No Categories available for this record.
War & Locale: World War II -- Pacific Theater
Date of Birth:
By Laken Litman
One would think returned war veterans would try blocking battle out of their minds forever. But that’s not at all the case with Raymundo Rafael Martinez.
Having served as a Tech Sergeant in the Army’s 807th Engineer Battalion for four years during World War II, Martinez now spends much of his time volunteering with The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, a group that honors war veterans worldwide, of which Martinez became a member after his WWII welcome home party in 1946.
Before Martinez dedicated much of his life to the Armed Forces, he was a hard-working Texas kid. One of five children, he was born Feb. 8 1920, in Randado, a small town four hours and 219 miles south of San Antonio, Texas. Martinez’s father, Raymundo Martinez, worked on a farm and his mother, Librada Lopez Martinez, was a housewife.
“Growing up was not that great,” Martinez said. “There were not many excitements. We struggled a lot, but [my siblings and I] started working when we were little to help provide for our family.”
Martinez says he and his three brothers and sisters got along really well, working together either on the farm picking cotton or with the oil-well pulley machine in the oilfields.
Martinez attended public school through the seventh grade. Although he merely tested the waters of education, he says he enjoyed going to school and playing with friends.
While Martinez attended school, and even after he dropped out to work, he says he never really thought about what was going on in the world. Then, in November of 1941, Martinez was drafted into the Army.
“When World War II started, I was working,” Martinez said. “I never thought about going to war or anything. It never came to my mind that I was going to have to go some day.”
Martinez was 21 years old when he got the draft letter in November of 1941. He packed his things, had a physical and headed to Missouri for training camp.
“[Portlandwood, Mo.,] was the roughest place you’ve ever seen,” he said. “Everything was rough – physically and emotionally. Nothing easy there, and I’m glad it was that way, because you have to go through all that stuff once you’re in war.”
After three months of grueling training, Martinez was ordered to go to Seattle, Wash., before officially being sent to fight in the Aleutian Islands, two of which were occupied by Japanese forces during the war.
During his year on the islands from 1943 to 1944, Martinez saw a lot of combat and a lot of dead bodies. Among other incidents, he remembers gunning down a Japanese plane during a dog fight.
“[W]e gave him some hell,” said Martinez over the phone after his interview.
One of his duties was to dig graves for fallen soldiers.
“I saw on the other islands that soldiers were to get the dead people down in the valley,” Martinez said, clinching his fists. “They would dig a big ditch and you put [dead bodies] in a line and cover them up with dirt. On the last island, I was one of them that had to clean up. It was real bad.”
After his stint on the Aleutian Islands, Martinez went to Hawaii, where the tribulations of war were not as heavy.
“Hawaii was a good time,” Martinez said. “Didn’t think about the war or anything. Just go out and drink rum and Coca-Cola.”
But then, on May 4, 1945, it was back to reality. It was time for Martinez to go with his unit to Okinawa, Japan, for what was to be the most difficult time of his life.
“Okinawa was real rough,” he said. “Rough because we had to take all our equipment onto the island on one boat and wait for the tide to go down to unload everything. And once you get out [of the boat], you’re on the fire and they’re shooting at you. [The Japanese] were waiting for us.”
Martinez spent less than a year in Okinawa before Japan issued its formal surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.
“We were ready and packed to go to Tokyo when we found out the war was over,” Martinez said. “It was a relief, but we were really surprised the war was over.”
After the war, Martinez went back to Seattle and was discharged in November of 1945 at the rank of Tech Sergeant.
“All we had to do now was enjoy ourselves,” said Martinez of being back in the U.S.
A month later, Martinez headed back to Texas.
“When I came back, everyone was waiting for me to come back,” he said. “It was like a welcome home party.”
Since then, Martinez has been a member of Post 8621 of the VFW, which is the Alice Memorial Post in Alice, Texas, where he resides. According to the VFW’s website (www.vfw.org), the organization is 2.2-million members strong and has about 8,100 posts all over the world. The VFW’s mission is to “‘honor the dead by helping the living’ through veterans’ service, community service, national security and a strong national defense.”
Nowadays, when soldiers come home from Iraq, Martinez and his fellow Post 8621 members greet them and celebrate their homecomings. He says even though he doesn’t have much money, this is how he likes to spend it.
“Members are involved in different ways,” Martinez said. “Help out sick people or go visit them or help raise money to help them financially.”
But being a member of the VFW can be a bit depressing, too.
“We attend a lot of [veteran] burials,” he said. “It was sad because before [VFW] started, a lot of veterans were dying and nobody would be there to give them military service at their funerals. It was a sad thing for us veterans so we decided to make this club here, and now we got guns to give gun salutes.”
In addition to being an active member of the VFW, Martinez works as a mechanic in local car shops in Alice, and spends time with his four children and nine grandchildren.
After the war, Martinez was awarded four medals: the Asian Pacific Theatre Victory medal, Good Conduct medal, Occupation medal and Victory medal, all of which are displayed on a Navy vest he occasionally looks at to reminisce about how the war changed his life.
“It all makes me realize a lot of things,” Martinez said. “Makes people realize [the need to] help each other out. Makes you feel more brotherly like with everything. That’s just the way I feel.”
Mr. Martinez was interviewed in Alice, Texas, on May 23, 2007, by Megan Beck.