Hero Street, USA

The University of Oklahoma Press recently published Marc Wilson's book, Hero Street U.S.A, The Story of Little Mexico's Fallen Soldiers.

Noted historian Richard Griswold del Castillo of San Diego State University called the book "a major contribution to the field of World War II scholarship as well as Chicano history."

Wilson's book recounts the death in combat of eight young men from the name street in Silvis, Illinois - now formally known as Hero Street U.S.A. Six men from the street died in World War II and two more in Korea.

The book also tells the story of the heroes' families - their exodus to the United States during the Mexican Revolution from 1910-1920.

During a manpower shortage caused by World War I, the Rock Island Railroad hired Mexican refugees to help lay track and service railroad equipment. The railroad gave the Mexicans housing - old, wheel-less boxcars in the 900-acre rail yard in Silvis, Illinois. Many children were born in the boxcars, including the eight boys who would die in combat for the United States.

Each hero's personal story is told in a chapter. Tony Pompa died when his bomber was shot down over Italy. Japanese gunfire killed Frank Sandoval in Burma. German machineguns killed Willie Sandoval during the battle for the "bridge too far." Claro Solis died in the last hours of the Battle of the Bulge. Peter Masias was killed when he parachuted into Germany, and Frank Sandoval was killed in Germany the day after he was told the war was over. Johnny Munos and Joe Gomez were killed in Korea, with Gomez earning the Silver Star.

After the war, the surviving Mexican-American soldiers, marines and sailors returned home only to find that they were blackballed from joining the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Silvis.

And 2nd Street - now formally called Hero Street - remained the only unpaved street in Silvis until the Mexican-Americans won a battle to have the street paved in 1971.

The book is available through the University of Oklahoma Press, Amazon.com, Borders.com, and Barnes and Noble.com.

Author Marc Wilson is founder and general manager of TownNews.com, based in Moline. Wilson lives in Hampton.

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