The World War I Diary of José de la Luz Sáenz
Publication Year: 2014
A skilled and dedicated teacher in South Texas before and after the war, Sáenz’s patriotism, his keen observation of the discrimination he and his friends faced both at home and in the field, and his unwavering dedication to the cause of equality have for years made this book a valuable resource for scholars, though only ten copies are known to exist and it has never before been available in English. Equally clear in these pages are the astute reflections and fierce pride that spurred Sáenz and others to pursue the postwar organization of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
This English edition of one of only two known war diaries of a Mexican American in the Great War is translated with an introduction and annotation by noted Mexican American historian Emilio Zamora.
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
Series: C. A. Brannen Series
Title Page, Copyright Page
“For Democracy, Humanity,and Justice”
José de la Luz Sáenz,1 the author of the only extant war diary published by a World War I doughboy of Mexican origin, was born on May 17, 1888, in Realitos, Texas.2 His widowed paternal grandmother, Marcelina, moved her family from the Mexican border town of Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas, to...
Mexican Americans in the Great War
I wrote “My Personal Diary” as the near complete account of the lives of a special group of frontline soldiers who served among millions of others in the Allied army and shared in the misfortunes and dangers of the Great War. I especially wanted the Mexican-origin people to know and claim the deeds...
Soon after the government announced registration, or the conscription of the fifth of June, we heard the mistaken views and interpretations circulating among our people. The alarm and mass confusion did great harm to the Mexican American community of Texas. Mexican Americans were certainly...
My Personal Diary
Reporting at New Braunfels
The famed notice, the call from the nation, read, “Report to your Local Board in New Braunfels. The government declares you a soldier of the Great National Armada beginning at 11 a.m. on February 25.” I met my obligation that day by reporting to the local board. By nine in the morning...
The Brigade Station
We are in brigade station number 165 and I am in Company 42, of the 11th Battalion, the 180th Brigade, and the 90th Division. Two corporals, a sergeant, a second lieutenant, a first lieutenant, and a captain are responsible for our military review. I know Sergeant Rankin. He is a...
We woke up appreciating our good fortune in the military. It seems that one of the soldier’s best attributes is that he quickly forgets the difficulties of the past and resists fantasizing about the future, that is, if he wishes to occasionally enjoy some peace and quiet. Our future seems dim...
Last night’s difficulties left us drained and with headaches. The King Edward looked more disgusting during the day than at night. Fog enveloped us and we were unable to tell when we had reached the French coast. I realized this at 7:45 in the morning, when the ship had already docked. Once...
How Carrejo and Four Others Died
I woke up very early, washed, and went to the office, feeling good but somewhat weak after yesterday’s migraine. The barrage was heavy at Le Prete Forest yesterday. Our command post is located on its edge. If this is such a peaceful sector, then why do the cords and other regalia on the soldiers...
A Horrible Night in “No Man’s Land”
We were on the move in the early morning. Gas shells fell on all the wooded areas, and the odor seeping out of the crater-marked ground was horrible and asphyxiating. The destruction of the great trees was also shocking. The powerful explosives from the heavy artillery uprooted...
Toul, Choloy, and Rampondt
We met with some countrymen of German descent whom we had known as civilians and ate a sorry breakfast of cold meat and dry crackers. We had not yet caught up with the 1st Battalion. As far as we can tell, they left yesterday morning for Toul. We began our march to Toul after breakfast...
Moving across the Rubble of the Battlefield to Reach the Enemy and Occupy the Line of Fire: Montfaucon and Dead Man’s Hill
We had breakfast very early and quickly prepared for the march to the well-known Verdun front. Along the way we passed by several small towns in ruins. I took down the names of Nixeville, Dombasle-en- Argonne, Recicourt, Avocourt, Melancourt, and Montfaucon. Only their...
Five Days and Nights in a Foxhole in Romagne
I awoke feeling much better but not completely well. I am not hungry and fear I have to inform the doctors of my condition and that they will send me to some hospital. I feel very weak but would regret missing this battle, which is supposed to be terrible...
How We Destroyed Hindenburg’s Impregnable Trenches
Daylight found us alive and well, but we did not get up until late. We will never forget what we saw last night. A shell landed on the few branches of the splintered tree with the roots that covered our heads. The explosion destroyed our little fort, and big pieces of shrapnel dug into the boxes...
Simón Gonzáles and Others
We had a more restful sleep last night and woke up in a better mood, thank God. This is the day Catholics honor their dead. We saw large numbers of soldiers fall in battle. My God! What has become of Christianity? We cannot calculate the losses on both sides. I cannot help but think that...
Hipólito Jasso Receives a Shrapnel Wound
We are in the well-known Argonne forest by the also renowned Meuse River. Today has been a terrible day for the entire world. The formidable offensive has begun along the 150-mile front. How many millions of souls have been lost? I have never seen so many dead in a battlefield nor do...
Dark Night, Cold Night, Horrible Night in Villers-devant-Dun
The time is around six in the evening and it has been dark for a while. All my buddies are very tired from our difficult march over a battlefield littered with dead bodies—where both sides are still fighting with horrible determination. We arrived in Villers as darkness set in under a constant rain. We had...
I was sleeping on the bale of hay in my loft when a messenger came looking for me around two or three, or maybe four in the morning. As soon as my name was called out, I felt a chill like I think a prisoner would feel, but I responded. I was not the only one to wake up. Several other soldiers—possibly...
Memorable March from Pont-Sassy, France
The letter C is embroidered in all the clothing we found in the boxes. This is the same initial I found in all the books. All this must belong to F. Cordonier, a teacher from Mont. We were paid after breakfast and were as happy as if we had been made...
Memories of the European War, Our Last Campaign, Five Days and Nights
With my straightforward but honest manner, my “diary” now reports on what I believe to have been our last mission. I say that it was the final one because I trust we have been victorious, although we have only enjoyed a thirty-five-day truce granted to an exhausted enemy that has...
Thanksgiving and Then to Germany
Today is the day for giving thanks. We had a service in a Catholic church without an altar, images, or benches. We had a protestant service followed by a friendly oration by a French priest. Most of our regimental officers as well as many of their French counterparts attended...
In Zeltingen, Alemania, by the Moselle
started packing early in the day. After lunch, I went to the station where orders are posted and was able to determine the whereabouts of my buddies. I went up the river alone until I reached Erden and then Rachtig. This is where Machine Gun Battalion 345 is located. I could not help but notice all...
Mexican Americans Attend School
We reported for formation with a light backpack and crossed the Moselle on a ferry. Our troops marched in impressive order through the valleys and fields of Wengerohr and arrived at our command post near the railroad station. We rested under a lush grove of trees while our couriers did...
The Texans and Oklahomans: An Occasion for Drawing on a Postcard
A member of the staff of the YMCA had given me his last sheets of paper so I could write letters for my buddies and students. At that point, six men I did not know entered through a door on the other side of the room and caught my attention. When I noticed that they...
Prodding That Produces Favorable Results
Time unfolded joyfully after we silenced the destructive cannonade of war. The American forces are the Army of Occupation stationed along the Moselle, from France to Koblenz. I have spent several months teaching Mexican American soldiers to read and write. I worked in the evenings at...
Article of War No. 105 and 2,175 Bottles of Champagne
On December 26, 1918, 674 soldiers of the Third Army, including corporals and sergeants, 174 second lieutenants, ninety-two lieutenants, fifteen captains, and three majors, received orders to attend a military school in Châtillon-sur-Seine. One of the students was our good friend and...
A Portrait of Zeltingen
I have followed the news that Mexico and the United States will be at war by the time we arrive. We are marching to Wengerohr tomorrow and then to Brest or some other seaport. I felt like bidding a last farewell to the area around Zeltingen. I took...
On the Last Cattle Train and Cars 40 and 8
We slept well and were ordered to rise very early and put away our beds. We ate breakfast and waited for our train. The trains began to leave, but ours did not depart until ten. We were already worrying that we would never leave. Some friends even wondered if we were not being taken...
The Mongolia, American Steamship
We had another rigorous inspection after breakfast, as if to keep us from entertaining bad thoughts. We readied our knapsacks and the rest of the things we will take on our return trip. The overwhelming noise, the pleasure that abounds in us, and the need to have everything ready are killing...
How Boston Receives Us
We woke up early and prepared our knapsacks. Our joy is indescribable. If death were as sweet as this, we would all want it. Soon after breakfast we climbed to the upper deck to be the first to see land. It must have been ten when we set eyes on the first islands that guard...
Demobilizing the 90th Division
It is impossible to describe the happiness we felt during our first night in our homes. One had to have been there. I suppose that what happened in my home was repeated everywhere else. My loved ones wanted to know everything and I wanted to hear about what they had done while I was gone...
Epilogue: The Voice of a Claim That Demands Justice
Three decades have passed since the world celebrated Armistice Day, on November 11, 1918. On that memorable day, at eleven o’clock, hostilities ended for the nations that had fought in the air, on the ground, and on the high seas. During these thirty years, many people have been able to see...
To the Memory of the Mexican American Heroes Who Died in the Great World War Defending the Democratic Principles of the American Union
List of Honor
We most sincerely appreciate everyone who has made this book possible. Future generations will have to judge us according to our deeds. People who made a sacrifice to advance the subscription cost without even requiring the usual receipt once again demonstrate undeniable loyalty, and...