When the U.S. Interned Italians in Montana, They Rioted Over Olive Oil

Feb 02, 2019 718

BY: Reina Gattuso

It started with suet. Some say camp administrators decided that Italian internees should cook with suet instead of olive oil to cut costs. Others say lower ranking internees, who had been crew members on the ships they were taken from, suspected that former officers were getting olive oil while they were stuck with beef fat. Either way, tensions hit a breaking point when a group of angry internees charged into the kitchen.

“They were swinging suet at the cooks,” says Carol Van Valkenburg, a Professor Emerita at the University of Montana School of Journalism who wrote a history of the Missoula internment. It was the summer of 1941 in Fort Missoula, Montana. The United States would soon be at war. Approximately 1,200 Italian nationals, most of them sailors on boats stranded in American waters or employees of the Italian Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair, had been rounded up by the American government as “enemy aliens” and brought to Fort Missoula. 

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SOURCE: https://www.atlasobscura.com/

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