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1 As to differentiating between dif­fer­ ent nationalities . . . ​­ there is a difference; that many of our old Italian ­ people who came ­ here years ago and who worked and raised families, and who have been law-­ abiding citizens, have very ­ little, if any, re­ spect for their native land and which would in no way interfere with their loyalty. Moreover, conditions in Eu­ ro­ pean countries are such that many Italian ­ people ­ here ­ today feel that the only solution for their prob­ lem over ­ there is for the United States to win this war.­ These ­ people, naturally, are ­ going to be loyal to us. Locally, a very­ great ­ percent of our young men who are joining the Army are of Italian parentage, and before any action should be taken to move their parents away from their homes, I believe we should consider seriously the result that that may have upon them as soldiers. —­john p. fitzgerald, District Attorney of Santa Clara County, to Hon. Earl Warren, Attorney General, California, February 19, 1942 During World War II the U.S. government categorized persons within the United States from belligerent nations based on citizenship and race, making assumptions about their loyalty and the national security risk they presented. This study examines how federal agencies interacted to create and implement restrictions on nearly 700,000 Italian aliens residing in the United States, including internment for certain individuals, and how and why ­ those policies changed during the course of the war. Federal decision-­ makers beginning in 1941 created policies of ethnic-­ based criteria in response to national security fears, resulting in the selective internment of Japa­ nese, German, and Italian aliens identified as dangerous, and ­ later the exclusion, removal, and detention of approximately 120,000 persons of Japa­ nese descent, mostly American citizens, in camps.1 The U.S. government’s evolving calculation of the danger posed by Italian nationals on American soil was strongly ­ shaped by American policy-­ makers’ beliefs that Italy’s military forces ­ were not as formidable as ­ those Introduction 2 Introduction of ­ either Germany or Japan. Regarding the safety of American shores, Italy posed no threat in comparison with Germany, whose submarines patrolled the Atlantic coast, and of course Japan, which had already attacked Pearl Harbor.2 It appears that President Franklin Roo­ se­ velt allowed ­ these notable differences in the strength of the three Axis powers to influence his views on how to ­ handle ­ enemy aliens in the United States. In discussing internment with Attorney General Francis Biddle, the president expressed his lack of concern about Italians, saying, “I ­ don’t care so much about the Italians. . . . ​ They are a lot of opera singers, but the Germans are dif­fer­ ent, they may be dangerous.”3 Secretary of State Cordell Hull shared Roo­ se­ velt’s view that a distinction should be drawn between the Italians on the one hand and the Germans and Japa­ nese on the other. This distinction not only recognized Americans’ history of friendship with the Italians, but was also part of the administration’s strategic plan to bring about an earlier withdrawal of Italy from the war, which in turn might hasten the surrender of Germany and Japan.4 The perception of Italians as the least threatening and potentially most loyal of the alien ­ enemy groups pervaded policy decisions at all levels of the administrative state, from decisions regarding internment of a much smaller number of Italian aliens to their earlier elimination from alien­ enemy status in October 1942. The significant repre­ sen­ ta­ tion of Italian Americans in the U.S. armed forces cannot be underestimated in strengthening this perception.5 This is a comprehensive study of the government’s treatment of Italians during World War II, but comparisons with the numbers of Japa­ nese and Germans affected by war­ time policies and to statements of government officials referring specifically to ­ those groups provide context for evaluating the policies and ­ legal pro­ cesses applied to Italians. We may have a better understanding of where Italians fit on the spectrum of experiences of the three ­ enemy alien groups through the following comparative information on selective internment. According to the official historian for the FBI, during World War II, 3,567 Italian aliens ­ were arrested, of which 367 ­ were interned. Of 7,043 German aliens arrested, 1,225 ­ were interned, and 1,532 Japa­ nese aliens ­ were selectively interned from a total of 5,428 arrested.6 When comparing the respective percentages of each alien...


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MARC Record
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