As the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II came Aug. 14 and was quickly past, a question asked in several recent through-the-mask conversations I’ve taken part in is this: How many veterans of World War II do we have left in Tracy?
It seems that it wasn’t too long ago that we were down to a handful of World War I veterans. The last one, William Mason Gates, died Aug. 12, 1995, at the age of 100.
At that time, many of those who had served in WWII were still with us. That’s changed dramatically in the last decade, and especially in the last few years as remaining WWII vets reached their 90s.
A backward glance into Tracy’s history quickly brought to mind what a great impact those who served in the Big War had on our town. Many Tracy veterans returned to their home town, but others came from elsewhere, including those had served in California or passed through on their way to the Pacific combat zones and liked what they saw.
They filled jobs created with the opening of the H.J. Heinz Co. factory and the boost it gave to Tracy’s agricultural economy, with the continued solid employment levels at the Southern Pacific and Tracy Quartermaster Sub-depot, and with the opening of the Central Valley Project and Deuel Vocational Institution.
A reminder of how many Tracyites served in the war was provided in the names carried on the two billboard-sized signs erected in front of what was then City Hall — now the Roxy Hudson Fire Administration Building. There were 998 names on the signs at last count. Are any of those listed, or not listed, still with us? I’d like to hear from the veterans, families and friends if they know of any.