Nov 11

LCDR Eugene Valencia

Thursday, November 11, 2010 6:01 AM


United States Navy fighter squadron VF-9 served on board the carrier Essex (CV 9) during that ship’s first cruise in the South Pacific in 1943-1944. LCDR Eugene Valencia got his baptism of fire in October 1943 during strikes against Japanese forces on Wake Island and at Tarawa.

On 11 November, Essex launched an attack on Japanese shipping in Rabaul Harbor. Assigned to escort the strike group that morning, Valencia made three strafing runs on a heavy cruiser despite heavy antiaircraft fire, assisted in covering torpedo planes returning from the attack, and shot down his first enemy plane. That afternoon, while providing fighter cover for his ship, he downed two more enemy aircraft and assisted in the destruction of a third. Flamboyant, outgoing, mercurial, and intense, Commander Valencia, a Latino from Los Angeles, went on to become the Navy’s third highest scoring ace of all time.

Valencia’s combat experience illustrates the necessity of diversity. Fortunately, during World War II, the Navy had no prohibitions against Hispanics serving in combat as it did against African Americans, enabling Latinos like Valencia to excel. During that War the Navy revolutionized its written racial policy, opening every billet to African Americans by 1945. Today, as then, during war the country cannot deprive itself of the talent of all of its people if it expects to win.

  • Raistlen

    Diversity, or equality of opportunity?

  • Andy (JADAA)

    I will not be so arrogant as to presume to speak on CDR Valencia’s behalf, his family can do that for him. But I have been honored to know a number of people who flew with him and not once, ever, was his ethnic origin ever, ever even raised, discussed nor cared about. You should be ashamed of yourselves to twist his legacy as a Naval Aviator to fit your own devices. Shame on the NHHC for this. How about simply saluting him for being the warrior and the damn good pilot that he was?

  • CDR K

    A “flamboyant” and “mecurial” Latino. Stereotype much?

  • Spect

    “Valencia’s combat experience illustrates the necessity of diversity.” No, Valencia’s combat experience illustrates his competence in applying the lessons of aerial combat. It does not matter what his race, religion, or ethnicity. The only thing that matters is that he applied what he was taught. By the way, people from Los Angeles are Americans and sometimes referred to as “Angelenos”. What you are purporting is akin to saying that being Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, etc. has anything to do with a person’s warrior ethos.

  • Helo Pilot

    Cut out the “diversity” BS!


    Well Said, Andy, Well Said, sir!

  • Barrett Tillman

    I was acquainted with Gene and present when he died unexpectedly in 1972. As noted here, his ethnicity was never raised; it clearly did not matter to him nearly as much as his cockpit reputation. I vaguely recall that one of his VF9 squadronmates said that he was as much Irish as hispanic.

  • Rurik

    It appears that Naval Air got this fine pilot quite without the mediation of sensitivity boards, quotas, and diversity commissars. NHHC makes a valid point, jut not the one intended. Bravo to the previous commenters

  • Cheryl Valencia-Icard

    Hi everyone:
    I just happened on this site, and I was amazed at the some of the comments about my dad.

    Mr. Tillman,Spect and Rurik, great comments. My dad’s ethnic background served him well as a pilot, dad and husband to my mom and had nothing to do with being a pilot.

    Feel free to contact me for any questions that you might have.
    If anyone knows about my dad, I do. He was a great man and father.

    Cheryl Valencia-Icard
    [email protected]

  • Cheryl Valencia-Icard

    Follow-up to comment also include Andy.

    Cheryl Valencia-Icard

  • isabelSoliz

    Good evening.

    My name is Isabel Soliz. I’m a Spanish teacher. Our district plans to open a new middle school in 2013. Currently, a committee has been formed to seek-out a name for our new middle school before it is proposed to our school disrict board for approval. I have proposed your father’s name for the name of our middle school. His name and his accomplishments as a Hispanic Naval Avaitor came up in our home, as we are a NAVY family. I believe your father’s heroic contributions to this country would inspire all students, as well as our Latino community.

    Before moving forward on this proposal, I would like to correspond with you, either by email or by telephone. Please contact me.

    Thank you.

  • A Zumai

    As a Mexican American and an amateur military historian. I hear a lot of sneering about diversity and mentioning Lt.Cmdr Valencia’s race. Whether he demonstrated or talked about his race or ethnic background isn’t the issue.
    The issue is the narrative put out there by politicians to win votes. The narrative is that Mexican’s don’t belong here, just come here to use resources, don’t pay taxes, just take from this country.
    The reality is the opposite. Guys like LtCmdr Valencia are the story of brave latino’s serving their new country. This record of service goes back to the Civil War. When I tell Americans TODAY about the story of Lt. Cmdr Valencia and/or Lt. Arthur Van Haren they don’t believe Mexican Americans served in huge numbers in WW2? Let alone were Aces??! Few people know how many Medals of Honor were won by latino’s in WW2 and other wars.
    The narrative of “we just got here”, “we are illegal” and “they just want welfare and don’t want to work/serve” isn’t a political question. It’s historically incorrect. Regardless of your political affiliation we must stand by historical accuracy.
    Armando E. Zumaya
    Chief Development Officer
    USS Hornet Museum