Pedro Cano, World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in General Terán, Nuevo León, Mexico, on July 7, 1920. His mother, Nicolasa González Cano, and father, Secundio Cano, settled in Edinburg, Texas, when Pedro was an infant. Because his educational opportunities and knowledge of English were limited, Cano worked in agricultural jobs throughout the Rio Grande Valley until he was drafted into the United States Army in 1943. He was deployed to Europe as a private with Company C, Eighth Infantry Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division.
On December 2, 1944, while participating in the battle of Hürtgen Forest, Private Cano’s unit launched an attack on German machine-gun emplacements at Schevenhütte, Germany. With his unit pinned down, Cano advanced alone through a densely-mined area to within ten yards of the enemy and successfully fired a rocket into the emplacement and killed seven enemy soldiers. He then moved to another emplacement and used rifle fire and grenades to kill two more machine gunners and disperse several others. When an adjacent company came under heavy enemy fire, Cano crossed the front and crawled to within fifteen yards of the enemy and killed another four enemy soldiers and dispatched two machine-gun nests. Over the course of two days, Private Cano repeatedly moved across the front lines to aid other immobilized units and eventually destroyed a total of six machine-gun emplacements and dispatched approximately thirty German soldiers.
Several days later while on patrol, Cano’s platoon was surprised by German soldiers. Despite sustaining injuries that would leave him permanently disabled, Cano lay silent and motionless until the German soldiers moved within range. He then tossed a grenade at the enemy and killed or wounded all of them. Following the war, Cano was sent to a veteran’s hospital in Waco, Texas, until his release in the spring of 1945. For his service, Private Cano received a Purple Heart, two Silver Stars, and the Distinguished Service Cross. On April 26, 1946, at a ceremony awarding Cano the Distinguished Service Cross, Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright thanked him for his service and suggested that he was deserving of the nation’s highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In May 1946 Pedro Cano realized two of his dreams: he became a naturalized American citizen and bought a small farm near Edinburg, Texas. He died on June 24, 1952, as a result of a head-on automobile collision in Pharr, Texas. Pedro Cano was survived by his wife, Herminia Garza Cano, and his three children—daughters Dominga and Maria and son Susano. Cano was buried with military honors at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Edinburg, Texas, where a street and elementary school now bear his name. In 2009 the Texas state legislature declared April 26 to be “Pedro Cano Day” and posthumously awarded him the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. In 2014 following a United States Department of Defense review of Jewish and Hispanic soldiers who might have been passed over for recognition, Pedro Cano was posthumously given the nation’s highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his acts of gallantry and intrepidity.