The 32D 'Red Arrow' Veteran Association

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Medal of Honor Recipients

from the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Infantry Division

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Read here of the deeds of these brave heroes and do not forget them!

The names which are preceded by an asterisk denote posthumous awards. This table lists the recipients by date, they are listed alphabetically below.

 

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32D Infantry Division History

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24 December 1942

*First Sergeant Burr, Elmer J.

Born in Neenah, Wisconsin; Entered service at Menasha, Wisconsin

Company I, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for actions at Buna, New Guinea

 

 

24 December 1942

*Sergeant Gruennert, Kenneth E.

Born in Helenville, Wisconsin; Entered service at Helenville, Wisconsin

Company L, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action near Buna, New Guinea

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32D Infantry Division History

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32D Infantry Division History

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11 July 1944

*Staff Sergeant Endl, Gerald Leon

Born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin; Entered service at  Janesville, Wisconsin

Company C, 128TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action near Anamo, New Guinea

 

 

22 July 1944

*Private Lobaugh, Donald Ronald

Born in Freeport, Pennsylvania; Entered service at Freeport, Pennsylvania

Company I, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action near Afua, New Guinea

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32D Infantry Division History

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32D Infantry Division History

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5 December 1944

*Private First Class McWhorter, William A.

Born in Liberty, South Carolina; Entered service at Liberty, South Carolina

Company M, 126TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action on Leyte, Philippine Islands

 

 

15 December 1944

*Sergeant Johnson, Leroy

Born in Caney Creek, Louisiana; Entered service at Oakdale, Louisiana

Company K, 126TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action near Limon, Leyte, Philippine Islands

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32D Infantry Division History

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32D Infantry Division History

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15 December 1944

Private First Class Vlug, Dirk John

Born in Maple Lake, Minnesota; Entered service at Grand Rapids, Michigan

1ST Battalion, 126TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action near Limon, Leyte, Philippine Islands

 

 

10 March 1945

Private First Class Atkins, Thomas Eugene

Born in Campobello, South Carolina; Entered service at Campobello, South Carolina

Company A, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action at Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands

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32D Infantry Division History

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32D Infantry Division History

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20 March 1945

*Staff Sergeant Villegas, Ysmael R.

Born in Casa Blanca, California; Entered service at Casa Blanca, California

Company F, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action at Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands

 

 

31 March 1945

*Private First Class Shockley, William Ralph

Born in Bokoshe, Oklahoma; Entered service at Selma, California

Company L, 128TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action at Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands

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32D Infantry Division History

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32D Infantry Division History

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22 April 1945

*Private First Class Gonzales, David Maldonado

Born in Pacoima, California; Entered service at Pacoima, California

Company A, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Awarded for action at Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands

 

 

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Atkins, Thomas Eugene

 

Private First Class, U.S. Army

Company A, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 10 March 1945.

Entered service at: Campobello, South Carolina.

Birth: 5 February 1921, Campobello, South Carolina.

War Department, General Orders No. 95, October 30, 1945.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private Thomas E. Atkins, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty on 10 March 1945, while serving with Company A, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division. Private Atkins fought gallantly on the Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands. With two companions he occupied a position on a ridge outside the perimeter defense established by the 1st Platoon on a high hill. At about 3 a.m., two companies of Japanese attacked with rifle and machinegun fire, grenades, TNT charges, and land mines, severely wounding Private First Class Atkins and killing his two companions. Despite the intense hostile fire and pain from his deep wound, he held his ground and returned heavy fire. After the attack was repulsed, he remained in his precarious position to repel any subsequent assaults instead of returning to the American lines for medical treatment. An enemy machinegun, set up within 20 yards of his foxhole, vainly attempted to drive him off or silence his gun. The Japanese repeatedly made fierce attacks, but for four hours, Private First Class Atkins determinedly remained in his fox hole, bearing the brunt of each assault and maintaining steady and accurate fire until each charge was repulsed. At 7 a.m., 13 enemy dead lay in front of his position; he had fired 400 rounds, all he and his two dead companions possessed, and had used three rifles until each had jammed too badly for further operation. He withdrew during a lull to secure a rifle and more ammunition, and was persuaded to remain for medical treatment. While waiting, he saw a Japanese within the perimeter and, seizing a nearby rifle, killed him. A few minutes later, while lying on a litter, he discovered an enemy group moving up behind the platoon's lines. Despite his severe wound, he sat up, delivered heavy rifle fire against the group and forced them to withdraw. Private First Class Atkins' superb bravery and his fearless determination to hold his post against the main force of repeated enemy attacks, even though painfully wounded, were major factors in enabling his comrades to maintain their lines against a numerically superior enemy force.”

Death: 15 September 1999, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

 

He was among 14 servicemen bestowed with the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman at a White House ceremony on 12 Oct. 1945. After leaving the Army, he returned home to South Carolina and was a farmer. He is interred in the Fellowship Baptist Church Cemetery in Inman, Spartanburg County, South Carolina. His Medal of Honor is at the Spartanburg County Regional Museum. Atkins himself didn't think he deserved the decoration, “I don't feel a bit better than nobody else that went over there. I never did a dang thing that nobody else wouldn't have done in my place, no siree. Just try to stay alive.”

 

 

*Burr, Elmer J.

 

First Sergeant, U.S. Army

Company I, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Buna, New Guinea, 24 December 1942.

Entered service at: Menasha, Wisconsin.

Birth: 11 May 1908, Neenah, Wisconsin.

War Department, General Orders No. 66, October 11, 1943.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to First Sergeant Elmer J. Burr, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company I, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division. During an attack near Buna, New Guinea, on 24 December 1942, First Sergeant Burr saw an enemy grenade strike near his company commander. Instantly and with heroic self-sacrifice he threw himself upon it, smothering the explosion with his body. First Sergeant Burr thus gave his life in saving that of his commander.”

Death: 24 December 1942.

Status: KIA.

 

He graduated from Menasha High School in 1926. He had served with the 32D Division for 12 years before it was mobilized in October 1940. He was discharged in 1941 for being over the age limit of 28, but rejoined his unit after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He is interred in Oak Hill Cemetery in Neenah. On 8 Sep. ’07, the Isle of Valor in Menasha’s Smith Park was dedicated in honor of 1SG Burr as well as SPC Kenneth Stumpf, also from Menasha, who was bestowed with the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. The Elmer Burr and Ken Stumpf Scholarship of Honor is also named in their honor and, since 2004, has recognized a graduating Menasha High School senior with plans to enlist in the military or pursue a career in public safety or community service.

 

 

*Endl, Gerald Leon

 

Staff Sergeant, U S. Army

Company C, 128TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Anamo, New Guinea, 11 July 1944.

Entered service at: Janesville, Wisconsin.

Birth: 20 August 1915, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

War Department, General Orders No. 17, March 13, 1945.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Staff Sergeant Gerald Leon Endl, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 32d Infantry Division near Anamo, New Guinea, on 11 July 1944. Staff Sergeant Endl was at the head of the leading platoon of his company advancing along a jungle trail when enemy troops were encountered and a fire fight developed. The enemy attacked in force under heavy rifle, machinegun, and grenade fire. His platoon leader wounded, Staff Sergeant Endl immediately assumed command and deployed his platoon on a firing line at the fork in the trail toward which the enemy attack was directed. The dense jungle terrain greatly restricted vision and movement, and he endeavored to penetrate down the trail toward an open clearing of Kunai grass. As he advanced, he detected the enemy, supported by at least six light and two heavy machineguns, attempting an enveloping movement around both flanks. His commanding officer sent a second platoon to move up on the left flank of the position, but the enemy closed in rapidly, placing our force in imminent danger of being isolated and annihilated. Twelve members of his platoon were wounded, seven being cut off by the enemy. Realizing that if his platoon were forced farther back, these seven men would be hopelessly trapped and at the mercy of a vicious enemy, he resolved to advance at all cost, knowing it meant almost certain death, in an effort to rescue his comrades. In the face of extremely heavy fire he went forward alone and for a period of approximately ten minutes engaged the enemy in a heroic close-range fight, holding them off while his men crawled forward under cover to evacuate the wounded and to withdraw. Courageously refusing to abandon four more wounded men who were lying along the trail, one-by-one he brought them back to safety. As he was carrying the last man in his arms he was struck by a heavy burst of automatic fire and was killed. By his persistent and daring self-sacrifice and on behalf of his comrades, Staff Sergeant Endl made possible the successful evacuation of all but one man, and enabled the two platoons to withdraw with their wounded and to reorganize with the rest of the company.”

Death: 11 July 1944.

Status: KIA.

 

He enlisted in the Army on 16 April 1941 and was assigned to the 32D Inf. Div. His remains were repatriated in 1948 and he is interred in Saint Joseph's Catholic Cemetery in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Fort Atkinson’s Endl Park and Gerald and Endl streets are named in his honor. There is also a monument in Janesville, Wisconsin, dedicated to him. The VFW post in Jefferson was created after WWII and was named the Endl-Gruennert VFW Post 3589. It was named in honor of two Jefferson County men who were both posthumous Medal of Honor Recipients from the 32D Infantry Division in New Guinea...SSG Gerald Leon Endl and SGT Kenneth E. Gruennert. It was the first Congressional Medal of Honor post in Wisconsin. His Medal of Honor is at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

 

*Gonzales, David Maldonado

 

Private First Class, U.S. Army

Company A, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 25 April 1945.

Entered service at: Pacoima, California.

Birth: 9 June 1923, Pacoima, California.

War Department, General Orders No. 115, December 8, 1945.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Private First Class David M. Gonzales, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty on 25 April 1945, while serving with Company A, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division, in action at Hill 507, Villa Verde, Luzon, Philippine Islands. Private First Class Gonzales was pinned down with his company. As enemy fire swept the area, making any movement extremely hazardous, a 500-pound bomb smashed into the company's perimeter, burying five men with its explosion. Private First Class Gonzales, without hesitation, seized an entrenching tool and under a hail of fire crawled 15 yards to his entombed comrades, where his commanding officer, who had also rushed forward, was beginning to dig the men out. Nearing his goal, he saw the officer struck and instantly killed by machinegun fire. Undismayed, he set to work swiftly and surely with his hands and the entrenching tool while enemy sniper and machinegun bullets struck all about him. He succeeded in digging one of the men out of the pile of rock and sand. To dig faster he stood up regardless of the greater danger from so exposing himself. He extricated a second man, and then another. As he completed the liberation of the third, he was hit and mortally wounded, but the comrades for whom he so gallantly gave his life were safely evacuated. Private First Class Gonzales' valiant and intrepid conduct exemplifies the highest tradition of the military service.”

Death: 25 April 1945.

Status: KIA.

 

He was one of 14 children born to Mexican immigrants. He had only been in the Army a little over a year and had been assigned to the Division in December 1944, when he arrived overseas as a replacement. He had been awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge on 1 February 1945, just a few weeks after joining the Division. President Harry S. Truman posthumously presented his Medal of Honor to his family on 8 Dec. 1945. He had also earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. His remains were repatriated on 2 Feb. 1949 and he was interred in Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles. Pacoima Park in Los Angeles County, California, was renamed David M. Gonzales/Pacoima Recreational Center in his honor. The local Army recruiting station and a county Probation Department camp in Malibu were also named in his honor.

 

 

*Gruennert, Kenneth E.

 

Sergeant, U.S. Army

Company L, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Buna, New Guinea, 24 December 1942.

Entered service at: Helenville, Wisconsin.

Birth: 19 November 1922, Helenville, Wisconsin.

War Department, General Orders No. 66, October 11, 1943.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Sergeant Kenneth E. Gruennert, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company L, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division. On 24 December 1942, near Buna, New Guinea, Sergeant Gruennert was second in command of a platoon with a mission to drive through the enemy lines to the beach 600 yards ahead. Within 150 yards of the objective, the platoon encountered two hostile pillboxes. Sergeant Gruennert advanced alone on the first and put it out of action with hand grenades and rifle fire, killing three of the enemy. Seriously wounded in the shoulder, he bandaged his wound under cover of the pillbox, refusing to withdraw to the aid station and leave his men. He then, with undiminished daring, and under extremely heavy fire, attacked the second pillbox. As he neared it he threw grenades which forced the enemy out where they were easy targets for his platoon. Before the leading elements of his platoon could reach him he was shot by enemy snipers. His inspiring valor cleared the way for his platoon which was the first to attain the beach in this successful effort to split the enemy position.”

Death: 24 December 1942.

Status: KIA.

 

He earned three letters in football and was captain, playing left tackle, of the Jefferson High School team during its championship year. He was also the catcher for a Helenville baseball team. He enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard at the age of 16. He was repatriated and re-interred in Evergreen Cemetery in Helenville on 2 July 1948. The USS Kenneth E. Gruennert was named in his honor. The VFW post in Jefferson was created after WWII and was named the Endl-Gruennert VFW Post 3589. It was named in honor of two Jefferson County men who were both posthumous Medal of Honor Recipients from the 32D Infantry Division in New Guinea...SSG Gerald Leon Endl and SGT Kenneth E. Gruennert. It was the first Congressional Medal of Honor post in Wisconsin.

 

 

*Johnson, Leroy

 

Sergeant, U.S. Army

Company K, 126TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Limon, Leyte, Philippine Islands, 15 December 1944.

Entered service at: Oakdale, Louisiana.

Birth: 6 December 1919, Caney Creek, Louisiana.

War Department, General Orders No. 83, October 2, 1945.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Sergeant Leroy Johnson, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty on 15 December 1944, while serving with Company K, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division, in action at Limon, Leyte, Philippine Islands. Sergeant Johnson was squad leader of a nine-man patrol sent to reconnoiter a ridge held by a well-entrenched enemy force. Seeing an enemy machinegun position, he ordered his men to remain behind while he crawled to within six yards of the gun. One of the enemy crew jumped up and prepared to man the weapon. Quickly withdrawing, Sergeant Johnson rejoined his patrol and reported the situation to his commanding officer. Ordered to destroy the gun, which covered the approaches to several other enemy positions, he chose three other men, armed them with hand grenades, and led them to a point near the objective. After taking partial cover behind a log, the men had knocked out the gun and begun an assault when hostile troops on the flank hurled several grenades. As he started for cover, Sergeant Johnson saw two unexploded grenades which had fallen near his men. Knowing that his comrades would be wounded or killed by the explosion, he deliberately threw himself on the grenades and received their full charge in his body. Fatally wounded by the blast, he died soon afterward. Through his outstanding gallantry in sacrificing his life for his comrades, Sergeant Johnson provided a shining example of the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.”

Death: 15 December 1944.

Status: KIA.

 

He had previously been awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry near Sanananda, during the Papuan Campaign. He is interred at the Manila American Cemetery in Manila, the Philippines. A bronze memorial plaque in his honor was mounted on the wall of the Oberlin, Louisiana, courthouse. In 1947, the New Orleans Army Air Base, on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, was renamed Camp Leroy Johnson in his honor. Unfortunately little remains of the camp today. Most of the site is now occupied by the University of New Orleans; however, a U.S. Army Reserve Center on part of the former camp is located on Leroy Johnson Drive.

 

 

*Lobaugh, Donald Ronald

 

Private, U .S. Army

Company I, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Afua, New Guinea, 22 July 1944.

Entered service at: Freeport, Pennsylvania.

Birth: 7 February 1925, Freeport, Pennsylvania.

War Department, General Orders No. 31, April 17, 1945.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Private Donald Ronald Lobaugh, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with 127th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division, in action near Afua, New Guinea, on 22 July 1944. While Private Lobaugh's company was withdrawing from its position on 21 July, the enemy attacked and cut off approximately one platoon of our troops. The platoon immediately occupied, organized, and defended a position, which it held throughout the night. Early on 22 July, an attempt was made to effect its withdrawal, but during the preparation therefore, the enemy emplaced a machinegun, protected by the fire of rifles and automatic weapons, which blocked the only route over which the platoon could move. Knowing that it was the key to the enemy position, Private First Class Lobaugh volunteered to attempt to destroy this weapon, even though in order to reach it he would be forced to work his way about 30 yards over ground devoid of cover. When part way across this open space he threw a hand grenade, but exposed himself in the act and was wounded. Heedless of his wound, he boldly rushed the emplacement, firing as he advanced. The enemy concentrated their fire on him, and he was struck repeatedly, but he continued his attack and killed two more before he was himself slain. Private First Class Lobaugh's heroic actions inspired his comrades to press the attack, and to drive the enemy from the position with heavy losses. His fighting determination and intrepidity in battle exemplify the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Death: 22 July 1944.

Status: KIA.

 

He first enlisted in the Navy in March 1942 but was soon discharged for ‘lacking school credits’. He enlisted in the Army in May of 1942. He is interred in Rimersburg Cemetery, Rimersburg, Pennsylvania. A bridge across the Allegheny River between Buffalo Township and Allegheny Township, near his hometown of Freeport, Pennsylvania, was named in his honor in 1965. He was inducted into the Hall of Valor at the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial in Pittsburgh in 2004.

 

 

*McWhorter, William A.

 

Private First Class, U.S. Army

Company M, 126TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Leyte, Philippine Islands, 5 December 1944.

Entered service at: Liberty, South Carolina.

Birth: 7 December 1918, Liberty, South Carolina.

War Department, General Orders No. 82, September 27, 1945.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Private First Class William A. McWhorter, United States Army, for gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 5 December 1944, while serving with Company M, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division, in action at Leyte, Philippine Islands, while engaged in operations against the enemy. Private First Class McWhorter, a machine gunner, was emplaced in a defensive position with one assistant when the enemy launched a heavy attack. Manning the gun and opening fire, he killed several members of an advancing demolition squad, when one of the enemy succeeded in throwing a fused demolition charge in the entrenchment. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Private First Class McWhorter picked up the improvised grenade and deliberately held it close to his body, bending over and turning away from his companion. The charge exploded, killing him instantly, but leaving his assistant unharmed. Private First Class McWhorter's outstanding heroism and supreme sacrifice in shielding a comrade reflect the highest traditions of the military service.”

Death: 5 December 1944.

Status: KIA.

 

His other awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, and CIB. He is interred at West View Cemetery, Liberty, South Carolina.

 

 

*Shockley, William Ralph

 

Private First Class, U.S. Army

Company L, 128TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 31 March 1945.

Entered service at: Selma, California.

Birth: 4 December 1918, Bokoshe, Oklahoma.

War Department, General Orders No. 89, October 19, 1945.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Private First Class William Ralph Shockley, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty on 31 March 1945, while serving with Company L, 128th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division, in action at Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands. Private First Class Shockley was in position with his unit on a hill when the enemy, after a concentration of artillery fire, launched a counterattack. He maintained his position under intense enemy fire and urged his comrades to withdraw, saying that he would "remain to the end" to provide cover. Although he had to clear two stoppages which impeded the reloading of his weapon, he halted one enemy charge. Hostile troops then began moving in on his left flank, and he quickly shifted his gun to fire on them. Knowing that the only route of escape was being cut off by the enemy, he ordered the remainder of his squad to withdraw to safety and deliberately remained at his post. He continued to fire until he was killed during the ensuing enemy charge. Later, four Japanese were found dead in front of his position. Private First Class Shockley, facing certain death, sacrificed himself to save his fellow soldiers, but the heroism and gallantry displayed by him enabled his squad to reorganize and continue its attack.”

Death: 31 March 1945.

Status: KIA.

 

He was a veteran of the Saidor, Aitape, and Leyte battles and had been awarded the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge at Saidor. He is interred in Floral Memorial Cemetery, Selma, California.

 

 

*Villegas, Ysmael R.

 

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army

Company F, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 20 March 1945.

Entered service at: Casa Blanca, California.

Birth: 21 March 1924, Casa Blanca, California.

War Department, General Orders No. 89, October 19, 1945.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Staff Sergeant Ysmael R. Villegas, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty on 20 March 1945, while serving with Company F, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division, in action at Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands. Staff Sergeant Villegas was a squad leader when his unit, in a forward position, clashed with an enemy strongly entrenched in connected caves and foxholes on commanding ground. He moved boldly from man to man, in the face of bursting grenades and demolition charges, through heavy machinegun and rifle fire, to bolster the spirit of his comrades. Inspired by his gallantry, his men pressed forward to the crest of the hill. Numerous enemy riflemen, refusing to flee, continued firing from their foxholes. Staff Sergeant Villegas, with complete disregard for his own safety and the bullets which kicked up the dirt at his feet, charged an enemy position, and, firing at point-blank range killed the Japanese in a foxhole. He rushed a second foxhole while bullets missed him by inches, and killed one more of the enemy. In rapid succession he charged a third, a fourth, a fifth foxhole, each time destroying the enemy within. The fire against him increased in intensity, but he pressed onward to attack a sixth position. As he neared his goal, he was hit and killed by enemy fire. Through his heroism and indomitable fighting spirit, Staff Sergeant Villegas, at the cost of his life, inspired his men to a determined attack in which they swept the enemy from the field.”

Death: 20 March 1945.

Status: KIA.

 

He was born and raised in Casa Blanca, the Hispanic section of Riverside, California. He joined the Army in 1943. After basic training, he was assigned to Company F, 127TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division. This was his second award for valor in less than 3 weeks. He was also bestowed with the Silver Star for single handedly destroying a Japanese machine gun nest on 1 March 1945. His family was presented his posthumous Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on 19 Oct. 1945. His remains were repatriated in July 1949 and he is interred in Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, California. VFW Post #184 in Riverside, California, is named the "Ysmael R. Villegas Memorial Casa Blanca Post" in his honor. The Ysmael R. Villegas Middle School in Riverside is named for him. A statue of him was dedicated in the Main Street Civic Center Courtyard in Riverside on 27 May 1995.

 

 

Vlug, Dirk John

 

Private First Class, U.S. Army

1ST Battalion, 126TH Infantry Regiment, 32D Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Limon, Leyte, Philippine Islands, 15 December 1944.

Entered service at: Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Birth: 20 August 1916, Maple Lake, Minnesota.

War Department, General Orders No. 60, June 26, 1946.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private First Class Dirk John Vlug (ASN: 36155103), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Headquarters, 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division, in action on 15 December 1944, at Limon, Leyte, Philippine Islands. When an American roadblock on the Ormoc Road was attacked by a group of enemy tanks, Private First Class Vlug left his covered position, and with a rocket launcher and six rounds of ammunition, advanced alone under intense machinegun and 37-mm fire. Loading single-handedly, he destroyed the first tank, killing its occupants with a single round. As the crew of the second tank started to dismount and attack him, he killed one of the foe with his pistol, forcing the survivors to return to their vehicle, which he then destroyed with a second round. Three more hostile tanks moved up the road, so he flanked the first and eliminated it, and then, despite a hail of enemy fire, pressed forward again to destroy another. With his last round of ammunition he struck the remaining vehicle, causing it to crash down a steep embankment. Through his sustained heroism in the face of superior forces, Private First Class Vlug alone destroyed five enemy tanks and greatly facilitated successful accomplishment of his battalion's mission.”

Death: 25 June 1996, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

 

He had joined the 126TH Infantry at Camp Livingston, LA. He was bestowed with the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on 26 June 1946. He served in the Michigan National Guard from 23 May 1949 to 25 January 1951 and was honorably discharged as a Master Sergeant. He is interred in Greenwood Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

 

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revised 31 January 2013
since 25 March 1998