Austin

Willie C. Garcia


By Hannah McIntyre

Like many World War II veterans, Willie Garcia married his bride right before shipping out of town to prepare for overseas combat.

In 1944, Marfa, Texas, native Garcia met Elizabeth Ruiz while stationed at Camp Swift. They dated for about three months. Two days before he was to be sent overseas for military duty, he asked her to marry him. Initially she said that she would rather wait, but when he persisted, she agreed.

Elizabeth Ruiz Garcia


By Hannah McIntyre

Elizabeth Garcia, who stayed home and worked while her husband was away serving in World War II, feels that the best career she could have is helping others.

Garcia has spent her life working to take care of other people. Born Elizabeth Ruiz, she and her seven siblings grew up in Austin. Both her parents were from Mexico: her mother, from Monterrey and her father, from Jalisco. The family spoke Spanish all the time.

Reynaldo Perez Gallardo


By Lucy Guevara

As the son of a Mexican Army general and an aficionado of airplanes since childhood, Reynaldo Perez Gallardo was a perfect candidate to join Mexico's Fighter Squadron 201, the only combat unit from that country to actively participate in World War II. This little-known squadron was made up 300 Mexican volunteers, including 38 fighter pilots such as Gallardo, who fought the Japanese in the Philippines.

Ramón Galindo


By Marta McGonagle

It was May 8, 1945. The war in Europe was over, but not for Ramón G. Galindo. After the death of Adolph Hitler, it was Galindo's 571st Anti-Aircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion that was stationed at Hitler's headquarters. As Galindo stepped into the building, the first thing he saw was a large swastika, the powerful symbol of the Nazis.

Covering the walls were oversized pictures of Hitler and his top officers.

Part of Galindo's mission was to protect the images of the very man the Allies had been fighting against.

Jose Galindo


By Lisa Cummings

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Nationality Act of 1940 on October 14 of that year, Jose Galindo's life would never be the same. The act allowed Mexican-born residents to be drafted or volunteer for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Earlier that same year he offered to assist the United States Army and was rejected because he was a Mexican citizen.

Galindo received a Certificate of Naturalization, which allowed him to serve in the U.S. Army.

"I wanted to volunteer," Galindo said. "They wouldn't accept me because I was a Mexican citizen."

Toby Fuentes


By Nora Ramirez

For 58 years, the sounds of flying bullets and torpedo explosions have tormented Toby Fuentes.

Santos Acosta Fuentes


By Karla González

It was 1944 and 28-year-old Santos (Sandy) Acosta had lost all hopes of meeting the man she would marry and live with for the rest of her life.

But that same year, the fantasy became a reality. Sandy Acosta met a sailor, who was young, charming, and who wanted to marry her, which took her by surprise.

"I never did think that he would ever do that," she said.

Three days later, Sandy Acosta became Mrs. Fuentes.

Roberto Chapa


By Joshua Leighton

When Roberto Chapa enlisted in the United States Army on December 2, 1942, he had no idea how much this decision would alter the rest of his life.

Though the war was thousands of miles away in Europe and Asia, Chapa, from the border town of Roma, Texas, was one of thousands of Mexican Americans to participate in the war and later to take advantage of the educational benefits created for veterans.

Ladislao Catalino Castro


By Alan K. Davis

From their crippled B-24 bomber, Ladislao "L.C." Castro and the rest of the crew could see the white cliffs of Dover across the English Channel, on March 18, 1944. The fuel gauges read empty. The control cables were severed. And a 4-foot section of the left wing was missing.

The bomber began a slow downward spiral toward occupied France; there was no way to make it back to England.

When the orders came to abandon the bomber, Castro was the first out. With his leg torn and bleeding, Castro jumped through a hatch in the rear of the bomber.

Manuel Martinez Castillo


By Chandler Elise Race

As Manuel Castillo stood on the landing barge off of Omaha Beach in Normandy, the battle was already in full motion on shore. For Castillo, the reality of the landing was not the glorified or stirring depictions of the movies: real lives were being lost. Fathers, brothers and uncles were being killed. The memories of those days in 1943 still affect Castillo today.