On the Front & On the Homefront: Alfredo and Lina Cordova

By Allen Dale Olson

Alfredo and Lina Cordova, September 2012. Photo: Circe Olson Woessner

      Recently, Circe and I spent the afternoon with Lina and Alfredo Cordova, Sammy Cordova and Larry Hurtado. Three generations of Veterans in one family—proud to have served America in times of war. We shared stories about our military service and then settled down to interview Alfredo and Lina.

With two babies and a wife at age 19, Alfredo Cordova got his draft notice and was told to report for a physical exam. It was 1944, and he passed the exam in spite of a serious bone spur in his foot. He and his wife, Lina, were in San Diego because of his work in an aircraft parts factory. Lina wanted to go home to her family in New Mexico while Alfredo served, so, out of the $800 he had saved at 65 cents an hour, he bought a car for $150 with which to drive her, the babies, and their belongings to Albuquerque. Listen to Alfredo tell about that car

From the draft board he got some gasoline stamps for the drive, got driving directions from a friend, and headed east on a Saturday, driving hard, falling asleep, and driving some more, getting to Phoenix by next morning. Getting to Albuquerque was quite the adventure! Click to hear what Alfredo recalls about that drive…

Basic training was in Arkansas, and Alfredo knew he was going to “the Front” in Europe. Before shipping out, he was given 10 days leave  to get from Arkansas to New York by way of Albuquerque to spend some time with his wife and children. While at home, his uncle, a veteran of World War I, told him to stock up on canned meat to be sure he had enough food while overseas. Click to listen to Alfredo tell about leaving for war…

Lina said she really worried that he’d be killed in the war. She cried as she watched him wave from the back of the train taking him to New York. She prayed each night and wrote two or three letters a week. There weren’t any other soldiers’ wives around so she relied heavily on her parents and her in-laws for comfort and help. She said there were no telephones that could reach him, no TV, so the only news she could get was from the newspapers and the radio. The kids kept her busy, but the whole family was sad and worried. Listen to what Lina  remembers about the home front…

Alfredo came first to the First Repo Depot somewhere in northern France. “I was in a big rail yard,” he said, “and saw a bunch of GI’s running toward a train car. They were yanking cases of C-Rations off the car, so I joined them and got stopped by an officer who told me I was doing a disservice to the guys at the Front who really needed those rations. When I told him I was headed for the Front, he walked away.”

Alfredo said he was walked by a runner for several hours across France, took some shelling along the way, saw the bodies of German soldiers, and went into a cellar where seven other soldiers told him “This is it!” He had reached “the Front.” On either side of the cellar were two large wine barrels. For Alfredo’s description of duty at the front, click here…

Back home, Lina got around by bus, coped with rationing, and waited for mail, which was almost always censored. She sent Alfredo packages of Vienna sausage and cookies, “the cookies having been made with less sugar than normal because sugar was rationed.” So were gas and nylon stockings, she added.

Though the war was coming to an end, Alfredo said they couldn’t break through the Siegfried Line, but there were still some Germans shooting and others coming to surrender. One of them was speaking Spanish. Click here for Alfredo’s account of battle… and three big things…

Alfredo was discharged on January 1, 1946, and given $300 “travel pay,” which he added to the $700 he had saved. He admitted to having slipped away from Camp Kilmer to visit a friend and consequently missed his name being called for processing and being held up another few days before he could board the train that would take him home.

Lina knew he was home safely because she had seen his name in the newspaper. “Back then,” she said, “they would publish the names of all the soldiers who came back to the States, so I was happy to tell the whole family that I had seen his name.” And the whole family turned out to meet him when his train arrived in Albuquerque. Click here for Fred’s account of his homecoming…

Alfredo and Lina Cordova had met at age 15, married at 18, and became World War II veterans by age 21. They tell their story with pride and show his combat medals, including a French Legion d’honneur, with the quiet satisfaction of knowing they had served their country well.

           

Alfredo and Lina went to France in 2004 to receive the French Legion of Honor award.

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