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RODRIGUEZ, CLETO L.

RODRÍGUEZ, CLETO L. (1923–1990). Cleto L. Rodríguez, Medal of Honor recipient, was born on April 26, 1923, and raised in San Marcos and San Antonio. After his parents died when he was nine, he moved to San Antonio with relatives. He worked at the Gunter Hotel and as a newsboy. He attended Washington, Irving, and Ivanhoe schools. He was one of an estimated 375,000 to 500,000 Mexican-American soldiers in World War II. The percentage of persons of Mexican descent who served in the armed forces was higher than that of Mexican Americans in the general public, and they constituted the most decorated ethnic group. Rodríguez married Flora Muñiz on November 11, 1945, and they had four children. Rodríguez entered the United States Army in early 1944 and served as a technical sergeant. He was an automatic rifleman with Company B, 148th Infantry, when his unit attacked the strongly defended Paco Railroad Station during the battle for Manila in the Philippine Islands. He and his partner, John N. Reese, Jr., of Pryor, Oklahoma, killed eighty-two enemy soldiers and disorganized their defense, thus facilitating the defeat of the Japanese at their strong point. Two days later, Rodríguez singlehandedly killed six enemy soldiers and destroyed a twenty-millimeter gun. Thus on two occasions he "materially aided the advance of U.S. troops in Manila." Later, he was promoted to staff sergeant. Rodríguez was the fifth person of Mexican descent to win the Medal of Honor. Fourteen Texans received the award for service in World War II, six of whom were of Mexican descent. Rodríguez was also the first Mexican American GI to win the highest award in the South Pacific. Upon his return to San Antonio, city officials and the public greeted him and gave him a key to the city. Rodríguez joined the League of United Latin American Citizens, Council 2, in 1946. In 1947 he began work as a representative of the Veterans Administration. He served in the United States Air Force from 1952 to 1954 and again in the army from 1955 to 1970. Ivanhoe Elementary School was renamed Cleto Rodríguez School in 1975. Rodríguez died on December 7, 1990, and is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Committee on Veterans' Affairs, United States Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863–1973 (Washington: GPO, 1973). Raul Morin, Among the Valiant: Mexican Americans in World War II and Korea (Los Angeles: Border, 1963).

Cynthia E. Orozco

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Cynthia E. Orozco, "RODRIGUEZ, CLETO L.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/frobv), accessed September 16, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.