Hero Street USA- Marc Wilson 2009
In 1963, Raul Morin, a foot soldier in the European front with the 79th Division during World War 2 authored “Among the Valiant” a true hard hitting saga of the Mexican-American soldiers. The first full-length factual account ever written by a U.S. born American of Mexican descent.
In 2009, 46 years later, journalist Marc Wilson rescued from oblivion the heroism of Mexican veterans of Hero Street, in the City of Silvis, Illinois. The story of the World War 2 and Korean heroes is all to common in the Mexican, Chicano community. Many parents of these young men had fled the ravages of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 – 1920, rarely sharing the horrors of the revolution where over 1 million Mexicans were killed. These refugees aspired mainly to survive-to feed and to house their children. Their children spoke English and Spanish, went to school and aspired to be Americans in a society that denied them that opportunity —1930 repatriation, 1940 Zoot Suit Wars, etc. Their parents worked hard at what ever jobs they could find and did not complain. When others went on strike they remained loyal to the companies that gave them sustenance. This characteristic trait of perseverance, hard work and determination against great odds was handed down to their children. A trait that would help them [their children] survive in World War 2 and Korea.
Hero Street USA is the story of 78 men from 35 houses on unpaved 2nd Street Silvis in Illinois. Of the 78 men, six did not come home from WW 2, and 2 did not come home from Korea. In 1993, over 20.6 percent of the US born Mexican male population were veterans. However, it is not among the living where Mexicans are the most over represented but rather among the dead, the casualties who died in their youth. In World War 2, among the twelve Mexican Medal of Honor recipients four were honored posthumously; in Korea four out of seven were awarded posthumously and in Vietnam of ten honored, four also were given posthumously. Thus, of the twenty-nine Medals of Honor given to Mexicans since World War 2 and 41 percent were awarded posthumously.
About 500,000 Hispanics served in World War 2 from 1939 to 1945, and the list of mostly Hispanic units cited for valor is several pages long. Read “Border Visions” by Carlos G. Velez-Ibanez in pages 202 to 203, Marc Wilson states, “Those who saw combat represented a distinct minority among the millions of soldiers in the U.S. Army in WW 2.” The army assigned soldiers to duties based largely on their Army General Classification Test, which was “somewhat biased against those without the benefits of extensive education,” or command of the English language. The soldiers of Hero Street USA lived in old railroad boxcars because the whites wouldn’t let them reside in town, so it wasn’t surprising that war meant combat duty in foxholes at the front.
Approximately 150,000 Hispanics served in Korea from 1950 to 1953, many earning awards for valor, from Bronze Star Medals to Medals of Honor. See PODER Hispanic Magazine Oct – Nov 2010.
Hero Street USA is the story of eight young Hispanic Men who grew up in the worst poverty possible but gave their lives for their country. The eight young men are:
La Calle del Héroe EEUU es la historia de ocho Hombres jóvenes hispanos que crecieron en la peor pobreza posible pero dieron sus vidas por la patria. Los ocho jóvenes son:
Name Born Killed Age
1. Tony Pompa 1-17-24 1-31-44 20
2. Frank Sandoval 21 6-26-44 23
3. Willie Sandoval 24 10-06-44 20
4. Claro Solis 8-12-20 1-19-45 24
5. Peter Masias 3-13-24 3-24-45 21
6. Joseph Sandoval 3-18-19 4-14-45 26
7. Joseph Gomez 11-13-29 5-18-51 21
8. Johnny Munos 4-03-28 8-27-51 23
This is an exciting book to read and I highly recommend it to the sociologist who is interested in the history of discrimination against the migrating Mexicans, and the war buffs as active participants and the arm chair traveler who is tracing the regiments, divisions and battle sites. The author has traced the family’s origins, migration, jobs, and education. He also follows the young men into battle up to their last minutes of life. In the end the author visit’s the fallen soldiers home and the changes that have occurred since the end of WW 2 and Korea, the separate families views on patriotism and what it means to be American. Excellent book
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