World War II was a turning point in US history, and its impact on Latinas and Latinos was life changing. Women served in the military, worked in civilian and war-related factories, and toiled in the fields. Nearly half-million men served in the armed forces from throughout the country, and thousands were recognized for their courage. Twelve received the highest commendation, the Congressional Medal of Honor. This book examines one, Jose M. Lopez, who was born into abject poverty in Mexico and immigrated at a young age to the Rio Grande Valley and became one of the most decorated soldiers in history. Singlehandedly, Lopez prevented hundreds of German soldiers German and a Tiger Tank from attacking his company. He became a national hero yet returned to the segregation and discrimination he had left. Lopez and his military brethren realized that if they were American enough to fight for their country, they were American enough to be treated equally in it. To achieve this equality, court decisions, civil rights legislation, and veteran’s organizations became part of postwar agenda. Latinos had paid their dues and expected respect in their country.
Manuel F. Medrano is professor emeritus at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Chapter 1: The Way Things Occur: Operation Castaña, The Urgency of Oral History
Chapter 2: Together We Win
Chapter 3: Homefront Heroes: Rosie the Riveter, Betty Crocker and the Real Women of War
Chapter 4: Los Medalleros (Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients) Tejanos
Chapter 5: From Mexico to the Magic Valley
Chapter 6: Boxer, Sailor and Husband
Chapter 7: Company K and the Machine Gun Man
Chapter 8: After the War: What Cannot Be Forgotten
Chapter 9: Keeping a Promesa
Chapter 10: Always a Soldier: When the Trumpet Blew
Appendix: An Interview with José M. López
About the Author
The Life and Times of Sergeant José M. López: Mexican by Birth, American by Valor is a true testament of recognition, remembrance, and a salute of a true American hero who received our nation's highest military accolade, yet his American story is nowhere to be found in our textbooks. Therefore, learning about the life of Sergeant José M. López closes the gaps and introduces an alternative account of the past by voicing, humanizing, and giving agency to Mexican Americans as participants in the making of our history- our American history. As an educator, scholar, and Mexican American teaching a curriculum that lacks diversity, continuity, and connection to our students' collective and personal experiences, The Life and Times of
Sergeant José M. López personifies our history and embraces, recreates, and reclaims the meaning of citizenship. As an addition and supplement reading in the classroom, the life of Sergeant José M. López fosters a sense of identity, belonging, and citizenship not just from a hero from Rio Grande Valley but as an American hero.
This manuscript provides a unique insight into the life of this real American hero. It incorporates facets of academic research that are designed to bring out the human element of the subject-matter, in this specific case, a distinctive individual. The reader is allowed to see a behind the scenes perspective of what this individual experienced during his lifetime beyond their years of military service; the reader understands what went into forming the ethical, moral and cultural core of this individual.
The manuscript is comprised of ten chapters. The author very adroitly incorporates and weaves the story of the protagonist into each chapter but also integrates his own personal or family aspect in how it relates to the protagonist. Moreover, narratives of other Latino/as who served during World War II, are juxtaposed throughout each chapter to reinforce and augment the major premise associated with each chapter. Yes, Lopez is the subject of this manuscript but the experiences of other Latino/as corroborates his account.
The manuscript is an easy and enjoyable read; it flows in a consistent manner. It is appealing to both a general audience and an academic audience. The footnotes in each chapter will permit the reader the ability to delve more deeper into a subject that earns their interest. Lastly in the Appendix, there is the primary resource of an interview with the protagonist; an exclusive window into the original research that formed the basis for this manuscript.
Lastly, this manuscript contributes to the growing library of Mexican American scholarship relating to the vital role that Latino/as played during World War II. A story that deserves and needs to be told and is finally getting its proper due in the lexicon of what constitutes an American hero. The author is to be commended for his efforts in contributing to this evolving and dynamic story of Latino/as in America.