Relocation, Italian American

views updated


RELOCATION, ITALIAN AMERICAN. Voluntary relocation of enemy aliens (primarily Italians, Germans, and Japanese) who lived or worked in West Coast security zones began in mid-February 1942. In California, this amounted initially to between eight thousand and ten thousand persons, not including family members who accompanied the aliens. But the voluntary approach failed, and the army commenced enforcement of mandatory relocation in late February, as provided for by Executive Order 9066.

Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, who led the Fourth Army and Western Defense Command, vehemently insisted that removal should embrace all enemy aliens, a position that mirrored local opinion. But DeWitt, the public, and the politicians were overruled. Within weeks, following an intense debate among War Department and Justice Department officials and owing principally to considerations of logistics, morale, and race, only Japanese aliens and U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry would be subject to relocation in camps. Italian and German aliens (with or without their citizen-relatives) moved across streets, across towns, or to other communities out-side the restricted zones.

By June 1942, most of the relocated Italians had returned home, and in October 1942 the Justice Department reclassified them as "friendly." The restrictions on German nationals ended in December 1942. In November 2000, President Bill Clinton signed legislation acknowledging that the U.S. government had violated the civil liberties of Italian Americans during World War II. A year later, the Justice Department issued a report on the matter, as the law required.


DiStasi, Lawrence, ed. Una Storia Sehgreta: The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment during World War II. Berkeley, Calif.: Heyday Books, 2001.

Fox, Stephen C. "General John DeWitt and the Proposed Internment of German and Italian Aliens During World War II." Pacific Historical Review 57 (1988): 407–438.

———. The Unknown Internment: An Oral History of the Relocation of Italian Americans During World War II. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Revised as UnCivil Liberties: Italian Americans under Siege during World War II. Universal Publishers/, 2000.


See alsoItalian Americans ; Japanese American Incarceration ; Prisoners of War: Prison Camps, World War II .