The U.S. Army's only all Mexican-American Infantry unit to fight in WWII

Kaylah Jackson
July 24, 2018 - 11:44 am

Photo courtesy of Dave Gutierrez

Categories: 

Ramon Gutierrez was a highly decorated veteran. He escaped from the Germans twice during the Second World War and received the Order of Patriotic War Second Degree from the Soviet Union. He also happened to be part of the only all Mexican-American unit during WWII.​

Photo courtesy of Dave Gutierrez

Gutierrez is just one of the men whose stories are told in "Patriots from the Barrio. The Story of Company E, 141st Infantry: The Only All Mexican American Army Unit in World War II."

Written by Dave Gutierrez, the book tells the little-known story of the enlisted men who served in the only segregated Mexican-American Army unit during WWII. He found out about the unit during a family conversation. As it turns out, Ramon Gutierrez was Dave’s cousin. 

In 1939, there were two National Guard units out of El Paso, Texas, that served during the war, Company H, an all-white unit, and Company E, which was totally separate.

It wasn’t until 1948, when President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order abolishing racial discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces, so naturally, segregated units were the norm.

“Mexican-Americans weren’t just living anywhere they wanted, they were segregated in all of the towns throughout the Southwest…there were barrios that sprung up all over Texas, usually it was called the Mexican part of town,” said Gutierrez.

“Barrio," Spanish for “neighborhood,” describes the various areas of El Paso where the men of Company E hailed from.

While he didn’t consider himself a writer, Gutierrez was an avid reader and researcher. He enlisted the help of staff from the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, Texas, where he obtained daily reports from the officers in the unit.

“After five years of research, using genealogy research, I was able to connect with about 60 different families of the men that served in this unit and they all contributed significantly to this story,” said Gutierrez.

Photo courtesy of Dave Gutierrez
From the documents, he traced the company’s movements beginning with their actions in Salerno, Italy, also known as “Bloody Salerno.” The unit fought valiantly in Rio Rapido, during the liberation of Italy. It was during this time frame that Gutierrez’ cousin Ramon, served in Company E. 

While the rich history of these men is well-known in El Paso, Gutierrez hopes his book and that visual adaption of the story will help spread the story. Actor Wilmer Valderrama and his production company WV Entertainment recently bought the film and TV rights and is looking to do a multi-episode series based on the unit’s history.

“I would really like to see this piece of U.S. military history taught in our schools…we don’t want them to be forgotten,” Gutierrez said. “I didn’t learn this growing up in school but I think our future generations should be learning about an all Mexican U.S. Army unit in WWII.”

You can find "Patriots from the Barrio. The Story of Company E, 141st Infantry: The Only All Mexican American Army Unit in World War II" on Amazon. For more information about the author, you can visit his website.

   Contact us about this article, or share your story at [email protected]