” Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, Our Nation turns its lonely eyes to you” lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson. When I first heard the song as a kid I had no idea who this Joe DiMaggio was.
Now I know of course,he was a great baseball player but by all accounts he was not much of a soldier. Something I didn’t know though was the treatment of his parents during WWII.
Giuseppe and Rosalia DiMaggio, both from Isola delle Femmine, were among the thousands of German, Japanese, and Italian immigrants classified as “enemy aliens” by the government after the Attack on Pearl Harbor.
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 was barred from the San Francisco Bay, where he had fished for decades, and his boat was seized. Rosalia became an American citizen in 1944, followed by Giuseppe in 1945.
Joe 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. It was reported that Joe requested he receive no special treatment, yet he spent most of his time in the Army playing baseball, as did many other big league stars.
Joe was assigned to Special Services and stationed at California’s Santa Ana Air Base. The only major league player on his military team, he and his teammates played against semipro clubs, local college teams and Pacific Coast League teams. Joe reached sergeant rank in August 1943.
In order to ensure the professional players had some time overseas, Joe and other major league players were transferred to Hawaii in Spring 1944. In time, the best military baseball players were stationed in Hawaii.Big names like Johnny Beazley, Joe Gordon, Pee Wee Reese and Red Ruffing, along with Joe, were split into different teams. Joe joined the Seventh Army Air Force team, which played a nearly full major league schedule.
Although Joe had developed stomach ulcers and was often in a lot of pain, he continued to serve in the military and play for the Seventh Army Air Force team until he was given a medical release from the Army on September 14, 1945. He suited up again for the Yankees the following spring.
Some army records revealed that DiMaggio, 30 at the time of his discharge and having just gone through a divorce, struck the officers as someone whose “personal problems appeared to be of more consequence to him than his obligations to adjust to the demands of the service”.
DiMaggio ate so well from an athlete-only diet that he gained 10 pounds, and while in Hawaii he and other players mostly tanned on the beach and drank, embarrassed by that lifestyle, DiMaggio requested that he be given a combat assignment but was turned down.
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Baseball in Wartime
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