The World War 2 Internment of Italian-Americans

The Wartime Internment of Americans of Italian Ancestry

Abstract: The Japanese-American community was subjected to internment in large numbers from the outset of World War 2, but they were not singled-out. The same treatment was applied to German-Americans and Italian-Americans, as well as suspect individuals from other nations. This research covers the internment of Italian-Americans, as well as other mass civil-rights violations in detail, and also introduces the reader to the German-American internment. In-depth research on the German-American internment can be found at the German-American Internee Coalition website.

Internment of Italian-Americans in World War 2

Section 1: Civil Liberty Violations against Italian-Americans

The Emigration of the Italian-American people is understood to be one of America’s great success stories [1]. This is due in no small part to the values that Italians hold dear, such as dedication to family, strong work ethic, and love for their newly adopted country. And while the culture has flourished, the Italian-American journey through the late 19th, and a significant portion of the 20th century was paved with a history of serious injustices, economic loss and deep sorrow. Despite dark chapters where the Italian-American community suffered civil rights setbacks at the hands of both the civilian masses and the American government, Italians have continuously dedicated themselves to the greater good of the American public.

This body of research focuses on the wartime civil rights violations against Americans of Italian descent during World War 2. In detail, it discusses the effects of Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526 and 2527, as well as Executive Order 9066. It also provides the road map for additional research into this historical event, as certain areas of history uncovered within our research require further study.

Executive Order 9066 – Timeline, Related Presidential Proclamations & Acts

The Alien Registration Act of 1940

With a World War looming, the Smith Act was passed on June 28, 1940 as Public Law 76-670[2]. This required all alien residents of the United States 14 years or older (and remains in the United States for thirty days or longer) must apply for registration and be fingerprinted within 30 days of arriving in the United States. All existing alien residents were also required to register within thirty days of the passage of the act. When their native Italy declared war with their adopted homeland on December 11, 1941, this sent a sense of foreboding through the Italian-American communities across the United States [3].

Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527

Following the surprise attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation 2525. This was issued on the evening of the same day of the attack, and immediately proclaimed Americans of Japanese descent as enemy aliens. Proclamation 2525 details the immediate restrictions placed on enemy aliens. Proclamation 2526 (Germans) and Proclamation 2527 (Italians) were issued the next day, and incorporated all restrictions from proclamation 2525 into their wording with the following phrase:

“The regulations contained in Proclamation No. 2525 of December 7, 1941, relative to natives, citizens, denizens or subject of Japan are hereby incorporated in and made a part of this proclamation, and shall be applicable to alien enemies defined in this proclamation.”

The last sentence in section 4 of each of the three proclamations states

“All such agents, agencies, officers and departments are hereby granted full authority for all acts done by them in the execution of such regulations when acting by direction of the Attorney General or the Secretary of War, as the case may be.”

This statement provided all government personnel broad latitude in how to handle enemy aliens. Some of the resulting treatment included high school students being arrested and removed from class in full view of their classmates, homes raided in the middle of the night with a family member(s) sometimes being arrested & taken into custody with no explanation and no legal recourse. Other raids confiscated radios, cameras, and firearms. This was the sudden new life of an American of Italian descent beginning December 8th, 1941– they were now an enemy alien within the borders of the United States.

Executive Order 9066 Issued on February 19, 1942

At this moment in time, Americans of Italian Heritage numbered approximately 5 million people. By February of 1942, over 600,000 Italian-Americans had been declared “enemy aliens”, and the Italian population was now under the watchful eye of the federal government. Enemy Alien status had already been designated by presidential proclamation 2527, and Executive Order 9066 reaffirmed that label.

Under this order, suspect Americans of Italian descent were subjected to many combinations of the following:

  • Loss of constitutional rights.
  • Arrest and interrogation without legal representation.
  • Classified as “enemy aliens” and made to carry ID cards branding them as such.
  • Were held incommunicado from their families in unknown locations with no access to legal help.
  • Forced to abandon homes near the coast and move inland.
  • Subjected to travel restrictions of no more than 5 miles from their residence.
  • Subjected to forfeiture of property, businesses, and in some cases, commercial fishing fleet vessels.
  • Loss of employment.
  • Loss of the ability to further pursue their livelihood.
  • Had financial assets frozen or confiscated.
  • Internment in camps, usually with Japanese and German enemy aliens.

While this was affecting 600,000 people under a massive cloak of secrecy, 1.5 million Italian-American men served and fought for the United States in World War 2. The sum total of 2.1 million out of 5 million people of Italian ancestry, which represented 42% of the Italian population in America at that time, were under various levels of lockdown, interned under special circumstances, or in uniform serving America in combat. By 1945, tens of thousands of young men of Italian ancestry had died fighting the Axis war machine.

At the close of the war, the files were kept archived and classified, and the Italian-Americans affected by Executive Order 9066 received nothing for their losses. They salvaged what opportunities they could find after the war and moved on. This history remained unknown to the American public for the rest of the 20th century.

President Clinton Authorizes the USDOJ to Investigate the Internment

Up until the beginning of the 21st Century, this history remained classified by the US Government. This began to change when a bill was introduced by Rep. Rick Lazio (R – 2nd District, New York) to the House on July 1, 1999, as HR 2442, and was titled the “Wartime Violation of Italian American Civil Liberties Act” [4]. In a huge step forward in both transparency and accountability, the bill was agreed to by both chambers on October 24, 2000, and then signed into law by President Clinton on November 7, 2000[5]. This became Public Law 106-451.

Public Law 106-451 tasked the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) with the responsibility of declassifying secret files, and producing a thorough report that would reveal the truth and the scope of what happened to the Italian-American people during World War 2.

The US Department of Justice Delivers a Groundbreaking Report

The result came in November 2001 when the US Department of Justice published a 243-page report and submitted it to the 106th Congress of the United States. The report is called “A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry during World War 2”. We have obtained an original USDOJ bound copy of this groundbreaking report from the US Government Bookstore. This report is also available online as an archived version from the USDOJ, or in PDF format at the Tuna Canyon Detention Center.

The investigative power of the USDOJ bestowed the American people with an upfront and detailed account of the restrictions and civil rights losses experienced by hundreds of thousands of persons of Italian descent during World War 2. The US Department of Justice’s report turned out to be an extremely detailed expose. The report revealed the raids, confiscations, invasion of privacy, arrests without warrant, internments, and interrogations without counsel in extreme granularity. The report even records the pathways through various internment camps for many internees by name.

Internment of Italian-Americans – the Research Project

Due to its direct references to primary & original source documents, this project can serve as a source of reference material and a guide for students and parents. All pertinent supporting documentation is supplied by reference or direct link.

Section 2: What the US Department of Justice Report Revealed

The November 2001 US Department of Justice report to Congress, titled “A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry during World War 2”, is a highly detailed history of the civil liberties violations experienced by 600,000 Italians in America. The report is based on a massive research project undertaken by the US Department of Justice, and the source files and records are disclosed in the utmost detail within the report. These are the fully established facts, with references to additional sources where applicable.

During the Second World War, 600,000 Americans of Italian descent were subjected to the following:

  1. Branded as “enemy aliens”, Americans of Italian descent were made to carry identification cards and some endured strict travel restrictions of no more than 5 miles from their residences. This made visiting family and going to work impossible for many people.
  2. Civil liberties infringements included arrest without warrant, hearings without benefit of legal counsel, thousands of illegal searches of person or home, seizure of property, and employment restrictions.
  3. During World War 2, more than 10,000 Italian Americans living on the West Coast were forced to leave their homes and move inland, away from specific coastal zones. More than 50,000 were subjected to curfews.
  4. Thousands of Americans that were Italian immigrants were arrested, and hundreds were interned in military camps.
  5. Approximately 1.5 million American men of Italian ancestry performed exemplary service and tens of thousands sacrificed their lives in defense of the United States.
  6. The impact of the wartime experience was both psychologically and economically devastating to Italian communities in the United States. Its effects are still being felt today.
  7. Deliberate measures employed by the US Government during World War 2 kept these violations secret from the American public. Even by the end of the 20th Century, much of the information remained classified. Due to this, the full story remains unknown to the public, and it has never been acknowledged in any official capacity by the United States Government.

The Department of Justice researchers worked with files that were by then almost 60 years old. Their thorough investigation revealed records on 1940s-era medium, such as bond or onion-skin paper, early mimeograph, and index card systems. Some records were fully intact, some were missing pages, while others were barely legible. While they were able to assemble the reporting above, they found that some records had already been destroyed. This is an important point, as the USDOJ points out that the list of Archival materials listed in Appendix M were built partly from these fragmented records[6]. This leaves open the strong possibility that other records or still-undiscovered files may reveal additional names of Italians affected by World War 2 executive orders and the resulting policies.

Since this report was produced well before digital archiving became common, it makes sense that access to other sources were not available at the time of publishing. Now that eighteen years have passed, historical information thought lost has been found and made accessible. 

Where were Italian Internees held?

Italian-American Internees were held in a minimum of 30 internment facilities; 28 internment camps & detention centers, at least 1 medical facility, and 1 unidentified location. The infographic below shows the facility name and the number of Italian internees held at each location. This data does not include the Italian merchant seamen also held by the United States.

USDOJ Report to Congress

Internee Names Compiled from Appendix D, Section 3(3). 

Location Internees
Location Internees
Unknown 54
Medical & Hospital 7
Algiers INS LA 2
Angel Island CA 41
Camp Forrest TN 100
Camp McCoy WI 8
East Boston INS MASS 6
Ellis Island NY 81
Fort Bliss TX 8
Fort George Meade MD 89
Fort Howard MD 8
Fort Lewis WA 2
Fort Lincoln ND 3
Fort MacAlester OK 204
Fort McDowell CA 2
Fort Missoula MT 210
Fort Sam Houston TX 53
Fort Screven INS GA 1
Gloucester City INS NJ 12
Kansas City INS MO 4
Kenedy TX 4
Miami INS FL 7
New Orleans INS LA 1
Salt Lake City INS UT 3
San Antonio TX 2
San Francisco INS CA 18
Sand Island HAWAII 0
Seagoville TX 3
Seattle INS WA 2
Sharp Park CA 37
St Louis INS MO 1
Stringtown OK 11
Tuna Canyon CA 6


A Discrepancy in the Number of Detainees Emerges

The above chart was created using the data supplied by the United States Department of Justice within their landmark report. This data table is located in Appendix D, Section 3(3).  It lists 418 Internees by name, and the camps they were held in. Compiling internee name by camp reveals that the typical internee was held in at least 2 camps throughout the war (2.368 moves per person, to be exact). Many internees were moved from location to location, with some internees having been relocated through as many as 6 internment camps during the war.

That 418 internees needed to be rotated among a minimum of 30 federal and state facilities seems like a grossly inefficient use of manpower, materials, and fuel during a time when all three assets were being rationed. Was there a pressing issue that warranted this movement? This generates a number of possible scenarios: The first is that it was a method of keeping internee populations from having enough time to organize and conspire to escape. A second scenario is that some Italian internees were shipped to farming areas to use their labor for US food production (an upcoming essay will explore this). Third, It is possible that the number of Italian internees was much larger, and with the detention of family groups, the US government needed to shuffle people to keep families together and/or organize those who would become long term internees versus those held on a shorter term.

Evidence indicates that the farming labor scenario, as well as the internee population being significantly larger, are both plausible and have strong evidence supporting both theories. As stated before, we will be producing an essay on how the farming skills of Italian internees helped produce food for the US public during the war. For the claim that the actual population of Italian internees was much larger, we can look no further than the honor roll of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station. It is here we find compelling evidence that the Italian internee population was much larger. 

Tuna Canyon Detention Station is located in Los Angeles California, and was home to 2,028 internees during the war. This population was comprised of 1,772 Japanese, 133 German, and 115 Italian individuals. There was also an individual of possible Polish extraction. Their identities were initially compiled by a gentleman named Lloyd Hitt. The project was then passed to Russell Endo, who manages the Honor Roll of the Tuna Canyon Detention Center Coalition website. They also house a copy of the 2001 USDOJ Report to Congress called the Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry during World War 2.

When cross-compiling the names of the 115 Italian internees at Tuna Canyon against the 418 internees listed within the USDOJ Report (Appendix D, Section 3(3)), we find a positive cross-identification of only 4 internees:

  1. #16 Raffaele Averga – page 2.
  2. #23 Nello Bedini – page 2.
  3. #78 Renzo Cesana – page 9.
  4. #185 Rocco Guglielmo – page 20.

The remaining 111 Italian Internees at Tuna Canyon were not included within the report. Conversely, there are two names on the Appendix D list that do not appear on the honor roll at Tuna Canyon:

  1. #56 Giuseppe Ca
  2. #196 Jim Jura

This was to be expected, as the Department of Justice included this prominent footnote on every page of the report from Appendix C through Appendix I:

This list was compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice after extensive review of historical records (see Appendix M), personal interviews, and other sources (see Appendix N).  The list may include names more than once where source material captured the identity of individuals differently and may fail to identify individuals whose names were not contained within the memoranda and reports reviewed.  Consequently, this list, while representing the most accurate and thorough accounting possible, should be regarded in that light.

The above disclosure is a very important point to consider, as the US Department of Justice was tasked with creating this report in 2000. At that time, this data existed only in aging paper records and on microfilm, which is archaic compared to the resources available to us 2 decades later. They also had to work within a set budget that dictated the amount of time and number of personnel available to create the report.

With additional records now online from various other sources (state governments, county records, digitized government files, library collections, etc.), we will be able to continue where the USDOJ left off and fill in the missing data as best as possible.

Number of Italian Internees – How big is the Discrepancy?

This needs to be determined, as various sources that also reference the US archives have calculated larger numbers. Statistics offered to the public from the encyclopedia states that approximately 3,000 people of Italian ancestry were interned [7].

The FBI Vault houses a detailed set of records of enemy aliens apprehended by the bureau up to February 24, 1943, indicating 2,302 arrests up to that date, which was comprised of 2,277 aliens, and 25 American citizens of Italian descent[8].

The FBI records also reveal that a small number of Rumanian, Hungarian and Bulgarian aliens were also arrested. Not included is the possible Polish internee at Tuna Canyon, which represents an individual with no categorical tracking by place of origin. To date, we have found no record of Polish detainees held in US-based detention camps within the National Archives. It is possible that this individual was a crewman on an Italian or German flagged merchant ship, and was therefore confined with the merchant seamen, but that is speculation at this point and needs to be confirmed.

The question about the possible Polish internee might have been answered by the research proposed under the Wartime Treatment Study Act.

What was the Wartime Treatment Study Act?

Introduced during the 111th Congress, the H. Rept. 111-679 – Wartime Treatment Study Act, was designed to look at the treatment of additional groups caught up in civil rights violations of World War 2. This included the German-Americans, of which 300,000 were branded enemy aliens, and over 10,000 were interned with the Italians and Japanese. It also included Jewish refugees from around the globe, Italians and Germans from Latin America. Some individuals were held for up to 2 years after the end of World War 2. This bill passed the US Senate in 2007 and passed the House by a 19-to-7 vote on December 13, 2010[9], but did not become law.

Section 3: Sacrifice on a Grand Scale

With the United States’ entry into the Second World War, the US was faced with fighting on two fronts – the Pacific War waged primarily against the Imperial Japanese, and against the Germans and Fascist Italians in the European-African-Asiatic Theater.  Young American men of Italian descent signed up in droves to serve the United States, with many Italian families having all available able-bodied men serving in uniform.

In total, the United States of America’s active-duty armed forces numbered approximately 16 million men, and also included tens of thousands of WAVES (Women’s Branch of the US Naval Reserve) and the WACs (the Women’s Air Corps). Every one of these individuals sacrificed something to defend the free world.

Highlights of Italian-American Service in World War 2

The sum total of the service contributions made by Italian-Americans in World War 2 is staggering. Their contributions have been the subject of countless books, essays, research papers, magazine articles, and movies for the last 75 years. There is truly no way to encompass that amount of information within the focus of this report. Instead, we offer these important points, which support the dedication to America that defines the actions of the Italian-American community:

    • Almost 10% of this total fighting force, approximately 1.5 million service-members, consisted of American men of Italian descent [10]. The casualty rate in World War 2 totaled 405,399 dead, 670,846 wounded and 30,314 missing. Assuming all other variables are held equal, the Italian-American community accounted for 10% of that total, which would be 40,540 men lost, 67,084 wounded, and over 3,000 men who are MIA, and presumed dead [11].
    • 14 Italian-American men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor [12].
    • Italian-American actors and athletes would volunteer and serve in World War 2. Some were already famous and left lucrative careers to serve the United States. The list of names is a who’s who of Hollywood A-listers plus 3 sports legends. Servicemen included:
      • Actors such as Ernest Borgnine, Joe Campanella, Nicholas Colasanto, Jackie Cooper, Steve Conte, Richard Crenna, Henry Fonda, Dean Martin, Ralph Manza, Victor Mature, and Robert Stack all served on active duty.
      • Athletes included Yoggi Berra, Joe DiMaggio and Jake LaMotta (LaMotta joined but was later disqualified because of hearing issues). Yoggi Berra was involved directly in the initial landing on D-Day.
    • Italian-American soldiers played a vital role in physically recapturing Italy from the Axis, as did thousands of Italian-American civilians. The latter assisted the OSS in planning the invasion of Sicily, and both groups offered their personal networks and connections to the Allies for planning and communication. Some US soldiers used their expertise with the Sicilian dialect, and other regional dialects, to communicate with local citizens. New York City Mayor Fiorello H La Guardia made weekly radio broadcasts to Italy called “Mayor LaGuardia Calling Rome”, urging Italians to revolt against fascism [13].
    • This sacrifice was made despite a significant proportion of Italians being viewed as enemy aliens.

Italian-Americans not caught up directly in either wartime restrictions or military service were heavily involved in the Allied war effort. This included shipping & transportation of materials, civil service, heavy labor, and management of the vital waterfront areas. Many others ran family restaurants, businesses and farms. Americans of Italian descent were also heavily relied upon in the manufacturing sector for national defense.

Most Targeted Italians Refused Federal Aid During the War Due to Cultural Ethos

By mid-1942, President Roosevelt budgeted up to $5 Million dollars from the presidential emergency fund with the idea of offering financial assistance to the Italian civilian internees expected to be released in the coming year. This was in preparation for the planned national address by US Attorney General Francis Biddle slated for October 12 1942 (Columbus Day).  It was after this announcement that information was offered to internees held in prison camps announcing the planned release of all internees and the availability of federal aid.  The federal aid was designated to fund both housing and unemployment benefits. Out of the more than 3,000+ Italian American detainees, however, only about 10% accepted any form of assistance.  This was expected, as Italians are fiercely independent people, and most considered it completely unacceptable to take a hand out [14].

This should not have been a surprise to Federal officials. It was Richard Neustadt (Director, SSA) who advised officials that Italians were too proud and would commit suicide before accepting government assistance.  This claim was unfortunately accurate and was based on recent precedence. After being declared “enemy aliens”, Italians in America had a difficult time finding employment, and suicides were reported across the country [15]. The common cause was the intense shame felt by Italian men who were suddenly tagged as outsiders and no longer able to provide for their families [16].

The dedication and hard work by Italian-American people of the World War 2 generation was the catalyst that brought about Italian America’s acceptance into post-war mainstream American society. By assimilating into the culture, refusing aid, and serving America gallantly during times of need, anti-Italianism has mostly disappeared.

Section 4: How Does Public Education view the WW2 Internment of Italians today?

Kindergarten through 12th grade public education within the United States covers the Japanese internment in detail but does not explore the Wartime treatment of Italian-Americans & German-Americans to date. This observation is based on a review of the lesson plans offered on the public-facing official websites of the NEA and the NCSS. There may be regional inclusion at the state level, but so far, we have not been able to locate any references online.

Is there a Complete Internment Curriculum available that meets Educational Standards? 

Yes. In 2001, a collaboration among Japanese, German and Italian community groups produced a widely distributed traveling photo-exhibit called “The Enemy Alien Files: Hidden Stories of World War 2”. This exhibit traveled to dozens of cities across the United States to present for the very first time a full narrative of the World War 2 Alien Enemy Control Program.

The advisors and scholars that created this exhibit have also produced a complete curriculum guide with 17 lesson plans. This covers the full and crucial history of this historical event. The curriculum is available online from the German-American Internee Coalition with supporting material and detailed lesson plans. All of the curriculum material meets the California Department of Education’s Historical-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, Standard 11.7.5”.  The version of the 11th Grade History Standards, section 11.7.50 states: “Discuss the constitutional issues and impacts of events on the U.S. home front, including the internment of Japanese Americans.”.

Currently, K-12 public education does not reflect the full story of all three groups.

Why were Italian-Americans Interned at a much lower percentage of their population than the Germans or the Japanese?

Evidence indicates that this was a strategic decision made by Congress in February of 1942 to balance security with the manpower needed to win the war. Recorded testimony made to Congress in February 1942 regarding the National Defense Migration and its possible effects upon the Japanese, German & Italian communities indicates that the vast size of the Italian population in America made them too large to effectively intern [17]. Additionally, lawmakers felt the need to tread carefully with regard to interning Italians, since so many of them had sons fighting for the United States in the war.

These same sentiments appear to have been applied to the over 300,000 German-Americans identified as enemy-aliens. Out of this group, over 10,000 German-Americans were interned during the war. While only half as large as the Italian population, their 300,000 affected individuals formed a large population, and was also considered too big to move or intern. Instead, both the Italians and the Germans were subjected to selective internment and exclusions.

The Japanese enemy alien population was the smallest of the three groups, and well-concentrated in certain areas on the west coast. This fact, unfortunately, made them a much easier group to detain and intern than the much larger Italian and German enemy alien population. Out of the three ethnicities, they were also the lowest risk group to intern. This may be based on the fact that the number of Japanese Americans in uniformed service was considerably smaller than either the Italian or German service populations.

There appears to be an inverse relationship between the size of the target population and the overall percentage of population that was interned. The largest of the enemy alien population, the Italians, had the lowest total number of interned individuals at up to 3,000 people. Congressional testimony supports the idea that treading carefully with a large group of people so well represented in the US military was a prudent way to manage the risk of 5th column activities without causing alienation or rebellion amongst the mass of American troops of Italian ancestry.

Key Lawmakers & Military Leaders Testify Before Congress

Testimony by key lawmakers and leaders within the official transcript refer to the possible effect on morale on the vast number of young men of Italian descent enlisting to fight for America [18]. A sampling of these statements highlights the complexity of the Italian enemy alien issue:

“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. February 18, 1942, in a letter to Hon. Earl Warren, as entered into the National Defense Migration investigation.

“I am sorry to say that numerous instances have come to the attention of the Department of Justice of employers discharging workers because of some vague suspicion that they may be disloyal aliens, and even because they have foreign-sounding names. I should like to remind such employers that of our total noncitizen population of about 5,000,000, fewer than 3,000 — 6 out of 10,000 have been regarded as dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States. Those have been taken into custody by the Federal authorities. 

I should also like to point out to these employers that many of the “foreigners” they have discharged now have sons serving in our Army and Navy. Among those who died fighting off the treacherous attacks upon Manila and Pearl Harbor were men named Wagner and Petersen and Monzo and Rossini and Mueller and Rasmussen.” 

      • Statement by Attorney General Francis Biddle Concerning the Employment of Aliens in Private Industry. December 28, 1941. As entered into National Defense Migration investigation.

In a statement to the New York Times on April 27, 1942, General Hugh A Drum stated that “Mass evacuation is not contemplated. Instead thereof, such evacuations as may be considered necessary will be by selective processes applicable to enemy aliens, or to other persons deemed dangerous to remain at large within the area or within its zones”[19]. This was in regard to the German and Italian populations.

Why are the Italians Excluded from the Internment Discussion within the FDR Archives?

The reason for this exclusion is unknown at this time. The official FDR Library posted this content on their website for the 75th Anniversary of the Japanese Internment:

“The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is presenting “Images of Internment” because it is critically important to examine both the successes and failures of any great leader to truly understand them. President Roosevelt led America through two of its worst crises, the Great Depression and World War II. His extraordinary leadership helped create the modern world with all of the freedoms we enjoy today. Executive Order 9066 reminds us that even our greatest leaders can make mistakes when the voice of the people drowns out the voice of reason” [20].

There is no currently no mention of the internment & wartime mistreatment of Italian and German civilians. There is also no mention of the dedicated service of the 1.5 million Italian-American men who served in World War 2, nor a memorial to those who went missing or were killed in action. Absent also is the 14 men of Italian ancestry who earned the Medal of Honor. The German-American people, and their massive contribution to the Allied victory in the war, are also not included on this page.

Current Government Affairs Regarding Internment

In the 1970s, the Japanese-American internees successfully sued the United States and have received a formal apology from President Gerald Ford on February 19, 1976 through Presidential Proclamation 4417. They received reparations for their losses through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which was signed into federal law on August 10, 1988 as Pub Law 100-383 [21]. This granted reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned by the US government during World War II.

What about the Italian & German Americans?

It is important to realize that there was no way to hide the mass relocation of the Japanese-Americans during the war, so this event was more widely known and fairly well-documented. This is not the case with Americans of Italian or German descent. The Wartime Civil Rights Violations of Italian Americans were deliberately kept classified for the remainder of the 20th century. These events were not acknowledged in any official capacity until the release of the Report to Congress of the United States in November of 2001, titled “A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry during World War 2”.

The experience of the German-Americans during World War 2 has still not been officially recognized, as the Japanese and Italian violations have. The 111th Congress approved the Wartime Treatment Studies Act (HR-1425 & S-564), which was purposely designed to examine the treatment of European-Americans (Germans, Jews, Italians, and Other affected individuals), but it was not signed into law. The wartime treatment of the German-Americans remains unresolved with the United States government, and excluded by public education.

Related Article:  An Italian Internee’s Letter Home During World War 2

2 Upcoming Projects:

  1. Due to the wide discrepancy in the possible number of Italian-American internees, additional research is underway to determine a more accurate number of those held in camps.
  2. An expose on the excluded German-American Internment story.


[1] National Endowment for the Humanities, found at – Accessed on August 7, 2020.

[2] GovTrack Public Law found at – Accessed on September 27, 2020.

[3] US Citizenship & Immigration Service archives, found at and accessed on August 7, 2020.

[4] HR 2442 – Wartime Violation of Italian American Civil Liberties Act – available in the congressional bills archive at Accessed on August 7, 2020.

[5] H.R. 2442 — 106th Congress: Wartime Violation of Italian American Civil Liberties Act. 1999. Accessed on August 7, 2020.

[6] Overview, Page viii, of the USDOJ Report titled “Report to the Congress of the United States – A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry during World War II”. Available on the web at Accessed on August 13, 2020.

[7] Densho Encyclopedia, found on the internet at – Accessed on 9/28/2020.

[8] FBI Record Vault – PDF scan of 185 pages of memorandums, page 39, Memo from J. Edgar Hoover to US Attorney General, found at  – Accessed on 9/28/2020.

[9] HR Report 111-679 Wartime Treatment Study Act, found at  Accessed on 9/28/2020.

[10] Marton, Eric. “Italian Americans: The History and Culture of a People.” Page 148. (ABC-CLIO, 2016, ISBN-13: 978-1610699945). Accessed on September 28, 2020.

[11] Data extracted from the second edition of The Oxford Companion to American Military History. (Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-19-507198-0), 849. John W. Chambers, II, ed. in chief,

[12] Found on the web at  Accessed on September 28, 2020.

[13] Italian Americana, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Winter 2007), pp. 5-22 (18 pages) found at  Accessed on September 28, 2020.

[14] Fox, Stephen C.  The Unknown Internment: An Oral History of the Relocation of Italian Americans during World War II.   Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990. Pages 142, 145, 146 & 147. (Notes and References, page 203 under Chapters 3, 4 and 5.).

[15] Section/Page 11134, Testimony of Milano Rispoli, Executive Secretary of the Italian Welfare Agency in San Francisco California, February 21, 1942, National Defense Migration Hearings, the unabridged and digitized archival version held at Accessed on June 14, 2021.

[16] Ibid, Section/Page 11,133.

[17] Select Committee to Investigate National Defense Migration (1941 to 1943, spanning the 76th to 78th Congress). Archived microfilm of this Investigation is available at the National Archives on 65 feet of Microfilm. Summary is at the archived version of, now housed at, accessed on August 30, 2022.

[18] From the Complete & Original digitized version of the National Defense Migration Hearings, archived at Accessed on August 12, 2020.

[19] New York Times, April 27, 1942, Page 3. General Hugh A. Drum. “Text of General Drums Statement” within the NYT archives at Accessed August 12, 2020.

[20] The FDR Library 75th Anniversary Special Exhibit “Images of Internment” found at  Accessed August 13, 2020.

[21] Civil Liberties Act / Pub Law 100-383, found at   – Accessed on September 29, 2020.

Content Update Log:

Updated 8/30/2022. Footnote 17 destination URL now poimts to archived version of the Select Committee to Investigate National Defense Migration Records (1941 to 1943, spanning the 76th to 78th Congress)

Updated 6/14/2021.  Section regarding internee refusal of federal aid added, along with its 3 supporting footnotes (footnotes from #13 onwards have been adjusted accordingly).


Author: Robert Lanni