Categories: Post War Service
War & Locale: World War II -- European Theater
Date of Birth:
No Birthdate available for this record.
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By Rebecca Fontenot
Anastacio Rodriguez spent four weeks in Cheyenne, Wyo., training with the Army for World War II, but he didn’t need to be taught how to roll with the punches. Rodriguez had been taking hardship in stride since he was a young boy.
“I can’t remember very good my mother, and my daddy I know a little,” Rodriguez said.
His mother, Bartola, had passed away by the time he was eight years old. Pablo, his father, died within the next two years, leaving Rodriguez and his nine siblings to fend for themselves. He helped his brothers on the farm, which took him out of school from time to time. By the ninth grade, he was working full time and no longer able to “play ball, talk and do whatever it is you’re supposed to at school.” Picking cotton from sunup to sundown occupied him for 5 years. The 35 cents he was getting paid daily wasn’t enough for him, though.
“Now all these young kids here, they’ve got everything,” Rodriguez said. “The work that I had was way low. Now everything looks so easy, but it’s not.”
In their small Texas town of Lockhart, the Rodriguez family didn’t even have access to a newspaper or radio. On weekends, he and his brother would walk or get rides downtown from neighbors to hear from the town crier the weekly news, much of which concerned the war. As a result, Rodriguez knew his fate before his 21st birthday.
“I didn’t go by myself. They came and picked me up. At 21, you must report. They called me and I had to go.”
Rodriguez was drafted into the Army, trained and assigned to the 648th Tank Destroyer Battalion. He didn’t see his siblings for almost 3 years. When he finally returned to Texas, one of his sisters welcomed him.
“She opened the door. It was late at night. We got together, and woke up the brothers and sisters,” he said.
Over the past few years, Rodriguez has kept in touch with his family through letters. During the war, he tried to keep his sisters updated on what he was doing from day to day, but they never really knew. One of his sisters showed him his letters when he got home, which were covered in scratch-outs. All mail was reviewed by Army officials before being sent out.
“If they don’t like it, they scratch it,” he said.
Rodriguez and his fellow servicemen had mixed emotions about coming home. He worried about having to find a job and making a living, and he didn’t know what he wanted to do, he said.
While he was gone, his brothers had moved to San Antonio, so he followed them and made his home there. In the next few years, he met his wife, Mary Santos Rodriguez. He doesn’t remember how, though, he said with a laugh.
They married when he was 25 or 26 and lived in San Antonio, raising a family of three girls and two boys.
“I’m glad to have all this. What I can’t do, they do it for me,” he said.
Living in Texas, Rodriguez came across some discrimination due to his Mexican ancestry, but he didn’t let it get him down.
“Things are better now between whites and Mexicans. Now everyone comes together. It’s different from years when I was young,” he said.
While in the Army, the war took his 400-person battalion to France, Central Europe and ultimately Germany. He didn’t feel discriminated against while overseas, saying of the experience, “it’s all the same. We’re the same color, all white people.”
Rodriguez spent nights on watch duty, fought on the front lines and worked on tanks and trucks.
“We never stayed in town. We always stayed in the woods. We were fighting,” he said.
According to Rodriguez’s wife, Mary Santos Rodriguez, he would later enjoy comparatively luxurious accommodations: As an aircraft mechanic with the Civil Service after the war, he stayed at Air Force bases all over Europe. Before he was able to enjoy that luxury, however, he spent a lot of time missing good old home cooking, as his unit’s meals usually consisted of canned foods heated by placing them on military-truck engines.
In an act of cruelty surely banned in the Geneva Convention, Germans destroyed the one hot meal he was going to receive after returning from the front lines.
“A plane came in and knocked the whole thing down. We didn’t get that meal at all,” he said.
The day the war ended, Rodriguez was working on trucks intended for the front lines. When the news was announced, “I was jumping all over like everybody,” he said. “We left everything there and we celebrated with everything we had over there.”
He was discharged on Dec. 21, 1945, at the rank of Tec 5.
Rodriguez experienced some combat during the war, however, he doesn’t like to talk about or try to recall it.
“I don’t want to remember that … yeah,” he said, getting quiet.
He focuses on the parts of his life that have made him happy, like his children, one of whom was with him, who he kept pointing at proudly.
“I have no complaints at all.”
Mr. Rodriguez was interviewed on Nov. 16, 2004, in San Antonio by Pedro Reynoso.