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Interview with Connie and Raymond Gomez

Connie Gomez and Raymond Gomez are just two of the local people you'll meet in KQED's The War: Bay Area Stories (airing Friday, September 21, at 9pm). Connie was born in Del Rey and raised in Pittsburg. Raymond was born in Sacramento and raised in Oakley. They met as teenagers and married after the war, in 1946. During the war, she worked in the Richmond shipyards. He was sent to France and landed in Normandy, returning a highly decorated veteran. Here's a bit of their story:

Connie GomezConnie, what did the Hispanic community in Pittsburg do for the war effort?
I know that a lot of people used to bake cookies to take to the USO. And all the young girls used to go to the USO, you know, to dance with the soldiers. My father wouldn't let us, though. He was really strict. They had a lot of bond drives, and even in school they would encourage us to buy bonds. Not in a big capacity, but maybe a dime here and a dime there.

How did you hear about the Rosie the Riveter program?
Well, I graduated from high school in 1943, and they needed workers in Richmond. They were always calling for them in the newspapers. So my father, who had worked at the steel mill for so many years, decided that we would all go and work at the shipyards. My brother and my father, they were both riggers. My sister Alice and I were welders, and my sister Angie was a burner.

Were there other Hispanic women working there?
Many, many Hispanic women. And then we had a lot of people come from the South, the black community. And it was mostly women, because most of the young men were gone. There were either old men or real, real young ones like my brother, until he got drafted.

What does the World War II experience mean to you?
I think that it made a lot of us grow up faster than we were supposed to. And it made us appreciate the people and where we lived.

Raymond GomezRaymond, what was the Hispanic community in Oakley like before World War II?
We had just come out the Depression. And I remember that. Mostly all Hispanics were farmworkers or sharecroppers nothing more than that.

Did you work in the farming community in Oakley?
Yes. I remember picking peas .... Farmers paid 10 cents a bushel, and our entire family maybe made a dollar, dollar and a half [a day] picking peas during the Depression.

How did you end up in the Army?
I was drafted, and it was really a privilege to be drafted in those days because we all wanted to serve our country.

How did you get to France?
I was part of the invasion of Normandy and Omaha Beach. I was with the 115th Regiment. And the 116th had already taken the beaches. So we followed them.

How did you feel about going to France?
I don't think I was ever scared. I was more sick than scared because we had been out on the channel for so long ... bobbing up and down in the boats. So it wasn't that I was scared. But I can't explain it.

What was it like to visit Normandy with your grandson?
It was amazing. It was like, this is what I fought for. This is what I lived for, you know, to see my children and my grandson being free and here I really got so emotional ... I couldn't speak too much. And a lot of people, even children, would come up and want me to sign their autograph books .... It was a little overwhelming for me.