By Istituto Storico della Resistenza in Toscana
Istituto Storico della Resistenza in Toscana
During World War II, a significant number of soldiers of Italian descent fought within the national armies of a few Allied nations. Many belonged to families of immigrants, who left Italy between the 1880s and early 1900s. Others, instead, were born in Italy and later emigrated between WWI and WWII in search of new economic opportunities; or forced to leave because of Fascist persecutions.
After Italy entered WWII with the Axis Powers in June 1940, Italian communities in the Allied nations were suspected of a lack of loyalty. This by virtue of their former closeness and endorsement of the Fascist regime led by dictator Benito Mussolini. Labelled as potential enemies, many immigrants were deprived of their civil rights, whereas those who were considered dangerous to national security were interned in special camps.
Despite being labelled as threats to national security, the enlistment (often voluntary) of many youths of Italian descent, who were called to fight the Axis powers in all war theaters, in the ranks of the Allied military enriches and partially balances the whole view of Italians’ role abroad in the period between WWI and WWII.
In the picture: Italian-Australian soldier Francesco Circosta (Italian Historical Society, Melbourne). On the cover slide: photograph of Enrico & Olindo Sauro in military uniform. Date unknown (Courtesy of the family of Libero and Clementina Sauro via Columbus Centre of Toronto, Canada, www.italiancanadianww2.ca, DICEA2011.0025.0007)
1. ITALIANS ABROAD AND FASCISM
In 1922, Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy and in a few years established a dictatorship by suppressing all political and civil liberties of the Italian people. In his foreign policy plan, the dictator included improving his connections with Italian communities abroad since in his view, they would become means of Fascist ambitions outside the country. Rome's propaganda was endorsed by Italian embassies, consulates and many ethnic associations pro-fascist oriented. These were joined by organizations established by the regime—including branches of the Fascist Party abroad, after-work leisure organizations, or Fascist associations for youth abroad—, or those on which the regime could impose political control, such as Italian language schools. In the picture: young fascist militants in New York (Historical-Diplomatic Archive of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome).
The Consensus and the Empire
Despite its reactionary nature, Fascism was embraced by many Italians who lived outside of Italy. Through his nationalism emphasizing the supposed greatness of the “Italian Genius” in the world, Il Duce appealed to immigrants who were often labelled, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, with degrading stereotypes regarding their violent and criminal nature. Behind Rome's urging, Italian communities split between pro- and anti-Fascist. Those having pro-Mussolini orientation were not characterized ideologically; rather, their appreciation of Il Duce was framed in a sort of nostalgic nationalism that identified Mussolini as a redeemer of the motherland. The peak of such a consensus was reached during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia followed by the proclamation of the empire by Mussolini (9 May 1936). Among those who fought in Ethiopia was a group of Italian volunteers from abroad that enlisted in the Legion Parini of the fasci italiani all'estero. In the picture: Italians abroad in the Legion Parini during the war in Ethiopia (Galeazzo Ciano, "Italiani d'Oltr'Alpi e d'Oltremare", ed. Celso Maria Garatti, Bologna: Linicio Cappelli, 1937).
Fascist victory in Ethiopia (1936/1936)Istituto Storico della Resistenza in Toscana
Italians in Boston celebrate Italy's victory in Ethiopia in 1936 (Italian News, Boston, 15 May 1936)
2. FOREIGN ENEMIES
On 10 June 1940, Fascist Italy joined the war with Nazi Germany against France and the United Kingdom. On 11 December 1941, Mussolini also declared war on the United States. Therefore, the Fascists chose to line up against Allied nations so largely inhabited by people of Italian descent. The warfare between the land of ancestors and the countries of immigration made life difficult for many Italians outside of Italy. Already before the war’s outbreak, Italian communities had been subjected to close surveillance in search of Mussolini’s agents. Those believed to be dangerous to national security were catalogued in order to be arrested in the event of a conflict. In the picture: Il Giornale Italo-Canadese, Montreal, 1 August 1940.
With Italy's entry into war, the situation for Italians was particularly harsh to the extent that many people of Italian descent had their private liberties limited. Some were interned in special detention centers. Sometimes, among those that were detained, some were not actually Fascist militants, and even a few anti-Fascists were incarcerated. The situation for Italians was extremely hard in Australia, where there was constant fear of an imminent Japanese invasion and where in 1942 more than 3,500 Italians were interned. By the end of 1941, in the U.K., the number of Italians in detention centers was about 2,000, in Canada 600. In the U.S., about 600,000 Italian nationals went into the eye of the storm, and their foreign nationality brought them to be labelled as 'enemy aliens.' Generally speaking, Italian communities in the United States were put under curfew and forbidden to listen to radio broadcastings, among other things. In some cases, Italian-Americans were forced to leave California's coastal areas, and Italian-Californian fishermen were not allowed to continue working. Brazil joined the Allies in August 1942 and within the country Italian schools and newspapers were shut down for fear that Mussolini sympathizers would act. All of South America felt under the control of U.S. intelligence, which, after the war broke out, arrested Fascist militants throughout the continent. In the picture: «Il Progresso Italo-Americano», New York, 10 December 1941.With Italy going to war, the reaction in Allied countries was very strong, so much so that a great deal of people of Italian origin were subject to restrictions on individual freedom. For some, this meant confinement in special detention camps. Those who were detained sometimes included people who, in actual fact, were not fascist militants and even anti-fascists. The situation was particularly hard for Italians in Australia, a country that feared an imminent Japanese invasion and where, in September 1942, more than 3,500 Italians were detained. In Britain, at the end of 1941, the number of Italians confined in special detention camps was around 2000, whilst in Canada there were 600. In the United States, around 600,000 Italians who had not yet acquired US citizenship came under fire and were branded "enemy aliens". In the United States, Italian communities were subject to curfews and were banned from, among other things, listening to radio broadcasts. In some cases, Italian Americans were forced to leave the coastal areas of California, while fishermen of Italian origin were forbidden from practising their profession. Also in Brazil, a country that went to war on the side of the Allies in August 1942, Italian schools and newspapers were shut down for fear that they might encourage Mussolini sympathisers. Throughout the South American continent, the US intelligence services tasked at the outbreak of the war with arresting fascist sympathisers were particularly active. Pictured: "Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 10 December 1941.
In the days after the country went to war, US authorities deployed a plan to arrest citizens of the Axis powers on suspicion of anti-American activities ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 11 December 1941).
The stigma of foreign enemies also significantly damaged Italian culture overseas, given that Italian Americans drastically reduced the use of their native language in public in favour of English (US propaganda poster encouraging people not to speak the languages of the Axis countries)
Even in Brazil, despite the presence of a large and well-integrated Italian community, the government of Getulio Vargas did not hesitate to arrest those suspected of being Mussolini agents after the country went to war on the side of the Allies ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 27 August 1942)
During the war years, Italian Canadians experienced severe discrimination. This included the detainment of innocent people, as recounted in the TV miniseries "Il Duce Canadese" ("The Canadian Mussolini") broadcast in Canada by CBC (Cine Tele Action, 2003). Picture: the cover of the book by Bruno Ramirez based on the film of the same name (Toronto, Guernica 2007).
3. LOYALTY OF ITALIAN COMMUNITIES
Despite being perceived as enemies, Italians residing in Allied countries reacted by showing loyalty to the nations that they had chosen as their adoptive countries. Their patriotism was expressed through the rejection of all past ties to fascism. Many ethnic newspapers and associations – especially in the United States – were particularly active in promoting the purchase of war bonds to support the Allies' war efforts. The patriotic attitude of Italian Americans was so great that on 12 October 1942, Columbus Day, the US authorities lifted the status of "enemy aliens" that had been attached to Italian citizens. The general lack of acts of sabotage by Italian immigrants eased tensions towards them. Developments in the war following the fall of the fascist regime in July 1943 and the signing of the Armistice in September also contributed to easing tensions. These events allowed Italy to side with the Allies as a co-belligerent. The Armistice also facilitated the release of the detainees in Britain. Moreover, as the fear of a Japanese invasion dissipated in Australia, the pressure on Italians alleviated and detainees were gradually released. In September 1944, just 135 diehard fascists remained in the country's detainment camps. Pictured: appeal to purchase war bonds ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 17 April 1942). In the picture: Appeal to purchase War Bonds (Il Progresso Italo-Americano, New York, 17 April 1942).
Italian Americans in New Jersey buying war bonds to support the Allies' war effort ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 17 April 1943)
Other appeals to Italian Americans to purchase war bonds ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 5 September 1943)
The Italian Canadian community supporting the war effort of the Commonwealth ("Il Giornale Italo-Canadese", Montreal, 30 September 1940)
The patriotism of Italian Canadians was also expressed through the support of the Canadian Red Cross ("La Vittoria", Toronto, 16 May 1942)
Italian Brazilians also did not hesitate to support the Brazilian war effort against Fascist Italy ("United Nations", New York, 2 April 1942)
The outbreak of war led thousands of people of Italian origin to join the Allied armies to defend their adoptive nation. The presence of Americans of Italian ethnicity among US troops was colossal, estimated by various sources to be between 500,000 and 1,500,000 units. However, the figure reported by Congressman Harold D. Donohue also seems plausible, according to which the number of soldiers of Italian origin during the Second World War was 850,000, including 40,000 in Italy. In some areas with strong Italian immigration, there was a predominant presence of Italian-American soldiers. For example, the "Newark Star Ledge" estimated that 65% of conscripts from Essex County in New Jersey had Italian roots. Whereas, as many as 75,000 were fighters from families whose members had been labelled as "enemy aliens". Pictured: document from the Italian Embassy in Washington (Historical-Diplomatic Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome)
With a community that amounted to approximately 35,000 people in the United Kingdom in June 1940, more than 7000 men of Italian descent served in the British army. Canada distinguished between volunteers, who were allowed to serve overseas, and conscripts, who were used exclusively for homeland defence. Italian "aliens" were forbidden from joining the Canadian troops, although this was possible for Italian Canadians with citizenship. In the summer of 1942, the Italian-Canadian anti-fascist newspaper "La Vittoria" estimated that there were 3000 recruits of Italian origin ready to join the Canadian military. Among the Australian armed forces, approximately 1400 fighters were born in Italy. Of the more than 25,000 Brazilians who served in Italy with the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, over 1200 had surnames that were presumed to be Italian (Photo, "Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 14 December 1941).
Following the Japanese attack on the US naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, many Italian Americans enlisted in the US armed forces ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 24 December 1941)
Even young Italian-American women contributed to the US war effort by joining the auxiliary corps of the US Army ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 22 March 1943)
Joe Di Maggio, American baseball star is enlisted into the army, "Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 18 February 1943
Italian-American families were rather large in the period between the two wars. This meant that many brothers were enrolled in the US Army, a factor that worked in favour of promoting the loyalty and patriotism of Italian Americans ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 6 September 1944)
Nick Wood, an Italian American from New York who was transferred to Honolulu for several years, is among the survivors of Pearl Harbor ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 15 December 1941)
Giuseppe Zappalà, a soldier from Roslindale, was one of the first Italian Americans killed in war during the attack on Pearl Harbor ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 17 December 1941)
Antonio (Tony) Basciano, born in Rocca San Giovanni (Chieti) in 1921, who emigrated to Canada with his family, was one of the first Italian-Canadians of Peterborough, Ontario, to volunteer for the Canadian Army (Portrait of Tony Basciano, courtesy of Gina Basciano Martin)
Tony Basciano (right) during his training period in the Borden military base (courtesy of Gina Martin Basciano)
4. FIGHTERS ON ALL FRONTS
Allied soldiers of Italian origin were used on all fronts worldwide against the Axis powers, from the Pacific, to North Africa, to the heart of Europe. Among Italian Americans in particular, some were killed on 7 December 1941 during the Japanese attack on the American fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor (on the Hawaiian Islands), whilst others shed their blood in Normandy in 1944, paving the way, in part, for the occupation of Germany. Pictured: Albert F. Pishioneri, Italian-American soldier during his training (Albert F. Pishioneri, "Me, Mom, and World War II", Bloomington, Author House 2008)
On the Pacific Front
Among the many serving Allied soldiers of Italian origin, John Basilone, a son of Campanians who emigrated to Raritan (New Jersey), was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific. Basilone, celebrated as a hero in the US, died fighting the Japanese in Iwo Jima and was buried at the National Cemetery in Arlington (Virginia). Pictured: Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone ("Illustrated Magazine Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 19 September 1943).
The Italian-American mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia, receiving Sergeant Basilone ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 5 September 1943)
Resting Italian-American soldiers on the Pacific front: among them is soldier Edward Foglia (centre) and soldier Pietro Giuniperi (right) ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 26 August 1944)
Italian-American officials in the bloody Battle of Guadalcanal ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 3 November 1942)
The Alessandroni cousins meet on the Pacific front ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 15th October 1944)
Captain Leo Checchi, an Italian originally from Livorno, in his Australian Imperial Forces uniform (Italian Historical Society, Melbourne)
Joe and Pasquale Faiella, two Italian-Australian brothers who enrolled in the Australian military during World War II (Italian Historical Society, Melbourne)
Profiles of soldiers of Italian origin serving in the US Army during World War II ("Illustrated Magazine Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 13 June 1943)
Allied Troops on the North African Front
The occupation of the territory of North Africa by the Allied armed forces was the harbinger of the subsequent landing in Sicily. It was then that the soldiers of the Royal Italian Army and British-American forces of Italian origin faced each other for the first time on two opposing sides. It was sometimes the case that Italian soldiers, captured in North Africa by British and American troops, were taken as prisoners to the United States, where they had the chance to be visited by relatives who had emigrated overseas. Pictured: the Italian-American soldier Patti on the African front ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 29 March 1943)
Italian-American soldiers on the North African front ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 1 June 1943)
Descendants of Italians at War in the Homeland
In September 1943, following the fall of the fascist regime and the Allied invasion of Sicily, the new Italian government headed by General Pietro Badoglio signed the Armistice with the Allies. This would be the beginning of the Italian campaign to liberate the country from Nazi-Fascist occupation.
Of the Allied soldiers of Italian origin who fought against the Axis powers, some served in Italy, especially Italian Americans, Italian Canadians and Italian Brazilians. Being at war in the country of their ancestors provoked different reactions. Some of them feared being forced to fight against family and friends. This was the case with Antonio (Tony) Basciano, an Italian Canadian serving on the Italian front who had a brother enlisted in the Italian army. Some Italian-American airmen, such as Frank Bartolomei – whose parents had emigrated from Maresca (Pistoia) to Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania – tried to avoid taking part in aerial missions where they had been commanded to bomb their countries of origin. Others still, aware of their responsibility to contribute to the Allies' war efforts against Italian and German fascism, had no qualms about fighting in Italy. Yet, for most of those who served in Europe in the uniforms of the Allied armies, encountering Italy and the Italian people was an extremely intense experience. Pictured: the flags of the United States and Italy enshrine the Armistice of Cassibile on 8 September 1943 ("Illustrated Magazine Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, 12 September 1943)
After the signing of the armistice between Italy and the Allies, there were many demonstrations of joy in the Little Italies of the US. There was a strong desire for Italy to get out of the war ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, September 9, 1943)
The sailor Anthony Current (sitting left) at Anzio ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, May 9, 1944)
The soldier Robert G. Perriello, promoted to major after the landing at Anzio (Silvano Casaldi, "The Men of the Landing - Anzio/Nettuno 22 January 1944", Rome, Edizioni Herald 2006)
The Italian-American soldier Stephen M. Messineo, killed during the landing at Anzio (National WWII Memorial Washington D.C. - www.wwiimemorial.com)
Rocco Siciliano, futuro assistente del Presidente Dwight D. Eisenhower, in Italia durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale (Rocco Siciliano,"Walking on sand: the story of an immigrant son and the forgotten art of public service", Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press 2004).
Many Italian-American soldiers were struck by the art cities of Tuscany ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, February 13, 1945)
The Italian-American captain Dominic Salvatore "Don" Gentile, war hero, in an Allied airfield in Italy ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, April 13, 1944)
The captain "Don" Gentile, honoured by General Kenneth B. Wolfe of Oak Leaf Cluster ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, August 15, 1944)
Sergeant Carl Graziano's radio operator and gunner in a bomber group stationed in Italy ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, August 9, 1944)
The Italian-Canadian Antonio (Tony) Basciano (second from left) leaving the training camp of Camp Borden in 1940, Europe bound. After a period in England, Basciano would be sent to fight in Italy. This destination caused him to have mixed feelings: on the one hand, the privilege of being able to fight for the liberation of his homeland, on the other, the fear of having a military clash with his countrymen. In addition, Basciano knew that his half-brother was drafted into the Italian army. In Italy, Basciano took part in the battles of Ortona and Cassino (courtesy of Gina Martin Basciano).
Italian-Brazilian Corporal José Militelo was among the soldiers who began fighting in Italy in 1944 with the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (Força Expedicionária Brasileira). His father, Antonio, sent a greeting from Brazil through the newspaper in February (from: "O Globo Expedicionário", Rio de Janeiro, September 7, 1944)
Cássio Abranches Viotti, an Italian-Brazilian soldier who fought in Italy with the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. His great-grandfather, Francesco Viotti, had emigrated to Brazil in the mid-nineteenth century from Genoa, (Cássio Abranches Viotti, "Crônicas de Guerra. A Força Expedicionária na Itália", O lutador, Belo Horizonte 1998)
Relatives and friends
During the Italian campaign, many soldiers of Italian origin visited the towns of their parents and grandparents, some for the first time. Here they had the opportunity to meet relatives. Strong ties were created with the Italian population, as in the case of the Italian-Brazilian Miguel Garófalo. Some even found love, like the Italian-American soldier Mario Piccirilli, who met his future wife, Marisa Petrucci, in Livorno. While some of these soldiers returned to their countries of adoption, sometimes with medals for bravery, others met with death in their land of origin. Dozens of fighters of Italian origin are buried in the American military cemeteries of Nettuno and Florence. In addition, Canadian soldiers are commemorated in Commonwealth cemeteries scattered throughout the Italian territory, and Brazilian soldiers at the Votive Brazilian Military Monument in Pistoia.
Pictured: the Italian-American soldier Nick Santarelli in Sicily ("Illustrated Magazine Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, August 15, 1943)
The soldier Anthony Caponi meets his countrymen in Abruzzo (Anthony Caponi "Voice from the Mountains: A Memoir", Minneapolis, Nodin Press 2002)
Vincent J. Crivello meets his relatives in Sicily ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, November 18, 1943)
The soldier Enrico Caruso meets his relatives in Italy for the first time ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, Nov. 20, 1943)
Il soldato italo-americano Gino Piccirilli incontra a Livorno la compagna di una vita (per gentile concessione della famiglia Piccirilli).
Il soldato italoamericano Gino Piccirilli e la giovane livornese Marisa Petrucci si sposano in Italia (per gentile concessione della famiglia Piccirilli).
On the European front
Allied soldiers of Italian origin contributed to the liberation of the European continent and the occupation of Germany. Some participated in the Normandy landings of June 6, 1944, took part in air raids on German cities, and fought on other European battlefields. Still others, like the Italian-American soldier Nick Mustacchio (author of "Prisoner of War and Peace", Raleigh, Pentland Press, 1999) experienced imprisonment in detention camps in Germany. Pictured: the Italian-Canadian Ernesto Marchese, who fought at the Battle of Dieppe in France ("Victory", Toronto, November 7, 1942).
The Italian-American soldier Augustus D. Labate, who fell during the Normandy landings (National WWII Memorial Washington D.C. - www.wwiimemorial.com)
Italian-American bombers on missions over Berlin ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, March 11, 1944)
The Italian-American soldier Perry J. Novelli, who fell in Poland (National WWII Memorial Washington D.C. - www.wwiimemorial.com)
Italian-American Captain Sam Alfred Mauriello, who participated in many air missions in the skies over Germany ("Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, February 18, 1943)
Sergeant Victor P. Intoccia, of Tuscan origin on his mother's side, and a prisoner of war in Germany, "Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, November 14, 1943
THE WAR DRAWS TO AN END
The Italian-American Lieutenant Fred J. Olivi, co-pilot aboard the B-29 bomber "Bockscar", which dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Olivi was born in Pullman, near Chicago in 1922, but his parents were natives of Corsanico near Viareggio, in Tuscany. Until his death in 2004, Olivi always defended the choice of the American command to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, a decision considered necessary to quickly end the war (Fred Olivi, "Nagasaki by choice or by force. The new story of the Italian-American pilot who dropped the second atomic bomb", Milan, FBE, 2009)
5. MEMORY AND PEACE
After the end of World War II, a new and lasting culture of peace developed, including through the elaboration of a public memory of the war and its tragedies. In Italy, the memory of the presence of Allied troops resides mainly in the dozens of Commonwealth cemeteries scattered throughout the country, in the Brazilian Military Cemetery of Pistoia, as well as in two large American Cemeteries in Florence and Nettuno. The hundreds of graves of soldiers whose names indicate an Italian origin stand as a testimony to the struggle against fascism. In the decades following the war, these cemeteries were a pilgrimage site for thousands of veterans of the Allied armies, including those of Italian origin who, in so doing, paid tribute once again to the land of their ancestors. Pictured: the Florence American Cemetery (American Battle Monument Commission - www.abmc.gov)
During the Italian campaign, many Italian-American soldiers served in the OSS, the intelligence service of the US military, where, in anticipation of the Allied landings in Sicily, a special section was created and coordinated by Sicilian-American Max Corvo. Among the many missions completed on the peninsula by men of the OSS, Operation Ginny of 22 March 1944 remains sadly notorious. In an attempt to sabotage the Pisa-Genova railway line, 15 US soldiers of mostly Italian origin were captured by the Nazi-Fascists and later shot. Some of them are now buried and commemorated in the American Cemetery in Florence. Pictured: the tomb of Rosario F. Squatrito, one of the fallen from Operation Ginny (courtesy of the Florence American Cemetery).
The tomb of Italian-American soldier John J. Leone at the American Cemetery in Florence. A member of the OSS, Leone took part in Operation Ginnny, after which he was captured and shot by the Germans (courtesy of the Florence American Cemetery)
The tomb of Angelo Sirico, another of the OSS soldiers who fell after Operation Ginny, at the American Cemetery in Florence (courtesy of the Florence American Cemetery)
In memory of the tragic mission Ginny of 22 March 1944, the town of Ameglia (La Spezia) has set in 1990 a commemorative plaque of the 15 soldiers shot (courtesy of the American War Memorials Overseas).
Commemorative plaque of Fábio Pavani, Brazilian soldier presumed to be of Italian origin, one of the 462 Brazilian who fell in Italy and who are commemorated at the Votive Brazilian Military Monument in Pistoia (courtesy of Mario Pereira)
Commemorative plaque for Geraldo Berti, Brazilian soldier presumed to be of Italian origin (Votive Brazilian Military Monument in Pistoia, courtesy of Mario Pereira)
The document gives news of a 1952 pilgrimage to the battlefields of Italy, made by a group of veterans of the US Fifth Army on (Historical-Diplomatic Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome)
The soldier James De Pino, commemorated as a casualty of war at the National WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. - www.wwiimemorial.com)
In the US, many Italian-American soldiers are remembered in the Italian-American Veterans Museum and Library in Stone Park in Illinois (photo by John Haubert).
There are dozens of memoirs or interviews of Allied soldiers of Italian descent, especially Italian-Americans, that recount dramatic events of the war and their willingness to leave behind these tragedies in order to promote a culture of peace. In the picture, the memories of imprisonment by Italian-American soldier Anthony N. Iannarelli ("The Eighty Thieves: American P.O.W.s in World War II Japan," San Diego: Patriot Press, 1991).
Memoirs of Daniel J. Petruzzi, Italian-American combatant in Italy (Irving, Fusion Press 2000)
The story of Rosario F. Squatrito (Joseph Squatrito, "Code Name Ginny: A Hero's Story", New York, Forever Free Pub., 2002)
Already during the war, John Hersey's novel "A Bell for Adano" (winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1945) paid tribute to the experiences of war of Italian-Americans. The novel narrates the story of Major Victor Joppolo during the Allied occupation of Sicily (John Hersey, "A Bell for Adano" Rome, Castelvecchi Editore, 2013)
The experience of the war remains alive in the memory of veteran Miguel Garófalo. The son of Avellinesi immigrants in Brazil, Miguel served in Italy with the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. Garófalo still actively participates in celebrations of the Brazilian military contribution to the fight against fascism (courtesy of Miguel Garófalo).
Antonio (Tony) Basciano in uniform as a veteran of the Canadian army. After the war ended, Basciano returned to Italy many times with his family and with the veterans of the Royal Canadian Legion. On those occasions, he visited the battlefields on which he fought, as well as his town of origin (courtesy of Gina Martin Basciano).
Memory on the screens
Hollywood, too, has contributed to the remembrance of Allied soldiers of Italian origin. These combatants are present in films like "From Here to Eternity" (Fred Zinnemann, 1953), winner of eight Academy Awards, in which Frank Sinatra plays the soldier Angelo Maggio. Other war epics include "Saving Private Ryan" (Steven Spielberg, 1998) and television miniseries "The Pacific" and "Band of Brothers", produced for HBO by director Steven Spielberg and actor Tom Hanks. Italian cinema also commemorates the presence in Italy of combatants of Italian origin in the Allied armies. This is the case with Roberto Rossellini's masterpiece "Paisan" (1946) and "The Night of Shooting Stars" (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, 1982). Pictured: American soldiers in Sicily "Illustrated Magazine Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, August 29, 1943). American and Italian documentary films have also addressed the subject. In particular, "5,000 Miles from Home: The Untold Story of Chicago's Italian Americans and World War II"(2009) recounts the war experience of soldiers from Chicago of Italian origin. "Fighting Paisanos" (2013) by director Marco Curti, narrates the experiences in Italy of four American soldiers of Italian ethnicity.
Cover of the documentary "5,000 Miles from Home: The Untold Story of Chicago's Italian Americans and World War II "(2009) produced by the Italian-American Veterans Museum and Library in Stone Park, Illinois (courtesy of the Italian American Veterans Museum and Library in Stone Park, Illinois)
Eugene (Gene) Giannobile, one of the protagonists of the documentary by Marco Curti "Fighting Paesanos". Having fled with his family to the US from Italy to escape the persecution under fascism, Giannobile enlisted in the US Army during the Second World War and was sent to fight in his homeland (snapshot of the documentary "Fighting Paesanos", courtesy of Marco Curti)
Photos and memories of Eugenio Giannobile from time of the Italian campaign (snapshot of the documentary "Fighting Paesanos", courtesy of Marco Curti)
Frank Monteleone, born in New York to a family of Sicilian origin, also fought against the fascists in Italy (snapshot of the documentary "Fighting Paesanos", courtesy of Marco Curti)
Louis Zamperini: the man of reconciliation
Hollywood also paid tribute to the famous Italian-American soldier Louis Zamperini, whose story is told in the film "Unbroken" (Angelina Jolie, 2014), inspired by the book by Laura Hillenbrand, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption". (Italian edition, Milan, Mondadori 2012). A sprinter at the Berlin Olympics in 1932, Zamperini served in the US Air Force. After a plane crash in the Pacific, he survived at sea for weeks before being taken prisoner by the Japanese. Interned in Japanese territory, he was subjected to incredible harassment by his captors. After the war, Zamperini became a symbol of reconciliation with former enemies, having publicly forgiven his captors. In a sign of reconciliation, at the age of eighty he carried the Olympic torch for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Pictured: Lou Zamperini promoted to Lieutenant Aviator ("Illustrated Magazine Il Progresso Italo-Americano", New York, August 23 1942)
Lou Zamperini was chosen as a torchbearer for five different Olympics. Pictured here, the Los Angeles games in 1984 (Laura Hillenbrand, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption", Mondadori, Milan 2012)
This exposition and the collected material is the result of a broader research developed by the Historical Institute of the Resistance in Tuscany on a project by Consulta dei Toscani all'Estero (Toscani nel Mondo) - Tuscany region.
Curators of the exhibition: Matthew Pretelli, Francesco Fusi