. Korematsu v. United States (1944) Fred Korematsu was an American citizen who violated the exclusion orders (Branca-Santos, 2001; Grodzins, 1949). With this case, the Supreme Court faced the issue of the constitutionality of the internment (Grodzins, 1949). As in Hirabayashi, the Supreme Court ruled the evacuation constitutional. The United States based its defense on the military’s claim that it could not distinguish between loyal and non-loyal Japanese because a small group of Japanese, some citizens some not, refused to sign loyalty oaths (Branca-Santos, 2001). According to Grodzin (1949), the Supreme Court applied extraordinarily weak review standards and neglected the “clear and present” danger test so often used in matters like these. Grodzins further asserts that the court approached the case as a legal issue rather than on the basis of civil rights. As a result, the court determined that it was legal for the executive branch to issue evacuation orders because these orders bore a direct relationship to the war. Evacuation was, therefore, a military necessity. Grodzins notes that in its documents, the court was careful not to comment on the wisdom of the evacuation orders and in so doing, reinforced the broad powers of the military over civilian matters during times of war or national emergency. Post-war Events: The Examination of Civil Rights Violations During World War II With the Korematsu ruling, the Supreme Court confirmed the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066. However, over the next 30 years, the public, Japanese American
  22. 22. Restrictions on Italian Americans 22 activists and several key legislators continued to question the validity of the Japanese internment. Finally, 32 years after this Supreme Court decision and 34 years after Executive 9066 was issued, President Gerald Ford rescinded the order on February 19, 1976 (Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr., 2004). On July 31, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed a law establishing the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (Branca-Santos, 2001). The purpose of the commission was to determine if there was sufficient military necessity to justify the restrictions placed on all resident aliens. In its report, Personal Justice Denied (1997), the commission concluded that Executive Order 9066 was not justified. The report cited several factors, which contributed to the decision to hand down the order. The first was war hysteria and the atmosphere of fear. The second factor was racial prejudice against the Japanese as evidenced in the testimony of witnesses called by the Tolan Committee. The third was the failure of politicians such as Attorney General Biddle as well as military leadership, particularly General DeWitt (Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr., 2004; United States, 1997). This report vindicated the Japanese Americans, but offered little information or documentation of the plight suffered by the Italians and the Germans. In July 1999, two United States Congressmen, Rick Lazio and Eliot Engel, introduced a House Resolution 2442 calling for a full investigation into the violation of civil liberties suffered by Italians during World War II (Branca-Santos, 2001; United States Department of Justice, 2001). Five months later, the resolution passed the House of Representatives. The Senate’s version of the bill passed almost a year later (United States Department of Justice, 2001). The two bills were reconciled and on November 7, 2000,
  23. 23. Restrictions on Italian Americans 23 President Clinton signed the “Wartime Violation of Italian American Civil Liberties Act”(Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr., 2004; United States Department of Justice, 2001). This legislation formally acknowledged the restrictions suffered by Italian Americans during World War II. The bill also required the government to study these violations, determine who was affected and make lists of individuals who were arrested, detained and interned (Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr., 2004). In November 2001, the United States Department of Justice issued its report to Congress reviewing the restrictions of civil liberties affecting Italian Americans during World War II (Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr., 2004). The report, Report to Congress of the United States: A review of the restrictions on persons of Italian ancestry during World War II (2001), provides a detailed timeline and a review of government documents at both the state and federal levels. Military and civilian records were also included. Personal stories and oral histories were documented based on interviews with dozens of individuals and their families who were directly affected by these events. Lastly, the report included the work of private researchers and historians who are experts on this subject. In the Report to Congress of the United States: A review of the restrictions on persons of Italian ancestry during World War II (2001), the United States Government documented the tragic treatment suffered by Italian Americans during World War II. Seven key findings were referenced. The first confirms that more than 60,000 Italian immigrants were classified as enemy aliens, were forced to carry identifications cards and were restricted from travel. The second confirmed that Italians were unnecessarily
  24. 24. Restrictions on Italian Americans 24 subjected to curfews and evacuations. The third finding cited the arrests and interments of innocents. The fourth acknowledged the patriotism of Italian American soldiers during World War II. Next, the report referenced the size of the Italian American population that was affected and confirmed the devastation and lasting effects suffered by these people. Lastly, the report admitted that: A deliberate policy kept these measures from the public during the war. Even 50 years later much information is still classified, the full story remains unknown to the public, and it has never been acknowledged in any official capacity by the Untied States Government (United States Department of Justice, 2001, p. v). With these findings, Italian Americans received the acknowledgement and closure they were seeking. In summary, the scholarly literature regarding the treatment of Italian Americans during World War II documents the hysteria following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As a result, laws and proclamations suspended the civil liberties of millions of Italian immigrants causing great hardship. The government’s inability or unwillingness to distinguish between ethnic affiliation and loyalty culminated in the suspension of due process, one of the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The contributing factors, which led to the wartime panic and its aftermath, were several. First, the fear of another attack on American soil created hysteria among the people. Next, the Tolan Committee released its report, which erroneously confirmed that enemy sympathizers assisted the Japanese in the attack on Pearl Harbor. This report fueled an already mounting fear. A third and very important factor was the issue of
  25. 25. Restrictions on Italian Americans 25 ethnicity. The government was unwilling to distinguish between ethnicity and loyalty, treating all aliens as enemy aliens. But most importantly, the United States Supreme Court failed to apply the “clear and present danger” rule when reviewing both Hirabayashi and Korematsu. Had either plaintiff prevailed, Executive Order 9066 would have been overturned and ruled unconstitutional. However, a gap exists regarding our understanding of the underlying fear. The psychological and social impact of external threats often creates conditions, which threaten America’s immigrants and citizens. Currently, public outcry over the Patriot Act proves this topic is ongoing. One area that requires further research is the connection between the theory of fear and its relationship to public policy during times of war. Without this knowledge, citizens may continue to fall prey to the mistrust of various ethnic groups resulting in limitations on their civil liberties during times of national crisis.
  26. 26. Restrictions on Italian Americans 26 References Branca-Santos, P. (2001). Injustice ignored: The internment of Italian-Americans during World War II. Pace International Law Review, 13, 151-182. Brooke, J. (1997, August 11). After silence, Italian Americans recall the internment. New York Times, p. A10. Colletto, S. (2001). A sardine fisherman during the war. In L. DiStasi (Ed.), Una storia segreta: The secret history of Italian American evacuation and internment during World War II (pp. 97-102). Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. D'Amelio, D. A. (1999). A season of panic: The internments of World War II. Italian Americana, 17(2), 147-162. DiStasi, L. (1997). How World War II iced Italian American culture. In I. Reed (Ed.), Multi America: Essays on cultural wars and cultural peace (pp.169-178). New York: Viking Penguin. DiStasi, L. (2001a). A fish story. In L. DiStasi (Ed.), Una storia segreta: The secret history of Italian American evacuation and internment during World War II (pp. 63- 96). Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. DiStasi, L. (Ed.). (2001b). Una storia segreta: The secret history of Italian American evacuation and internment during World War II. Berkeley, California: Heyday Books.
  27. 27. Restrictions on Italian Americans 27 Drypolcher, L. B. (2001). Orders to take him away. In L. DiStasi (Ed.), Una storia segreta: The secret history of Italian American evacuation and internment during World War II (pp. 217-222). Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. Fox, S. (1988). General John DeWitt and the proposed internment of German and Italian aliens during World War II. Pacific Historical Review, 57(4), 407-438. Fox, S. (1990). The unknown internment: An oral history of the relocation of Italian- Americans during World War II. Boston: Twayne Publishers. Fox, S. (2000). Uncivil liberties: Italian Americans under siege during World War II., USA: Universal Publishers. Fox, S. (2001). The relocation of Italian Americans in California during World War II. In L. DiStasi (Ed.), Una storia segreta: The secret history of Italian American evacuation and internment during World War II (pp. 39-54). Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. Grodzins, M. (1949). Americans betrayed: Politics and the Japanese evacuation Chicago, University of Chicago Press. Luconi, S. (2001). From Paesani to white ethnics: The Italian experience in Philadelphia. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.
  28. 28. Restrictions on Italian Americans 28 Ottino, S. (2001). A tragic episode. In L. DiStasi (Ed.), Una storia segreta: A secret history of Italian American evacuation (pp. 59-62). Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. Saunders, Kay and Daniels, Roger (Ed.). (2000). Alien justice: Wartime internment in Australia and North America. St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press. Scherini, R. D. (1992). Executive order 9066 and Italian Americans: The San Francisco story. California History, 70(4), 366-377. Scherini, R. D. (2001a). Letters to 3024 Pierce. In L. DiStasi (Ed.), Una storia segreta: The secret history of Italian American evacuation and internment during World War II (pp. 223-235). Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. Scherini, R. D. (2001b). When Italian Americana were "enemy aliens". In L. DiStasi (Ed.), Una storia segreta: The secret history of Italian American evacuation and internment during World War II (pp. 10-31). Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. (2004). Supporting the goals of the Japanese American, German American, and Italian American communities in recognizing a national day of remembrance to increase public awareness of the events surrounding the restriction, exclusion, and internment of individuals and families during world war II No. House Report 108-410. Washington D.C.: United States House of Representatives.
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