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San Diego's DNA: Military Roots


World War II veterans Ramón Ruiz and Murray Lee share stories of discrimination experienced while enlisting and in the service during the war.

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Ramón Ruiz’s DNA

Ramón Ruiz graduated from San Diego State College (now University), received his master’s degree from Claremont Graduate School, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He served in the Pacific as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. Ruiz began his teaching career in 1955 at the University of Oregon at Eugene and has also taught at Southern Methodist University and Smith College. In 1970, he joined the University of California, San Diego and in 1991 became professor emeritus. There, he has worked to build a strong Hispanic studies program. Ruiz has held visiting professorships at numerous colleges and universities in the United States and Mexico and is a National Humanities Medalist.

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Murray Lee’s DNA

Murray Lee is a World War II veteran. He enlisted in the Merchant Marines in 1945 after graduating from high school in Virginia. He served on the SS Thomas Sumter, a Liberty ship, as an able-bodied seamen. Since retiring to San Diego in 1983 he became a board member for the Chinese Historical Society which later became the San Diego Chinese Historical Society and Museum. Lee serves as the curator for the museum. In 1996 he began collecting the stories of San Diego County Chinese-American veterans from World War I through the first Gulf War. Since then, Lee has registered more than 50 veterans, most of whom served during World War II.

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