Henry Segura


Collection: 
World War II

Military Branch: 
Army

Date of Birth: 
February 21, 1924

Interviewed By: 
Thomas Padilla

Date of Interview: 
June 17, 2010

Place of Interview: 
Kansas City

KS

By Michael Broker

Henry Segura grew up during the Great Depression in the area known as the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Kan., in a family of 10 children to parents who were Mexican immigrants.

His father worked for the Armour Company, a slaughterhouse in the neighborhood, and his mother sewed dresses for women in the neighborhood. Although Segura said that his family did not struggle financially and that his father “seemed like he always had a job,” he would not agree that his family always had enough to live on.

His parents had little formal education, but Segura, the eldest of his brothers, was the first person in his family of six other brothers and three sisters to graduate from high school. He recalled that his high school, Wyandotte in Kansas City, had a mix of students of Croatian, Serbian, and Italian descent. Because of that diversity, he said, “everyone was treated the same” and he could not recall any prejudice against him for being Mexican American.

He said his neighborhood is no longer exists. “There are no houses there It’s all commercialized,” he said.

Segura said he was still a senior in high school when he got his draft notice in 1943, but was allowed to graduate before being inducted into the U.S. Army. He served in the Pacific Theatre, participating in the capture of New Guinea, the Philippines, and the occupation of Japan.

Segura said that World War II took him out of the Latino community in Kansas City that he had known all his life and transported him across the world to places he never imagined going. He said that when he listened to the radio news report breaking the story of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he “didn’t even know where that was at.”

Segura underwent basic training at Camp Roberts, Calif., and then went to Hawaii for further training in jungle combat.

During his training, Segura said that there was only one other Latino in his squadron. As with his experience in high school, Segura said he never experienced discrimination for being Latino. However, Segura recalled knowing of only one Hispanic officer throughout his entire service in World War II.

He was assigned to Company A, 33rd Infantry Division, 123rd Infantry, initially serving in a rifle squad and later in Japan as a staff sergeant.

His first campaign was guarding ammunition on an island off the coast of New Guinea. The ammunition supplied the allied troops on the mainland of New Guinea who were fighting against the Japanese. According to U.S. Army military history archives, the success of the New Guinea campaign was essential “to the U.S. Army's liberation of the Philippine Islands from Japanese occupation,” because Japan had to divert ships and manpower to New Guinea instead of other places in its empire.

Segura said he saw combat for the first time during the invasion and liberation of the Philippines after the New Guinea campaign. He recalled trying “to take one hill after another and digging in . . . Moving at night to catch the Japanese by surprise.”

Segura’s success and experience then led to him becoming a squad leader after the liberation of the Philippines and during the occupation of Japan. He was discharged in 1947.

For his service in World War II, Segura received several awards and medals, including the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal, American Defense Medal, the Liberation of the Philippines Medal, and the Occupation of Japan Medal.

Segura married Rachel Ramos in 1947, and they had a daughter, Maria Helena. He was remarried in 2000 to Bonnie Mae in Kansas City, Mo.

Segura said that in his opinion the war was necessary to protect the United States from being taken over by both Japan and Germany. If there was not a draft Segura said, he “would have volunteered anyway,” because he believed in the cause. Even though he was born to Mexican parents and even lived in Mexico for part of his early childhood, Segura considered himself an American and was willing to risk his life to protect United States.

Segura said he and the others who served during World War II helped to create a better future for Latinos in the United States. After the war, he said, Latinos had more opportunities for education and better career positions. Before the war they often were working menial jobs.

Mr. Segura was interviewed on June 17, 2010 in Kansas City, Kan., by Tom Padilla.