Paul Huerta, Charles Echols

Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.

Paul Huerta
Date of birth: June 29, 1917
Dates of Service: 1943 to 1946
Hometown: Clovis
Lives in: Clovis
Theater and location of service: Ecuador
Branch: Army
Rank: Corporal
Unit and specialty: 150 Infantry and 6th Air Force: Quarter Master and Translator
Veterans organizations: VFW, lifetime member

In his words: In the late 1920s, Huerta’s parents fled Jalisco, Mexico in the midst of a violent civil war to settle in Clovis. As war set in for the United States, he and five of his brothers went in to serve their new country. “I thought, let’s go get the Germans” he remembers.

Huerto jokingly tells “they sent me to kill mosquitos.” Initially sent to the Panama Canal, Huerta quickly found himself teaching Spanish to other troops, as the only Hispanic in his unit. When his bilingual abilities came to the attention of his commanders, he was told of a volunteer position at an Air Force base in Ecuador. He readily volunteered. “I was an interpreter. They didn’t know any English and I could speak Spanish, anything that came between them, I would translate.”

His mother, a devoutly religious woman, promised Our Lady of Guadalupe that if all five of her boys returned home safely from war, she would bring them to Mexico City to visit. Keeping her promise, when all her boys were back home, they made the trip.

After returning from his service, Huerta taught vocational Spanish in Clovis for years and honed his bowling skills, achieving national recognition in competitions.

Charles Echols
Date of birth: Jan. 27, 1928
Dates of service: March 1945 to June 1946
Hometown: Plainview, Texas
Theater and location of service: Pacific
Branch: Navy
Rank: Seaman 1st Class
Unit and specialty: USS Rowan, USS Frankford
Lives in: Clovis

In his words: When his friends started being drafted, Echols says “I told my mother they wasn’t going without me, so she went down to sign.” At the age of 16, Echols describes himself as being large for his age. As a result, he tells his friends were always older by at least a couple of years. Separated from his buddies from home after bootcamp, he found himself onboard ship headed for Japan. Throughout his service he remembers sending most of his money home to help his mother.

With the surrender of Japan coming, their ship was in the convoy headed into Tokyo Bay. After the bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was a great deal of waiting for the men on the ships. Echols recalls, “it was several weeks for everything to fall into place. We floated around out there waiting for it before we went into Tokyo Bay.” When the time came to go in and accept the surrender, he says “going in was scary, we didn’t know what we was going to get into. We went in like a task force.”

World War II profiles are compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail:
sharna_johnson@link.freedom.com