Prior to 1940, a generation of Mexican American youth who grew up in the Segundo Barrio neighborhood of El Paso, Texas had enlisted in the National Guard. In November of 1940, the National Guard was federalized and the young men were assigned to Company E of the 141st Infantry, 35th Division. During their youth many had developed a unique barrio slang or caló known only to them. In training, the men of E company excelled in military games because they used their caló to communicate and their adversaries could not understand them.
After training, the men of Company E were a part of the Allied invasion of Italy. A handful of them. led by Captain Gabriel Navarette, were dropped off in Italy in the dead of night before the invasion. Their job was to scout and determine enemy strength and vulnerabilities. The men on land used caló to communicate the enemy positions to their comrades aboard US ships facilitating the successful invasion. The Italian and German soldiers on the mainland could hear them talking over the walkie-talkies but could not figure out what they were saying because it was all in a specific caló known only to the men of the Segundo Barrio neighborhood.
After in the invasion, company E moved north with the rest of the allied troops toward Rome. They came to a stop when they reached the Rio Rapido which was heavily fortified on the west bank with German machine gun nests. On the night of January 21, 1944 the men of Company E were directed by Major General Fred Walker to cross the Rio Rapido, in spite of having been warned of the German emplacements. It was a moonlit night but there was heavy fog on the river. The men did as ordered and launched pontoon boats to cross the river. Halfway across the river, the fog lifted and the Germans opened fire. Hundred of the men of Company E were slaughtered in the Rio Rapido crossing.
This army photography of some of the men of Company E, 141st Infantry, 35th Division before they were shipped out to Europe. The photo was taken by an Army photography (public domain) and supplied to Latinopia by Gabriel Navarette during an interview with Jesus Trevino in 1977.