What started as one man’s quest to look into his family tree leads to an entire company of soldiers to have their story of bravery told at the National World War II Museum.
Dave Gutierrez’s research into his relatives WWII service led him to write the book Patriots from the Barrio, the true story of Company E 141st Infantry: the only all Mexican American Army Unit in WWII.
His relative, Ramon Gutierrez from Del Rio, served in Company E, an original Texas National Guard unit from El Paso. During his research the author connected with several families from El Paso who had relatives that served in the historic unit to be able to write their true story.
Gutierrez originally self-published the book in 2014 and had his first book signing event at Captain John Chapin High School. Captain Chapin who was killed in action during the war was the commanding officer of the unit.
In 2017, Actor/Producer Wilmer Valderrama’s production company obtained the film rights to the book, with plans to produce a TV series based on their story.
Gutierrez has had several appearances in El Paso, he was featured twice on the El Paso History Radio Show with hosts Jackson Polk and Melissa Sargent, he has presented at both the El Paso Museum of History and the Centennial Museum on the UTEP campus.
As a result of his work, the National WWII Museum invited Gutierrez to present in New Orleans on August 13th. Many of the families with El Paso ties will be in attendance.
Prior to the presentation of Patriots from the Barrio, the Institute for the Study for War and Democracy will host a reception to honor several families of the veterans featured in Gutierrez’s book who will be in attendance.
“It does not escape me that we will be presenting the true story of the only all Mexican American Army unit at the National WWII Museum. It is a tremendous honor to do so,” Gutierrez shares. “I commend the staff at the museum and especially Ed Lengel, the Director of Programming at the National WWII Museum, for recognizing that the story of Company E should have a platform. Over 350,000 Mexican Americans served in WWII, this is just one story. It is our hope that many more will follow.”
Several of the families have already pledged to make the trip to New Orleans; with Alex Carrillo Junior and several family members confirming they will be in attendance.
Alex Carrillo, Senior served in the weapons platoon of Company E and had the distinction of making all the landings with Company E in WWII that included, North Africa, Salerno, Anzio, and Southern France.
Rafael Torres’ family will be arriving from many parts of the country for the festivities in New Orleans. Rafael Torres was one of six Torres brothers from El Paso serving in the U.S. Army during WWII.
Alex Rivas was an original member of Company E before being selected as one of only two enlisted men to be training U.S. Army officers in enemy tactics at Camp Ritchie. Alex’s son Albert Rivas will also be making the trip to New Orleans.
Dave Gutierrez adds, “El Paso will be well represented in New Orleans and we look forward to introducing Company E’s story to many who will hear the presentation for the first time.”
The National WWII Museum encourages those who plan to attend the events in New Orleans to register online. For those who cannot be in attendance August 13th in New Orleans, the National WWII Museum will be live steaming the event, via this link.