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Frederic N. "Bambino" Hernandez was born on Oct. 29, 1918 in Whittier, CA. As a child, he enjoyed hunting, exploring, and hiking in the hills that surrounded his home. He attended the nearby Old Mill School, after which he went to Whittier High School, and had to hike several miles a day "over the hills" to reach it. Hernandez excelled in athletics and lettered in football, track and wrestling. He attended Fullerton College and became the Far Western & Pacific Coast AAU wrestling champion in 1939-40.

He enlisted in the Air Force on April 23, 1941. His son, Frederic J. Hernandez, was born on July 4, 1944, while his father was "flying the Hump" over the Himalayan Mountains into China. Hernandez was involved in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II, which is sometimes called “The Forgotten Theater of World War II” because it didn’t get as much press coverage as the European or Pacific conflicts. Bambino flew with the crew of a bomber plane called “Tough Titti”. On, August 31, 1944, this plane crashed while trying to limp home after it was damaged by a Japanese plane during a mission. All crew were killed. Thankfully, Hernandez was not on this mission. After the war, Hernandez served in the Air Force Reserves until his Honorable Discharge in 1955.

Upon returning home to Orange County, Hernandez was self-employed, and worked tirelessly during the housing boom in Southern California. After World War II, many veterans settled in Southern California, and cities like Whittier began the transition from an agricultural to a suburban landscape. Hernandez coached baseball in Whittier and officiated college, high school and youth baseball, football, basketball and wrestling all over Southern California.


“He lived modestly and was a man of simple tastes. A cold bottle of beer. Some homemade Mexican food. The company of his family. He didn't ask for much, but sure was willing to lend a hand.”

—Michael Hernandez (grandson)

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1939-1940, Far Western & Pacific Coast AAU wrestling champion

1943-1945, 2nd Lieutenant/Bombadier (Air Force)

1944, Air Medal (Air Force)

1945 Oak Leaf Cluster Medal (Air Force)

1945, Distinguished Flying Cross Medal (Air Force)

1945, American Defense Service Medal

1946, World War II Victory Medal

“He and thousands like him served heroically, selflessly, and humbly to secure the freedom that we are able to live under today. They did not ask "why?" as they fulfilled their duties in service to our great country, but forged ahead in the face of tremendous adversity and sacrificed their lives for those left at home.”

—Michael Hernandez (grandson)

“He taught me about the importance of honesty, integrity, and hard work. I am proud of my grandfather. He was an honorable and decent man. I miss him very much and think of him every day, hearing his voice so clearly.”

—Michael Hernandez (grandson)

“The China-Burma-India Theater took a back seat to Europe and the Pacific in terms of manpower, resources and press coverage. But its stories of daring pilots who “flew the hump” of the mighty Himalayas, freewheeling guerrilla fighters known as Merrill’s Marauders, dedicated nurses fending off amorous advances, and crafty intelligence agents cutting deals with natives in three diverse countries were as colorful as those from the more heavily documented areas of World War II.”

—The Library of Congress

“Experienceing War: China-Burma-India, WWII’s Forgotten Theater.” Stories From the Veteran’s History Project of the Library of Contress. 10 July 2008. The Library of Contress. www.loc.gov

Hernandez, Michael. “Tribute to My Grandfather—Frederic N. Hernandez.” 27 February 2012. www.dainthecbi.com

“About Our City.” The City of Whittier, CA. www.cityofwhittier.org. Accessed 18 July 2012.

Photo Citation:

Courtesy of Michael Hernandez, grandson of Frederic Hernandez.