Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants during the First World War

By Christopher M. Sterba | Go to book overview

4
Being Italian in the Yankee Division

On September 9, 1917, the Italian members of the 102nd's machine gun company sailed out of Hoboken, New Jersey. Like most soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force, which had no American fleet at its disposal, they made the crossing in a British vessel. Their transport was the S.S. Adriatic, a converted ocean liner that impressed the men with its deck guns and bizarre wartime camouflage. Reaching Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the second day of the voyage, they joined a convoy and headed out for Liverpool. 1

“A cold, ugly, wind-tossed sea” marked most of the passage, one of the machine gunners recalled, and most of the men were seasick during the first days of the crossing. The company ate English rations, which they thought were “very poor,” and stayed in shape by doing calisthenic exercises and making frequent equipment inspections. They also spent many hours conducting lifeboat drills and serving as lookouts for enemy submarines. Rumors were rife that German U-boats prowled the area, but the men spotted only sharks, dolphins, and a lonesome whale in the frigid Atlantic. Though the trip passed without incident, the gunners breathed a sigh of relief when an escort of British destroyers arrived to guide their ship through the North Sea and past the coast of Ireland. 2

The voyage marked a new phase of their military service, providing them with their first real sensation of the dangers that awaited them in France. For the pride of the New Haven colonia, both immigrant and Americanborn, the crossing had additional meanings. Among the company's fortyeight Italian immigrants, the fortnight at sea no doubt brought back memories of coming to America. Nearly all of these men had emigrated as adolescents, and the sights, sounds, and emotions of traveling in steerage were still vivid in their minds. Cussonbrato native Francesco Martinetti, who arrived at Ellis Island in 1911, could compare experiences with Aniello Aiello from Scafati, who landed in New York a year later. Albert Litro, who left

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Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants during the First World War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents *
  • Good Americans *
  • Introduction - The Melting Pot Goes to War 3
  • 1 - The Heyday of the New Immigrant Enclave 9
  • I - Your Country Needs You 31
  • 2 - Raising Volunteers and the Italian Response in New Haven 34
  • 3 - The Draft and New York Jewry 53
  • II - Training the New Immigrant Soldier 83
  • 4 - Being Italian in the Yankee Division 86
  • 5 - Being Jewish in the National Army 105
  • III - The Home Front 131
  • 6 - More Than Ever, We Feel Proud to Be Italians 133
  • 7 - New York Jewry Must Do Its Duty 153
  • 8 - Survival and Victory on the Western Front 175
  • Epilogue - A New Voice in Politics 202
  • Notes 213
  • Selected Bibliography 251
  • Index 265
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