Joe M. Riojas

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Interviewed by
Vinicio Sinta
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Joe Riojas was stationed in the Pacific during World War II with the Army Air Corps, but his letters home never told the dangers he faced.

Riojas was assigned to the 58th Fighter Group, 69th Fighter Squadron. Later, he was transferred to the 338th Fighter Group. His unit was part of the Allied Forces' "island-hopping" strategy in the Pacific -- taking territory back from the Japanese.

He was born in Lockhart, Texas, 27 miles south of Austin, on Sept. 19, 1924. He was one of 13 children born to Gregorio Riojas and Macedonia Martines.

He was drafted on April 16, 1943, and reported to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Afterward, he went to San Francisco, where he boarded a ship for Australia, and then the Pacific combat zone.

Once the Americans had cleared out the Japanese, Riojas' unit went on to other combat hot spots in the Philippines, Saipan, the Solomon Islands and Okinawa.

His final stop was Okinawa, where he heard the news that the war had ended.

He was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with six Bronze Stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the Victory Ribbon and four Overseas Service Bars.

Riojas returned home Dec. 20, 1945, and moved to Austin, Texas. He worked at Economy Furniture for 32 years, where he learned the trade and made patterns for the furniture.

He met Minerva Banda Riojas; they married and had six children: Jody, Joe Richard, Carlos, Patricia Ann, Samuel David and Rebbeca. The couple divorced in 1978, and Riojas married Anselma Trejo. She died in 1994.