Branch of Service: Army
Conflict: Korean War (1950-1953)
Years of Service: 1950-1951
The Unbroken Line
President Truman writes: “In Grateful Memory of Private First Class Jesus B. Castro who died in service of his country in the military operations in Korea on October 15, 1951 – He stands in the unbroken line of patriots” -
It is the morning of June 3rd 1944. Crew members of the Aircraft Carrier USS Croatan are not aware that D-Day is only three days away as the ship’s galley is readied for “morning mess”. It is “zero dark thirty” as Navy cooks Sal Duarte and Joe Cruz serves the crew of about 1000 sailors aboard ship. The bosun’s pipe shrills via intercom, followed by “all hands man your battle stations” as Duarte, Cruz and others in the galley race through gas shut off procedures and man the 20 mm machineguns. The Croatan has been ordered to provide support to the USS Guadalcanal in a secret operation in the North Atlantic. The world does not know and will not know until the end of World War II, that the USS Guadalcanal is about to capture the German U-Boat U-505; along with the Enigma encrypting machine and codebook making it possible for the U.S. Navy to intensify devastating blows in the North Atlantic to the 3rd Reich as World War II comes to an end.
General Douglas MacArthur by his signature marks the end of World War II on September 2nd 1945. The end of World War II ushers in a period of political change. As members of “the Greatest Generation”, my father Sal Duarte and his life-long friend, Joe Cruz, are now destined to return to their homes in California. It is hoped by returning servicemen that the last Great War has been fought. The atomic age, however, ushered by the instability of Communist versus Free China; bears Korea as the next stage of conflict.
At dawn October 31st 1945, Duarte boards a train to Chicago. He reports to the USO in Chicago for a one night’s stay. The next day he boards a train to San Pedro California. The process of honorable discharge proceeds as he and his shipmates are honored with a Navy band playing “Anchors Away”. The “Ruptured Duck”, The Honorable Service Lapel Button, is awarded to him along with a one-way bus pass to his hometown, San Fernando. Duarte still in Navy uniform tears his bus pass in half as he flips a thumb out for a ride. An elder couple in their car immediately stops. “Where ya headed son”? The young sailor explains he is returning to San Fernando to surprise his family. He then hitches a 2-hour ride directly to his mother’s doorstep.
A candle light vigil has continued for nearly four years by Margarita and Refugio Duarte who have prayed for their son’s safe return. It is 7 November 1945. Prayers have been answered. Thanks be to God, Salvador has been returned safely. It is now a celebration of life with the first home cooked meal as Salvador, Refugio and Margarita are reunited.
It’s back to work for Duarte who, while temporarily residing with his parents, meets and befriends his neighbor Chuy (Jesus Castro). Just 15 years old, Chuy recently moved from Mexico and is renting a room from Temoteo (24 January 1880 – 7 March 1962) and Maria Hernandez in the house next door. Chuy’s life has already been fraught with challenges. An only child, he was born March 14, 1930 in California. His mother, Valvina Beas Castro, dies giving him birth. Chuy’s father, Casimiro Castro returns to Mexico with his newborn son. Shortly thereafter, Casimiro Castro dies. Chuy’s uncle Guadalupe Beas and his wife Maria Inez Beas temporarily care for Chuy. A few years later, his grandfather, Don Rito (Tiburcio Castro) adopts Chuy and raises him through his early teens. Chuy then returns to California to pursue his dream: Earn enough money to build a home in the village in Mexico where he was raised.
Two years slip by. Just before the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, Chuy becomes engaged to marry one of my mother’s sisters living in the village where he was raised. Political issues building thousands of miles away in Korea do not go by unnoticed. Many who live and work in the mission hamlet of San Fernando are aware of the coming storm. Chuy’s life dream is temporarily on hold. He is called to serve our country as a soldier in military operations in Korea, and answers the call enthusiastically. Though Chuy grew up in Mexico, his greatest pride, now, is to serve our country wearing the uniform of an American Soldier.
My father and mother (Juanita), newly married, receive letters from Chuy in Korea. Chuy writes that he hopes to see everyone again, no matter how far away he is. He knows that Salvador and Juanita will be visiting the village where he grew up, and asks that they give his salutations to all at home, to remember him with a toast of Tequila.
Military records reveal that PFC Castro was a member of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division. He was wounded by the enemy in North Korea on August 5, 1951 and returned to duty later that day. He was killed in Action while fighting the enemy in North Korea on October 15, 1951. Private First Class Castro was awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Cluster, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Medal and the KOREAN War Service Medal.
President Truman writes: “In Grateful Memory of Private First Class Jesus B. Castro who died in service of his country in the military operations in Korea on October 15, 1951 – He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that Freedom might live and grow, and increase in blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives – in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.” This document is presented to Private Castro’s grandfather in Jalisco Mexico, in a little village (La Barranca de los Otates) 90 miles south of Guadalajara. It was there that Private Castro was laid to rest with a full U.S. Military Honor Guard – a grateful nation presented its Flag to Maria Inez Beas. Chuy was 21 years old. Don Rito temporarily stores the documents that memorialize his grandson’s “last measure of devotion.” Don Rito’s death soon afterwards caused that these documents remain forgotten for more than 50 years.
In “Grateful Memory” of all American Service men and women who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for our Freedom in outposts throughout the world, let us remember that “All gave some, and some gave ALL” in “The Unbroken Line” of our Country’s Patriots.
This post was submitted by Ray Duarte.