When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on this date in 1941, Mexican-American sailor Rudy Martinez, from San Diego, was one of the 2000-plus servicemen killed. On the “Date That Will Live In Infamy,” he became the first Latino casualty of the Second World War.
On December 7 … Rudy Martinez was a young sailor who had just left his family in San Diego for Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
That morning, the 21-year-old Navy Electrician’s mate 3rd class was aboard the USS Utah battleship when the vessel was suddenly and deliberately struck by two Japanese torpedoes in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Within minutes of being struck, the USS Utah sank, trapping Martinez, six officers, and 52 other men who went down with the ship.
A Mexican American, Martinez officially became the first Hispanic to be killed in World War II. Martinez was awarded the Purple Heart and World II Victory Medals posthumously.
Martinez was a high school wrestling champion and became a featherweight boxer. Since then the American Legion Post 624 in Mansfield, Texas has been renamed The Rudolph M. Martinez Post.
His final written letter home asked for a photo of his mother.
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- This story was first published on December 7, 2015.