Abelardo Alameda

This interview was conducted by Nathan Aguero on October 22, 2008 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Fall 2008 class.

Introduction

Abelardo Alameda was born on February 7, 1923 in Corpus Christi, Texas to Carolina DeHoyos and Alejandro Alameda and is the youngest of four siblings.He has two sisters Ofelia and Margarita Alameda; had two brothers Alejandro Alameda, who died of tuberculosis as a child and Fernando Alameda, who died as a child as well from spinal meningitis. He was partially raised in Corpus Christi, where his father worked as a cigar maker; they later moved back to San Antonio, where he resides today. Abelardo dropped out after one year of attendance at Fox Tech High School and picked up several occupations as a boy. Milking cows in the morning and sweeping bars for a quarter, he would also deliver and stock groceries for Good Home Food Store. As a teenager, he was employed at Adolph Vogel Belt Company and would later go to work at Kelly Air Force Base before being drafted into the Army Air Force as a paratrooper in 1943. After his honorable discharge from the service in 1945, he would go back to work for Kelly as a parachute packer until his retirement in 1979. Two years after he was discharged from the military he took the hand of Herlinda Martinez in marriage at The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in San Antonio Texas. Mr. and Mrs. Alameda would later have three children, two boys Abelardo Alameda Jr. and Robert Alameda, and one girl Cynthia Alameda (my mother). I am proud to write a biography on my grandfather Abelardo, he has always had many stories to tell us about his experiences growing up during the Great Depression, being a World War Two veteran and I would like other people to hear and know about his experiences. (My mother Cynthia was present for the interview.)

Transcription

What was it like growing up in San Antonio?
It was rough there were no jobs my parents didn’t have no jobs.

What did you all do to get by?
We used to go and be in the soup lines; I was little at that time but we had to take a container I don’t remember if was special days I was too little I went with my dad they served us bean soup I think it was bean soup (laughing).

What did you do as a child for fun?
Baseball.

Where you a fan of Baseball?
Yes. Football was not around I imagine there was boxing later on in life. Baseball mostly.

Did you play for any teams like the YMCA?
First just the neighborhood kids we play what we called pick up teams. I played ball with a team Irving, you know the junior school Washington Irving, and I ran races for the team. Track.

Did you compete in any tournaments?
Well between schools we had tournaments

Were those the only sports you played as a kid?
Ya

Did you ever feel like the Depression was going to end?
Well I didn’t know I was a child but I could tell what was going on; I could tell it was changing as I grew up.

Did your sisters have to take on any work to help out?
No not when they were small, I don’t remember I doubt it.

What about your parents?
As we grew up my mother started working (clearing throat) with some programs or something making dresses I believe you know sewing. I remember my dad was working with a man at the house of the man probably keeping the yard or something.

How did you feel about being drafted?
Well everybody was being drafted so you just did it everybody at that time accepted that I say mostly everybody.

What did your parents think about you being drafted?
They accepted at that time being drafted because everybody like I said everybody was being drafted or they volunteer. Because we were at war at and a lot of kids wanted to be in the war. My mother wasn’t angry she accepted it maybe she didn’t know any better and my father accepted it both of them accepted it (clearing throat).

What was Basic Training like?
Basic Training was done at Stinson Field we had lessons on different things different subjects it was several weeks long maybe three months I don’t remember. They showed us how to handle a gun and all that shine your shoes and how to make a bed (laughing a lot). Like I say learn about guns basic combat skills you learn how to handle a gun how to keep it clean; cause you had to clean the gun every time you use it.

How did you feel knowing you were going to be shipped out to Normandy? Did you know you were going to Normandy?
Ya we knew we were going we were in England at that time well we knew we were going somewhere it was either Normandy or Utah Beach the only two beaches at that time so we knew we were going to one or the other.

What can you remember about D-Day?
See we were at sea overnight for sure and ugh on the big boat; and then when it was our turn to go onto the land were we got into this LSI boats which is Land and Ship Infantry. We got into one of those boats and we went onto the beach and we go off and walked the rest of the way into the war zone. Well it was a war zone but by that time the beach was more-a-less clear of real guns and all that. See by that time second or third day the Americans had hit the bunkers so we traveled a little bit further into Normandy to St. Lo it’s a little town and St. Lo was taken by the paratroopers. St. Lo was a town maybe fifteen miles from the beaches. We saw dead soldiers but most were picked up right away and I went up the hill there was a cemetery already and it just happened it just happened that I was standing next to a friend of mine who was buried there. His name was Alvarado Flores.

Was he a childhood friend of did you meet him in Basic Training?
I knew him as a kid he was from the neighborhood.

Tell me a little more about the cemetery were the soldiers just buried there till they were taken home?
Well some were taken home later on but ugh they were buried as soon as possible in fact when they celebrate D-Day they go to that cemetery and pray and remember the veterans there that are buried.

Tell me about the Battle of the Bulge?
Well the Battle of the Bulge is a area you know it’s an area and they called it the Bulge but it’s a big area and I was there and of course you got credit for being in the Battle of the Bulge. But it’s a big area lets say it’s from I would say from here to Randolph something like that. I never got to fight we were support groups we supported the soldiers in combat. I was lucky to a certain extent that I didn’t fight cause some of the soldiers that were in my unit they transferred them into the infantry to fight but I was not on account of what I did. I had the parachute and the survival equipment.

Did you ever have a scary encounter when you were stationed in Europe?
We were in London at that time and ugh we got a three day pass so me and another guy by the name of Dan we got on the double Decker. We were on the double Decker and we had two Girlfriends (laughing) we meet over there and then they started bombing and like I said I was lucky all the time cause lets say I was here in Winnipeg (his home street) and the planes were coming (by like Malone or Theo) how close they were to us and they started bombing see if they would of been a little bit off it would have been different. So we didn’t have no place to hide (laughing) cause we didn’t know where we were and the girls took off (smiling) and then we didn’t know where to go and there was a tree there so we got under the tree until it was over (haha).

Did you ever encounter any heavy German infantry?
I saw Germans and German tanks at Falaise Gap there was a battle of nothing but tanks you know Germans and Americans and it was a big area and they were shooting at each other and when they got through shooting we went over there to where they were actually hitting each other and that’s where I got my rifle.

So it was just tanks just fighting each other?
Well at that particular battle but there were planes also hitting other places see it was different areas lets say that the planes were bombing a town like ugh from here to Corpus and the tank battle was over here right here it was about 150 miles away it’s not just one area when it hits it hits all over. And if you happen to be there you gonna be lucky or unlucky. I was very lucky because in England before we crossed every night they would send a Buzz Bomb (have you heard of a Buzz Bomb. It’s a bomb that flies ok.) And as long as you could hear a little engine ( Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta) you were alright cause that thing was going (smiling) well one of them stopped like from here to (his house) to Zazamora and it makes a hell of a big hole. There were too big homes like three stories high and it hit between those two homes and it blew the hell out of them blew them all to pieces and everything started flying and there again were I was lucky me and Dan we ran to the fox hole (laughing) we ran there and we could feel the dirt falling on us and of course when it was over we touched ourselves to see if we were still all there (laughing).

So how did you get that German soldier Passport?
HUH!!! (Surprised look) Hey (quietly laughing) don’t mention that no no. No I wasn’t supposed to bring it when I die you can show it (laughing harder) we were not supposed to get nothing personal because the parents of this guy they are looking for him and if nobody says where or if he got killed the person gets lost. If somebody finds that and doesn’t turn it in then they don’t know. We were only allowed to take weapons how I got mySpanish revolver and my German Luger cause I was able to ship them through the mail but one of them got stolen on the boat si I never got the Luger. But my Spanish revolver I gave to one of my friends cause he was in Okinawa in the Pacific front and on the boat he had all his souvenirs they sunk the boat and he lost everything. So when he got back to California he was in the Hospital I sent him this gun and I stayed without a pistol.

How did the separation of the Army Air Force to the Air Force affect you?
Well I was in the 8th Army Air Force and the separation the 8th became bombers the 9th Air Force became nothing but fighters I became the 9th Air Force but before that I was in the 8th.

Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
Well the only thing is that it’s an experience you never forget.

Do you remember any other incidents that took place?
There was another one I think it was in England we had come back from well it don’t matter but we were inside the tent me and Dan when all of a sudden they opened the doors and three Germans walked in (laughing hard) to give themselves up they walked inside the tent with their hands up we didn’t know but it didn’t take long because they had their hands up you know and they started talking German I didn’t know German but there was a guy in the tent that could understand a little German, boy they scared the hell out of us (laughing).

Is there anything Further you want to say?
Well it was a new adventure everyday you didn’t know what to expect.

Analysis

Ever since I was little I have always known that my grandpa participated in World War Two; my mom would tell me stories that she was told when she was a little girl. But it wasn’t till I enrolled in Mr. Myers history class and learned about this project that I really got interested in what he had to say about World War Two. What further knowledge I can attain from a veteran rather that a text book. Learning about the many close encounters my grandpa had while stationed in Europe like when the Nazi soldiers came into his tent to surrender themselves, or when he participated in the Falaise Gap Tank battle; how he felt about being drafted, what it was like to grow up during the depression. Interviewing my Grandpa was just entertaining learning about the girls he dated before he meets my grandma. Like the French girls that ditched him and his pal when plane’s started to bomb the city they were in. I found a picture of him and some girl that I still can’t get him t say who she is, his excuse is I don’t remember with this big grin on his face. None the less there were a few stories where you can tell still to this day seemed to sadden him and just by the silence that was in the room you could tell he was thinking back to that day. World War Two was a terrible war my grandpa along with many other people lost a lot of good friends, seeing all the bodies as he arrived on the beaches of Normandy, the destruction that comes with the burden of war. But by interviewing these people we can attain further knowledge about events that happened in the point of view of someone that was actually there only drawback is for the person to actually remember what went down. But it’s a damn good start on inquiring about the past.

Timeline

  • Abelardo Alameda Born on February 7, 1923 to Carolina DeHoyos and Alejandro Alameda in Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • 1930 moved back to San Antonio, Texas started 3rd grade at Bowie Elementary
  • 1935 Worked at Alameda’s Place (uncles bar) cleaning
  • 1937 finished Irving Jr high school (8th grade) and started working at Good Home Food Store (bicycle delivery boy).
  • 1938 attended 1yr at Fox Tech then dropped out.
  • Started working at Lee’s Groceries as stock boy.
  • 1940 became a belt maker at Adolph Vogel Belt Company.
  • 1942 became an apprentice as a parachute packer at Kelly Air Force Base.
  • January 9, 1943 Drafted into the Army Air Force as a Paratrooper
  • January 16 shipped to Duncan Field and began basic training.
  • September 4 arrived in London, England began basic duties
  • June 8, 1944 arrived at the beaches of Normandy 2 days after d-day
  • September 10, 1944 sent off to Falaise Gap France fought in bloodcurdling battle
  • December- January 1945 participated at the Battle of the Bulge
  • Honorably Discharged from service October 18, 1945
  • Went back to work as a parachute packer (Kelly Air Force Base)
  • Good friend Val Estrello set him up on blind date with Cadet Nurse Herlinda Martinez
  • December 28, 1947 married Linda Martinez at the Immaculate Conception in San Antonio, Texas
  • January 31, 1949 fist son Abelardo Alameda was born.
  • January 3, 1955 only daughter Cynthia Alameda (my mother) was born.
  • June 7, 1960 second son Roberto Alameda was born
  • October 1961 mother dies from pancreatic cancer.
  • Saw J.F.K at Kelly Air Force Base one day before assassination November 21, 1963
  • Present at Hemisphere Park when tram fell off railway 1968
  • Oldest son Al was shipped off to Japan as a field medic
  • Officially retired from Kelly in 1979
  • 1996 mother in-law dies at the age of 96
  • December 28, 1997 Abelardo and Helrinda Alameda celebrate 50th wedding anniversary
  • Herlinda Alameda passes away January 14, 2002
  • Interviewed by Nathan Agueros September 11, 2008

Annotated Bibliography

  • Corpus Christi Texas.Com Where Abelardo was born. © 2006 City of Corpus Christi, Texas. All rights reserved.
  • CDC.GOV Division of Tuberculosis Elimination. Attn: Content Manager, DTBE Web site Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1600 Clifton Rd., NE Mailstop E-10
    Atlanta, GA 30333 CDC-INFO at (1-800) 232-4636 TTY: 1 (888) 232-6348 E-mail: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
  • Spinal Meningitis. Com Copyright © 2005-2008 by Spinal Meningitis.org – Spinal Meningitis.org is our Trademark – All Rights Reserved.
  • Kelly Air Force Base The Handbook of Texas Online
    Kelly Air Force Base, the oldest continuously operating flying base in the United States Air Force, Copyright © Texas State Historical Association Terms of Use Comment/Contact Policy Agreement Last Updated: January 17, 2008 Published by the Texas State Historical Association and distributed in partnership with Holt, Rinehart and Winston, a Harcourt Education Company.
  • Army Airforce The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II. This page was last modified on 27 October 2008, at 10:11. All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.)
    Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit charity
  • World War II World War 2, the most titanic conflict in history. © 1996-2008, A&E Television Networks. All rights reserved.
  • Stinson Field Established by the Stinson family of aviation pioneers it was San Antonio’s first municipal airport.
  • 9th Air Force Copyright 2008, ArmyAirCorps.us, All Rights Reserved.
  • 8th Army Air Force Eighth Army Air Force began on 19 January 1942 and was activated on 28 January 1942 at the Chatham Armory in Savannah, Georgia.
  • Buzz Bomb Fighter Factory & it’s logo are a trademark & service mark of Fighter Factory. ©Copyright Fighter Factory,
    All Rights Reserved.
  • Photographs, documents, and the following diary on this website were provided by Abelardo Alameda.

Interview on the Diary of Abelardo Alameda

How did you find out you were being drafted? What were you doing at the time you were drafted? (job?) How did the draft work?
I was notified through the mail. I was working at Kelly when I was drafted either working already or I had gone through a training of what they call a mechanics learner at Kelly.

What was that?
It was a program to show you skills and then once you finished your skill you were assigned to wherever they put you.

But how did the draft work?
Well as far as I know it was a committee of men. I think it was just men I don’t know for sure, and they decided who would be drafted and who wouldn’t be drafted. But committee picked the boys mostly young boys.

Ok you went to Chanute field to take a parachute course. What did you learn at the parachute course? And how long did that course last?
Well I learned how to sew, how to tear down the machines the sewing machines and put them back together we repaired parachutes learned how to repair parachutes how to tear down the machine and then put it back together. (Long pause to think back) The course must of lasted I don’t know for sure but at least no less than a month but maybe two months. And the instructors there at the school at Chanute came from well a lot of them came in from (pauses to think) Illinois University.

So on you left overseas on August 21st at a port. What port did you depart from and what was the trip to England like?
The port was Newport News its somewhere up east. Well the trip going into England was well it was on a ship a big ship very big ship called the U.S.S Argentina it was converted to a troop ship see prior to that it was a luxury boat and then they somehow contracted it. And the cabins at that time had four cots I think it was four or five from the floor all the way to the ceiling and going over there we stopped at Newfoundland and stayed there about three days more or less three days. We went to St. John Newfoundland we had to go there cause there were submarines around and the ship was all by itself and they were afraid that the submarines might attack the boat so that why they went into port. At the beginning the weather wasn’t too to bad then about three days out in that water and it was cold outside and so what they did they put all the people all the soldiers that were sleeping outside sleeping on the deck inside and it was crowded I believe there was five thousand troops on that one boat.

So you arrived on September 5th and got your field assignment. What was our field assignment?
The parachute shop we repaired the parachutes we installed the life rafts and assembled the survival belts.

So you received letters while over in Europe? Who did you receive letters from during the war? What did people write about in the letters and do you still have any of those letters today?
Well my mother and my sisters (laughing) they wrote about the usual that they missed me and that they were praying for everybody but I don’t really remember what they said on the letters. My mother wrote to me in Spanish and my sisters in English.

Do you still have any of those letters?
No they are gone I didn’t keep nothing hardly anything.

Did you ever write back to them?
Yeah, I wrote back I wrote to my mother in Spanish and my sisters in English and that’s the only ones I can remember that I would write.

You wrote down here that you went to Town to go after coal in Hungerford. What did you need coal for?
For the tents for heat.

Ok you got a pass for London. What did you do in London and was it being bombed at that time by the Germans?
I went out on the town and looked at the girls. (laughing) Some sections were being bombed that’s when I got under that tree you know I was in one block and then there was squadron of Germans one block or two blocks further down and they had a pattern going straight on that section see and I was two block maybe one block when they got the alert on the bus we were riding so we got off and there was two girls with us at that time me and Dan and we didn’t know where we were so we saw a tree and got under the tree that’s all we could do.

You wrote here that you were on detail all day. What did you do on detail?
Well on detail I remember that it was on base well the outer area of the base it was like a circle, and we would patrol the outside. There were several we were assigned and we would meet at a certain place and report if there was anything out of the ordinary to whoever was in-charge. I don’t remember who and we kept that up and ugh and also we would patrol the outside of the base and we would also patrol the ramp were the plane were at different times not at the same night. And they would also have me on KP working the kitchen moping, help the cooks and cater the tables it all depends on what your skill was and that’s about it.

Everyone went to the lines. What was done on the lines?
We would go work on the planes that came in the mechanics the radio man life support like me. One time in England I think it was in England a plane went down and crashed almost in the base you know but right outside the runway and there were seven guys that were killed and I remember they were put into sacks. Working with the engineers loading the cement sacks.

What was done with the cement sacks?
They were making runways they had a crew a guy would open sacks and put them in the were they mix them by hand mostly and the trucks would bring the cement the guys would unload it another guy would cut the cement and load it into the mixer and then they would put them on special made tractors with a special made bucket or whatever and take it to the runways making the runways and we would work day and night.

You started working in the hanger. What was done in the Hangers?
Well we opened up a shop a parachute shop you know we would fix the chutes there and anything that had to do with what they called life support. If they needed jackets and parachutes we used to make jackets from scratch but not over there we used to do that here at Kelly.

You put here that you went to commando training and infiltration training. What was done in the trainings?
They taught us how to infiltrate the German lines in case you had to you learned how to defend yourself how to go into the German lines. The training consisted of going into the ground and crawling and somebody would be shooting on top of you so you better not get up (laughing) cause those guns were stationary they couldn’t move they were special guns to give you feel of what the bullets sounded like and also to learn how to crawl. They gave us small books of basic German words showed us how to crawl through barbed wires and also some places you would crawl they had bombs in the ground but they made sure you were not gonna be on top of those things they were small bombs not big ones they were for training they taught us the feeling of a bomb going off.

What happened during an air raid?
(Laughing hard) I told you I lost those two girls in London. Well then when we were in London they had air raid sounds every night almost and they would pick sections. Later on afterwards a few months later they came out with what they called the V-1 bombs buzz bomb and when the buzz bomb was going over your head you could see the fire in the back and hear a little motor and as long as that little motor was going you knew it wasn’t gonna fall and one time we were in tents getting ready to go to sleep and we heard this bomb coming then all of a sudden it quit right on top of us and we had these fox holes around the tent to jump in case something would happen and we all jumped as fast as we could (laughing) cause the motor went out and it hit right by us by these two big homes and when it finished exploding there was no homes and then like I said we were in the holes and we could feel the little rocks falling on us and when you’re new to this you get scared so you get up and you touch your body just to see if your there (laughing).

June 6th 1944 D-Day. Where were you during D-day?
I was in England during the d-day and we were ugh outside the port of ugh I forget the name of the port but we were on a boat getting ready to go to France cause it was only a matter of two days and we landed on Normandy on the third day I think I don’t remember but we left from what I think they called Southampton.

Around this time in your diary you left a lot of question marks. Why are there question marks?
Well we couldn’t discuss everything in detail so we had to cut it down to what we could understand in our own writing so maybe the guys that got a hold of the book wouldn’t know what we were talking about.

Did you know what you were talking about?
In some cases yes laughing).

So you wrote still at M. What is M for?
I can’t remember.

Left at noon for port. What port and where were you going?
Well we left from south Hampton and arrived in France.

So you arrived in France and got moved to?? Where was this question mark place? And 16 miles from?
Elaborate. It was apple orchards we set up camp it was sixteen miles from the beaches of Normandy.

You wrote that it was noisy at night. What was causing the noise? How close were you to the front?
The bombing and also the shooting on the beach of Normandy. Sixteen miles. (laughing) The line keeps on moving. Nothing is stationary. Like in Normandy when they landed they used to call them troopers Special Forces they would train to go into those places and throw them bombs you know hand bombs grenades. In Normandy the beach the Germans were already waiting for the Americans and they had some bunkers and they got guns inside the bunkers the Germans and from inside the gun was just sticking out the nose and they would shoot the hell out of everybody and they didn’t know who they were hitting there was thousands of people.

July 24th 1944 you got more letters in the mail. Who wrote to you this day. and you played ball, baseball right?
My sisters, mother friends and maybe a girlfriend I can’t remember. Yes baseball and we used to box I used to box the other guys. (laughing) I remember I used to box with this guy by the name of Goodman and this guy was tall he was six something big ole guy and I used to box with him and he used to knock me down all over the place (hahaha) and that’s all I can remember but he was big I wasn’t afraid of him I could take a punch at that time and now I can’t even take one from the baby (still laughing).

What are the Typhoons?
They were fighter planes. I don’t remember if they were American planes or English planes.
You put “went to the GAP and saw plenty of knocked out German tanks.” Where is the GAP and what did they do with the tanks and the bodies? It was Falaise GAP the bodies were picked up the Americans had the first choices then the Germans they tried to identify as many as they could and the tanks they couldn’t move they had to get special equipment but I was gone by that time.

“September 11th 1944 reported to regular work.” What was regular work?
Parachute shop back at the base I imagine.

“September 18th left for a new base.” What base were you going to?
Reims well it was a town I think but we called it Reims. It’s R-E-I-M-S. I imagine it’s where they signed the surrender Churchill and Eisenhower. They say it was known as the Randolph of France.

You say the base was really wrecked. How was it wrecked?
It was bombed.

“October 23rd 1944 Lt. Depree killed in an accident best officer we ever had. Best pilot.” Who was Lt. Depree? How was he killed?
He was a pilot (laughing) but Lt. Depree when I was in England he would let me go up in the plane with him as the scanner to patrol the areas of the base the waters and not only me there was a whole and the plane at that time was known as the B-29 we called it the flying coffin cause they would fall more than the average.

So you would get in them?
Yeah, I never been afraid of anything.

Sounds like a crappy plane?
No, it was a good plane but that was the only thing bad with it (laughing) we had guns that thing was loaded. The shells the guns were in the two turrets (I missed my show laughing) like I said I was the scanner I was here and the other guy by the next wall and another guy over there over there we could see all this area on this side and the tail gunner in the back and of course the pilots were in the front we had well not only that plane we had other planes sent in that area to scan and if you saw another plane I forgot the code but you would let them know if there was an enemy plane on the left wing or right wherever you were sitting.

How was Lt. Depree killed?
In the plane I don’t remember how he got killed cause he could fly all the planes but I’m more than sure it was in a plane not to sure if it crashed with another plane or if it just fell down.

Armistice was signed May 8th 1945. Then May 9th you went to Leige. Where were you when it was signed and where is Leige?
I was in Germany I left a month before it was signed. Leige was in Belgium.

“June 22nd 1945 left Germany for the States arrived in New York on the 6th of July left camp New York for camp twenty grand.” Where is camp twenty grand and what was the trip back like?
don’t remember. We came back on what is known as liberty ships smaller ships then the Argentina it rocks the liberty ship rocks a lot it was a small boat but we had more room but it rocked it was one-third maybe one-fourth the size of the Argentina.

After you left camp twenty grand how long were you in Ft. Sam Houston and what did you do when you came back?
Not too long like two days I took off a few days cause I needed a vacation! Then went back to Kelly put in another application and went back, but it was hard to get back because I am a Mexican, so they wouldn’t let me in. But they had to let me back in because of a government law.

 

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