Alistaire Cooke: “…a date which will live in infamy.”

Alistaire Cooke: “…a date which will live in infamy.”

Italian Cultural Center, Stone Park, Illinois
December 7, 2007 anniversary of Pearl Harbor

The following was submitted to a group of Italian Americans who saw fit to hold a round table discussion on the experience of Chicago Italians in WWII.  .

“Let me tell you, sir. I’ve seen boys younger than these with their arms ripped off and their legs torn out.  But there is no sight like that of an amputated spirit…they have no prosthetic for that, you know.”

John Basilone was the only enlisted man in WWII to win both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross…the two highest awards given by this country for valor under fire?  His extraordinary exploits throughout the South Pacific campaign are documented in the chronicles of America’s war heroes.  The son of immigrant parents, who found their way here from the shores of southern Italy, Sgt. Basilone was killed during the invasion of Iwo Jima.  He was only one of the thousands upon thousands of first generation Italian American warriors who sacrificed life, limb and beyond for their country.

 It is not the words of our enemies that will be remembered…
it is the silence of our friends.

Fast forward to Alistaire Cooke’s nationally televised, America: The Immigrant, less than 3 decades later.   Alistaire Cooke is depicted drawing names from the files of various immigrant groups at the Department of Immigration in WashingtonD.C.  From various files he randomly draws the names of renowned individuals as being representative of the contributions made by each of their ethnic groups.  For various ethnic groups, Russian Jew, German Jew, Greek, etc., he choses a Supreme Court Justice, a musical composer, a Vice President, etc.  When he arrived at the file listing the Italian immigrants, the card he pulled out, as being representative of the contributions made by Italian Americans, was none other than Alfonse Capone.  Not one voice cried, “Shame!”  It is not the words of our enemies that will be remembered; it is the silence of our friends.  I repeat, “Not one voice cried shame!”

The half- million Italian Americans who served in WWII, from the beaches of the South Pacific to the skies over Europe, earned their share of the nation’s highest awards.  The Congressional Medal of Honor was won by no less than two dozen Italian Americans.  We had no airports or bridges named after those Italian American heroes.  Those who made the ultimate sacrifice were simply memorialized by family and neighbors.

They have no prosthetic for that, you know!

Thousands upon thousands of gold stars hung from the windows in all of the Little Italies scattered throughout America.  One must wonder what thoughts ran through the minds of those Italian American mothers who had lost their sons in the struggle to defeat America’s enemies or had their sons returned to them with their arms torn out and their legs blown off, when Alistaire Cooke announced to the world that Alphonse Capone was representative of the contributions made to America by Italian immigrant.  They have no prosthetic for that, you know!

No other emigrant group, no other ethnic group, had been so maligned, so vilified by the media as the Italian American emigrant.  The power of the media rivals that of any force created by man.  It played the dominant role in putting to death two men (Sacco and Venzetti)…executed even after others had confessed to the crime of which they had been accused.  The media also played a dominant role in the New Orleans lynching of Italian-Americans who were dragged from their jail cells.  For some, the lynching took place despite their having been found innocent in a court of law.  Accounts of that event depict Negroes, only two decades removed from the emancipation proclamation, participating in the dreaded lynching. The power of the media…

On a final note.  I have been approached by producers who are intent on doing a TV documentary on the concepts espoused in the Taylor Street Archives.  They are intent on producing a documentary that transcends the demographics of the who, when, where, and how of the Italian immigrant.  A documentary that goes beyond the oft espoused Italian American boasts of family values and family traditions.  I agree with the producers that there is a bigger story with more historical value that must be told.  If Italian Americans were at the bottom of the educational ladder, then surely there are greater issues to uncover which have a higher priority than reminiscing about how we were taught to “save for college.”  If Italian Americans had been excluded from the executive suites, then there is a larger issue to be explored than the “work ethic” we so often boast in our writings about the Italian American experience.  The psychological genocide of a people, that media induced plague, is the unexplored and untold story of the Italian American immigrant.

And on this memorable day, December 7, 2007, what is of relevance is why John Basilone
was not mentioned by Alistaire Cooke as being representative of the contributions
made by Italian Americans?.

The producers are in the process of editing their four hour interview in anticipation of producing a one hour documentary.  They plan to open with back-to-back-to-back/side-by-side-by-side archive footage to depict:

.           1.  Sgt John Basilone, the only enlisted man to have won both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross, our nation’s two highest awards, being placed in a body bag on the beaches of Iwo Jima.  Just months before the end of that war.  A war that produced our ‘greatest generation.”

2.  Alistaire Cooke’s comment from America: The Immigrant; and

3.  An Italian American neighborhood with its share of gold stars hanging in the windows of the homes of those Italian American emigrants that he, Alistaire Cooke, maligned when he deduced, in a nationally televised program, that Alphonse Capone was representative of their contributions to America.

Per our shared vision, the narrator will merge the scenes into an opening statement…an opening salvo, if you will.  How ironic that the ethnic heritage of the producers is other than Italian American.  Go figure!

Conclusion:  Our writers have done a magnificent job in documenting the journey of the Italian American emigrants.  Our writers have memorialized the demographics of our people in various chronicles.  Evidence of our “family values” and “work ethics” have been well documented by our writers.  Our writers have done a great job on the demographics of: who, where, when, why, and how.  What is now of relevance is the media induced psychological genocide.  A holocaust which, in part, was responsible for a Federal study (1975) identifying that Italian Americans, as measured by enrollment in college, were at the lowest rung of the educational ladder of all European ethnic groups.  A people who spring from the loins of the Caesars, Michaelangelos, Medicis, Da Vincis, etc. And on this memorable day, December 7, 2007, what is of greater relevance is, what part did that same media induced holocaust play in ignoring the likes of a John Basilone when Alistaire Cooke decided who to depict as being representative of the contributions made by Italian Americans?.   Queste e cosa nostra!

Vincent Romano

Taylor Street Archives. com


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