The author of “Rare Bird” speaks on what sparked his research into Hispanic pilots during the war

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“Rare Bird” is the story of Hispanic pilots who’ve served in the military. And while at one time they were indeed rare, hundreds of these men have served in the U.S. military since the early days of aviation. Horizonte host Jose Cardenas spoke to the author of “Rare Bird,” Rudy Villarreal.

It started from Villarreal’s interest in aviation and he began to look through old microfilm at the Arizona Republic. “It must have been like September 1945. And what I’m looking at is,  the war was just over a second world war was just over and it was a lot of young men, returning home, and I was really surprised to see so many of these young men that had Hispanic names,” Villarreal said.

He was surprised to see Hispanic individuals who were a part of the aircrew during the war. “The number who had been pilots and aircrew is what really got my interest, because I, I grew up in a mining town were the only ones I knew a lot of veterans, but they had all served in the Army and Navy, you know the surface forces, I had not known anybody personally, that has served as an aircrew member or a pilot,” Villarreal said.

And more research began as Villarreal kept digging.

“As I was looking at the– the names and the Arizona Republic. I started jotting down their names after a while and just kind of casually, looking through and jotting down their names. And then I realized that you know that there were a lot of them. And so I decided that I would look into it a little further and look at other newspapers so they were all on microfilm there at the State Capitol. So I started looking through microfilm, of all the dailies for Tucson,  dailies for Phoenix, all the small towns in the valley.”

Rudy Villarreal, Author, Rare Bird: Hispanic MIlitary Pilots of the USA

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