Giovanni & Giuseppina – Enemy Aliens
Sometime in 1942, when my father was 9-years old, he and his brother Andy, who was 11-years old, along with my grandparents, were taken from their home and placed in an Internment Camp. This was not told to me until I was in my 30s. Up to that point, I had no idea. My dad just happened to casually mention it over dinner one night. Wait. What did you say? My grandparents were not American citizens and during World War II, were considered “enemy aliens.” It didn’t matter that they had in been in this country for decades, or that all eight of their children were American citizens. Because my dad and his brother were minors living at home, they were taken with my grandparents. He described it as a dirty one room shack with rows of them lined up next to each other. Even now, he is not sure of the exact location of the camp, he just has a memory of being on a bus for several hours.
While it was a very well known fact that the Japanese were interned during the war, it seems lesser known about the Italians. Perhaps because only the non-citizens were rounded up and the Japanese suffered this fate whether citizen or not. In any event, it wasn’t until 2010 that the California legislature passed a resolution apologizing for the mistreatment of Italian residents.
My dad described his time there as pure misery. He said my grandparents were scrambling for a solution to get the boys out of there. It was decided that his older sister, Mary, who was engaged to be married, would do so immediately so that she and her husband could take care of the boys together. They had no idea how long they would be there, but they did not want their children there. My dad and Uncle Andy were there under two weeks. My grandparents were there for close to a year.
I will end on this note. While my grandparents were being detained, two of their older sons, my Uncles Sammy and Ned, were American soldiers fighting in the war.