POW

Ramon Sr. Villa


By Frank Trejo

Having grown up in rural South Texas during the Great Depression and having lost his mother when he was only 10, Ramón Villa Sr. knew hardship.

But he was unprepared for the struggles he faced in World War II as part of the U.S. Army’s 200th Coast Artillery Regiment, being captured by the Japanese and forced on the Bataan Death March. Villa endured more than three years as a prisoner of war.

Villa was born on Jan. 9, 1920 in Donna, Texas. His family moved a short time later to Yorktown, Texas.

Emilio Muñoz Membrila


By Valerie Jayne

As a young boy growing up in Clifton, Ariz., Emilio Muñoz Membrila played war games with his friends, inventing different maneuvers and strategies. Later, during World War II, he’d be engaged in historic battles in the European Theater, fighting in the frigid German forests during the Battle of the Bulge and getting taken prisoner for six months.

"It was the worst barrage U.S. troops ever encountered," said Muñoz Membrila of the Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's last major offensive. "It was supposed to have been a quiet sector."

Agapito Encinias Silva


By Helen Peralta

As a World War II prisoner of war, Agapito E. Silva said death often marched beside him while battling in the Phillippines. Having learned the art of survival is what allows him to vividly recount memories of a war that continues to haunt him.

"I never gave up hope," recalled 83-year-old Silva of San Marcel, N.M. "Guys that gave up hope never made it."

Arthur Smith


By Ashley Clary

The laugh-worn eyes of Arthur B. Smith hide a courageous yet triumphant story. Not only did he face the dangers of the 1942 Bataan Death March and three years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, he went on to lead a productive and fulfilling life.

Smith was born June 14, 1919, to José Padilla Smith and Isabel Britton Smith in Santa Fe, N.M. Neither of his parents received more than a third-grade education. One of eight brothers and sisters who grew up in Santa Fe, Smith graduated from high school and joined the military in 1940.

Catarino Hernandez


By Antonio Gilb

In the first days of the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, in Schmidt, Germany, American scouts reported that a division of German tanks and soldiers lay on the outskirts of town, ready to attack. To minimize casualties, officers hastily ordered the unit to abandon the area. But in their haste, the unit commanders left behind a handful of soldiers. Catarino Hernandez, an 18-year-old from Seguin, was among them.

Lorenzo Banegas


Lorenzo Banegas was one of more than 1,700 New Mexico National Guard soldiers taken prisoner on Bataan.

No state paid a higher price - more than 900 New Mexico captives died. Banegas survived, but even today - 72 years old and retired in Las Cruces - he agonizes over the terrible memories.

He survived the brutal Bataan Death March, where thousands of soldiers died of disease, torture and starvation. By 1943, he was a prisoner at Cabanatuan in the Philippines, suffering from diphtheria and beriberi.