Latino Advocates for Education, Inc.
We do not glorify war or promote militaristic solutions to our nation's international affairs. We do not advocate that all Latino youth join our military forces. We are, however, justifiably proud of our veterans and of our patriotic heritage. Moreover, our Latino patriots have not been recognized in our children’s school books, in documentary films, in feature films, on television or in the print media.
For example, during the American Revolution, General Bernardo de Galvez of New Orleans led a 5,000 man army and navy against the British. His forces consisted of Spaniards, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and other Latinos. General Galvez captured the strategic British forts of Baton Rouge, Mobile and Pensacola, thus keeping the vital Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River from being controlled by England.
In the Civil War, more than 10,000 Latinos loyally served in both Union and Confederate forces. Our country's highest medal for valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor, was awarded to Philip Bazaar and John Ortega. Moreover, the first admiral of our Navy, Admiral David G. Farragut, who was commissioned by President Lincoln, was Latino.
During the Spanish-American War, Latinos proudly served under Lt. Col. Teddy Roosevelt. Captain Maximiliano Luna of New Mexico helped Roosevelt organize and lead the famous "Rough Riders".
Thousands of Latino "doughboys" fought in World War I. David Barkley, a Mexican American from Laredo, Texas was awarded the Medal of Honor. Bert Acosta, a famous aviator from San Diego, California taught scores of Canadian and American pilots to fly.
During World War II we estimate that over 500,000 Latinos proudly served our country. They fought in every major battle from Pearl Harbor to North Africa, from Bataan to Anzio, from Corregidor to Normandy, from Guadalcanal to Remagen, from Okinawa to the Battle of the Bulge. Research of World War II archival data by Rogelio Rodriguez of our group, shows that 12 Latinos were awarded the Medal of Honor, 126 the Distinguished Service Cross, 19 the Navy Cross, 45 the Legion of Merit, 1,409 the Silver Star, 2,807 the Bronze Star, 12,058 the Purple Heart, 29 Belgium Awards, 4 French Awards, 74 the Distinguished Flying Cross, 773 the Air Medal, 768 the Combat Infantry Badge, 174 the Combat Medic Badge and 47 the Soldiers Medal. According to partial statistics from the armed forces, 9,831 Latinos gave their lives in defense of our country including 7,127 from the Army, 355 Marines, 710 from the Navy, 12 from the Coast Guard and 78 Merchant Marines. Finally, 1,532 were Missing in Action and 2,561 were Prisoners of War. We are continuing to conduct research to determine the final total number of Latino casualties from the Army, Army Air Corps, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard during World War II.
During World War II, Latinos were also noteworthy for being "first in and last out". The first American casualty at Pearl Harbor was Ensign Manuel Gonzalez, a Navy pilot from the USS Enterprise. In addition, RdM Pete Limon of the USS Swan survived that "day of infamy" at Pearl Harbor. Marine Cpl Alfonso Moreno valiantly fought with his unit in Guam but was captured on December 9, 1941 and was a Prisoner of War for 1,404 days until October 12, 1945. Similarly, Carlos R. Montoya in Bataan and William R. Sanchez in Corregidor held out with their troops for several months until they were captured and held as Prisoners of War for over three years. In June, 1944 Marine PFC Guy Gabaldon captured, single-handedly, over 1,000 Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Saipan. The 1960 feature film, Hell to Eternity, starring Jeffrey Hunter, depicted the heroic acts of Gabaldon, but the film never acknowledged the hero as being Mexican American.
During the Korean War, we estimate that over 180,000 Latinos served. Of the 36,574 casualties, 2,721 were Latinos. Significantly, 30% of the casualties from Orange County, California were Mexican Americans when they comprised 5% of the county’s residents. Therefore they were dying at six times their numbers. Of the 2,611 Californians who were killed in action, 518 were Mexican Americans, that is, 20%, which was four times their numbers in our state. Of the 1,779 Texans who gave their lives, 371 were Mexican Americans, which was four times their numbers in Texas. Eight Latinos were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroism. Air Force Col. Manuel Fernandez was one of the war's most decorated jet fighter pilot "aces" with 14.5 MIG "kills".
In the Vietnam War, 15 Latinos received the Medal of Honor, including Special Forces Sgt. Roy Benavidez who suffered more than 30 severe wounds by repeatedly returning through heavy enemy fire to assist and carry 8 wounded men into his helicopter. Ensign Everett Alvarez, Navy jet pilot, was shot down and held as a Prisoner of War for over 9 years. Of the 5,572 Californians who were killed in action, 823 were Latinos, that is, 15% at a time when Latinos represented 7% of the state. Of the 3,405 Texans who died, 784 were Latinos which represented 23%, which was twice their population. In New Mexico, Latinos accounted for 44% of the deaths while they made up 27% of the citizens of that state.
During the Persian Gulf War, thousands of Latinos served. The first casualty from Orange County was Air Force Captain Arthur Galvan who was piloting an AC- 130 Spectre gunship which was shot down while attacking an Iraqi missile battery.
On July 8, 2004, President George W. Bush declared: "Some 85,000 Latinos have served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. More than 100 have given their lives. Over 400 have been injured in combat. Our nation will never forget their service and their sacrifice to our security and to our freedom.
As of March 20, 2009, the Department of Defense reported 4,143 males and 102 females were killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 641 males and 14 female lost their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). According to the Congressional Research Service, of those killed in Iraq, 450 were Latino and 52 killed in Afghanistan were Latino. That is 10.6 per cent of the casualties in Iraq were Latino and 7.9 per cent in Afghanistan were Latino. The statistics for African American casualties, according to the study, was 407 deaths in Iraq (9.6 per cent) and 52 deaths in Afghanistan (7.9 per cent). The first American killed from Orange County was Marine Cpl Jose Angel Garibay.
It is therefore fitting that we document the patriotism of our Mexican American men and women and recognize them for their courage and sacrifice.
From 1998 to 2003 our organization hosted an annual Veterans Day conference at Santa Ana College to honor our Latino veterans with color guard units, marching bands, skydivers, F-18 jet flyovers and display of military vehicles and veteran’s artifacts. From 2000 to 2011 we hosted the event at California State University, Fullerton.
In 2003 we authored A Tribute to Mexican American Prisoners of War which described the heroism and valor of 43 Latino POWs from World War II to Kosovo.
In 2005, we composed our second book Undaunted Courage – Mexican American Patriots of World War II which profiled over 425 hundred World War II veterans who defended our country and 77 “Rosie Riveters” who toiled in the factories. Even though they faced open discrimination on the home front such as segregated public schools they unhesitatingly answered the call of duty and valiantly fought against tyranny and oppression abroad. Special recognition was accorded to those super patriotic families who had 3 or more brothers in World War II. We discovered more than 65 families who had 3 or more brothers serving at the same time during the war. In fact, we have 5 families with 6 brothers and one family with 8 brothers who served.
In 2006 we wrote our third book Strength and Honor: Mexican Americans in the Vietnam War which profiled over 139 Vietnam War veterans.
In 2007 we saluted our Korean War veterans in our fourth book Freedom is Not Free: Mexican Americans in the Korean War in which we profiled 225 veterans and also 50 additional Latino veterans from World War II.
In 2008 we paid tribute to all of our veterans and our guest of honor was Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Miranda Braman, a Pentagon staff member who became a national hero on September 11, 2001 when he re-entered the Pentagon several times at the risk of his own life to save others as the Pentagon was engulfed in flames and smoke. President Bush awarded Sgt. Braman the Purple Heart.
In 2009 we honored our Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans and their families. We compiled all of our previous books and additional documentation in a CD entitled Mexican American Patriots-World War 1to Iraq and Afghanistan War. The keynote speaker was Lt. General Ricardo S. Sanchez (Ret.) who commanded nearly 180,000 personnel from 36 different countries during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2010 we honored the 52 Gold Star families in Orange County whose sons and daughter gave their lives in defense of our nation in our current wars. U.S. Marine Corps Col. John Telles (Ret.), a Vietnam War veterans and Presidential helicopter pilot of Marine One for Presidents Nixon and Ford was the keynote speaker.
In 2011 we produced a DVD documentary film entitled American Patriots – Latinos in World War II which profiled 7 famous Americans who happened to be Latino. They included baseball legend Ted Williams, boxing Hall of Famer Manuel Ortiz, international dancing star Jose Limon, philanthropist Maria Dolores Hernandez, television pioneer Desi Arnaz, Marine Corps hero Guy Gabaldon and human rights leader Cesar Chavez.
We thank each of the veterans and their families for providing the photographs and information.
We salute each veteran and their family and thank them for their sacrifice and devotion to our flag and our country.
Frederick P. Aguirre
President of Latino Advocates for Education, Inc., is a Superior Court Judge. His family has resided in Orange County since 1918. His father, Alfred V. Aguirre, three uncles and 23 cousins served in World War II. Scores of his cousins served in the Korean War, Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His cousin, Staff Sgt. Christopher Miranda Braman (Ret.) was awarded the Soldier's Medal for Heroism and the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in saving lives in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
Linda Martinez Aguirre
Secretary of Latino Advocates for Education, Inc., is a junior high school teacher of World History in the Anaheim Union High School District. Her father, Eutiquio G. Martinez, three uncles and 4 cousins served in World War II. Several of her uncles, brother and cousins also served in the Korean War, Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rogelio C. Rodriguez, B.S., M.S.
has been conducting military history research on Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces for over 15 years.
His professional experience includes engineering, higher education management, and organizational learning and development consulting.