The italo-americans in the US army



The contribution of the Italian-American soldiers during Operation Husky (the Sicily Landings) was characterised by the special state of mind with which they faced the idea of fighting in their own places of origin.

During the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers of Italian origin were drafted into the US armed forces. After the United States entered the war, many Italian migrants were viewed with suspicion: fear that they might constitute a sort of ‘fifth column’ threatened to undermine their assimilation.

On the basis of these considerations, the US military commands also assessed the employment of Italian-American soldiers differently. For some, they were considered potentially useful due to their language and territorial knowledge, whilst others considered them a danger precisely because of their possible uncertain loyalty. However, it was the support of Italian-American public opinion for the US war effort, and above all the large influx of hundreds of thousands of young people of Italian origin, that stemmed anti-Italian sentiments. Their demonstration of full loyalty to the country was interpreted as an instrument of Americanisation.

Participation in the Italian Campaign, and in Operation Husky in particular, acquired special significance for the many Italian-American soldiers called to fight in their homeland. If for some fighting against the United States’ enemies represented a great opportunity to prove their loyalty to their country, for others taking up arms represented, at least potentially, the possibility of having to face relatives engaged in combat within the ranks of the Italian army.

The generational factor also constituted an important divide in how Italian-American soldiers viewed their wartime commitment to Italy. For those who had been born in the United States, Italy represented a place they had never seen, experienced only through family stories. On the other hand, for those who had migrated to the US, it represented an opportunity to once again meet the relatives from whom they had been separated years before and to return to their native homeland. It was not uncommon for Italian-American soldiers of Sicilian origin who were engaged in Operation Husky to take advantage of their leave to return to their places of origin.