Austin

Josephine Kelly Ledesma Walker


By Monica Rivera

When she was being trained as an airplane mechanic in the 1940s, Josephine Ledesma was the only woman in her training group. Later, as an airplane mechanic at Bergstrom Air Field, she was one of three women out of her seven-person workgroup.

One typical scenario was having several people working on one plane.

"You had people working on the electric part, on the hydraulic part, on the engine," said Ledesma during an interview at her home. "I happened to work on the fuselage, the body of the plane."

Antonio Ramos Reyna


By Matthew Trana

When Tony Reyna arrived at Normandy Beach on June 9, 1944, three days after the D-Day launch, he couldn't believe his eyes.

"It was real rough," Reyna said. "...People cut in half. Some had no head, some had no legs. It was real bad."

Raymond Sanchez


By Rhonda Miller

World War II veteran Raymond Sanchez went bird hunting once with a Navy buddy in South Texas. The two friends, both Latinos, decided to stop for a beer at a little tavern on Highway 72 between Kennedy and Three Rivers.

"We came to this shed outside and all the Hispanics or Mexican Americans were drinking outside," Sanchez said. "I says, 'Hey man, it's September and it's hot, why don't we go inside?'

“He says, 'Raymond, we can't,' and I asked, 'Why?'

“He says, 'It's just the way it is, you know.'"

Eddie Sanchez


By Vicki Lamar

Eddie Sanchez was 17 years old when he saw the reality of war in Utine, Italy, in 1945. Horrified, he left camp without permission -- absent without leave, or AWOL. That act changed his life, as punishment was kitchen patrol duty. Before long he was running the kitchen and on his way to a distinguished 31-year Army career in Food Services.

Enrique Leon Saenz


By Jaime Stockwell

The sun squinted through the leaves, leaving subtle shadows on the cracked concrete sidewalk. There he stood, with a bag slung over his shoulder and a quarter in his pocket, defiant and determined. Success would be hard earned; he knew that from his father, and all the fathers before. But as he stood there -- glancing left, right, left, right -- he didn't seem to mind.

Benito L. Rodriguez


By Andria Infante

Benito L. Rodriguez served 20 years in the service and doesn't regret a single second.

Rodriguez went in willingly, volunteering to serve his country; in the course of his tour of duty, he risked his life and was awarded a Purple Heart.

Speaking from the dining room at his South Austin home, Rodriguez discussed his life before and after the war. His wife, María Elisa Reyes Rodriguez, sat by his side and helped fuel his memory. A well-groomed man, Rodriguez maintained a serious demeanor and kept his answers short and to the point.

Morris Riojas


By Frank Trejo

Morris Riojas lived through some of the most horrific and brutal fighting of the Pacific during World War II.

In campaigns from the Solomon Islands to the Philippines, he witnessed countless deaths, both Japanese and allied soldiers, and was himself wounded three times.

"I don't know how I got through it," he said, sitting in the kitchen of the East Austin home he built after returning home from his service in World War II. "You just lived from day-to-day and just prayed a lot."

Mary Colunga Carmona Resendez


By Cliff Despres

Austin resident Mary Resendez remembers exactly where she was on Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor: where she usually was on Sunday -- at Mass.

"We heard [about the bombing] on a Sunday at church," said the 74-year-old Resendez, who was 14 when World War II broke out. "We just prayed to God that it (the war) wouldn't come over here.

Francisco Rodriguez Resendez


By Katherine Hearty

It was Frank Resendez's first night in New Guinea in November of 1943 and his company had carelessly left on the residential lights. A mistake that could have cost them their lives, as the rumbling and reverberating of detonating war bombs thundered throughout the night sky.

Luckily, however, the company was spared.

Resendez's journey to World War II began 22 years earlier in the town of Bluff Springs, Texas, about 10 miles south of Austin.

Born Francisco Rodriguez Resendez on Jan. 29, 1920, he lived in Texas until he was 9 months old.

Mary Martinez Olvera Murillo


By Ana Cristina Acosta

For most Americans, walking down the street, entering a restaurant through the front door or going to the grocery store is routine. But for Mary Murillo, 75, who grew up at a time when Mexican Americans suffered blatant discrimination, those simple things weren’t always possible.