San Antonio

Esequiel Zamudio

By Desirée Mata

By the time Esequiel Zamudio was drafted at age 21, he already knew hard work and hardship.

Zamudio started working as a young man for a government project called the National Youth Administration. As part of the NYA, he worked for four years building public works like San Antonio, Texas’, River Walk. After that, he labored as an auto mechanic, which he says he enjoyed.

“In those years, they didn’t have food stamps or Social Security. My dad didn’t have Social Security,” he said of his youth

George S. Vasquez

By Krystal De los Santos

When George S. Vasquez was separated from his unit during the Battle of the Bulge in Germany, he lived by his wits behind enemy lines for a month

“The whole company had just vanished in the dark,” Vasquez said.

Company K of the 424th Infantry Regiment, 106th Army Infantry Division, had been defending its positions, trying to keep the Germans from marching on to Belgium, when its members were surrounded.

“One night the company commander says we couldn’t hold anymore ... so we infiltrated out,” he said.

Jesus Herrera

By Jennifer Lindgren

Jesus Herrera risked his life as a Navy corpsman in Okinawa in May of 1945, assisting wounded soldiers under heavy enemy fire and, twice, rescuing hurt Marines and helping them to safety – while still under fire.

For Herrera’s heroism, he earned a Bronze Star Medal, with a V for valor. He was still a baby-faced 18-year-old at the time. Today, he dismisses the importance of what he did back then.

"It was the job I was sent to do," Herrera said.

Elsie Schaffer Martinez

By Kimberly Wied

Elsie Martinez saw a lot of World War II, but she never left the country and can't talk about it.

"The things we saw, and the people that came back, it was horrible," said Martinez, recalling her work in a high-security photo lab that processed aerial photos taken by Army reconnaissance.

Tony Holguin

By Jason Weddle

Tony Holguin would rather talk about golf than about the time he spent as a soldier in the Army during World War II. He even says he might very well have been the Tiger Woods of his day.

To Holguin’s credit, there aren’t many people who at 22 can claim to have beaten the legendary golfing champion Sam Snead by six shots in a professional tournament. The fact that Holguin is of Mexican American ancestry made the feat that much more impressive for its time.

Aurora Gonzalez Castro

By Anna Zukowski

Aurora Gonzalez Castro's story isn't just about her; it’s also the story of two half-brothers, Caesar and Alfred Castro, both musicians in military bands during World War II, as well as accomplished musicians after the conflict.

Castro’s marriage to the older half-brother, Alfred, after the 1966 death of Caesar, seems to have been destined. Alfred married Aurora Gonzalez June 8, 1968, and a reception was held in her sister's house after their marriage.

"It was meant to be,” said Castro of how she ended up with two musicians.

Miguel de la Peña

By Shelby Downs

Miguel de la Peña’s first injury in World War II landed him in the infirmary for two days. His second injury landed him his wife of 58 years.

After first suffering a concussion at Normandy, de la Peña was wounded by another artillery shell in Bretagne, France. He ended up in a hospital in Taunton, north of Liverpool, England, where another injured soldier persuaded him to go on a double date with a nurse there.

"I met her on a blind date and I became blind right away," de la Peña said.

Caesar Catalino Castro

As a young man in San Antonio, Caesar Castro was an accomplished pianist.

His talent caught the attention of a group of famed California musicians who wanted Caesar to move west with them, so that they could mold him.

Castro didn't take the offer; but even so, his musical skills continued to grow.

Castro was born on Oct. 27, 1924, in San Antonio, Texas. He had a half-brother, Alfred, and a half-sister, Margaret, from his father's first marriage. And he had two more siblings born to his father and his mother, Maria Villarreal Castro.

Alberto Bosquez

By Jane O’Brien

Fourteen-year-old Alberto Bosquez grabbed his stack of newspapers in 1941, headed to downtown San Antonio and began dealing them out. "Extra! Extra!" he called out, "Japan bombs Pearl Harbor!"

Salvador V. Aguilar

By Joel Weickgenant

Salvador Aguilar remembers lonesome nights aboard the cargo ship he served on during World War II. On many nights, he and fellow sailors and troops were forced to lie in the dark, ordered not make any sounds. It was frustrating -- the trips across the Pacific were long and the troops were often prohibited from engaging in conversations that could be picked up by Japanese submarines swimming the waters like sharks.