Italian-Americans recall World War II mistreatment
Tuesday, October 26th 1999, 12:00 am
News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Dominic DiMaggio, the former Boston Red Sox
center fielder and brother of Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio, left
baseball to fight for the United States in World War II, but
returned home to find his Italian-immigrant father had been labeled
an "enemy alien."
DiMaggio, 72, said Tuesday his father Giuseppe was barred from
his trade of fishing and was even told not to visit friends at the
wharf because of suspicions about his allegiance.
"He very rarely spoke about it," DiMaggio said after a hearing
before the House Judiciary Committee's constitution panel. "I know
he was hurt."
In a little-remembered chapter of U.S. history, the government
classified 600,000 residents of Italian descent as enemy aliens
from late 1941 until Italy surrendered in 1943. They were forced to
carry special identification and were forbidden from traveling more
than five miles from home.
About 250 were imprisoned in Montana and New York, similar to
thousands of ethnic Japanese who were sent to internment camps
during the war. But in contrast to the Japanese-Americans, who won
reparations, the Italian-Americans' plight has gone largely
In California, 52,000 Italian-Americans were confined to their
homes from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. under a curfew. And in ports from
Boston to Monterey, Calif., Italian-American fishermen were
grounded and the Navy impounded their boats.
A bill by Republican Rep. Rick Lazio and Democratic Rep. Eliot
Engel, both from New York, would force the president to acknowledge
violations of civil rights and order a Justice Department report
about the treatment.
"It's not a matter of reparations or looking for money," said
Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who said he was "dumbfounded" when he
heard about the treatment. "The truth has been obscured. The truth
ought to be told."
Those mistreated included prominent people.
Ezio Pinza, a Metropolitan Opera singer in New York, was
imprisoned on Ellis Island for nearly three months starting March
12, 1942. His widow, Doris Pinza, said she was shocked he could be
locked up and his house searched without being told the charges
"We never suspected this could happen in the United States,"
she told lawmakers in a quavering voice.
Pinza won his release after two hearings and sang the national
anthem at the welcoming home ceremonies for Gen. George Patton in
1945, she said.