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To the Line of Fire!

Mexican Texans and World War I

By José A. Ramírez

Publication Year: 2009

Winner of the 2009 Robert A. Calvert Prize In January 1917, German foreign minister Arthur Zimmermann sent a telegram to Germany’s Mexican ambassador, authorizing the offer of U.S. territory in exchange for Mexico’s alliance with Germany in the Great War. After the interception of this communication, U.S. intelligence intensified surveillance of the Mexican American community in Texas and elsewhere, vigilant for signs of subversive activity. Yet, even as this was transpiring, thousands of Tejanos (Mexican Texans) were serving in the American military during the war, with many other citizens of Mexican origin contributing to home front efforts. As author José A. Ramírez demonstrates in To the Line of Fire!, the events of World War I and its aftermath would decisively transform the Tejano community, as war-hardened veterans returned with new, broadened perspectives. They led their people in opposing prejudice and discrimination, founding several civil rights groups and eventually merging them into the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the largest and oldest surviving Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States. Ramírez also shows the diversity of reaction to the war on the part of the Tejano community: While some called enthusiastically for full participation in the war effort, others reacted coolly, or only out of fear of reprisal. Scholarly and general readers in Texas history, military history, and Mexican American studies will be richly rewarded by reading To the Line of Fire!  

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: C. A. Brannen Series


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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix

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p. xi

It is with great pleasure that I recognize those who contributed to the completion of this book. My research was funded almost entirely by the William P. Clements Department of History and Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University, for whose doctoral program in history this study originally served as my dissertation. I am especially grateful to...

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pp. xiii-xix

During the summer of 1917, less than two months after Pres. Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany, Jos

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Chapter One. Prelude

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pp. 1-18

What was happening in the Tejano community during World War I? Any study that proposes to answer this question must deal not only with the period of American involvement in the war but also with the thirty-three months that preceded it. From the beginning of the war on June 28, 1914, to April 6, 1917, when the United States finally joined the fray, the Tejano...

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Chapter Two. The Call to Arms

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pp. 19-38

The call to arms that followed the declaration of war against Germany elicited varied responses from the Tejano community. Like other citizens, Mexican Americans demonstrated patriotism, but also disloyalty. The Mexican nationals who lived among them were no less divided. While some joined the American colors voluntarily or at least submitted willingly to...

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Chapter Three. Surveillance

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pp. 39-56

On March 3, 1917, two days after word of the Zimmermann note’s interception reached the press, the New York Times hailed Mexico’s apparent rejection of an anti-American alliance with Germany, but warned its readers that the country and its president, Venustiano Carranza, “will still bear watching from this side of the border.”1 Attitudes of this sort, along with...

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Chapter Four. The Home Front [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 57-74

Even as the government monitored Mexicans and Mexican Americans with a suspicious eye, contributions to the war effort poured in from the Tejano community, which still suffered occasionally from the violent spillover of the Mexican Revolution. Reflecting the divisions across the country, some Mexican Americans opposed the war, with a few even...

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Chapter Five. Training Camp

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pp. 75-92

“The activity in this human beehive is indescribable,” marveled José de la Luz Saenz, who was eventually assigned to the Intelligence Section of the 360th Infantry, upon his arrival at Camp Travis in San Antonio. “Thousands upon thousands of men occupied with different tasks can be seen everywhere.”1 At Camp Travis and other installations, new recruits received their...

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Chapter Six. Over There

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pp. 93-110

The lives of Tejano servicemen following training camp were like those of most other men in the armed forces. Not everyone saw combat, but for those who did travel overseas to fight the experience was both eye opening and life changing. From the ship ride across the Atlantic to the last days in Europe as an occupation force, World War I for American troops was equal...

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Chapter Seven. Aftermath

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pp. 111-129

Veterans of World War I returned home conquering heroes. Throughout the country, cities and towns staged homecomings and victory parades in tribute to their troops’ sacrifices overseas. Main Streets everywhere teemed with confetti and ticker tape. But disillusionment, not just glory and euphoria, awaited servicemen in the postwar era. For those of Mexican descent, the...

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pp. 131-135

Held on September 16, 1989, the ceremony honoring David Cantú Barkley as one of the country’s Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients was the result of pure chance. One day, after reading a piece in the San Antonio Express-News about a local Korean War hero, Rubén Hernández, Barkley’s grandnephew, contacted the story’s author, Jim Kenney, a member of the Congressional Medal of Honor Historical Society. At first concerned...


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pp. 137-162


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pp. 163-174


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pp. 175-191

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443753
E-ISBN-10: 1603443754
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603441360
Print-ISBN-10: 1603441360

Page Count: 218
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos.
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: C. A. Brannen Series
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 680622514
MUSE Marc Record: Download for To the Line of Fire!

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Subject Headings

  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Participation, Mexican American.
  • Mexican American soldiers -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • Hispanic American veterans -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexican Americans -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexican Americans -- Civil rights -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
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