World War II

Eugene Ramirez Casarez


By Joanne Rao Sánchez

Eugene Casarez was just 11 years old when he started working for the Surprise Bakery on E. 7th Street in Austin, Texas.

Little did he realize that his four years of making empanadas, pan de huevo and bizcochitos would one day be tapped by the U.S. Army after he was drafted in 1944.

"They looked at my records, and said, 'We need you in the kitchen....'," Casarez said.

Tomás Z. Cantú


By Bettina Luis

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Standing at attention, his thumbs aligned with the seam of the trouser, his heels together at a 45-degree angle. Thomas Cantu Jr. looked straight ahead as he was awarded the Air Medal in 1943 for completing 150 combat flying hours.

Lalo Campos


The yellow clapboard house with the 1990 Cadillac Seville parked outside is Lalo Campos' home. A Mexican American World War II veteran, he sits in a study that is covered with family portraits with his feet propped up in his walker. There is a distinct smell of Terra-gesic cream, similar to Ben-Gay, in the air -- which he uses to ease the pain in his feet. Campos has been a diabetic for 20 years and in 1992 the diabetes severed the nerve ends on his feet, which has made it very painful to walk.

Campos has come a long way in 75 years; he has even been around the world.

Ernesto Calderón


By Miguel A. Castro

Ernesto Calderon was just 18 years old and living in Central Texas in 1946 when his life took an unexpected turn.

Eldon and Lloyd Adams, two brothers, asked him if he wanted to go with him to the drive-in theater at the Circle, a well-known part of Waco.

"On the way (to the drive-in theater), he (Eldon) said he had just joined the 11th Airborne Division and would I be interested in going with him," Calderon said. "And I mean, just like that, I said sure and I agreed to it."

Joseph Marion Autobee


By Joseph Money

Joe Autobee, of Publo, Colorado, grew accustomed to the taste of whiskey during his WWII service. As an Air Corps gunner pilot during World War II, he was given a sandwich and a glass of whiskey at the end of every raid.

While Autobee wasn't sure how the service had made their choice of refreshments, he took it just the same.

"I think whiskey's good for your nerves," Autobee guessed.

Ceprian Armijo


By Silky Shah

Ceprian Armijo started working on nearby farms with his father in his hometown of Avondale, Colorado when he was at about 8 years old. Little did he know that nearly ten years later he would be going off to fight in World War II in Europe.

Armijo spent most of his time in the war moving through the European mainland, experiencing the realities of war that most people only hear about. Despite being seriously wounded and witnessing the death and destruction of the war, Armijo can now look back upon his WWII experiences as a time of growth.

Mike Aguirre


By Aryn Sedler

SAN MARCOS, Texas -- When Mike Aguirre graduated from Brackenridge High School in San Antonio in 1939, many opportunities and doors were closed to Mexican Americans.

"One of my friends got a job at the Five and Dime store and they would not hire Mexican Americans because they just weren't hiring them, or even grocery stores weren't hiring [Mexican Americans]," he recalled.

Aguirre worked in a restaurant with his mother for a while and then in 1939 he joined the service.

Valentin Aguilar


By Dartinya Harris

Valentín Aguilar says he feels proud that he served during World War II.

Born in Laredo, Texas, Aguilar only received a second grade education. He made a living picking vegetables on a community farm. Aguilar's eyes would soon be opened to a vast new world by participating in the U.S. Military. Aguilar became a soldier in the Army on December 3, 1942. After being inducted at Fort Sam Houston, he trained for over a year with the 84th Division.

Rudy Acosta


By Frank Trejo

Growing up in Southern California, Rudy Acosta was like countless of other young boys. He escaped each week to the movies and watched the likes of Errol Flynn and John Wayne triumph over the bad guys.

Little did he know that just a few years later, World War II would propel him into the midst of one of the biggest confrontations the world has seen. Acosta, the son of Mexican immigrants, would find himself in the center of numerous heroic escapades.

"In my case, I lived that... We lived that experience," he said.