News

State apologizes to Italian Americans for WWII actions

10,000 Italian Americans were displaced from their homes and thousands more faced restriction and hardships during World War II

The little-known government displacement of 10,000 Italian Americans in California during World War II was acknowledged as "a fundamental injustice" by the state Legislature last Friday (Aug. 20). Some were interned while others were forced to move away from the coasts or had other restrictions on their movements.

More than 1,500 were reported arrested under an order from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Legislators in the state Assembly and Senate expressed their "deepest regrets," in passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 95, which was authored by State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto).

The resolution will "help repair the damage to the Italian American community, and to discourage the occurrence of similar injustices" in the future, Simitian's office announced. The measure is consistent with action taken in the U.S. Congress earlier in the decade.

During World War II, the United States government designated more than 100,000 California residents as "aliens" and forced many to leave their homes or endure other hardships. The majority of those targeted were of Japanese descent but 10,000 Italian Americans were also forced to leave their homes.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Greater numbers were required to carry identification cards, were restricted in their travels and were subject to curfew. In some instances, their property was seized, and their livelihoods, particularly fishing along the coast, were denied.

Simitian's resolution originated in a proposal from Chet Campanella, a resident of San Jose's Willow Glen neighborhood, as part of the senator's annual "There Oughta Be a Law" contest. Campanella's parents, while not interned, were subjected to a curfew and searches of their home, he said.

"We refer to it as the 'untold story' because it was classified. No one was supposed to know about it," Campanella said. "Younger people probably don't know that this ever happened. I love this country, and I think a formal apology is so important to the older people, the survivors, before we die."

Passage of the resolution "makes me really happy on behalf of grandparents, aunts and uncles, my parents and their friends -- people who were really mistreated during World War II. It's finally coming to an end," he said.

A report to Congress in November 2001, entitled "A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry During World War II," chronicled the injustices against Italian Americans, who at that time were the largest foreign-born group in the United States.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

"The impact of the wartime experience was devastating to Italian American communities in the United States and its effects are still being felt," the congressional report concluded.

Simitian said, "The treatment during World War II of people who were unjustly considered 'suspicious' because of their ethnic background was a sad chapter for our state. For survivors of that experience and their descendants, I hope this resolution will provide a long-due measure of recognition and respect."

The resolution addresses a historic event, but Simitian said the issue "has never been more timely. Given America's ongoing conflict abroad, the World War II experience is an important reminder of the need to respect the role and rights of those who have ties abroad."

Simitian's "There Oughta Be a Law" contest invites constituents to suggest legislation. The winning ideas are introduced as bills. Campanella traveled to Sacramento to testify in support of the resolution in the Senate Rules Committee.

Simitian said he was particularly moved to seek acknowledgment by the legislature because of the its "regrettable" role in the episode. The legislature's 1943 report of the "Joint Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities in California," commonly referred to as the Tenney Report for its author Sen. Jack Tenney, "was not an effort that reflected particularly well on the legislature," Simitian said.

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

State apologizes to Italian Americans for WWII actions

10,000 Italian Americans were displaced from their homes and thousands more faced restriction and hardships during World War II

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Wed, Aug 25, 2010, 12:56 pm

The little-known government displacement of 10,000 Italian Americans in California during World War II was acknowledged as "a fundamental injustice" by the state Legislature last Friday (Aug. 20). Some were interned while others were forced to move away from the coasts or had other restrictions on their movements.

More than 1,500 were reported arrested under an order from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Legislators in the state Assembly and Senate expressed their "deepest regrets," in passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 95, which was authored by State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto).

The resolution will "help repair the damage to the Italian American community, and to discourage the occurrence of similar injustices" in the future, Simitian's office announced. The measure is consistent with action taken in the U.S. Congress earlier in the decade.

During World War II, the United States government designated more than 100,000 California residents as "aliens" and forced many to leave their homes or endure other hardships. The majority of those targeted were of Japanese descent but 10,000 Italian Americans were also forced to leave their homes.

Greater numbers were required to carry identification cards, were restricted in their travels and were subject to curfew. In some instances, their property was seized, and their livelihoods, particularly fishing along the coast, were denied.

Simitian's resolution originated in a proposal from Chet Campanella, a resident of San Jose's Willow Glen neighborhood, as part of the senator's annual "There Oughta Be a Law" contest. Campanella's parents, while not interned, were subjected to a curfew and searches of their home, he said.

"We refer to it as the 'untold story' because it was classified. No one was supposed to know about it," Campanella said. "Younger people probably don't know that this ever happened. I love this country, and I think a formal apology is so important to the older people, the survivors, before we die."

Passage of the resolution "makes me really happy on behalf of grandparents, aunts and uncles, my parents and their friends -- people who were really mistreated during World War II. It's finally coming to an end," he said.

A report to Congress in November 2001, entitled "A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry During World War II," chronicled the injustices against Italian Americans, who at that time were the largest foreign-born group in the United States.

"The impact of the wartime experience was devastating to Italian American communities in the United States and its effects are still being felt," the congressional report concluded.

Simitian said, "The treatment during World War II of people who were unjustly considered 'suspicious' because of their ethnic background was a sad chapter for our state. For survivors of that experience and their descendants, I hope this resolution will provide a long-due measure of recognition and respect."

The resolution addresses a historic event, but Simitian said the issue "has never been more timely. Given America's ongoing conflict abroad, the World War II experience is an important reminder of the need to respect the role and rights of those who have ties abroad."

Simitian's "There Oughta Be a Law" contest invites constituents to suggest legislation. The winning ideas are introduced as bills. Campanella traveled to Sacramento to testify in support of the resolution in the Senate Rules Committee.

Simitian said he was particularly moved to seek acknowledgment by the legislature because of the its "regrettable" role in the episode. The legislature's 1943 report of the "Joint Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities in California," commonly referred to as the Tenney Report for its author Sen. Jack Tenney, "was not an effort that reflected particularly well on the legislature," Simitian said.

Comments

Since when
Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm
Since when, Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm
Like this comment

I did not know of this, but i approve the decisions America makes ALL the time! Since when were there any Italians in California??


more info, please
Midtown
on Aug 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm
more info, please, Midtown
on Aug 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm
Like this comment

Where can I read more about this issue? Were only adults imprisoned or whole families with children? Were they Italian citizens or American citizens? Where were the prison camps? Have any been preserved as museums?

The article does mention "foreign-born". Were only foreign-born Italian-American affected?

I vaguely recall (from my long ago school days) that the Italians could avoid these prison camps if they renounced their Italian citizenship and declared allegiance to the USA. Is that correct? I believe that the Japanese-Americans did not have this option (and most were already American citizens anyway).


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm
Like this comment

What a ceramic receptacle of used Kimchee!
All nations routinely intern enemy aliens, it was an act of prudence since those who had relatives in the "old country" might be coerced into espionage. An apology for an action of someone else when you are not aware of the situation is cheap. Real men apologize forward.
If the Sacramento Slugs feel the need for excoriation there are actions a lot closer in time for them to ask forgiveness.


Hmmm - to Since when
East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2010 at 10:58 pm
Hmmm - to Since when, East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2010 at 10:58 pm
Like this comment

Learn your history, Since when. Puhlenty of Italian-Americans in Calif during WWII. They settled all over. Do some research. Walter - pound that kimchee.


Sharon
Midtown
on Aug 25, 2010 at 11:49 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Aug 25, 2010 at 11:49 pm
Like this comment


There was clear evidence from Magic intelligence decoding that some Japaneses Americans in CA were spies, Ultra decodes provided the same evidence about some German and Italian networks in the USA.
We were attacked without a declaration of war by Japan in Pearl Harbor and the other axis powers were sinking our ships---it was prudent and sensible to monitor and intern potential enemies-- Japan, Italy and Germany did worse-- they executed or starved their foreign internees.er
Read about what happened to the English, American and Dutch internees in the Japanese camps--most of them died.
Japan has never apologized nor payed compensation to them.


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 3:14 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2010 at 3:14 am
Like this comment

Joe DiMaggio's dad was not allowed downstream of Antioch. The present site of the Sacramento Bee, the Buffalo Beer property, was the War Assets Administration warehouse. I lived that history.


Shame on Walter
another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:16 am
Shame on Walter, another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:16 am
Like this comment

"What a ceramic receptacle of used Kimchee!"
Too bad that Walter cannot be civil when he disagrees with others.

"All nations routinely intern enemy aliens"
Weren't many of these people US citizens.
I guessed we missed our opportunity after Oklahoma City to put Walter away.


" it was an act of prudence since those who had relatives in the "old country" might be coerced into espionage."

What a ridiculous statement--throw all Japanese, Italian and German people (who are US citizens) into jail because of what they might do?


"An apology for an action of someone else when you are not aware of the situation is cheap. Real men apologize forward."
what would you know, Walter, about being a real man??

"If the Sacramento Slugs feel the need for excoriation there are actions a lot closer in time for them to ask forgiveness."
Oh, look, another "civil" comment from Walter. Our "veteran" of the Korean War,


To SOW
Greater Miranda
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:41 am
To SOW, Greater Miranda
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:41 am
Like this comment

Dear SOW: I suggest you seek help in trying to understand what Walter so well and succinctly conveys before you spout off again...unless your intention is to serve as counterpoint for wise and educated? In which case, you did well.


Shame on Walter
another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:07 pm
Shame on Walter, another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:07 pm
Like this comment

To SOW:
Clearly if you and Walter are allowed to express your opinions so freely, then we all should be. Understanding what he does or does not say is irrelevant (though I am quite familiar with his pseudo-fascist rantings and talk about the good old days)-however you are free to draw your own conclusions. It is too bad that certain people view a differing opinion as "spouting off"--I guess if Walter's side had won WWII we would all be speaking German now.


Sharon
Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:06 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:06 pm
Like this comment

The US citizens interned in Germany and Italy were treated well as were the Italians and Germans in the US, most of them were on a modified curfew.
The situation for Japanese near the west coast in the US was different--- because

1/Japan attacked the US without any declaration of war
2/There was evidence that a significant number Japanese in CA were involved in espionage-
3/There was a legitimate fear of an attack on the US West Coast by Japan

If CA is apologizing to the Italians then why not the Germans and Austrians? All internees were well fed and sheltered, most were put under limited curfew

US, UK, AU, NZ, Dutch and Canadian civilians were thrown into death camps by the Japanese, transported in Hell Ships and many of the women forced to be " comfort women"---- few survived the torture and starvation.
Japan has never accepted responsibility for the war crimes, let alone apologized or paid reparations to its victims.

Today in the US we have more sophisticated tracking technology, and financial, telephone, email transactions etc between AfPak, Afghan, Iranian, Mid East Americans and those areas are monitored by Echelon and NSA--- in the 40s we did not have that capability now we do.

In the British Empire they had a policy of " Never apologize, never explain, never complain" that worked for them until they became decadent.


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 9:24 pm
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2010 at 9:24 pm
Like this comment

In my war we desperately needed Japan as an ally for logistic reasons, and so a lot of war crimes like the Rape of Nanking and the Chinese medical experiments were not persecuted, just as Hirohito's roll in prosecuting the war was not mentioned. Without Japanese cooperation we would have lost Korea. Incidentally, a large percentage of interned Japanese chose repatriation to Japan after the war, some even renouncing their U.S. citizenship. I worked with one such who subsequently recanted his renunciation and asked to be returned to the U.S. They agreed, then immediately drafted him. We had plans to evacuate California in the event of a Japanese invasion. A friend of mine purchased the evacuation control center in Sonora Pass. I consider the "apologies" of these later day revisionists to be slander of those who did what had to be done to preserve the world. There is no polite way to debate departures from societal civility. That civility requires comprehension of our foundations and their cost. To put internment in terms today's pundits might understand, almost everyone agrees that the almost body cavity intrusiveness of TSA is technically a violation of passenger rights, forgiven in the interest of that passenger's greater right, to arrive safely at his destination. The US had come a long way since the Blue and Grey prison camps,and now Gitmo, a virtual heaven on earth for its occupants. Apologizing for others is a cheap shot.

P.S. how about slowing the clock on cutoff. It takes a while to assemble responses to some of these misconstruers.


Shame on Walter
another community
on Aug 27, 2010 at 6:14 am
Shame on Walter, another community
on Aug 27, 2010 at 6:14 am
Like this comment

"Incidentally, a large percentage of interned Japanese chose repatriation to Japan after the war, some even renouncing their U.S. citizenship."
And what percentage is that? 50%? 80%? 10? Walter loves to throw out his fantasy thoughts and call them "facts".

"I consider the "apologies" of these later day revisionists to be slander of those who did what had to be done to preserve the world. "
These people are not "later day revisionist"--they are people who realized that what was done to US citizens was unjust. Nothing wrong with realizing a mistake and apologizing for it. Too bad that Walter is so cold and hard hearted that he sticks to his neo-fascist guns to the end.

"now Gitmo, a virtual heaven on earth for its occupants"
You see another fantasy that Walter claims is a fact.

"Apologizing for others is a cheap shot."
No, apologizing for past is what civilized people do. Unfortunately, Walter cannot be considered in that class


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:16 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:16 am
Like this comment

My Aunt Dedee said "Sorry don't shuck no oysters." The only sincere apology is a forward apology.


Sharon
Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 9:45 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 9:45 pm
Like this comment


If Iranian/Americans or Israeli/Americans were acting against Americas best interests today-- what should we do with them?

Apologize ahead of time?-- or act in our US best interests with clarity and commitment?


Hmmm
East Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:26 pm
Hmmm, East Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:26 pm
Like this comment

Sharon, as usual, you veer way off subject.


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 28, 2010 at 7:38 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 28, 2010 at 7:38 am
Like this comment

Hmmm, as usual you can't break your programming. The subject is whether this nation needs to apologize for acting in the perceived best interests of this nation.


Shame on Walter
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2010 at 10:54 am
Shame on Walter, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2010 at 10:54 am
Like this comment

Is Sharon suggesting that we imprison Jewish and Iranian Americans? Well, we are not at war with Israel and Iran, bit that is besides the point as far as Sharon is concerned. As hmmm pointed out she is way off the topic.
As for Walter, well, cute comments about what his Aunt Dedee has to say are irrelevant. ANd let's say it turn's out that there "perceived" best interests were wrong--wouldn't a real man/woman apologize for being wrong.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 28, 2010 at 11:54 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 28, 2010 at 11:54 am
Like this comment

I try to credit others when something is not original with me. Aunt Dedee would have whacked you with a salad spoon for your chauvinist comment. I never said no apologies were necessary. It is an empty gesture to apologize for others, and the only meaningful apology is apologizing forward. If you don't comprehend that, then I apologize to you for the failures of your teachers.


Shame on Walter
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm
Shame on Walter, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.