Latino Participation in the World War II

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During World War II, America recruited as many men as possible who were to help in fighting the enemies. These men were from different racial backgrounds, and the Latinos were not an exemption. The number of Latinos who assisted in the Second World War battle is not recognized but is estimated to range from 250,000 to 500,000 soldiers. There was both men and women assistance, for instance, the Puerto Rican women came up with the Women’s Army Corps, which encouraged other female participants in the war (Navarro and Armando 4). The Latinos were among the initial United States men to engage in the battle thus helping in understanding better the legacies and significance of World War II.

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Latino soldiers were among the first men to participate in the Second World War battles. Before the war began, American had sent its soldiers to defend the Philippines, and his anger caused the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The soldiers who were sent during that period were from the New Mexico National Guard which was made up of mostly Hispanic officers. Some of the men were selected purposely due to their ability to speak Spanish as, during that time, most of the Philippines still used Spanish as their language. Due to their excellent work, numerous of the Hispanic soldiers were recognized due to their contribution to the war, mostly Private Jose P. Martinez, who was a New Mexican but, had Spanish ancestral blood. Due to his contribution to the war, Martinez became the first Latino to receive a Hispanic Medal of Honor, and his legacy lives to the present and is found on scholarships, an American Legion post, and part of the Disabled American Veterans. It shows that during the Second World War, all men who participated and were outstanding got recognition despite their home background, as seen with the Latino Martinez (Gonzales 10).

Since the United States army was made of diverse soldiers, it caused disagreements between them which affected the war on the American side. One of such cases is the tampering with the anti-Hispanic sentiments in the army by heroic soldiers such as Martinez. It originated from the 1943 Zoot Suit riots causing confrontations between the Mexican American youth and servicemen, known as pachucos. A race riot was witnessed in the city, and the policy contributed very little to assist the Hispanic communities who were under attack. The situation was used by the United States enemies to create propaganda against America (Noricks 13). Such disagreements are also the reasons why the allies lost some battles to the axis since they were divided among themselves instead of being united against a common enemy. The race riot also explains the ineffective leadership seen from the side of the American soldiers since they could not contain the arguments between the Hispanic and the non-Hispanic groups.

The Latinos did not only participate in the battlefield but they also played noncombat roles. The Santa Fe Battalion, participants of the 713th Railway Operation Battalion of the Military Railway Service who were experienced, railway individuals. They were responsible for railway construction in places where the war took places such as North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany, and they would repair old tracks, build new ones, and operated trained to ensure that the United States and British units were supplied with what they required such as food, clothing, medical supplies, and military equipment. Since then, railway transport spread to other parts of the world, and it eased the transport of soldiers during the war. It is one of the factors which contributed to the success of the Allies in the Second World War (Nash 29).

During the battles, the Latinos played an essential role on the home front. When the Great Depression swept over America, most Hispanic Americans lost their jobs due to repatriation. As the war was beginning, America was hiring soldiers, and there were lots of men who wanted work opportunities, so they were the first men to get enrolled in the military (Rivas-Rodriguez 7). Since there were lots of Mexicans willing to join the army, it led to the forging of an agreement between the governments of Mexico and America, known as the Bracero Program. Through the programs, Mexican contract laborers were to move to America from 1942, where they were to be given agricultural jobs. Within a period of five years, about 200, 000 Mexicans were working in America under the contract. The Mexicans were expected to show patriotism in the nation as they earned income. The agricultural food materials were meant to feed the soldiers during the Second World War. Since then, the relationship between Mexico and America was improved, and Mexico was willing to help during the war.

Some of the hired Latinos were working to defend the industries during the Second World War. Traditionally, the Latinos were not allowed to participate in such work. The onset of the war, however, change things and there was a new demand for employees and Latinos since they were available, the Latino became assigned different posts such as in aircraft facilities, shipyards, and armament factories. They did not care whether the jobs were well-paying or not, the Latinos took any positions that were available. The Mexican American women also began to join in the defense workers, and there were thousands of them operating as riveters in the factories. Earlier before the war, women were only given jobs such as garment workers, farm laborers or maids. The defense jobs gave the Mexican women higher payment, and they gained an opportunity to interact with other female employees from diverse racial groups. The participation of the Latino women, therefore, helped in diverting the role of women in society and they were considered as able to take part in jobs considered for men only. Through their interaction with other women, the Mexican women were able to understand the exploitation suffered by others in different races (Rivas-Rodriguez and Olguin 17).


In conclusion, the participation of the Latino brings out the irony in the Second World War. Through the war, the Latinos gained expanded opportunities to improve economically such as through the Bracero Program which offered job opportunities to both men and women. The Latinos were also able to integrate further into the society considering that they met other racial groups and shared their experiences. The Second World War was able to change the role of women from being viewed as weak to being given defense jobs considered for men, and they were better paying. The Latino took the opportunity to challenge the concept of discrimination which extended multiculturalism and civil liberties in the United States.

Works Cited

Gonzales, Manuel G. Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the United States. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009. Print.

Nash, Gerald D. The American West Transformed: The Impact of the Second World War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985. Print.

Navarro, Sharon A, and Armando X. Mejia. Latino Americans and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Internet resource.

Noricks, Michael. Latino and Hispanic History: The Story of the Usa's Majority Minority. Outskirts Press, 2014. Print.

Rivas-Rodriguez, Maggie, and B V. Olguin. Latina/os and World War Ii: Mobility, Agency, and Ideology. , 2014. Print

Rivas-Rodriguez, Maggie. Mexican Americans and World War Ii. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.

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