Manuel G. Alvarez,
Sr., age 95, of St. Petersburg FL., formerly of Gary, IN, passed away Dec.
13, 2014, in Greenwood, IN.
He was born Aug. 6,
1919, in Collinsville, OK.
He was a veteran of
WWII, serving with the 89th Infantry Division under the command of General
George Patton. On 4-4-1945 his army division freed over 20,000 prisoners of
the Nazi concentration camps. Ohrdruf was the first concentration camp
liberated in WWII. He related to his family how he threw up and cried so
then, after he saw inhumanity at its worst.
He was preceded in
death by his father Jose Ramon, mother Benigna, his brother Joseph H. and
his wife Antonia, sister-in-law Fefa, step-grandmother Maria, grandson
Joseph Ramon, great-granddaughter Jenna Marie O'Rielly, his loving wife
Ventura (Vicky) and the mother of his children, Josephine.
He is survived by
his brother Cesar Alvarez, children Manuel and Christine Alvarez, Robert C.
and Lena Alvarez, Gloria Alvarez Kuchaes and Marie A. and Karl Lofgren,
stepchildren Emil Garcia, Bonnie and Bill Bosse, Joe and Joyce Garcia. 21
grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great grandchildren, and many
loving nieces and nephews who truly filled his heart with joy.
In his early years,
his family was first given a taste of discrimination as three crosses were
burnt in front of his fatherís house. Shortly after that incident, his
mother became very ill and the doctor told him she would live longer if he
would move to Cuba, the climate was far better there than in Oklahoma.
Manuel lived there until he was 17 and then he came with his brother to
Manuel was drafted
in 1944. Discrimination in the army was high, but it actually saved his
life. He was in a boat crossing a river when the captain ordered him to the
back of the boat. When they were 50 feet from the shore, a mortar shell hit
the seat he was ordered from and the boat reaction threw him and others in
the river. He undid his backpack and let his rifle go, and helped many
others do the same. They found a shack that he and his fellow soldiers
occupied for three weeks, until they were resupplied and their 354th
Regiment moved on, and then they rejoined their 354th Regiment.
In one of the towns
in Germany, he was going house to house sweeping them of Germans, and as he
was about to pass a house that was marked as swept, he heard what he thought
was a scream. He opened the door and saw an American soldier, the parents
tied up, and he was going to rape a girl who was a teenager. Manuel grabbed
the soldier and threw him against the wall and told him to leave and not to
return. At another town he was sweeping again, and a German was hiding
behind a door and stabbed him with his bayonet. Manuel turned away from it
and the butt of his rifle knocked it away, and he continued using the butt
hitting the Germanís face knocking him down, and shot him twice. They then
camped between two mountains and at about 12 a.m. the Germans opened up with
artillery, mortars and machine guns with tracer bullets. He took refuge in a
creek ravine as he stood against the embankment shaking and scared. He heard
a splash and little while later he heard moaning. He was scared and he
wasn't about to be fooled by the Germans. A little while later, he heard
another splash and later, more moaning. This time, as scared as he was, he
decided to investigate, so he slowly side stepped along the edge of the
creek, keeping as close to the embankment as possible. He then saw a soldier
in the creek and the medic in there also, so he dug with his hands until he
grabbed roots and reached down and grabbed the first soldier with the help
of the medic, and then he reached down and grabbed the medic. The guy was
stiff and unconscious. Manuel remembered the place, they had a small heater
(wood stove) where they made coffee and rolls in the morning, so he told the
medic that he would carry the soldier. The medic told him he couldnít make
it back. Manuel promised him he would come back for him. Waiting for the
machine to pass at its longest line, he put the soldier on his shoulder and
ran, zig zagging 150 yards to the shack, knocked on the door and called out
whatever was the password of the night. He warmed up for a little while and
then announced that he had to go get the medic, and they said to him you
were very lucky one time, you have to be crazy to go through that and back
again. But he looked at them and said I promised that I would return, and he
did. The medic was almost unconscious but he said to him thank god you
really did come back. Manuel received multiple bullet and shrapnel wounds on
his legs, but not one hit a bone.
An officer was
writing him up for the things he did and was told by a higher rank to throw
it away, he would not have a low-life Latino who spoke broken English
receive any award. Manuel didn't know who the soldier was until the war
ended. He was assigned to guard German prisoners of war and he knew they
were not about to escape because they were being prepared to fly back to
Berlin. They were happy and Manuel was sitting next to them when Lt. Wasdell
saw him dozing and slowly took his gun out of his holster and a German woke
Manuel and told him what happened and Manuel said he took his gun and that
he let him. Lt. Wasdell pressed court martial charges on him and a Lt. Scull
told Manuel donít worry, I will defend you all the way. The charges were
dismissed after Lt. Scull revealed who it was he carried to safety that
day--none other than Lt. Wasdell from North Carolina. His racist attitude
changed that day because he befriended Manuel from then on and begged Manuel
to stay in the service, and told him that he would take care of him. He told
him my family awaits me.
In the morning the
354th Reg. of the 89th Infantry Div. took out the two tanks that were
camouflaged and the machine guns and moved on.
ďI hope we have
done you proud Dad, Your children.Ē
will be held Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, at 10 a.m. CST, at Burns Funeral Home,
10101 Broadway, Crown Point, IN, with Rev. Andrew Corona officiating.
Entombment will be at Graceland Cemetery, Valparaiso, Ind.
Friends are invited
to meet with Manuel's family on Wednesday, Dec. 17, from 2 to 8 p.m. at
Burns Funeral Home.