The Fort Missoula Internment Facility: An Italian Experience At "Bella Vista
This paper is divided into two main sections: the first section focuses upon the gradual modification of American neutrality in an effort to effectively adapt to the changing world situation; the second section narrates a story of Italian civilians detained at the Fort Missoula Internment Facility, Missoula, Montana during World War II. Fort Missoula, affectionately known as “Bella Vista” or “Beautiful View,” would be the home of over 1000 Italian internees for nearly 3 years. This little known history of Italian internment, interwoven with the contemporary world situation illustrates a little known chapter of Word War II—the wide spread internment of enemy aliens. Following World War II, the 1949 Geneva Convention would address the issue of enemy alien internment. Fort Missoula exemplified the characteristics put forth in the 1949 Convention. The Italians held at the fort received excellent treatment. The city of Missoula welcomed the diversity that Italian culture offered. Fort Missoula soon became a model Italian community, complete with democratically elected representatives, entrepreneurial opportunities, regular theatrical and musical performances, athletic tournaments, and gourmet Italian food. Fort Missoula provided the Italians with a vacation from the reality of the war situation; as Frank Guastella, an Italian detainee at the camp, stated: “Some of us came and found a life.” The experience of the Italians at Fort Missoula provides further insight into the events of World War II."