Italians in America during WWII

Does anyone know what kind of prejudice Italians and Italian Americans might have faced during WWII? My great grandparents never really talked about it, but I get the feeling it wasn’t easy.

For those on this forum who were alive during WWII (I’m guessing not many to none) what were your feelings towards Italians?


Hallo SOW

A number of years ago I tried to rent a house in Pasadena, California. Talking to the owner, I learned that he was Italian. He told me after some conversation that he was an Italian POW in Southern California during World War Two and liked being here very much, and thought that the people were great. After he was repatriated in 1946 he immediately tried to get back to the US and was successful after some time. He never wanted to go back, to stay, in Italy. I think that speaks for itself, but have no other personal expierence as I was not living in the US during WWII. This at least gives you some idea. I once saw a movie about Italian POWs working on farms in SoCal but don’t remember anything about the movie. Maybe somebody else does? Regards.

Hi, thanks for your reply.

Interesting story. He (like many Italian soldiers) probably didn’t even want to go to war.

Are you from England? If so, might I ask what your feelings, and your family’s feelings towards Italians were at this time?

Read your reply. You are correct about the former POW’s opinion of war. He did indicate to me that he did not like being in the Italian Army and especially not in North Africa, doing what the Germans wanted them to do.

No, I am not from England. Actually I was born in the Netherlands and lived as a little boy for five years through the Nazi occupation and it atrocities. The only Italian I knew of was Pope Pius XII in Rome. Italians never came up in any conversation as far as I can remember.

What I have read, Italians were interned, similar to Japanese or Germans, but on a far far smaller scale.

IT’s true, Evillittlekenny. It probably happened because the Italians soldiers had many more chances to fight against the British, than the Americans, expecially in northern Africa. The over-whelming majority of the Italians taken prisoner in Africa, were captured by the English and deported to prison camps in Australia and India. I still remember the experience of a friend of my dad, older than him. He was captured by the Americans on March 1943 in Tunisia (I think it was during the battle of El Guettar, that took place on March 17, 1943, where the Americans captured about 700 Italians). It was banished in a prison camp, somewhere down in Texas, until the end of the war. He had happy memories of the imprisonment years, for the rest of his life… He always found excuse to talk about the Americans like friendly and generous people, that treated him very well, providing food, dresses and anything they needed… Here in Italy, until fifteen or twenty years ago, it was possible to listen a lot of story like this… Best regards.

Good to hear he made it and that he was treated good as a POW.

Maybe another factor was the switching of sides by the Italian king? As the Southern part of Italy was then an ally.

The switching of sides or the " treason" (like a young german used to say me…) of the Italian king happened on September 8, 1943. After that day, the whole country fell in a total confusion and in a situation out of control, that resulted in a sort of bloody civil war. You look at the second world war with the eyes of an italian, it doesn’t matter from wich side, you just can see an apocalyptical disaster… Like you said, Evillitlekenny, this was a factor that influenced anything concerned to Italy…

Americans have always liked Italians. During WW2 they had a hard time picturing them as fierce fire-eating warriors in spite of Mussolini’s comic-opera posturing. The land my house is built on was cleared by Italian POWs.

The man i was talkin’about, three posts above yours, spend about three years in a prison camp down in Texas, but i don’t know exactly where. He probably was one of those that cleared your land, royal744. I spend lot of time in your country (not in Texas, but in South Dakota and Wyoming) and i have to say that the Americans really have a good and friendly attitude towards Italians. I always found kind and available people, with a great sense of hospitality, always ready to give you a hand.
Best regards. :slight_smile:

I can suggest you to write to Miss Clara Vick, of the Castro County Historical Society, perhaps the more expert American historian about history of Italian prisoners in WWII.
She’s from Hereford, Texas, one of the major Italian prisoners camp. And where remained the NON, the prisoners that refused the Armistice and joined the RSI in captivity.

I’m sure there were thousands, maybe tens of thousands and more Americans of Italian extraction who served in the US Army during WW2, just as there were equal numbers or more of Americans of German extraction who served in the army and navy during the war. To my knowledge no US citizens of Italian or German descent were interned during rhe war unless they were members of the Bund or a Fascist organization. Unfortunately, we were not so kind to the Japanese-Americans even as they furnished the most highly-decorated combat unit in the American Army during WW2.

It was unlikely that many German or Italian POWs would try to make their escape from around here - they were so far from anywhere. Besides, the chicken fried steak and chile con carne are so good.