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A Night of Mixed Emotions in Little Italy: Residents React To Italy’s Surrender in 1943

Little Italy residents in 1943 react to Italian surrender
On September 9th, 1943, the Baltimore Sun reported on the day Italy surrendered to the Allies. It was a night of mixed emotions for many residents of Little Italy as they celebrated their home country's surrender while worrying about their loved ones in both Italian and American armies.
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Little Italy residents in 1943 react to Italian surrender
Little Italy residents in 1943 react to Italian surrender

It must have a been a time of great internal conflict for a number of Little Italy residents during World War II. Many of them were born and raised in Italy, and their home country was at war with their adopted country, the native home of their children.

On September 9th, 1943, the Baltimore Sun printed the following story about the day Italy surrendered to the Allies.

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In Baltimore’s Little Italy last night the news of Italy’s unconditional surrender, welcome and joyous as it was, came almost as an anti-climax.

Earlier yesterday children paraded in the streets, singing Italian songs, and men left their work to celebrate in cafes.

But last night there was none of the wild jubilance which swept the East Baltimore colony following the announcement of the downfall of Mussolini; instead there was quiet restrained happiness.

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Anthony Sergi, 248 Albermarle street, who came from Messina, was typical. Mr. Sergi, who is confined to a wheelchair, received the news with tearful joy. His son, Dominic, is in the American army and his son-in-law, Leroy Kidwell, is in the navy. But his thoughts were with a daughter in Italy.

“It means deliverance for her,” he said. “This is good news.”

Down the street Mrs. Vincent Pettelli, 227 South High street, sat in her kitchen and cried. She has eight nephews in the Italian army, ten nephews in the American armed forces and a son, Dominic, is in the Marine Corps overseas. Two nephews have been killed with the American forces. She hails from Davolim Catanzaro, Calabria.

“I don’t know where my boy Dominic is,” Mrs. Pettelli said, “but this is one of the happiest days of my life. It will halt my family fighting each other. I am so contented, so very contented. Now, let the Americans go in and forever defeat the Germans. I am so happy at this surrender. It means new life for Italy.”

John Cossentino, 119 South Central avenue, father of twenty-three children, ten of whom are dead. has a son, George, in the marines and another, Nicholas, in the army. Laughing and joyous, he shouted, “The surrender makes me feel food. Now the Italians will help whip the Germans. Italy lives again.”

Josphe Travato, 205 South High street, who came from Catania, was jubilant, explaining, “I’m a painter. I was on a ladder when I heard the news this afternoon. I quit work and never in my forty-eight years have I drank so much beer. This is a time for happiness.” His companion, Enciro Velleggia, 827 Pratt street, chimed in, “I’m so happy I can’t express myself.”

Down at the corner a small crowd gathered around Representative D’Alesandro, nominating him for Governor of Italy. To this he answered, “I’d rather be the Congressman from Little Italy” and a cheer went up. It was the only loud noise heard in the streets there during the evening.

Baltimore Sun headline - Sep 9, 1943
Baltimore Sun headline – Sep 9, 1943

D’Alesandro being, of course, the former mayor of the city and father of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

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