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Beyond the Latino World War II Hero

Beyond the Latino World War II Hero

Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez
Emilio Zamora
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Latino World War II Hero
    Book Description:

    Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez 's edited volume Mexican Americans & World War II brought pivotal stories from the shadows, contributing to the growing acknowledgment of Mexican American patriotism as a meaningful force within the Greatest Generation. In this latest anthology, Rivas-Rodríguez and historian Emilio Zamora team up with scholars from various disciplines to add new insights. Beyond the Latino World War II Hero focuses on home-front issues and government relations, delving into new arenas of research and incorporating stirring oral histories.

    These recollections highlight realities such as post-traumatic stress disorder and its effects on veterans' families, as well as Mexican American women of this era, whose fighting spirit inspired their daughters to participate in Chicana/o activism of the 1960s and 1970s. Other topics include the importance of radio as a powerful medium during the war and postwar periods, the participation of Mexican nationals in World War II, and intergovernmental negotiations involving Mexico and Puerto Rico. Addressing the complexity of the Latino war experience, such as the tandem between the frontline and the disruption of the agricultural migrant stream on the home front, the authors and contributors unite diverse perspectives to harness the rich resources of an invaluable oral history.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79341-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)

    The dominant narratives of World War II seem determined to exclude the representation of Latinos and Latinas, as, for example, the 2007 documentary by Ken Burns. In the controversy surrounding that documentary, one of the editors of this volume—Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez—provided stalwart critical leadership for this community against such exclusion. Hers is a leadership richly informed by the successful and distinguished U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin, which she founded and directs. But such exclusion begins in ignorance, ignorance of the pervasive and persistent participation of Latinos and Latinas...

    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-10)

    The war in Europe and the subsequent entry of the United States into the world conflagration set the country on a path to build what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “the arsenal of democracy.” The United States managed to assemble the required arsenal for the war, although it was not as successful in guaranteeing egalitarian values at home. War production nevertheless made possible the dramatic growth and expansion of the economy. It also allowed the United States to make a decisive contribution to the outcome of the war and to emerge from the hostilities as a major world power with...

  6. 1 The Paradox of War Mexican American Patriotism, Racism, and Memory
    (pp. 11-20)

    One of the themes running through the more than six hundred interviews gathered by the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin is that of struggle against poverty, discrimination, and the perception of Mexican Americans as foreigners and outsiders during the Great Depression and World War II. Largely because of this experience, many Mexican Americans developed a life philosophy that enabled them to cope with harsh realities. World War II also afforded them the opportunity to put that philosophy to the test: they were called upon to sacrifice for their country,...

  7. 2 Embracing the Ether The Use of Radio by the Latino World War II Generation
    (pp. 21-37)

    During World War II, my father, Ramón Rivas, a young army private, eagerly volunteered for overnight guard duty when he was stationed in Dutch Harbor, in the Aleutian Island chain off the coast of Alaska. It wasn’t that he preferred solitude or that he relished the cold and darkness. Rather, it was that now and then, when the AM radio waves bounced just right, he could tune in a radio station, on the Mexican border, that carried the music and the language of his people, five thousand miles away. In 1999 he recalled his desperate homesickness and fear of losing...

  8. 3 “Now Get Back to Work” Mexican Americans and the Agricultural “Migrant Stream”
    (pp. 39-62)

    As a child, Hank Cervantes was oblivious to the self-serving assessments by growers like R. G. Risser and William Croddy that portrayed Mexicans as inherently predisposed to agricultural labor and capable of little else. Born in Fresno, California, on 10 October 1923, Cervantes worked the crops with his family for many years until shortly after the United States entered World War II. His dreams already aspired upward. He fancied becoming a pilot after he read a poem his third-grade teacher gave him. Soon afterward, while harvesting prunes with his family, he saw three military planes overhead and told his mother...

  9. 4 The Latinas of World War II From Familial Shelter to Expanding Horizons
    (pp. 63-89)

    Women played a significant role in helping the United States win World War II. Approximately 350,000 females served in the military. Another 18.61 million worked at the home front, some 6.5 million of them newly employed because of the wartime labor shortage. They worked in defense industries and helped fill vacancies caused by departing servicemen.¹ By war’s end, the proportion of women in the workforce had risen to 36 percent, up from 25 percent in 1941.² Others on the home front served in the Red Cross, worked in Civil Defense, or performed for the United Service Organizations (uso). Women also...

  10. 5 Mexican Nationals in the U.S. Military Diplomacy and Battlefield Sacrifice
    (pp. 90-109)

    Two of Mexico’s best-known contributions to the war effort came from a squadron of air fighters that joined the Allied forces in the Pacific theater and more than 300,000 contract workers, or braceros, who worked in U.S. agriculture and the railroads. Lesser known but equally important contributions included binational agreements that made available critical war supplies such as rubber, tungsten, and copper for the U.S. industrial machine and allowed Mexico’s security-sensitive neighbor to build naval bases, airfields, and radar installations in Mexican territory. Another reciprocal agreement allowed each country to draft for military service the citizens of the other who...

  11. 6 The Color of War Puerto Rican Soldiers and Discrimination during World War II
    (pp. 110-124)

    At the same time that the Allied victory over the Axis powers was being heralded as democracy’s triumph over human bondage, Puerto Rican soldiers in the U.S. armed forces were writing to leaders such as Luis Muñoz Marín, the president of the Puerto Rican Senate, with complaints of race discrimination. Letters from angry soldiers stationed in Hawaii complained that even the Japanese prisoners of war fared better than them.² In one of those letters, Private Miguel Mateo asked the Senate president to intervene on behalf of hundreds of Puerto Rican soldiers forced to work alongside Japanese prisoners of war in...

  12. 7 God and War The Impact of Combat upon Latino Soldiers’ Religious Beliefs
    (pp. 125-143)

    World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle’s adage, “There are no atheists in foxholes,” acknowledges soldiers’ entreaties to God while under the duress of battle and the threat of death. While the accuracy of Pyle’s comment is debatable, veterans’ narratives, army chaplaincy reports, and wartime soldier surveys substantiate his observation. León Leura, combat engineer with the Thirty-sixth Division and veteran of the Salerno and Anzio battlefields, for instance, recalled, “Many soldiers attended church services that never attended before.”¹ World War II chaplains likewise noted that soldiers and sailors on combat duty attended church services and conferred with chaplains at higher rates...

  13. 8 Silent Wounds Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Latino World War II Veterans
    (pp. 144-155)

    The participation of Latinos in military service during World War II had profound effects in many areas of their lives. Some had experiences that left indelible marks, not all of them positive. The men who served on the battlefield returned to their spouses, families, and friends as different men. In this chapter we describe what these men faced after their return, as well as their struggles with reintegration. We address a significant subset of Latino World War II veterans who experienced posttraumatic stress disorder (ptsd), and we use data from the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project...

  14. 9 Mother’s Legacy Cultivating Chicana Consciousness during the War Years
    (pp. 156-178)

    Women such as Aurora Orozco who became mothers following the Second World War edged away from the prescribed gender roles of their earlier years and those of their mothers, to raise children who became professionals, political activists, artists, and educators. These Mexican women of the World War II generation extended the Mexican American occupational reach to unprecedented heights by influencing the subsequent generation to make use of socioeconomic opportunities during the 1960s and 1970s. The World War II generation of Tejanas were the beneficiaries of wartime opportunities and relaxed gender roles, and they represented a transition from the experiences of...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 179-218)
    (pp. 219-240)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 241-248)