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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Thousands of Italian-American immigrants were arrested, and hundreds were interned in military camps.
- Approximately 1.5 Million Italian-American men performed exemplary service and tens of thousands sacrificed their lives in defense of the United States.
- The impact of the wartime experience was both psychologically and economically devastating to Italian-American communities in the United States. Its effects are still being felt today.
- 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. 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).
|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|
|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|
|Seattle INS WA||2|
|Sharp Park CA||37|
|St Louis INS MO||1|
|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:
- #16 Raffaele Averga – page 2.
- #23 Nello Bedini – page 2.
- #78 Renzo Cesana – page 9.
- #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:
- #56 Giuseppe Ca
- #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 Densho.org encyclopedia states that approximately 3,000 people of Italian ancestry were interned.
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.
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, but did not become law.
- PART 1 – Executive Order 9066 – Guide For Students Educators and Public Officials
- PART 2 – USDOJ Report: Executive Order 9066 & Americans of Italian Descent
- PART 3 – Italian-Americans in Service to the United States in World War 2
- PART 4 – Post-War Issues: Internment Questions, Assessments & Public Education
 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 http://www.tunacanyon.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/A-Review-of-the-Restrictions-on-Persons-of-Italian-Ancestry-During-World-War-II-2.pdf. Accessed on August 13, 2020.
 Densho Encyclopedia, found on the internet at https://encyclopedia.densho.org/German_and_Italian_detainees/ – Accessed on 9/28/2020.
 FBI Record Vault – PDF scan of 185 pages of memorandums, page 39, Memo from J. Edgar Hoover to US Attorney General, found at https://vault.fbi.gov/Custodial%20Detention/Custodial%20Detention%20Part%201%20of%203/view#document/p8 – Accessed on 9/28/2020.
 HR Report 111-679 Wartime Treatment Study Act, found at https://www.congress.gov/111/crpt/hrpt679/CRPT-111hrpt679.pdf. Accessed on 9/28/2020.