The War on Italian Americans in 1942
An Oral & Documentary History
"I tell you it was a crazy thing. Whoever thought up that law
had screws loose someplace." - Mary Tolomei
Throughout this time period a minority of scholars kept the mention of what happened to Italians and Germans in the United States alive. With the publication of Fox's book, interest and research surged. In 2000, Congress passed Public Law 106-451, known as The Wartime Violation of Italian American Civil Liberties Act. President Clinton signed it into law. This book was a major linchpin to the work that resulted in this law being passed ... —Amazon
One of those rare books that will gratify readers of diverse backgrounds and interests. —Northcoast Journal
A significant book for all Americans concerned with this country's attitudes toward and treatment of immigrants, and with individual rights. —Voices in Italian Americana
on the Subject of Human Rights in the United States
Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights
in the United States (1991)
American Book Award
“In recognition of outstanding literary achievement
from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse
and multicultural community”
Before Columbus Foundation (1992)
‘An intelligent and important study of a neglected subject.’ - John Morton Blum, Yale University
‘Under Siege! adds fascinating new pieces to the puzzle of American wartime concentration camps. It is tragic history told by survivors in poignant anecdotes.’ - John Christgau, author of "‘Enemies’: World War II Alien Internment"
‘By utilizing interviews and widely scattered records, Fox has brought to life the completely neglected relocation of an entire national group during World War II. Those of us who have written histories of Italians in America have dealt with this episode, but only in a sketchy way. Bravissimo!’ - Andrew Rolle, Occidental College, author of "The Italian Americans: Troubled Roots" and "The Immigrant Upraised"
‘A first-rate work of research in oral history that recaptures the poignant emotions of a people whose experience would have been forgotten had it not been for the sensitive scholarship of Stephen Fox.’ - John Patrick Diggins, University of California, Irvine
"I found this sentence so meaningful: 'It is possible for a proud nation such as the United States, dedicated in principle to individual freedom, to come close to losing its soul during a time of crisis under poor leadership.' And then: 'Not so much (to lose it), perhaps, in the heady days of summer sunshine patriotism, but time for thoughtful reflection about the past will be essential during the cold, dark winters of national crises to come, as surely they will, if history is any guide' ...
I appreciated those words last night (January 7, 2020), and I found the whole book so well done ...
The interviews were so worthwhile. Amazing what people have to put up with. — Ann P.
Under Siege! powerfully demonstrates oral history's ability to challenge common assumptions. While the relocation of Japanese Americans in 1942 has been extensively reported, few are aware that for a period of six months the federal government also pursued a program that forced thousands of West Coast Italian and German aliens and their families to leave their homes and jobs. Other Italians, including American citizens whose loyalty was deemed doubtful, were interned or excluded without due process.
Under Siege! is an oral and documentary history. It uses the words of those affected by the relocation order to tell the human side of the story omitted by the government, and it presents documents that testify to the struggle of a country trying to square its actions with its values.
The Giuseppe Spadaro Family
Zelindo and Elena Picchi
Why were Italian and German Americans spared the fate of Japanese Americans?
Removal of Italians and Germans from the civilian work force would disrupt the economy, especially in the large urban areas on both coasts and destroy postwar morale.
Economics, politics and morale drove U.S. relocation policy during World War II, with race as a reinforcing factor. The withdrawal of perhaps millions of Italians and Germans from civilian production jobs, many in heavy industry—or even the shutdown of fishing in California—was judged too high a price to pay to thwart potential sabotage.
The cessation of Asian immigration in 1924—but not European—and the resulting numerical disproportion across the country, not the attack on Pearl Harbor and its bitter emotional legacy, determined what happened to the Japanese in 1942 and why Italians and Germans did not experience the same fate.