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Private Ralph Gatica Chavez
U. S. Army
Ser. # 38162998

January 5, 1921 - February 29, 1944
Cedarvale Cemetery
Bay City, Matagorda County, Texas 

Gold Star Mother
Chona (Gatica) Chavez

Private Ralph Gatica Chavez, U.S. Army [January 5, 1921 – February 29, 1944] was a resident of New Gulf, Wharton County, Texas when he joined the service.  His parents were Ralph Chavez [August 5, 1869 – June 10 1937] and Chona (Gatica) Chavez [December 12, 1885 – July 7, 1941].  No record as to where he was born has been located.  He joined the Army in Houston, Texas on June 11, 1942, and after completing basic training was assigned
to the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment (Blitz Doughs), 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead), an original “Spearhead” element.  The unit arrived in England during mid-September 1943, and the 36th was billeted at Sutton Veny, Wiltshire County.  With the rest of the Division, it maneuvered widely over Salisbury Plain, engaged in landing exercises along the British coast, and took part in various special training courses.  On February 29, 1944 Private Chavez died from an unknown cause, most likely a training accident or from illness*.  His unit went into combat at Villiers Fossard, Normandy on June 24, 1944 in the Normandy Invasion.  His remains were repatriated to the United States on August 3, 1948 and he was re-interred at Cedarvale Cemetery, Bay City, Matagorda County, Texas because there was no cemetery at New Gulf or Boling, Texas and his Father had been interred at Cedarvale Cemetery in 1937.  He was survived by two sisters: Mrs. Martino Hernandez of Bay City and Miss Mary Chavez of Palacios; and two brothers:  Placedo of New Gulf and Disidferio of Palacios.  The Daily Tribune in its’ August 3, 1948 issue announcing “Reburial Rites For Ralph Chavez” erroneously reported he had been killed in Italy.


Technically Private Chavez was a Wharton County, Texas wartime casualty. Even though Private Chavez did not live in Matagorda County, at the time his remains were repatriated to the United States most of his family were living here.  We are proud to honor him and his service to our Nation on our war memorial.


*Note:  A great deal of confusion exists as to where Private Chavez died.


His grave marker states he was attached to:  36 ARMD INF 3 ARMD DIV – if we have correctly translated this information we have:  36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division.  Such a unit did exist in WWII.


Date of Death is given as Feb 29 1944:  1944 was a Leap Year.  All documents having a date of death on it gives this date.


The Death Certificate which accompanied his remains gave his place of death as France:  His unit did not go into France until the Normandy Invasion on June 24, 1944.


The World War II Casualty Listing on microfiche gives his place of temporary interment as:  Nettuno Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy – his unit fought in France, Belgium and Germany, but did not go into Italy.


His Unit History states:  The division was activated on April 15, 1941 at Camp Beauregard, LA, in June 1941, it moved to Camp Polk, LA (now Fort Polk).  On March 9, 1942, it came under Army Ground Forces and was assigned to the II Armored Corps.  In July 1942, it was transferred to Camp Young, CA and from August to October 1942, took part in maneuvers at the Desert Training Center. It left Camp Young in January 1943 and moved to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA.  The 3rd Armored Division arrived in the European Theater on September 15, 1943, conducting pre-invasion training in the Liverpool and Bristol areas.  It remained in Somerset, England until June 24, 1944, when it departed to partake in the Normandy operations.


If his date of death is correct, and if he was not on a special covert operation, then his place of death according to his unit history had to be in England.



      Funeral services and reburial rites for Pvt. Ralph G. Chavez, will be held from the Latin American Catholic Church Thursday morning at 9 o’clock with Father Murphy officiating.

      Pvt. Chavez, a resident of Newgulf, was killed in Italy, February 29th 1944. He is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Martino Hernandez of Bay City, Miss Mary Chavez of Palacios; two brothers, Placedo of Newgulf and Desidferio of Palacios.

      Interment will be in Cedarvale Cemetery under the direction of Taylor Bros. Funeral Home.

The Daily Tribune, August 3, 1948


Copyright 2006 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Jan. 28, 2006
Jan. 9, 2009