Angela Isabel Ramirez-Herrera

Interviewed by
David M. Ramirez
Date of interview
Place of interview city
Place of interview state

By David M. Ramirez

When Angela Isabel Herrera-Flores married Adolfo Roberto “Rusty” Ramirez on Sept. 7, 1942, she became Angela I. Ramirez-Herrera. She also became a World War II bride.

Ramirez’s husband landed at Omaha Beach June 6, 1944, and fought all the way through to the surrender. Ramirez, or “Angie,” as she was known to her friends, contributed to the war effort on the home front. She was interviewed as part of her son's 1984 endeavor to record for her grandchildren and posterity her and Adolfo’s contribution to winning WWII.

“[I]t was a lot different than what it was like in Vietnam,” said Ramirez of the general mood of the country before D-Day. “There seemed to be a national spirit that people didn't seem to object to the fact that there were shortages, of course, nothing like the shortages that were going on in Europe or what we learned about later was going on in Europe. There was rationing of meat, sugar, certain staples that were just hard to find; gasoline, tires, people didn't drive cars like they do today. People did without but there was no complaining. That was the miracle of WWII, and what made it so different from what we saw in Korea and Vietnam. There was no comparison. At that time, there was a national will, and everybody seemed to go along with it.

“Everybody was extremely interested in the news. If there was a newscast and you happened to be at work and you had a radio, everybody wanted to listen; everybody stopped, because everyday somebody was getting a telegram -- ‘Your son was killed in action,’ or whatever -- and it made it very difficult

because everybody was involved. This really was a national effort.”

Among other memories, Ramirez recalls how different communicating with servicemen and women overseas was back then; pre-computers, the U.S. Postal Service was Americans’ main vehicle of communication.

“Sometimes it would be held up maybe two or three weeks. Then, all of a sudden, I’d get maybe 10 letters all at one time.

Ramirez adds, however, that, overall, the country was better at mail delivery in 1944 than today.

“One of the things I find hard to accept was, at that time, we used to be able to get mail from New York to El Paso, Texas, where I lived, within 24 hours. And now, you send a letter from here [Camarillo, Calif.] to Anaheim [,Calif.,] and it takes you three days,” she said.

“They had what you call the v-mail. I still have copies of them, some of Dad’s letters. They were just one page and you folded the letter and that letter was also the envelope, but it was censored,” Ramirez said.

It was indeed a sensitive time. Letters from soldiers were often “edited,” so as not to hurt the war effort.

“If there was anything in there that was not supposed to be in there. For example, someone who was on the front, if he happened to mention a name or a place that the censors felt should not be spoken about, they would cut it out, with a razor blade, I guess, and just cut out that whole sentence or the whole paragraph. But you got your letter, and you knew instantly that it was something that was not supposed to be discussed,” Ramirez said.

“Nobody objected. I never heard one person ever say what about freedom of the press. That’s a lot of baloney. There was a war effort going on, that was the effort, and everybody wanted the war to be won. And so everybody contributed whatever they could to the war effort.”

According to Ramirez, part of the propaganda put out by the United States about the conflict was: “You didn’t talk about the war. … Whenever your family was lucky enough to come home, you were not supposed to ask them what they were doing. You simply took joy in the fact that they were well and home, and they would go back to their unit, wherever it might be, but there was no asking,” Ramirez said. “I had four brothers in the service all at the same time, and my husband, but I never really knew what was going on, what they were doing. And of course the press gave accounts of certain battles – they gave the account because the battle was over.”

Fortunately, Ramirez experienced the homecomings of Adolfo and all of her brothers: Staff Sergeant Jose Maria Herrera, Air

Force Major Albert M. Herrera, Army Air Corp Major Alfred C. Herrera and Army Air Corp Major Fernando Herrera.

She recalls being at work at the Chamber of Commerce when she heard about D-Day.

“Luckily the Draft Board … had half the building, and somebody over there had a radio -- it generally wasn't common practice to have a radio at work -- and somebody came in and they went to the middle of the lobby and said, ‘Hey, the invasion has started,’ and everybody started to cry because most of us knew that somebody was going to be killed, and it could be some member of your family and it was a very emotional morning. And of course, after that there wasn’t much work done. If they could get to a radio, if they had a radio in their car, they ran out to their car and turned it on. Bulletins kept coming, but we also knew we wouldn't get the immediate information. By the time we heard the information, it was at least 24 hours old.”

Ramirez says she first heard her husband had survived D-Day when she got a letter from him three weeks afterward.

“At that time there were a lot of U-Boats. A lot of boats were sunk, and a lot of mail was lost, but Rusty was good about writing; he wrote almost daily. Sometimes he had to wait weeks to mail them, and then I would get a whole fistful at once. I always put them in order but I always read the last one first, to make sure that he was OK.”

Approximately 11 months later, on May 8, 1945, the U.S. and its allies officially won the war in Europe. Although Victory in Europe Day was the beginning of the end of the war as a whole, Americans didn’t rest on their laurels, Ranirez says.

“Even though [VE] Day was over, the war was not totally won. There was still the Pacific: The Japanese had not surrendered; we were still fighting on that front. Primarily, it was keep your mouth shut, don't ask questions and don't complain, you’re not so bad off. When you read the stories of people in Europe, [who] were scrounging, going through garbage cans -- we never had it that bad. Sure we had rationing and we did without, but it was really no problem. Probably, people were healthier then than they ever have been since. Sugar was rationed, meat was rationed; you only had a certain amount of it.

“You didn't go out as much. People didn't take Sunday drives and they didn't do any unnecessary driving. There were signs all over that said, ‘Is this trip really necessary?’ to remind you that you really had to go or you didn't waste your gasoline.”

When the conflict ended, many Americans felt a certain camaraderie: Unlike the Vietnam War, from which, for one reason or another, a lot of people seemed to be exempt, everyone knew someone in the service during WWII.

When the Japanese surrendered, the celebration at home mirrored the one abroad. Although Ramirez doesn’t recall any dancing in the streets, she remembered plenty of hugging and people telling each other, “’Hey, isn't it great the war is over.’ Everybody was happy. Certainly everybody at work was hugging each other saying it was over, and tears were streaming down everybody's cheeks. They were very happy about it.

“The GIs returned home on a point system -- so many points for each month in a combat zone and points if your brothers had been killed in the war. The survivors were sent home right away.”

On the economic front, Ramirez recalls the value of the 1946 dollar only being worth 1/10 of the 1939 dollar. She remembers her own salary going from $105 to $150 per month, and being given the opportunity to be trained as an auditor, because the young man she replaced was drafted.

Ramirez also remembers the Office of Price Administration and the rent controls imposed to keep costs down. Inflation really hit hard when Congress eliminated the OPA. For example, butter went from 25 cents to $1.95 a pound in short order.

She adds that those young men who had pull and got out of the draft were able to make tremendous salaries, while others risked their lives on the war front.

“The men returning from the front started at the bottom, in comparison to those who were 4F, who stayed home earning top dollar. There was a lot of resentment about this,” she said.

When asked what lesson future generations should remember from WWII, Ramirez said, “Well, it’s pretty hard to say. Time goes on and situations change.

“I will say that, to me, that was the last war where there really was a national effort, a real unified involvement. I don't know if we could ever achieve that again, under today’s conditions. If at all possible to me, that is the only way to win a war … a really unified national effort. …

“We didn't see it in Korea. We didn't see it in Vietnam. I don't really know how to account for it. I don't know what has caused the fact that we don't seem to have the nationalism we used to have. I don't know whether all of a sudden they have brought out this ethnicity, and a polarization of the various ethnic groups, that you didn't have before -- everybody was American; everybody thought American and everybody worked American. Now everybody is hyphenated. You’re either German-American, Irish-American, Jewish-American, Mexican-American, Hispanic, Cuban-American, you name it and we have it. And we didn't have that before. …

“[D]uring WWII, everybody was an American, and somehow we have lost that and I don't know how we can regain it. …

[O]ne of the sadnesses of the modern world is that, all of a sudden, everybody has to be something else, instead of being American and being proud of being an American,” Ramirez said.

Angela Velasquez contributed to this story.

Mrs. Ramirez-Herrera was interviewed in Camarillo, California, in 1984 by her son, David M. Ramirez