Fighting Basques: Honoring our Basque World War II Veterans Who Fell in the Pacific

On the 5th of December, a small ceremony will take place on the Japanese island of Okinawa in which tribute will be paid to all American veterans of Basque origin who died during World War II (WWII) in the Pacific, with special recognition for those who perished on the island. They were over twenty young Basque-Americans, six of them killed in Okinawa. Their identification and now visibility and public recognition are the result of the research project Fighting Basques: Memory of WWII, led by the homeland history association Sancho de Beurko since 2015. To date, more than 1,600 combatants of Basque origin have been identified in the United States Armed Forces, of which 1,100 biographies of both the veterans and their emigrant families have been completed.

This event is the result of a collaboration between the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum and the Sancho de Beurko Association, under the auspices of the North American Basque Organizations (NABO).

The Battle of Okinawa (March 26-June 22, 1945) was the last major battle of the last world conflict, in which more than 12,500 American soldiers fell, including five Basques, and more than 36,000 were wounded, many of whom died after the battle. On the Japanese side, more than 77,000 soldiers and more than 100,000 Okinawan civilians died. A sixth Basque died on the island as a result of a tragic accident at the end of the war. This will be the first tribute on Japanese soil to our Basque WWII veterans.

Joseph Uriola poses for the camera in a relaxed manner in his barracks.

Among them is Sergeant Joseph Uriola Alcorta, born in Boise, Idaho, on May 22, 1919, to immigrant parents from Bizkaia, Juan Urriolabeitia, a native of Markina, and María Dolores Alcorta, born in Ondarroa. Joseph enlisted in the US Army a few months before the United States entered the war. As a member of the 184th Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division he participated in the Aleutian Islands Campaign and in the battles of Kwajalein and Leyte. Joseph was killed in combat on April 7, 1945, in Okinawa, at the age of 25. He received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, posthumously, for saving the life of a wounded comrade in the Philippines.

Dr. Pedro. J. Oiarzabal, co-principal investigator of “Figthing Basques,” will travel to Okinawa to participate in the event. He will also take the opportunity to see WWII memorials first-hand, as NABO will soon launch a fundraising campaign with the goal of establishing the first national WWII memorial to publicly recognize the selfless service of Basque and Basque-American veterans.

One thought on “Fighting Basques: Honoring our Basque World War II Veterans Who Fell in the Pacific”

  1. Greetings,
    Well done. Two photos caught my attention–one with a soldier knelling who wore the cap of the French Foreign Legion–the white round cap. And another photo that looks very much like the cliffs of Normandy complete with the blockhouse built by the Germans. I remember the blockhouse!! all the way down to the Atlantic close to Spain.

    My uncle Luis from Navarre escaped Spain with a friend during the time of Franco. They were to meet in Marseille to try their luck to come to America as stowed away. Uncle Luis made it, but his friend never showed up. Probably captured or more likely shot by the Nazis on sight. Uncle Luis had no where to go so he joined the Foreign Legion. Over twenty years in North Africa and Viet Nam. What a world–it never stops. We never learn.
    May they rest in peace.

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