Miami

Louis Angel Ramirez


By Jennifer Nalewicki

Luis Angel Ramirez has many memories of World War II.

But his strongest recollection is the camaraderie soldiers shared in his platoon, which helped Ramirez stay grounded while battling German soldiers on the front lines.

Ramirez considered the men in his platoon, the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, his family; especially since they were together from the time they began military training at Fort Dix in New Jersey and Fort Jackson in South Carolina in 1941 until the war's end in 1945.

Fernando Bernacett


By Jenny White

When Fernando Bernacett came to New York City to find his father as a 6-year-old in 1929, he had no idea what an adventure he was beginning. By the time the Puerto Rico native retired in Miami, he’d witnessed the Great Depression, helped in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, guarded the atomic bomb, was quarantined for tuberculosis and watched the World Trade Center fall.

Raul Rios Rodriguez


By D'Arcy Kerschen

Life wasn't easy for Raul Rios-Rodriguez, who grew up on the mean streets of New York City throughout most of World War II. You had to fight for respect to survive, he says, and he learned that lesson at 14 upon arriving from Puerto Rico at the onset of the war.

Rios and his four brothers and four sisters moved to Spanish Harlem in New York in 1941. An older sister was the head of the household while Rios' parents remained in Puerto Rico, where his dad grew crops he sold at market.

Carmen Conteras Bozak


By Katie Kennon

Carmen Bozak's only memory of Dec. 7, 1941 -- the day Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese -- is of a good friend and co-worker being stranded after her date heard about the attack on the car radio. The woman's date stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and told her to get out because he had to return to his base.

A policeman picked up Bozak's friend from a rural Virginia road and drove her to a nearby Salvation Army office, where she was given a bus ticket home to Washington, D.C.

Carmen Irizarry Albelo


By Sylvia Mendoza

When Carmen Albelo sailed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the United States in 1939, she envisioned a land of opportunity and freedom, not war, discrimination and loneliness.

"When I came here I thought I was going to have a better life, but it wasn't like that,'' Albelo recalled.

Higinio Albelo


By Luisito Caleon

The choppy seas north of Scotland were dark.

A dense fog enveloped the Navy ship loaded with ammunition destined for Normandy, the site of the beginning of the end of World War II.

The ship, on its way to help with the liberation of France, was stuck on uncharted rocks, and Higinio Albelo remembers he and his mates thought they were facing death.

"It was a 27-man gun crew. We were supposed to take care of the guns on ship and take care of the cargo. We were in a big convoy of close to 250 ships," Albelo said.

Norberto M Gonzalez


By Catherine Mathieson

Contrasts have defined Norberto Gonzalez's life.

Gonzalez appreciates the opportunities the United States has offered him; he came here because he saw none in the tiny Cuban village where he was born.

While serving in the Philippines after World War II, Gonzalez, who grew up poor, watched in pity as Filipinos waited to eat his table scraps.

And even though the United States introduced so many positive experiences into his life, he recognizes the discrimination that confronted him in his adopted country and isn’t shy about pointing it out.