Bombs lit up a sunless sky. A surprise attack -- airplane strikers, submarines, and Japanese soldiers relentlessly assaulting the naval base. Daybreak had yet to arrive at 3:42 a.m., when the first enemy was registered approaching Pearl Harbor. The date: December 7, 1941. “A date which will live in infamy,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt dubbed it when he declared war on Japan the next day.
Almost 2,500 Americans lost their lives that morning and as the United States rushed into a second World War, Mexican-Americans answered their country’s call for soldiers -- for fighters who would protect the freedom and safety of an entire nation. It’s estimated that anywhere from 13.9 percent to 18.6 percent of all Mexican Americans joined the military during World War II.
"If you look at the statistics, you would have to conclude that that 375 thousand to half a million estimate, out of a 2.69 million population, is extraordinarily high. Remember that you also have Mexican American women serving in the armed forces, as well as Mexican nationals," said Dr. Dennis Bixler-Martínez of the University of Texas at El Paso.
The video above, from Sacramento, California, PBS affiliate KVIE's series, Valentía, Mexican Americans In World War II, brings the stories of these brave patriots to life, to earn their rightful place in American history.
Mexican-American soldiers fought in every major battle during the war and in every branch of the U.S. armed forces. What they achieved, what they endured, what they lost and what they gained should not be forgotten.
Sheer numbers aside, and the fact that these men and women included "the highest percentage of Congressional Medal of Honor winners of any minority" during the war, it was the individual efforts and sacrifices of these Mexican-Americans that not only helped the Allies emerge victorious, but served as catalysts for change back home once the war ended. The United States would never be the same again.