Biography: Tomás M. Cortez was born in Santa Paula, California on March 7, 1922. He was one of eight children born to Fransisco Cortez and Benita Mendoza and attended school at Santa Paula Elementary. Tomás worked providing farm labor and in the packing houses. He also worked at NSA (Naval Air Station) Moffett Field.
Service Time: Tomás entered the service and was assigned to Company A of the 821st Tank Destroyer Battalion. They landed at Omaha Beach and supported the capture of St Lo before moving west and supporting the capture of Brest, France. At the time, they were attached to the 29th Infantry Division. In September, they turned east into Holland.
The unit then saw action at the Siegfried Line, near Aachen, and supported the drive to the Roer River, before converting to M10s and moving, to the Elbe River.
Tomás was wounded by friendly fire near Maastricht, Holland, and returned home on the Queen Mary. He spent some time in a rehabilitation hospital in New York, before returning home to San Jose. The 821st received credit for four campaigns including Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. Tomás left the service at that rank of Pfc.
Tomás went back to work at the packing houses and then NAS Moffett Field, where he worked for 30 years. On October 30, 1949, he married Aurelia Quihius who was born in San Jose, CA. The couple had two children, Sophia and Darrell. In his spare time he enjoyed carpentry, handyman projects and dancing.
He was a founding member of the American Legion, Clifford Rodriguez Post 809, in San Jose, where he served as Post Commander for many years. He was also a member of the NARF and the Amvets. Tomás and Aurelia celebrated their 60th Anniversary before she passed away in 2009.
The photo on left shows Tomás enjoying two of his favorite things, dancing and spemding time with his family. The girl shown is his granddaughter who was celebrating her 15th birthday.
Tomás passed away on February 22, 2018, and was buried in the Oak Hill Memorial Park in San Jose. I want to thank Tomás’ son Darrell, for providing the information and photos for this tribute.