Don McFadden was 16 when the war broke out. He was too young to sign up for the war, but the year after, he worked in a foundry, filing castings for airplanes. He felt that he was making a contribution to the war effort. One day, while at work, he was told to collect magnesium dust for chemical analysis. They tried to catch the dust in a paper bag which was tied to a grinding stone. A spark hit the magnesium and McFadden caught on fire. He was burned from the waist up and had third degree burns all over his body.
He spent the year of 1942 in the hospital and he felt that he was a civilian casuality of the war. He took the foundry to court to try to prove negligence but they threw it out of court.
McFadden spoke about the zoot-suit riots. Zoot suit was a style of dress mostly worn by Mexican Americans. He explains a zoot suit riot began with some sailors confrontation with zoot suits. The word was that a sailor had been stabbed and many servicemen gathered and began grabbing anyone with a zoot suit on. McFadden and his brother heard the news on the radio and decided to get involved in the zoot suit riot.
McFadden and his brother wound up in jail because he hit a detective (without knowing it was a detective). The jails were full of Mexicans and they were the only non-Mexicans there. They were in jail, not because they did anything wrong, but because they were victims and the cops were trying to keep them from getting hurt.
A lot of people got hurt. McFadden saw a young man get beat up riding a street car just because he was Mexican. Servicemen would even go into movie theaters, make the projectionist turn off the film, and drag any zoot suiters they saw out of their seats and beat them.
McFadden felt the war pulled the United States out of isolation and pulled us out of the Depression. He said that it was an interesting time to be alive and that the war made him grow up a lot faster.