Donate Now

Letters Home to Hero Street

Sending letters home to Silvis

Photo of letters postmarked in 1944

Letters Home to Hero Street is a documentary co-produced by WQPT and Fourth Wall Films.

This regional documentary focuses on the personal letters sent home from one of the eight soldiers, who died during World War II and the Korean conflict—all of whom were from the same block-and-a-half long neighborhood now called Hero Street, USA, in Silvis, Illinois. The street is now known as "Hero Street" in their honor. Learn more or purchase a DVD copy.

"The Hero Street story is every bit as fascinating and relevant as other more well-known war stories. Letters Home will deliver a portion of this Mexican-American story through the letters of Frank Sandoval," said director Kelly Rundle of Fourth Wall Films.

P.F.C. Frank Sandoval, who entered the U.S. Army on October 3, 1942. He served in North Burma with Co. C 209 Engineer Combat Battalion. Frank was listed as "killed in action" on June 26, 1944.

"Frank (Sandoval) was not chosen because he is more important than the other seven heroes, nor more important than others who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice," said producer Lora Adams of WQPT. "(In Letters Home to Hero Street) Frank stands in for the seven and for all who have served."

Emmy-nominated

The award-winning documentary "Letters Home to Hero Street," produced by Lora Adams of WQPT-Quad Cities PBS and Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films, received a 2015 Mid-America Emmy nomination in the historical documentary category. The 25-minute historical documentary film was partially funded by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council and recently received a Silver Eddy and the Audience award at the 2015 Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival.

Additional information is available at herostreetmovie.com.

Fourth Wall Films is an award-winning independent film and video production company formerly located in Los Angeles and is now based in Moline, Illinois. Letters Home to Hero Steet was the second Emmy nomination for Fourth Wall Films' Kelly and Tammy Rundle.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story begins during the Mexican revolution from 1910–20. This was documented by "Hero Street USA" author Marc Wilson of Hampton, Illinois, who is the publisher of Town News of Moline.

Wilson's book describes the conditions of the Mexican peasants under dictator Porfiro Diaz as "miserable, hopeless and cheap." Ninety-five percent of the women were illiterate. There was mass starvation. Disability and disease were rampant. "Little was left but despair and gorging green flies, ashes of death and the suffering of the living."

During this time, 3,000 families owned half of Mexico's land, and 17 individuals owned one fifth. More than 40 percent of the land, mines and oil were owned by Americans, and other foreign nationals owned 24 percent.

Reformer Francisco Madero took over the government but was escorted out of the capital and shot in the back of the head at point-blank range in a coup that was planned by the U.S. Ambassador Henry Wilson, who, the book says, boasted of it! The ambassador was later fired by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, but pandemonium ensued throughout Mexico and peasants were caught in the crossfire. "Fear reigned when soldiers passed through towns."

Between 1910 and 1920 one out of 15 Mexicans lost their lives and a million fled to the U.S., which had a worker shortage because of World War I. The U.S. Department of Labor exempted Mexicans from the Immigration Act of 1917 and recruiters went to Mexico to find workers to keep the American economy going.

Eduviges and Angelina Sandoval—Frank's parents—joined the exodus in 1917 when Eduviges was hired by the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad. "Starving, grieving and clad in rags" they crossed the border to Laraedo en route to the Silvis rail yard where they found themselves living in box cars and working long hours in severe heat and cold for little pay. Eventually they moved to houses on Second Street (now "Hero Street") with dirt floors, no indoor plumbing and no electricity. They were met with hostility from racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

This is the background that makes the "Hero Street" story so compelling. These families persevered against all odds and the sons eagerly joined the United States Armed Forces to prove their loyalty to America. Marc Wilson's book details the tragic but heroic stories of the eight who died: Tony Pompa, brothers Frank and Joseph Sandoval, Willie Sandoval, Claro Solis, Peter Masias, Joseph Gomez and Johnny Muñoz.

Shamefully, the discrimination continued after the war when the survivors were denied membership in the Silvis post of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). They instead chartered their own VFW post and, as justice is served, it survived and the one that denied them didn't.

Letters Home to Hero Street keeps this important story alive and deserves the appreciation of everyone involved.

 

Embracing Our Military

Letters Home to Hero Street is part of WQPT PBS' Embracing Our Military initiative. This initiative raises awareness of important issues to the military community. It is an on-going community based dialog.