Navy

Moses F. Diaz


By Trina Berberet

He may have been only 16 at the time, but Moses Diaz decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy because, as he recalled: “I didn’t want to miss out on the war.”

It was 1945, near the end of the World War II, and Diaz completed his basic training in San Diego.

It was his first time away from home and he often wrote letters home to see which of his family and friends had enlisted. His mother, Martina Diaz, had five sons serving in the military during World War II.

Placido Jose Lozano


By Andrew Stark, St. Bonaventure University and Alicia Machuca, Cal State Fullerton

On Dec. 7, 1941, Placido Jose Lozano was at a movie theater, enjoying a soda and 25-cent popcorn with his friends. Suddenly the film stopped, and the theater manager came out and placed a large radio on the stage.

John Chavez


By Amanda Stair

John Chavez grew up as an orphan, moving from house to house, and later survived the bloodiest Pacific battle of World War II. After the war, he settled in Tucson, Ariz. So when he looked back, he realized: "My life turned out good."

Ruben D Suarez


By Cameron Reed, California State University, Fullerton

Throughout his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II and for the rest of his life, Ruben Suarez had a strong understanding of diversity and the need to persevere to achieve his dreams.

Suarez remembered the difficulties of growing up during the Great Depression. High school teachers often urged Latinos to prepare for manual labor jobs, instead of college.

Jesus Esparza Muñoz


By David Pearl, Cal State Fullerton

Jesus "Jess" Esparza Muñoz emerged from a fragmented and impoverished family to live a version of the American Dream, including a stint in the U.S. Navy that allowed him to travel the world.

Ben Santillan


By Nicole Chisum

The turmoil of World War II was difficult for everyone who endured it, but perhaps even more so for people who felt left out of mainstream society.

People like Ben Santillan.

Santillan was born on Feb. 13, 1925, near Kansas City, Kan. When he was about 7 years old, his family moved to Argentine, a suburb of Kansas City, and lived in the Mexican part of the town known as el campo. It was far from luxurious, and it was segregated -- Mexicans and non-Mexicans.

Gregorio D. Botello


By Patrick Lynch

The story of the Botello brothers – Crisantos, Gregorio, John, Simon and Trinidad, who all served during World War II – is one of honor and bravery. And thanks to another of the brothers, their tales of heroism won’t be lost to time.

Younger sibling Thomas D. Botello wrote a booklet called “Proud I Served” about his brothers’ service in WWII, also detailing his family’s struggles back home. The narratives included present a glimpse into history from the perspective of a Mexican American family during that era.

Adan Daniel "Dan" Arellano


By Jennifer Monsees

Once a migrant worker, Dan Arellano became a realtor; once a struggling student he turned into an author. Arellano had a way of taking life’s difficult lessons and making the most of them.

The Navy veteran used the discrimination he experienced as a Mexican American to fuel his desire to teach history so that others do not repeat the mistakes.

Fernando Rene Del Rio


By Avery Bradshaw, Cal State Fullerton

When Fernando Del Rio left Los Angeles in September 1950 and joined a Navy air squadron, it was the first time he had ever been away from home. Turning on the radio, he was surprised to hear Japanese music.

"We knew we were off the coast of Japan," Del Rio said.

Del Rio explained that in high school, he had watched his two elder brothers, Jose and Octavio, return home after serving in World War II. He remembers an overall patriotic feeling in America at the time. He was among the many who enlisted after WWII.

Odilon De Leon


By Jonathan Damrich

Odilon De Leon wore his Purple Heart in the middle of his cap, right below the spot where it read “Okinawa 1945.”

“I’m proud and happy that I served my country,” De Leon said, “even though I was disabled at the ripe old age of 17.”

The World War II veteran was badly burned May 3, 1945, when a Japanese plane flew into the port side of his ship, the USS LSMR-195, approximately 100 miles away from Okinawa.

The ship was carrying about 465 rockets, he said, which combined with the gasoline in the plane to create a “hellacious explosion.”