Navy

Frank Yturralde


By Rachel Fleischman

Frank Yturralde’s life is interwoven with the threads of family and education.

At times they clashed, at times they co-existed, but mostly they were symbiotic -- family feeding education, education feeding family.

Yturralde grew up in a bilingual household in El Paso, Texas, where the importance of learning both English and Spanish was stressed. His mother was born in the U.S. and didn’t speak Spanish, while his Mexican-born father spoke both Spanish and English.

Ernesto Hernando


By Rachel Vallejo

As the Enola Gay took off from the island of Tinian to drop the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Ernesto Hernando waited alongside his fellow servicemen to hear about the destruction.

According to the Navy’s online database of WWII casualties, the United States had been engaged in the two-front battle of World War II for more than four years, and had already lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the process. Hernando describes the mood of his unit, which was stationed on the island of Guam, about 100 miles north of Tinian.

Roberto Tovar


By Michele Pierini

At the age of 17, fresh from graduating Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas, Roberto Tovar volunteered for military service, something he’d wanted to do since he was 13, after the Pearl Harbor bombing.

“I was very well motivated ... I was real proud of the country and real proud of everybody,” Tovar said.

Gilbert Paul Sanchez


By Cara Henis

Gilbert Sanchez not only survived the Pacific typhoon of 1944 that capsized three U.S. Navy destroyers and killed 790 people, he also witnessed the largest aircraft carrier skirmish in the Pacific during the Battle of the Philippines Sea that same year.

Serving as a Navy radioman aboard the USS Macdonough, Sanchez took part in nine military offensives across the Pacific. He also witnessed the sinking of a Japanese submarine near New Guinea in April 1944 and the shelling of enemy troops in January of that year on Parry Island, in the Marshall Islands.

Benigno Gaytan


By Melissa Mendoza

“Most of my friends, they say, ‘Let’s join the Navy,’” said Benigno “Tony” Gaytan, when asked why he signed up for the Armed Forces during World War II.

“I said, ‘OK.’”

At 17, Gaytan was working as a stock boy at a five-and-dime store in Laredo, Texas. The United States had been involved in the war for more than a year. He recalled the irony of unpacking a shipment of clay toys marked “Made in Japan,” the country in which he’d soon find himself battling in the Pacific for his life and country.

Genovevo Bargas


By Borger Bargas

On April 29, 1945, Genovevo Bargas and some of his shipmates looked to the sky from the deck of the USS Comfort. A Japanese kamikaze was headed straight for their hospital ship. They were in the midst of the Battle of Okinawa, the last major battle of World War II.

The kamikaze missed the USS Comfort’s smoke stack, but still managed to create a huge hole in the vessel.

“We only saw one part of the Japanese [pilot’s] body,” said Bargas, motioning from the neck up, “the rest was nothing.”

Bob Sanchez


By Marcel Rodriguez

At age 17, Bob Sanchez volunteered for the U.S. Navy after two close friends were killed in combat. It was 1945, and his choice to enlist would set his life in a bold new direction. From Naval intelligence, to the University of Texas at Austin, to being a trial lawyer and activist in the Rio Grande Valley, the war and the university instilled in him a determination to make the world a better place, particularly for Latinos.

Antonio Uribe


A full moon showering light over Mt. Fuji one night while on lookout duty in Japan is the wartime image Antonio Uribe recalls most vividly as he recounts his humble beginnings in Texas and the world of basic training and nautical knowledge that transformed him from boy to man.

Roberto De la Cruz


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

When military recruiters showed up at the local Post Office in early August of 1942, Roberto De la Cruz saw it as a ticket out of the Rio Grande Valley, an escape from a lonely laborious life in South Texas.

So when a recruiter asked the 15-year-old how old he was, De la Cruz said he had just turned 18 on August 5.

A day or two later, De la Cruz and one other San Benito guy, Jerry Tarwater, were on a train headed for Houston, to get their Navy physicals.

Ruben Robert Ramos


By Laura Clark

At 5 o’clock on the morning on July 4, 1944, Ruben Ramos stood on the deck of the USS Denver and watched three squadrons of Navy Hellcat fighters take off from a nearby aircraft carrier to attack the airfields on the heavily fortified island of Iwo Jima.

This would mark the Americans’ first attack on the island that would come to forever symbolize death, sacrifice, uncommon valor and the spirit of the U.S. Marines.