Latino Veterans Contribution to WWII Latinos have served the United States in every war since the revolutionary war and demonstrated courage and loyalty throughout those historical periods. During the Civil War, Latinos served both in the Confederate and U. S. Armies. In fact, one of the most famous personnel of the Civil War, Admiral Lafayette, was Hispanic; he was born in Spain and rose through the U.S. Naval Military Rank s to become an admiral.
In the Cuban/American War Latinos served with distinction and were included in the ranks of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.
Various Latinos received the Medal of Honor during WWI and WWII and many of these soldiers served with distinction earning numerous other medals.
This is information that is not provided in school therefore, Latino Students don’t know the true history of the role played by many brave Latino soldiers. For this reason, I recommended to our El Puente Editor, Andy Cruz, to dedicate a portion of the NLPOA Newsletter to the many Latinos that served in the United States Military during WWII. Several of our members have commented about family members that have passed away but who had served during WWII and, with their passing, many of the historical facts about Latinos in that war is being lost.
NLPOA members having relatives that served in the war should submit a short story of that veteran. The story should include such information as, what combat unit he served in, what campaigns he fought in, any awards/medals he earned as well as asking, what were conditions like for Latinos in the Military during the war.
As an example of how rapidly these heroic veterans are dying; I belonged to American Legion Sierra Post 785 in Visalia, California. Several years ago there were eleven WWII veterans in our post. I recommended to the membership that we put together a banquet and ceremony to honor them and their military exploits. After researching each one of their military records, units they fought with and combat area of operations they were involved in; the information was typed with their unit combat patch on the top of the document and framed for the presentation.
Each WWII Veteran was asked to select a family member they wished to read their military records/citations at the banquet. Some picked sons, daughters, while others asked grandchildren to read. During the reading, you could hear a pin drop, it was very emotional. After the ceremony many of the family members remarked, “I never knew that he had seen so much and done so many things”. The reason for the lack of information was that few of these men ever talked about their exploits. However, it was obvious that they were happy and appreciative that their experiences in the war had finally come out. Presently in American Legion Sierra Post 785 there are only three WWII m embers left, the rest have died.
It is important that we talk to our family members and friends to learn more of the contributions made by Latinos that daily lived the war in combat. When I went to school, not a word was said about the Latinos and their contributions in the war effort and it appeared that they had not participated; which is furthest from the truth. In my research, I have discovered much information dealing with Latinos in WWII. The following stories are true.
United States Marine, Corporal Guy Louis Gabaldon, of Mexican descent was 17 years old when he enlisted in the Marines and experienced some of the most vicious combat in the South Pacific during World War II at the island battles of Saipan and Tinian.
Gus was born in East Los Angeles where at the age o f 12 he went to live with his friend’s Japanese/American family, the Nakanos. While there, he attended language school with the Nakano’s children where he learned to speak Japanese as well as learning their customs and culture. After the Nakano Family was sent to the “Heart Mountain Relocation Center” in Wyoming, he worked briefly as a fisherman in Canada then returned to the U.S. an d joined the service.
During the Battle of Saipan and later in Tinian he would go out by himself to scout and reconnoitered. However, it wasn’t long before he began to speak with the Japanese, soldiers and civilians hidden in caves and other hiding places convincing them to surrender. Corporal Guy Gabldon is credited with single handedly capturing over 1,800 Japanese during those two campaigns where he became known as the “Pied Piper of Saipan” because of his brave exploits. Later on, Gus was severely wounded and received the Purple Heart.
A movie was made of his actions in combat with the leading role played by actor Jeffrey Hunter; perhaps there weren’t Mexican actors at the time that could have played his part.
Corporal Gabldon’s heroics and war exploits exceeded then Sergeant York of WWI fame. Sergeant York received the Medal of Honor for capturing 175 German prisoners; yet Gus, whose exploits was much greater, and was recommended by his captain for the Medal of Honor, did not receive the nation’s highest award. The award was reduced by higher ups to the Silver Star and in 1960 was upgraded to the Navy Cross, the second highest award for gallantry.
Marine Corporal, Gus Louis Gabldon, died in Old Town, Florida at the age of 80.
**Note there is much information on Gus including several books by Gus Gabaldon; 1990 Saipan: Suicide Island and American Betrayed also, Goldstein, Richard (September 4, 2006) “Guy Gabldon, 80, Hero of Battle of Saipan Dies”.
The Gonzalez Brothers were all born in Visalia, California. Five of the brothers, George, Oliver, Gabriel, Lawrence and Raymond Gonzalez all served in WWII from 1942 – 1945. Lawrence was wounded in the Landing at Normandy on “D” Day and received the “Purple Heart” for his wounds. Brother George saw combat in New Guinea and the Philippines while Raymond served as a crewmember in B-26 planes that bombed Germany. The rest of the brothers returned home safely to Visalia after the war, Lawrence was the only one to receive a wound. Larry the one brother that was not drafted always said “he had to stay home to take care of the women folks!” However George said that since they already had taken five of the brothers the government said it was enough!
George Gonzalez the only living brother will celebrate his 96th birthday this coming November and is one of the three remaining WWII Veterans of Post 785. Another member of the Post, Frank Torrez, will celebrate his 90th birthday this September.