Joseph Hernandez Sandoval was born March 8, 1919, in a boxcar in a Silvis, Illinois, rail yard to Edubigis “Ed” Morado Sandoval and Angelina Hernandez Sandoval, both born in Mexico.1 Ed and Angelina fled Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. They lived in that box car, as many Mexican families did, on the Rock Island Lines’ property.2 His father worked on the railroad. Joseph had five brothers and four sisters. All his brothers later served in the military. He and his family were members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Joseph graduated from East Moline High School.
Joseph married Manuela “Nellie” Segura in Muscatine on August 5, 1940.3 He registered for the draft two months later. He was a section laborer for C.B.I. Railroad at the time.4 They had a son, Henry. He entered the Army in January 1944. He did basic training in Alabama. His unit, in France, helped fight the second part of the Normandy Invasion.5 His brother, Frank, was killed in action in Burma in June 1944, and served with the 209th Engineer Combat Battalion, Company C. One month later, Joseph left for overseas duty, serving in the Army with Co. I, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment during WWII. Son, Michael, was born September 26, 1944.
Joseph returned to battle duty in March 1945 after recovering in the 826th Convalescent Center in England6 from leg wounds he received in battle on November 17, 1944,7 near Uback. He wrote home at that time that he was feeling fine.8 At the same time, Joseph’s brother, Emidio, was fighting in France. In early April it appeared the war in Europe would soon be over and his unit celebrated.9 The next day, they received orders to cross the Elbe River and to be in reserve. At the river, they had 25’ to go when they were hit with heavy artillery and had to abandon the bridge. Three German tanks were headed their way. It was a chaotic time with six killed, many missing and many more wounded.
On April 29, 1945, Joseph’s wife Nellie, received a telegram that Joseph was missing in action in Germany as of April 14.
In April 1946, Nellie received a telegram from the adjutant general that Joseph was now presumed dead. He had been serving with the 41st Armored Infantry, which was holding a bridgehead on the bank of the Elbe River, near Schonebeck, Germany, when his unit was overrun by the enemy.10 He was a private first class.
In 1946, 72 men from Rock Island County had been killed in action or died from wounds received while serving.11
In mid-November 1948, Joseph’s body was among 7,572 war dead that were returned to the United States from Europe aboard the Army transport Carroll Victory.12 In December 1948, Joseph’s body was returned to his family. He was buried next to his brother, Frank, at the Rock Island National Cemetery.13
Joseph never got to meet his son Michael. He had previously requested a photo of his two boys be taken with his father.
Joseph was one of eight Mexican American men from the same 1 ½ block area of 2nd Street in Silvis, Illinois, who were killed in WWII and Korea. All the men knew each other. They are Joseph Gomez, Peter Masias, John Munos, Tony Pompa, Williams Sandoval, Claro Solis, and Joseph’s brother Frank Sandoval.
In 1968, 2nd Street, where Joseph had lived, was renamed “Hero Street” by decree of then-Silvis Mayor Joe Terronez. From About Hero Street (herostreetusa.org):
It has been documented that as of the present day there have been over 100 young men and women from Second Street who have given service to the United States Military Forces. It had been researched and documented by the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C., that there is no other street of comparable size that has had as many men and women render service to the Armed Forces of the United States of America than the 1 1/2 block long street in Silvis, Illinois. Of these 100 or more Military men and women, six of them were killed in action during WWII and two during the Korean War.
9 Information obtained during premier showing of An Infantryman from Hero Street, on Nov. 12, 2022, by filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films