Santa Clarita War Memorial

Edward D. Contreras

The front lines on the day/evening of SGT Contreras' death. Click to enlarge.

Home of Record: Castaic
Date of Birth: 1912

Service: Army of the United States
Rank: Sergeant
ID No: 39225373
Length of Service: 3 years, 20 days
Unit: 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
Start Tour: Enlisted January 20, 1941

Incident Date: February 9, 1944
Casualty Date: February 9, 1944
Age at Loss: 26
Location: Anzio-Nettuno region
Remains: Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy

Narrative: SGT Ed Contreras served with the 30th Infantry Regiment, which was assigned to the 3rd Division during World War II. The 3rd Division had the distinction of engaging the enemy on all European fronts — North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Germany, Austria — 531 consecutive days of fighting.

Enlisting in January 1941 as a private (roughly a year before the U.S. entered the war), Contreras would see much of it. The action started Nov. 8, 1942, when the 3rd Division joined the invasion of North Africa and captured half of French Morocco. After the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, Allied leaders decided to liberate Sicily in July — the 3rd made an amphibious assault on the 10th — and then cross over to the mainland and start pushing up the boot.

On Sept. 18, 1943, with American airborne units reinforcing the beachhead, the 3rd landed at Salerno and methodically fought its way northward. On Jan. 22, 1944, the 3rd participated in the landing at Anzio as part of VI Corps of British and American units. Here the 3rd would dig in for four months as the Germans furiously counterattacked.

And here, in the vicinity of Anzio, is where 26-year-old SGT Contreras fell on Feb. 9.

Rifleman James Arness of the 7th Infantry Regiment sustained a severe leg wound in the Anzio landing on the 22nd that would pester him on "Gunsmoke." LT Audie Murphy of the 15th Infantry Regiment would earn the Bronze Star with V Device when he crawled out of an abandoned farmhouse on March 2 to destroy a German tank with rifle grenades.

Meanwhile on Feb. 29, three German divisions simultaneously attacked U.S. positions. The 3rd Division lost 900 men on that single day — the most of any U.S. division in one day during World War II.

Finally on May 11 the Allies were able to break out from the beachhead when they penetrated Germany's Gustav Line. Rome fell on June 4 and the Germans were now in full retreat.

SGT Contreras was awarded the Purple Heart and was laid to rest in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy, with a cross marking his burial site in Block J, Row 4, Grave 7.

Notes: Edward D. Contreras was born in Arizona on Dec. 1, 1912, to Roberto Contreras (b. June 26, 1888) and Virginia Delgado Contreras, both natives of Arizona. His childhood home at 817 E. Madison St. in Phoenix no longer exists; today (2015) it's a light industrial area within a block of Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. While Edward's Army enlistment record shows his race as white, Edward's birth certificate identifies the color/race of both parents as "Mexican."

Within four years the family had moved to Calexico, Imperial County, Calif., where Edward's younger sisters Emily (aka Emilia) and Susie were born. The 1920 U.S. Census lists Roberto Contreras as a general farm laborer; the 1930 U.S. Census shows the family in Holtville, Imperial County, and says Roberto drives a truck on a farm. As of 1930, the family consists of Roberto (41), Virginia (43, although both were shown as 32 in 1920), Edward (18), Emilia (14), Susie (12), Margaret (9, born in Arizona), Carmen (5, Calif.); Ofelia (3, Calif.).

By 1942, when Roberto (Edward's father) registered for the draft, the family was living in Castaic at Route 3, Ronalds Court, Hwy 99. Roberto worked for Valpredo Bros., a tenant farming company on the Newhall Ranch in Saugus. At the time of Edward's death, Roberto was listed as his next of kin with an address of Post Office Box 103, Castaic.

Family research by Tricia Lemon Putnam. Data source: National Archives and Records Administration. Register, World War II Dead Interred in American Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil and World War II and Korea Missing or Lost or Buried at Sea. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.

U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Record
Source: National Archives and Records Administration

Name: Edward D. Contreras
Birth Year: 1912
Race: White, citizen (White)
State of Residence: California
County or City: Los Angeles
Enlistment Date: 20 Jan 1941
Enlistment State: California
Enlistment City: Los Angeles
Branch: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA
Branch Code: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA
Grade: Private
Grade Code: Private
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
Education: Grammar school
Civil Occupation: Semiskilled cement and concrete finishers
Marital Status: Single, without dependents
Height: 70
Weight: 157
WWII and Korean Conflict Veterans Interred Overseas
Combat Organization: 30th Infantry 3rd Division
Death Date: 9 Feb 1944
Monument: Sicily & Rome, Italy
Last Known Status: Buried
U.S. Awards: Purple Heart Medal

About the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery
Netturno, Italy

From the American Battle Monuments Commission:

The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial is one of two permanent American World War II military cemeteries in Italy and is dedicated to the fallen from the campaign of Sicily to the Liberation of Rome. The government of Italy granted use of this land in perpetuity as a permanent burial ground without charge.

The cemetery covers 77 acres, rising in a gentle slope from a broad pool with an island and cenotaph flanked by groups of Italian cypress trees. Beyond the pool is the immense field of headstones of 7,861 of American military war dead, arranged in gentle arcs on broad green lawns beneath rows of Roman pines. The majority of these individuals died in the liberation of Sicily (July 10 to August 17, 1943); in the landings in the Salerno Area (September 9, 1943) and the heavy fighting northward; in the landings at Anzio Beach and expansion of the beachhead (January 22, 1944, to May 1944); and in air and naval support in the regions.

A wide central mall leads to the memorial, rich in works of art and architecture, expressing America's remembrance of the dead. It consists of a chapel to the south, a peristyle, and a map room to the north. On the white marble walls of the chapel are engraved the names of 3,095 of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. The map room contains a bronze relief map and four fresco maps depicting the military operations in Sicily and Italy. At each end of the memorial are ornamental Italian gardens.

A new, 2,500-square-foot center visitor center opened in May 2014. Through interpretive exhibits that incorporate personal stories, photographs, films, and interactive displays, visitors will gain a better understanding of this critical campaign that contributed to the Allied victory in Europe during World War II.

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