THE RARE BREED |
Recognizing Area Veterans Of World War II
"Poncho" Rodriguez Served Aboard
Carriers In Pacific Campaigns
Alfonso Rodriguez, right, shown in 1940s photo
with brothers, Felipe, left, and Alberto. Felipe is deceased,
Alberto lives in Brownsville.
Twenty-one year-old Alfonso "Poncho" Rodriguez was a cook at Fred's Cafe on Main Street in Palacios when Japan sneak-attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Two months later, on Feb. 13, 1942, he was in Houston to enlist in the United States Navy.
The son of Felipe and Louisa Rodriguez, Alfonso had been born at Brownsville, Texas on Oct. 6, 1920. At the age of 11, he came to Palacios with his father and two brothers, Alberto and Felipe.
In the Navy, Alfonso not only served through the World War II years, but added on more than two years of peacetime duty for a total service to his country of five years and nine months.
After the initial boot camp in San Diego, Calif., and later stations at Seattle, Wash., and in Virginia, Poncho (the named favored by his family) spent most of his Navy career aboard ships in the Pacific Theatre. Among the major campaigns he participated in were the Aleutians, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Philippine Islands.
Poncho was aboard the U.S.S. Hinsdale when it was hit by Japanese Kamikaze attacks during which 385 American servicemen were killed and 602 were wounded. He also served aboard the aircraft carriers, U.S.S. Ranger and U.S.S. Enterprise and other ships.
Rodriguez received his discharge at Quonset Hut, Rhode Island in November of 1947, with the rank of Ship's Cook, First Class. Among the medals and awards he received during his service was the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Stars; American Theatre Medal with one Star; the Purple Heart and World War II Victory Medal.
During one of his leaves, Poncho returned home and married his sweetheart, Rachel Flores, in Palacios on Nov. 2, 1942.
After his discharge, Poncho returned to Palacios and opened a restaurant, called "Veteran's Restaurant." He ran that for two years, then started operating shrimp boats, which lasted for 25 years. The last two years of shrimping, he owned the Alvin J.
Leaving Palacios, Poncho moved to Houston and managed a Church's Fried Chicken place for seven years, then went to manage a Kentucky Fried Chicken place in New Orleans. He just stayed in the "Big Easy" area, now living at LaPlace, La.
Poncho and Rachel (now deceased), had two adopted daughters, Norma Golden of Angleton and Olga Luke of Houston. There are also three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A niece, Mary Leal of Alexandria, Va., was a big help in contributing to "Poncho's story."
Alfonso (Poncho) Rodriguez
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