"During World War II," remembers Ila Rodriguez Plasencia, "my family was wiped out; just my father and I were left."
In 1943, Ila received notification from the Imperial Japanese Army that her oldest brother, Second Lieutenant Bernardo Navallo, was imprisoned in a POW camp on Honshu Island. In an official card signed by Bernardo, he described his health as "fair," that he was "under treatment," and "improving." But Ila's worst fears were realized when she received a telegram two years later informing her that he had died of acute colitis on February 2, 1945.
Mary Vasquez Olvera vividly recalled how her family received news of the death of her two brothers. Paratrooper Albert Vasquez was killed in action in Belgium on December 27, 1944; three months later, her brother Ralph was shot down by a sniper in Germany while serving in the infantry:
We were living in Cook's Point when my two older brothers died, Albert and Ralph. . . . All we got was a telegram. A policeman came and he asked if this was the Vasquez and we said, "Yes." And he said, "Well here is a telegram for you." Then we heard about our other brother. My mother was just struck, stunned more or less. She had a big nine by twelve picture of our oldest brother and she just clutched it to her bosom. And my other brother, she did the same.
Mary García Rick was working for Western Union in Mason City when news of her brother’s death arrived at the office. After a co-worker blurted out that John García had died in combat, Mary took the telegram and went home to tell her mother. All five sons in the Quiñones family served in the military during World War II and the Korean War. The eldest son William Quiñones had risen to the rank of Corporal in the U.S. Army when he was killed in action in Germany on December 27, 1944. His photographs, letters and v-mail are preserved in the State History Society of Iowa in Iowa City.
From just one block on 2nd Street in Silvis, in western Illinois, six Mexican Americans died in little more than a year. Tony Pompa died in January 1944 when his bomber was shot down over Italy. Six months later Frank Sandoval lost his life in Burma. On April 14, 1945, his brother Joseph was reported missing in action in Germany. When his body was returned in December, the streets of Silvis, still unpaved, were too muddy for the hearse to drive on, so friends carried his coffin up the street to the Sandoval home. Claro Solis died in the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945. Peter Masias (whose name was spelled this way by immigration officials decades earlier) died when he parachuted into anti-aircraft fire over the River Elbe in April 1945.