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Interpreting the Evidence

World War I Service Record for Benjamin Gonzalez, c. 1919

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    New York City
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load World War I Service Record for Benjamin Gonzalez, c. 1919 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
World War I service card, Form No. 724-2 A. G. O., listing personal information, organizations served in, ranks held, engagements, wounds, and discharge date for Benjamin Gonzalez, ca. 1919.
Historical Context
Service records show biographical information about each soldier, including his address, his place of birth, the unit or units he served with, and any wounds he may have received.    

Latinos have made an outstanding contribution to America by serving in the armed forces.  Today, people of Spanish descent make up 9.5% of all active duty personnel.  Hispanic Americans have been recognized for their bravery and valor, and Latinos as a group have received thirty-nine Medals of Honor in recognition of their accomplished service in the defense of our nation.

There are many stories that demonstrate the gallantry of Hispanic soldiers during the Great War.  One such story involves a young private named Marcelino Serna. Private Serna was wounded on the battlefield in France, but continued to fight, and later captured twenty-four German soldiers.  Private Serna was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the service of his country.

Latinos also volunteered in force during World War II.  Although records from this war are incomplete, it is estimated that over 250,000 Latinos fought in the Second World War.  Of these, 56,000 were from Puerto Rico.

Essential Question
How do immigrants become a part of a new society?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the information found in this document and explain how Benjamin Gonzalez was a important member of American society.
Historical Challenges
What was the extent of Hispanic involvement in the Korean War? The Vietnam War?
Research the names and ranks of the highest-ranking officers of Latino descent. Make a poster of your findings. Describe their contributions.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Research the 1918 influenza epidemic. How did it affect our soldiers? How was it transmitted? What were the effects on the U.S. and Latin American populations?
Math: Make a bar graph comparing the number of Hispanic men and women in the military during wartime. Begin with the Great War (World War I).
Music: A corrido, a popular and traditional Mexican genre, is a story told in song. It is no surprise, then, that Mexican American soldiers marching off to war composed wartime corridos, immortalizing this very important time in their lives. Write a corrido that Benjamin Gonzalez might have sung as he marched off to war.