Tampa

Braulio Alonso


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

Of the many memories Braulio Alonso has of World War II, none stick out more than those tied to the liberation of Italy’s capital.

After Allied forces flooded Rome on June 4, 1945, some members of the 328th Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 85th Infantry Division, traveled from slightly south of Rome into the city.

“We took our driver and went into Rome,” said Alonso, who was Captain of Battery A.

Guy Vasquez


By Laura Barganier

Becoming a doctor and helping others have a better life was Guy Vasquez’s dream growing up after witnessing his father die of a brain tumor.

Life worked out differently for Vasquez, however, as the United States drafted him into the Navy during his first year as a premedical student at The University of Tampa in 1944.

“[The war] interrupted my ambition, what I was preparing for,” he said.

Willie Vila


By Lindsay Stafford

For Marine sniper Willie Vila, the only way to make it through World War II alive was to kill or be killed.

Vila used this advice, which he recalls getting from Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, to keep him going through four years in World War II with the United States Marine Corps.

“I had a telescope on my rifle and a single shot,” he said. “And then I got a tommy gun, a [45] caliber with 50 rounds, a hundred [rounds of extra ammunition] in my back and my canteen of water. I survived.”

Albert Nieto


By Angel Flores

From a cardboard box, Albert Nieto rummages through old newspapers, postcards and other keepsakes that bring back memories from his days of service in the Army. One of the artifacts he pulls from the box is a sightseeing guide of the “Playground of the Orient” in the Philippines.

Evelio Grillo


By Lindsay Graham

Raised in Ybor City, a Cuban neighborhood inside Tampa, Fla., Evelio Grillo attended black segregated schools and grew up with black role models.

"Black Cubans were closer to black Americans and white Cubans were closer to white Americans," Grillo said. "We became culturally African American."

He went on to attend Dunbar High, an all-black high school in Washington, D.C., and attended Xavier University, a college for black students in New Orleans, La. He then was drafted into the Army to serve in a "colored" unit in the China-Burma-India Theater.