Commemorating National Hispanic Heritage Month

In observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month, The National WWII Museum wishes to share educational highlights of Latino WWII experiences for teachers and students.

September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. National Hispanic Heritage Month commemorates and celebrates the diverse contributions of American citizens with ancestry from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The theme for the 2020 month-long commemoration, “Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future,” invites Hispanics to embrace their backgrounds, to be proud of who they are and where they came from.

Part of that shared past that Latinos and Latinas should certainly feel proud of is their involvement during World War II. Partially because Latinos did not serve in segregated units, as African Americans and Japanese Americans did, their stories and efforts during the war have been somewhat overlooked, until very recently. Despite discrimination at home, Hispanic Americans from across the country felt called to do their part during World War II. Over 500,000 Latinos served in the US military during World War II. Countless other Latinos and Latinas rolled up their sleeves and built munitions and machinery necessary to win the war or farmed fields to feed America’s fighting men and women. In addition, many future leaders of the Latino and Chicano Civil Rights Movements began their efforts fighting for justice at home after finishing the fight against fascism abroad.

Seven brothers of the Medina family, known as "The Fighting Medinas," who served in World War II. They came from Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, and Brooklyn, New York. Courtesy of the American military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

In observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month, The National WWII Museum wishes to share educational highlights of Latino WWII experiences for teachers to introduce their students to the unique history of Hispanic Americans during the war and to pay tribute to the courage, sacrifice, and bravery of Latinos and Latinas who served their country.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15- October 15) the Museum offers its Los Veteranos Virtual Field Trip free to classrooms through generous support from Pan American Life Insurance Group. Virtual Field Trips are live and interactive video conferences with a trained Museum educator, broadcast from our Distance Learning Studio. The theme of the Los Veteranos Virtual Field Trip is Unity in Diversity. It focuses on how veterans of Hispanic heritage used their Spanish speaking skills and their culture to help win the war. The program follows the stories of four Latino and Latina veterans, including Rosemary Fagot, Enrique Cervantes, William Lansford, and Fred Maravilla, through their wartime struggles and triumphs. These veterans overcame discrimination and adversity while serving their country, demonstrating to students how Latinos and Latinas plated a significant role in the war effort. Students also examine fascinating artifacts, including propaganda posters and “Chatter,” a newspaper published by the Asociacion for the Mexican American soldiers of Tucson. This program can be booked by completing our video conference request form.

"Americans all, let's fight for victory : Americanos todos luchamos por la victoria." Office of War Information, OWI Poster 65.

To prepare for the Los Veteranos Virtual Field Trip or to introduce students to Latino and Latina WWII experiences, teachers can download the Museum’s Fact Sheet on Latinos in World War II. From there, teachers and students can dig deeper into the stories of servicemen and women as well as issues of ethnicity and acculturation on the Home Front through viewing oral histories from the Museum’s Digital Collections. Students can listen to Latino and Latina veterans William Douglas Lansford, a Marine Raider who served in the Pacific, Enrique Cervantes, a pioneering B-17 pilot who flew missions in Europe, and Rosemary Fagot, a member of the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), recount their experiences as part of the more than 500,000 Latinos and Latinas who served in World War II.

"158 RCT casualty receives plasma at front lines." [1945], Philippines. The predominantly Latino 158th Regimental Combat Team was also known as the Bushmasters. The National WWII Museum Digital Collections, Gift of Mr. Donald E. Mittelstaedt, 2008.354.380.

The National WWII Museum honors the Latinos and Latinas who served their country on the battlefront and the home front during World War II. Learn more about the many other classroom resources, lesson plans and primary sources available through The National WWII Museum by signing up to receive the Museum’s free monthly e-newsletter Calling All Teachers.

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Sergeant Jose Mendoza Lopez, US Army: Medal of Honor Series

Mexican-born Jose Lopez earned America’s highest military honor for his heroic one- man stand during the Battle of the Bulge.

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Collin Makamson

Assistant Director of Education for Curriculum, Collin Makamson holds a MA in History from the University of Southern Mississippi and has...
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