POW (Prisoner Of War)

Joe M. Ruiz

By Darcy Keller

As a prisoner of war, Private Joe M. Ruiz narrowly escaped death at the end of World War II.

After a failed mission and a surprise encounter with the Japanese, Ruiz, who served with the 389th Coast Artillery Battalion of the 6th Army, was captured and taken to Kobe, Japan. As a prisoner, he endured beatings and starvation until the Red Cross rescued him after the war ended with the bombing of Nagasaki.

"It saved my life when they dropped those bombs in Nagasaki," Ruiz said. "When [the] Red Cross got me out, I was more dead than alive. I was 104 pounds."

Pete Dimas

By Shelley Hiam

Memories of childhood and his mother's mouth-watering cooking remain fresh on Pete Dimas' mind. Sopapillas, chili with carne sauce and delicious beans are some of the foods he remembers.

"Mother was an excellent cook. You name it, she had it. She could do breakfast too," Dimas said.

Although he grew up in the Depression, Dimas says his family didn't have a hard time as far as eating was concerned.

Richard G. Candelaria

By Yvonne Lim

Growing up in Southern California during the 1920s and 1930s, Richard G. Candelaria would bike up to the top of Mulholland Drive to watch the P-38 twin-engine fighter planes take off and land from Burbank. Candelaria read magazine articles about World War I bi-planes, about people like the Red Baron and the Lone Eagle; they inspired him as a boy.

“I wanted to be a fighter pilot,” he said. “That was my one wish.”

Dominick Tripodi

By Jose Araiza

While many were in shock after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Domínick Tripodi unhesitatingly volunteered to fight terrorism abroad. The U.S. Army applauded his initiative and loyalty but denied his petition. Although a seasoned war veteran, Tripodi is 76 years old.

Tripodi's sense of patriotism began at 17 when he lied about his age to fight for his country. This patriotism continues to help him come to terms with the psychological effects of war and the subsequent challenges he currently faces.

Agapito Encinias Silva

By Helen Peralta

As a World War II prisoner of war, Agapito E. Silva said death often marched beside him while battling in the Phillippines. Having learned the art of survival is what allows him to vividly recount memories of a war that continues to haunt him.

"I never gave up hope," recalled 83-year-old Silva of San Marcel, N.M. "Guys that gave up hope never made it."

Ralph Rodriguez

By Sara Kunz

Ralph Rodriguez dreamed of being an ambassador to Central America after graduating from college, but his plans were crushed when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in February of 1941. Rodriguez had been working at New Mexico Timber Co. for three years when he was called to war.

Jose Fuljencio Martinez

By Tony Cantú

Jose Fuljencio Martinez remembers the minutest details of his tour of duty's defining moment, his unit's surrender at Bataan, recalling virtually every tear and each bead of sweat he shed as he faced his captors.

"I could feel the tears coming down. They would burn. And then a drop of sweat would run down. It would be so cold and all of a sudden it would burn like fire! Like you got a lit match and put it against your skin."

Tony Aguilera

By Yasemin Florey

Even though Tony Aguilera's childhood in an East Los Angeles barrio was once marked by poverty, he remembers it fondly.

"We were a very happy family," he said of his Mexico-born parents and 13 siblings. "We played marbles and tops and flew kites. We sent to the fields and caught rabbits."

Aguilera would leave his home and fond memories behind when, on March 4, 1942, he was drafted into the service as a member of a Texas infantry unit in Europe. Eventually, he’d become a prisoner of war in a German camp for 16 months.

Arthur Smith

By Ashley Clary

The laugh-worn eyes of Arthur B. Smith hide a courageous yet triumphant story. Not only did he face the dangers of the 1942 Bataan Death March and three years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, he went on to lead a productive and fulfilling life.

Smith was born June 14, 1919, to José Padilla Smith and Isabel Britton Smith in Santa Fe, N.M. Neither of his parents received more than a third-grade education. One of eight brothers and sisters who grew up in Santa Fe, Smith graduated from high school and joined the military in 1940.

Catarino Hernandez

By Antonio Gilb

In the first days of the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, in Schmidt, Germany, American scouts reported that a division of German tanks and soldiers lay on the outskirts of town, ready to attack. To minimize casualties, officers hastily ordered the unit to abandon the area. But in their haste, the unit commanders left behind a handful of soldiers. Catarino Hernandez, an 18-year-old from Seguin, was among them.

Subscribe to POW (Prisoner Of War)