Los Angeles

Moises Flores

By Deborah Bonn

During a brief trip home from the war in Japan, Moises Flores surprised a whole colony in Mexico that thought he’d been killed in combat.

Among those shocked by Flores' return was the sheriff in Chihuahua, Mexico’s Colonia Dublan, the town in which Flores was raised. Although he’d been born 200 miles across the border in Los Angeles, Flores was well known in the town where he spent his formative years. The lawman had heard of Flores' heroics abroad, and wanted to discover just how brave he really was.

Benigno Nevarez Diaz

By Veronica Olvera

Amid the horror of war in the European Theater, Benigno Diaz found himself in awe of the deadly efficiency of enemy forces, struck by "how accurate the German aviators were," he said.

Diaz served as a scout during World War II when he was just a teenager. He enlisted just shy of his 18th birthday and left his Los Angeles home for the frontlines of the war in Europe. While he managed to stay alive, he witnessed the fate of comrades who weren't as fortunate.

Tony Aguilera

By Yasemin Florey

Even though Tony Aguilera's childhood in an East Los Angeles barrio was once marked by poverty, he remembers it fondly.

"We were a very happy family," he said of his Mexico-born parents and 13 siblings. "We played marbles and tops and flew kites. We sent to the fields and caught rabbits."

Aguilera would leave his home and fond memories behind when, on March 4, 1942, he was drafted into the service as a member of a Texas infantry unit in Europe. Eventually, he’d become a prisoner of war in a German camp for 16 months.

William Carrillo

By Mario Barrera

William Carrillo knew he wanted to go into the Army Air Corps when he enlisted in 1942, but there was a problem: He didn’t have the required college degree for the Air Corps Cadet program. So on the application form the resourceful Carrillo entered "College of Hard Knox." By the time anybody noticed that Hard Knox was not an accredited institution, Carrillo was on his way to the cadet program. If he’d known how many hard knocks were in store for him in Europe, he might have had second thoughts.

Jose Robert Zaragoza

When Jose R. Zaragoza returned from World War II, he found an invigorated Los Angeles ripe with opportunities for younger generations of Latinos.

Zaragoza was born in Los Angeles, Calif. in 1920. His parents had emigrated with his two older brothers from Mexico to escape the violence of the Mexican Revolution. When he was 9, his family moved to the flatlands of Northern California right before the onset of the Great Depression. Although he did attend school in California for a short time, he quit to work in the fields.

Encarnacion A. Gonzalez


Lying in a cold stream with a bullet wound to his chest, Encarnacion Armando Gonzales felt his body getting weaker and thought his life was over. Surrounded by the enemy in the Aleutian Islands, he had been shot by a sniper.

Guy Gabaldon

By Ruchika Joshi

Guy Gabaldon said he stopped counting how many people he was taking prisoner in Saipan during World War II. But in a 1957 episode of the television program, "This Is Your Life," his fellow Marines credited him with single-handedly capturing more than 1,500 Japanese soldiers and civilians.

He was hero at 18. In 1960, a movie was made of his life, called "Hell to Eternity." But the role of Gabaldon was changed from being a short Mexican American from East Los Angeles to the tall, blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter.