Rodolfo P. “Rudy” Hernandez, a Medal Of Honor recipient from the Korean war passed away about 0400hrs on 21 December 2013 at the age of 82. Hernandez passed away at Womack Army Medical Center after battling cancer. He will be buried at the Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Spring Lake. Funeral arrangements are being finalized.
Mr. Hernandez was awarded the Medal Of Honor for his actions near Wontong-ni, Korea, 31 May 1951.
On August 27, 1950, the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment was reorganized and re-designated as the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. The unit was quickly sent to Korea. The 187th Airborne performed operations into Munsan-ni Valley, and fought bloody battles atInje and Wonton-ni.
Hernandez was reassigned to Company G of the 2nd Battalion, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. His platoon was ordered to defend Hill 420, located near Wonton-ni. On May 31, 1951, his platoon was the object of a numerically superior enemy counterattack. A close-quarters firefight broke out when enemy troops surged up the hill and inflicted numerous casualties on the platoon. Hernandez was wounded during the attack, but was able to fire upon the rushing enemy troops. After his rifle ruptured, he continued attacking the enemy with his bayonet. His attack enabled his comrades to regroup and take back the hill.
A grenade explosion that blew away part of his brain knocked him unconscious. Hernandez, who had received grenade, bayonet, and bullet wounds, appeared dead to the first medic who reached him, Keith Oates. Oates realized, however, that Hernandez was still alive when he saw him move his fingers. Hernandez woke up a month later in a military hospital, unable to move his arms or legs or to talk.
On April 12, 1952, President Harry S. Truman bestowed upon Hernandez the Medal of Honor in a ceremony held in the White House Rose Garden.
After many surgeries and physical therapy over a five-year period, Hernandez regained limited use of his right arm and learned to write with his left hand.
Below is the Citation for his Medal Of Honor:
Cpl. Hernandez, a member of Company G, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy.
His platoon, in defensive positions on Hill 420, came under ruthless attack by a numerically superior and fanatical hostile force, accompanied by heavy artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire which inflicted numerous casualties on the platoon.
His comrades were forced to withdraw due to lack of ammunition but Cpl. Hernandez, although wounded in an exchange of grenades, continued to deliver deadly fire into the ranks of the onrushing assailants until a ruptured cartridge rendered his rifle inoperative.
Immediately leaving his position, Cpl. Hernandez rushed the enemy armed only with rifle and bayonet.
Fearlessly engaging the foe, he killed 6 of the enemy before falling unconscious from grenade, bayonet, and bullet wounds but his heroic action momentarily halted the enemy advance and enabled his unit to counterattack and retake the lost ground.
The indomitable fighting spirit, outstanding courage, and tenacious devotion to duty clearly demonstrated by Cpl. Hernandez reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.
Below is an excerpt from an article Stars and Stripes did on Mr. Hernandez a few years ago.
On May 31, Cpl. Rodolfo “Rudy” Hernandez and Company G were dug in at Hill 420, about 15 miles south of the current border near the present-day village of Wontong-ri.
It was about 2 a.m. when Hernandez, 20, and his foxhole mate first heard the North Korean bugles. A larger force converged on the company’s position, pounding the hill with heavy artillery and following up with a small-arms assault.
Hernandez began firing and was quickly wounded by the incoming fire and grenades. When a cartridge in his rifle ruptured, all he had left were a few grenades and a bayonet. That was all Hernandez needed to buy his comrades some time.
Hernandez fixed his bayonet and charged, killing six enemy fighters before losing consciousness from grenade, bayonet and bullet wounds, according to his Medal of Honor citation. It stunned the enemy just long enough to allow the soldiers behind him to reload, regroup and counterattack.
Company G held its ground through the early morning. At daybreak, a medic named Keith Oates found Hernandez lying on the ground, riddled with wounds and near death, according to news reports. Oates bandaged him and sent Hernandez downhill to an aid unit.
When Hernandez arrived, he was declared dead. The medics were ready to zip him in a body bag when one of them saw his finger move.
A month later, a semiconscious Hernandez woke up in a South Korean hospital.
“I couldn’t talk for several months,” Hernandez told Stars and Stripes at a Medal of Honor convention last year in Hawaii. “I couldn’t walk from the shrapnel wounds.”
Hernandez was moved to Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. Doctors implanted a plastic plate where an artillery shell had blown off parts of his skull and brain, according to Hernandez’s official biography.
After several months, Hernandez would learn to walk again. He was able to stand when President Harry Truman awarded him the Medal of Honor on April 12, 1952, though he could not remember doing the things that Truman read in the citation.
Asked if he had anything to say about today’s servicemembers in combat zones, his eyes widened. Hernandez inhaled deeply, and his voice found a deep reserve of timber and volume.
“Keep on fighting!” he said.
I had the pleasure of meeting this hero at last years Warrior Jams at Fort Bragg. He was a very humble man, and enjoyed speaking to Soldiers and Veterans.
I have not seen any main stream media post anything about is passing yet, although Gary Sinise tweeted about his passing yesterday.
Rest in peace my brother, your work on Earth is done.