The American GI Forum of California
Collection includes correspondence, ephemera, and organizational papers
documenting their activities. These materials offer researchers a lens
into the often-difficult reintegration process that veterans undergo
following their separation from the armed forces, as well as the overall
effects of this process on their families and their communities.
Researchers will find these materials useful for critical examinations
of the social location of Latino servicemen and servicewomen within the
context of a large metropolitan center and how this identity has evolved
since 1942. Indeed, a collection of this caliber has wide application
for studies on the overall condition of Latinos within the United States
as well as on the lives and communities of California Latino veterans.
Moreover, according to Kelly Lytle-Hernandez, professor of History at
UCLA, this particular collection has much to offer scholars interested
in studying local California politics, Latino veteran organizing, and
gender dynamics in a traditionally male-centered context. According to
her, the stories reflected in these papers act as a precursor to later
Chicano organizing. Researchers who would like to indicate errors of
fact or omissions in this finding aid can contact the UCLA Chicano
Studies Research Center Library and Archive.
The American GI Forum was founded in 1948 in Corpus Christi, Texas as
a resource for Mexican American veterans returning from service in WWII
and their families. The repressive socio-economic and political climate
of Texas prior to WWII and the lack of social mobility and limited
opportunities afforded to servicemen and women despite their service in
the nation's armed forces, functioned as an impetus to create an
organization that could represent and fight for veterans' rights.
Although this organization was originally created to meet the needs of
those veterans living in South Texas, several victories related to
veterans' benefits and access to health care, motivated Mexican
Americans in other parts of the nation to create their own local
American GI Forum chapters. Key to this growth was the denial of funeral
services in 1949 to a Mexican American soldier – Private Felix
Longoria, whose remains were returned home four years after being killed
in combat in the Philippines. After organizing several protests and
receiving a great deal of media attention, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson
intervened and arranged for PVT Longoria to be buried with honors at
Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.