Opinions on Hispanic Americans in World War II

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Hispanic Americans, also referred to as Latinos, served in all elements of the American armed forces in the war. They fought in every major American battle in the war. Between 250,000 and 500,000 Hispanic Americans served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, out of a total of 12,000,000, constituting 2.3% to 4.7% of the U.S. Armed Forces. The exact number is unknown as, at the time, Hispanics were not tabulated separately, but were generally included in the general white population census count. Separate statistics were kept for African Americans and Asian Americans.

On December 7, 1941, when the United States officially entered the war, Hispanic Americans were among the many American citizens who joined the ranks of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps as volunteers or through the draft. Not only did Hispanics serve as active combatants in the European and Pacific Theatres of war, but they also served on the home front as civilians. Hundreds of Hispanic women joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) and Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), serving as nurses and in administrative positions. Many worked in traditionally male labor jobs in the manufacturing plants that produced munitions and materiel, replacing men who were away at war.

When conscription was increased, some Puerto Ricans from the island were assigned as replacements to units in the Panama Canal Zone and British Caribbean islands, which were made up mostly of continental (United States mainland) soldiers. Most Puerto Ricans and Hispanics residing in Puerto Rico were assigned to the 65th Infantry Regiment or to the Puerto Rico National Guard. These were the only all-Hispanic units whose statistics were kept. More than 53,000 Puerto Ricans and Hispanics who resided on the island served in the war. According to Senator Robert Menendez, more than 9,000 Latinos died in the defense of the United States in World War II. Because of lack of separate documentation, the total number of Hispanic Americans who died in the conflict is unknown.

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