North Beach during W.W.II saw the government classify thousands of Italian immigrants as “enemy aliens” after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Among those were Giuseppe and Rosalia DiMaggio. Each was required to carry photo ID booklets at all times and were not allowed to travel outside a five-mile radius from their home without a permit. Giuseppe’s fishing boat was seized and he was barred from San Francisco Bay.
Nevertheless, their son Joe, like most others, felt obligated to do their part. DiMaggio traded a $43,750 Yankees salary for a payment of $50 each month when he chose to enlist in the army on February 17th, 1943. Other sacrifices were made as well.
Sacrifices during W.W.II
Some citizens of North Beach utilized horse-drawn carts to save gas for the war effort. Teenagers, with their binoculars, manned two-story towers along the sand dunes of the Richmond District as well as atop Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, scanning the skies for trouble. Lou Marcelli remembers his father fishing for shark. Its liver was prized by bomber pilots for improving night vision. Italian engineers and architects mobilized to help North Beach residents build bomb shelters in backyards. Citizens of the City donated 110 pints of blood a day to Red Cross. Others would make the ultimate sacrifice. Almost 1,900 San Franciscans would be killed in the line of duty before the war ended. The sight of black hearses at St. Peter and Paul’s Church became so common that Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a poem about it, about the old men sitting on a bench in Washington Square, watching.