My Interview With Lazaro Lopez on WWII
Fernando: This is Fernando Lopez from U.S. History I and Iím about to have an oral interview with Lazaro Lopez about WWII.
Fernando: Ok, Tell me a little bit about yourself. Like where your from.
Lazaro: I was born in Glenmore, LA. I was brought to Del Rio when I was 2 months old. And Iíve been here ever since.
Fernando: Ok. What was your childhood like?
Lazaro: Very poor. Very, very poor. Our father abandoned us when I was 11 years old. Abandoned myself, my 4 brothers and my mother. We even had to quit school because we did not have shoes, no clothing, no food. And it was during the depression of 1937.
Fernando: Ok, once you got a little older, I remember you telling that you went to war. At what age did you go to war?
Lazaro: I was 18 years old when I was drafted into the army, the United States Army. And I took my basic training in Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. It was a very short training, in about 4 months. In 4 months, we were brought to the shores of New York, loaded a boat for about 18 days in the water we traveled towards France.
Fernando: And how was the trip?
Lazaro: The trip was Ok, it wasnít to bad except for too many days in the water. We couldnít see anything but skies and water.
Fernando: Did you meet any new people? Did you get along with anybody?
Lazaro: Many. Met all kinds of people. Most of the soldiers were gambling, playing cards and playing dice. There was a lot of money involved and they were having a lot of fun. The ones that were not dizzy. A lot of them felt dizzy and vomiting and scared.
Fernando: And you didnít sense fear in anybody? Fear?
Lazaro: No. I didnít sense any fear. And I never was afraid of anything.
Fernando: So you never felt nervous?
Lazaro: Never felt nervous, never thought about dying, or never thought it was going to be a bad deal out there. Never. Never came to my mind.
Fernando: What was it like when you first stepped off the boat and was sent to the station that they assigned you?
Lazaro: Well, when we first saw land we got to the shore and unloaded. And we were for a while in England. Then we traveled to (I forgot the name to that little town) just before we had entered Germany. We traveled to a little country and right next to that country, we had to start walking. We were already in Germany grounds.
Fernando: When did they hand you your first weapon? What day?
Lazaro: Well, the first weapon was handed to me when I was in training. And I didnít take that weapon with me when we went overseas. Maybe we still had the same weapon. Or I donít know, because they gave us a number for your weapon that your supposed to remember it for the rest of your life and it could of been the same weapon.
Fernando: Do you happen to remember that?
Lazaro: No. I donít remember that serial number. We were supposed to know that number or you would lose all your privileges.
Fernando: Once you stepped into the atmosphere of the war, did it feel intense or how did it feel?
Lazaro: Well, me and a friend of mine were very good friends and walking together right into the entry of the war into the area were there was fighting and we didnít travel half a mile before a bazooka was fired at us. And the bazooka took the whole leg of my friend and I didnít get scared. I looked at him. I left him there and I kept walking. But that bazooka was firing at him and me but he was the one that got hit.
Fernando: And did he pass away?
Lazaro: He stayed there on the ground and I kept moving.
Fernando: What did you do after that?
Lazaro: We kept going. Kept going and then we walked into... well it was starting to be winter time and then it started to rain, a lot of mud, a lot of snow, a lot of very cold. We had to sleep in foxholes every time we stopped somewhere. First thing you had to do is dig a hole for you can get in it. Where it would cover you. While it was raining, the foxhole was half full of water. We had to get into the hole, regardless.
Fernando: How long did you stay there?
Lazaro: Well, we took training in later part of Ď44 and the war was over in May of 1945. So, must of been 6 months or something like that.
Fernando: How was the food? Did you ever get any time off?
Lazaro: No time off. Food was Ok because we were getting what they call K-Rationís. They would just hand you a package and you would have everything in there. Even toilet paper, cigarettes, candy, and three meals. And there was a bar of candy, that was good enough for the three meals. And I didnít use to smoke. I would always trade my candy, I mean my cigarettes, for candy. And being that most of the soldiers were nervous out there on the front line, they would all smoke. I was the only one that did not smoke. And I had loads of lots of candy. And they had my cigarettes.
Fernando: Did you ever see the bullets? You saw them... I donít know how to say it. When they were being shot.
Lazaro: You couldnít see the bullets. But you could see the bombs.
Fernando: Thatís what I meant.... the bombs.
Lazaro: If they didnít explode... you could see them. In one occasion, well in two occasions, I was caught under machine gun fire and I was so tired and I wanted to get wounded. So I got up and stood like as a blanket and no bullet hit me. Not even a scratch. But I wanted to be hit because if you get hit, you go to the hospital. And I never got hit. In another occasion, we were going into a small village and it was a dark morning. And I heard the bomb coming. You could hear the whistle. And I just looked that way were it was coming from and I heard it hit the pavement and it just bounced (thun, thun, thun) and it came stopped and parked right next to me. About 6 inches like right there (pointing to the ground). But it didnít explode. It just looked the that and that big around and that long (measuring with his hands). It didnít explode. I would of been torn to pieces right there.
Fernando: When you saw it hit right there, what was your reaction?
Lazaro: I just looked at it and kept going. It wasnít to far after that happened. Then they started to send a lot of fire. Big weapons were fired at us from a distance. We donít know but they were falling right there on us and they knew the target. And I ran into a ditch, and threw myself into that ditch and the first thing I saw was something real big to my right and something real big to my left. And I thought to myself that they look like cows that are about to bust. And in the morning, as soon as you could see something, I turned around and there was two Germans. They were people, they were exploding like cows because they were poisoned by there dad. And that was the only first time where I was a little scared. Scared of the death and scared of not living.
Fernando: Did you ever cross paths, face-to-face, with the enemy? Like how we are sitting together.
Lazaro: No. But I did have to fire at a German. And I know, I knew I hit him and I ran over there to look at him, and I hit him in the head and his brains were out there in the front. I was sorry I did it but I did it. In another occasion, we were in our foxholes and the Germans were approaching us. They were very bold, the Germans. And there was a lieutenant that came with a gun like that firing. He just got out of his hole and came towards us firing, firing, firing and everybody fired at him. He must of received 200 bullets before he fall down. And he fell down right in front of us. But he was still fighting with the gun. Algo (something) Iíve never seen that before. Never seen that. So many bullets, everybody was hitting him and he wouldnít fall. But finally he did fall.
Fernando: What did you think about the war overall? Did you feel that it was right, to go fight?
Lazaro: I felt that as American citizens, we are supposed to defend our country. I didnít feel that it was right or wrong. I just said this is a duty. This is what we are supposed to do and we voluntarily do it. Just like volunteers although we were drafted. We felt like volunteers. You know at 18 years old, I was never afraid of anything. Of nothing. At one time, we were surrendered by the enemy for 3 days and 3 nights. And we were all in platoons. A platoon consist of 11 persons and 1 leader and soldiers. And we were surrounded all the platoon was surrounded and no food could come in or go out. No message. No nothing. Because the enemy was surrounded. And we stayed there 3 days and 3 nights, and my friends were so scared and hungry, they started to eat dust, dirt and they started to eat roots. And I had a bunch of candy. They offered me 20 dollars for each bar of candy. I couldnít take the money because money is no good out there in the war. So I gave them candy. Everybody had food. But they were scared. And it, I donít know. I felt like, how come Iím the only one that is not scared. To me it didnít make any difference. In another occasion, see, we had American citizens in our side that were Germans. And they knew how to speak German. And we were going through the woods and one of the American soldiers found a German, a general, hidden in the woods in a little jeep. And as soon as he saw him, he speak to him in Span.., in German. I donít know. He said, ďcome out of there with your hands up.(in German)Ē And I thought that somebody was telling me to raise me hands and surrender. So I took my helmet off and threw it away, threw the gun away and raised my hands and I started walking and I couldnít see nobody. It was a little funny but then I went to pick my helmet, pick my gun and kept going. But I thought they were calling me.
Fernando: Ok. At this point, did you feel scared?
Lazaro: No. I wasnít scared yet.
Fernando: Did you ever at any point get scared?
Lazaro: Never. Never was scared of anything. Not even of the dark, or animals or... they had great big horses with a big foot. I donít know what they called them. Great big tall horses. And most of their weapons were drawn by horses. I got to see wagons full of, like in Mexico were they put their wood and they put stacks on the side and they stack them way up high, I saw stacks of Germans, dead Germans, on wagons like that. Because the Germans were picking up all their dead. Bringing them in.
Fernando: So you were there 6 months.
Lazaro: Approximentaly, I believe 6 months. Started late Ď44 and the war was over in May of 1945.
Fernando: What was it like when you finally got on the boat to return home? Did you feel relieved?
Lazaro: Yeah! Everybody was happy. We just wanted to get home and eat over here and feel free. See, after the war, we were free. When we heard on the front line, everybody was firing, seize firing! On the 5th of May 1945, seize firing! So we quit firing. Once in a while you would hear somebody firing a bullet but it quit. And on the 8th of May, they declared the war over. Seize firing was on the 5th of May and look 5th of May, the Mexican celebration day.
Fernando: And on your way back, everybody was doing the same thing as they were going into the war? Like how you said, gambling.
Lazaro: Yeah. They were gambling again. Playing dice, playing cards. There was a little black fella, a little black soldier, he took all the money. He won money from everybody. He took it all. When he finished, there was nobody else to bet with no more money. So he got up and with stacks of money and he started to throw all the dollar bills away. ďYour not my brother, your not my brother.Ē He was throwing all the dollar bills and he kept all the 5s, 10s, and 20s.
Fernando: Once you stepped off and got on American soil, what was your first thought?
Lazaro: Well, I thought that I had to go to Wisconsin because my parents were out there and my brothers were out there working. And my first thought was, might as well go to Wisconsin from right here. So from right there I got me a ticket to Wisconsin. To a little town where they were working. I joined them there and I went to work with them.
Fernando: How was life after the war? Or better yet, how was life before the war and then after the war?
Lazaro: Well before the war you would at least receive something. After the war, well, we donít know, we work and sometimes you make money and sometimes you donít. It just makes that little difference. But it was work, work, work. Just like the army. Get up in the morning, and work long hours. Same thing. Get up in the morning, work long hours.
Fernando: Did you ever participate in any kind of parades? Or social places where they recognize soldiers from WWII?
Lazaro: No. I just heard about it but I was never in it.
Lazaro: During the time, during the time the war was ending we had to go across a railroad track at night or early morning, dark morning. And when we got to the opening of the bridge to go a cross, the Germans had been bombing around on that bridge because they wanted to knock it off so we could not go a cross it. Because we were going across a wide river, a wide and deep river, and the bridge was all torn to pieces. The railroad ties were hanging and pieces of metal hanging and it was dark. And you just had to run one and you just had to run and get a cross. Which ever way you could make it. No telling how many people didnít make it. But before we got to the bridge, at the mouth of the bridge, and the entrance of the bridge, there was stacks of soldiers, big stacks. Hundreds and hundreds of soldiers. Well I would say 200 soldiers. Dead and wounded, hollering, ďHELP ME! HELP ME!Ē We had to step over them to get to the bridge and get across. That was a little scary but it didnít scare me. We knew that there was doctors and medics, what the call medics, coming behind us to help all the wounded.
Fernando: Once you got out of the war, did you settle down and start a family right away? Or Ok, when did you meet grandma?
Lazaro: Let me see. I was 23 years old by then. 5 years after.
Fernando: 5 years after.
Lazaro: 5 years after. I met her. I met Lala (grandma), on Greenwood Park. You know its funny. When I saw her, something told me, this is your wife. Because I had girls. I had 8 eight girls at a time. And still it said this is your wife. And she was beautiful, she looked like a little... queen. And I turned my truck around, told my buddy to get off. Iím going to follow this girl. And from there on we kept... we went together and a couple of years, I believe it was, we got married. We had 9 kids. One girl died and one little boy died at about 18 months and we still got 7 of them left.
Fernando: Did going to the war help you benefit afterwards in getting jobs?
Lazaro: Yeah. I am.... Well usually, the war wouldnít help you. The only thing is that Iím a 10 point... no a 5 point veteran. 10 point veterans would be the people who have, that have been wounded in the war. They have more privilege than 5 pointers. But with 5 points, I made it. I got me a job with the government and worked for the government for 38 years, so that gave me retirement. And we get a good pay, from ever since then. Weíve been paid and insurance paid forever. Till we die.
Fernando: Ok. I think thatís about it. Yes. I want to thank you for the interview, and thank you for all that information. As your grandson, I did not know all of that. So now I know it. And I just want to thank you.
Lazaro: You can tell someone else.
Fernando: Everyone else will hear it after this. Thank you.