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133 In May 1942, the Tolan Committee concluded that with re­ spect to Italian and German aliens, it was wrong to make assumptions about loyalty and national security risk based on ethnicity and citizenship status. Referring to testimony specifically about Italian aliens’ commitment to the United States, the committee reported: “This testimony has impressed upon us in convincing fashion the fundamental fact that place of birth and technical non-­ citizenship alone provide no decisive criteria for assessing the alinement [sic] of loyalties in this world-­ wide conflict.”1 Many Italians who had lived in the United States for a number of years had not become American citizens by the start of World War II, not due to any continued allegiance to Italy, but ­ because their illiteracy prevented them from passing the citizenship exam. Yet ­ because they ­ were classified as ­ enemy aliens, the United States questioned their loyalty and placed vari­ ous restrictions upon them to ensure safety within its borders. Against the backdrop of war­ time emergency , the federal government felt compelled to remove from the general population all aliens who could potentially pres­ ent a security risk. The Italian community as a ­ whole fared better than other alien ­ enemy groups in the selective internment pro­ cess since only a fractional ­ percent of the 700,000 aliens nationwide ­ were interned. However, ­ those who underwent the internment pro­ cess faced hearings that often failed to provide a fair opportunity for evaluating each subject’s loyalty to the United States. By the time the Office of the Attorney General corrected prob­ lems in the hearings pro­ cess, it was too late to change the fate of the hundreds of Italians already interned. The government applied policies of selective internment and individual exclusion from military zones to Italian and German aliens and naturalized citizens, but it did not impose mass evacuation and internment as it did with persons of Japa­ nese descent. What saved Italians and Germans from this fate ­ were the overwhelming logistics of relocating their large populations and the drain on government resources that such a plan would have entailed. The relative absence of racist feeling against the Eu­ ro­ pean alien ­ enemy groups when compared with feelings against the Japa­ nese also cannot be underestimated in an assessment of government policies. In comparison Conclusion 134 Conclusion with the Japa­ nese population, Italians generally had an easier assimilation into American society and by the 1940s had begun to enjoy the public’s favorable perception of their work ethic and allegiance to this country, best reflected in testimony before the Tolan Committee. In contrast, discrimination against persons of Japa­ nese descent, already pres­ ent before World War II, heightened considerably ­ after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Racist statements regarding the Japa­ nese, expressed in meetings and correspondence among military and civil leaders in California, and California Governor Olson’s assertion that the identification of the loyalty or disloyalty of Italians and Germans was easier than that of persons of Japa­ nese descent , reflected a common attitude that the Japa­ nese did not deserve the same protection of their civil liberties as was granted to other groups. While the government did not treat Italians on the ­ whole as poorly as it treated persons of Japa­ nese descent, ­ there was a noticeable difference in the treatment of Italian aliens on the West Coast as compared to ­ those on the East, mostly resulting from the perceived threat in ­ those regions of the country. The location of crucial airplane factories and naval shipyards and relative proximity to Pearl Harbor ­ were all impor­ tant ­ factors in the placing of greater restrictions on Italians on the West Coast. Only on the West Coast ­ were more than 10,000 Italians relocated for a period of time without first being given the chance to undergo a loyalty hearing. They ­ were forced to uproot their families for a time and move to an unfamiliar area ­ because of their nationality and residence in what the military designated as prohibited zones, rather than any finding of disloyalty. As suggested in chapter 2, the dif­fer­ ent philosophies of the defense commanders, the more stringent philosophy of General DeWitt versus the individualized approach of General Drum, also accounted for the greater disruption of Italian communities on the West Coast. Data from the social profile of internees shows that proportionately more Italian aliens from the West Coast ­ were interned than ­ were­ those from the East Coast. This varying implementation of government policy reflected the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469634364
Related ISBN
9781469634333
MARC Record
OCLC
1005354200
Pages
250
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Language
English
Open Access
No
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