Ventura’s Own wounded in World War One

by Richard Senate

Philip de la Riva was born in 1892 at the Olivas Adobe. His mother was Rebecca Olivas de la Riva, the youngest of the twenty-one children of Raymundo and Teodora Olivas.The builders of the Olivas Adobe, now a museum.

When the United States declared war on Imperial Germany in 1917, Philip answered his nations call and enlisted. He was part of the American Expeditionary Forces that sailed to France to fight in what was called “The War to end all wars.” Many of those from Ventura County were Latinos and they were known for their bravery and the fact that many came home with the Purple Heart, given to those who were wounded in action, proves their bravery in action. Sadly, Philip de la Riva was one of them. He survived the horrors of trench warfare and the perils of shell barrages, machine gun fire and poison gas only to be wounded as his unit was pulled from the front. As his unit was pulled back  for some well earned rest and relaxation, they were marching along a French highway when the column was sighted by a lone German Fokker fighter plane.

The biplane dove down on them to strafe the American dough-boys. They scattered, and went flat on the dirt road. But Philip was hit by a 30-millimeter bullet in the hind quarters. He was taken to a field hospital and his family given the dreaded telegram that he had been wounded in action. They didn’t tell the family the extent of his injuries and they suspected the worst. It was only later they learned of his wound and recovery. He came home, missing a piece of his buttocks, but none the worst for his trauma in the great war.

He went home to Ventura when his father had a Lima bean farm in Montalvo. Philip had a family member take a snapshot of himself in his uniform, holding his hat. Then, he dug a hole in his back yard, took off his uniform and tossed the clothing into the hole, tossed in the hat and poured gasoline over the garments and set them on fire! When it was burned, he buried the ashes. From that day on he never spoke of the things he saw and did in France. It is an action soldiers have done though out history. As General Sherman said at the burning of Atlanta, “War is Hell.”

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