DOWNEY – Cpl. Moses Lechuga, a Downey resident and World War II veteran who escaped from a German prison of war camp, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on Oct. 2. He was 92. “Cpl. Lechuga served heroically in World War II, and was a recipient of the Purple Heart and the POW Medal,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who welcomed Lechuga’s family to Washington, D.C. “He was part of the 90th Infantry Division that stormed Utah Beach on D-Day, and went on to fight in Europe until his squad was captured by the Germans and he was placed in a POW camp.
“Even in captivity, he never gave up, and successfully escaped the prison camp on his third attempt. Cpl. Lechuga’s family is right to be proud of his courageous service and sacrifice for our country. It is thanks to brave American service members like him that our nation remains safe from tyranny and terror.”
Lechuga joined the Army in October 1943 and was a corporal in the infantry during WWII. He was part of the 90th Infantry Division that led the invasion at Utah Beach on D-Day in 1944. After he made it off the beach, he and some others were called to assist in the fighting in St. Mere-Eglise and St. Lo, France. His unit continued fighting through the hedge rows and after breaking through one, his squad was taken captive by an armor unit of the Nazi SS.
As a POW in Germany he had even more “adventures”. Although being of Apache ancestry, his mother was a devout Catholic and named him Moses. That name almost got him loaded onto a Jewish POW train car once. He was also tortured and beaten severely after being re-captured for his two escapes and was successful on his third escape.
Eventually being reunited with American troops when Gen. Patton’s Armored Division came through, he recovered in Camp Lucky Strike (one of the many “Cigarette Camps” for recovered POWs). He was then just waiting to be shipped home along with all the other GI’s after the war. It took a while but he returned to New York aboard the Queen Mary in its Troop Transport configuration; a definite no-frills passage.
Then it was a train ride back to California where he learned he still owed the Army a few months of service if he desired an honorable instead of a medical discharge. So then it was back up to Camp Roberts, California where he finished his service obligation and received his honorable discharge.
Moses earned a Purple Heart for his war service and in 1988 was awarded the POW Medal during a recognition ceremony at the Long Beach Naval Station for his internment by Germany.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Gloria Lechuga and his long-time partner, Virginia Forthum.