Corporal, U.S. Army, Company G, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team
Near Wontong-ni, Korea, 31 May 1951
“I believe in God Almighty. There were times in my life that God meant more to me than anyone else. He forgives us of sin, gives us abundant life, and is full of mercy.
“I was pleased to fight for my country not only because I was born in the United States, but because I believe it is the land of promise and hope.
“Finally, I love the flag. I hold it in respect.”
Cpl. Hernandez, a member of Company G, distinguished him-self 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 machine gun 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 po-sition, Cpl. Hernandez rushed the enemy armed only with rifle and bayonet. Fearlessly engaging the foe, he killed 6 of the enemy be-fore 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 tena-cious devotion to duty clearly demonstrated by Cpl. Hernandez re-flect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.
I AM NOT ASHAMED
I am proud to be a Medal of Honor recipient. I am also proud of my Hispanic heritage, of being an American, and of being an Army paratrooper. I carry a business card with the image of the Medal of Honor and my name on the front of the card. When you turn the card over, you will read the words, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Faith in God is an important part of my life. I have a deep faith in God because He has been so good to me.
During the Korean War, I was an Army Infantryman with the 187th Regimental Combat Team, frequently referred to as the RAAKASANS. I was already an experienced combat veteran by February 1951. During one battle I changed places with my friend, and he was killed almost immediately. I realized that bullet was meant for me.
On the 31st of May, 1951, my platoon came under a ruthless attack by a numerically superior enemy force. We were near Wontong-ni, Korea on Hill 420. The initial attack was from heavy artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire and was followed by an over-whelming number of enemy soldiers.
Many of the men in the platoon were wounded and the deci-sion was made to withdraw. I remained to cover the withdrawal even though I was wounded by artillery shrapnel. While I was firing my rifle, one of the cartridges in my weapon ruptured and rendered the rifle inoperable. I placed the bayonet on my rifle and rushed to-ward the enemy. I made the decision to counter-attack in an effort to save the lives of my comrades.
During the counter-attack, I was severely wounded by artillery shrapnel from an air-burst and rifle fire, and I was bayoneted twice. But my efforts halted their assault, which allowed my unit to coun-terattack and retake our position. I was wounded so severely that I was placed in a body bag because everyone assumed that I was dead. Someone finally realized that I was still alive when they saw my hand move.
The artillery shrapnel tore my helmet from my head and a large part of my skull and a part of my brain was severely injured. I was paralyzed, unconscious, and in a coma for a month. When I finally regained consciousness, I had to learn how to swallow, eat, feed my-self, walk, and speak. I was transferred to Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco where surgeons tried to repair the damage to my skull, face, arm, and leg. A large part of my skull had been destroyed and the surgeons performed experimental surgery to close the large defect in my skull. Months passed before I was able to speak a single word.
It took twelve years for me to recover from the massive injuries that I sustained. I underwent multiple surgeries for five years and spent the next eight years working to regain control of my body. I still do not have complete use of my right arm and hand, but I learned to write and do most things with my left hand.
After all I have been through, I came to the conclusion that only by the grace of God and His mercy am I alive today. It gives me great joy to be able to say and to share with others that “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
—Rodolfo “Rudy” Hernandez