A-Bomb Plane Protector Highlights Veterans Day Parade

A-Bomb Plane Protector Highlights Veterans Day Parade

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Washington, DC, November 11, 2015 | Chris Stone with Times of San Diego | comments
Cardoza read an article about Bronze Stars and contacted Davis’ office to see if he could still get it. Davis made the arrangements.
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When young Herman Cardoza was assigned to guard a B-29 bomber on Tinian Island in the waning days of World War II, he knew nothing of its mission. Or its place in history.

On Wednesday, Cardoza recalled how he was delighted to learn its role in bringing an end to the war.

[[{"fid":"355","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Rep. Davis Pins Bronze Medal on Leonard Cardoza","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Rep. Davis Pins Bronze Medal on Leonard Cardoza","style":"float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;","class":"media-element file-full"}}]]On Aug. 6, 1945, the plane he protected — the Enola Gay — dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Seventy years and several months after VJ Day, the 92-year-old veteran from Spring Valley received the Bronze Star and the Army of Occupation Medal with Japan Clasp at the San Diego Veterans Day Parade with the help of U.S. Rep. Susan Davis.

“I feel delighted,” Cardoza said before the parade’s start on Harbor Boulevard. “It’s a sense of acknowledgment…. It’s important to me now.”

Cardoza expressed pride in his old Army unit, the 147th Infantry, which saw action in Iwo Jima. He called the 147th an “orphaned regimen” and the “Gypsies of the Pacific.”

“Infantrymen were considered the roughest branch,” he said. “We lived in foxholes and everyone earned the combat infantry badge.”

That infantry badge also entitled him to a Bronze Star, but that “slipped my mind” for years, he said.

Recently he read an article about Bronze Stars and contacted Davis’ office to see if he could still get it. Davis made the arrangements.

The 53rd District congresswoman said, “It’s absolutely amazing.”

Brig. Gen. Kurt Hardin said honoring Cardoza was “very special for me, especially giving a Bronze Star to someone who served at Iwo Jima.

“It’s incredible. He has been through so much.”

[[{"fid":"356","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Gen. Harden and Leonard Cardoza","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Gen. Harden and Leonard Cardoza","style":"float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;","class":"media-element file-full"}}]]Indeed several months before guarding the Enola Gay, he was awakened “by a click and a thud, which told me someone just tossed a grenade.”

Fortunately, it was a dud.

He explained that the Japanese stored ammunitions in caves and moisture there could disarm the explosives.

Born in 1923, Cardoza was eager to join the military after Pearl Harbor, but was too young to enlist. Enlistment age then was 19.

At 17, he entered training at Brown Military Academy in Pacific Beach and graduated in 1941.

In 1942 the War Department lowered the enlistment age to 19, and Cardoza entered the Army as a second lieutenant.

After serving two stints in the Army, Cardoza went on to study physics and math at SDSU and then did research at Stanford University and UCLA.

He went on to work as a physicist in electromagnetism in the Visibility Laboratory of the University of California for 12 years.

Cardoza and his wife, Jane, have been married 72 years.

“I’m very proud of him,” Jane said. “He is a wonderful husband.”

Now their goal is to make it to their 75th wedding anniversary.

Davis, who visited Normandy for the World War II remembrance in May, said it’s important for veterans to talk about their military experiences.

Many veterans, like her father, returned from that war and never talked about it, she said. “We need to help our loved ones by giving them a prompt to talk about it.”

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