Gonzalez, Alfredo Cantu (1946–1968)

By: Art Leatherwood and Alicia A. Garza

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Alfredo (Freddy) Cantu Gonzalez, Medal of Honor recipient, son of Andrés Cantu and Dolia Gonzalez, was born on May 23, 1946, at Edinburg, Texas. He graduated in 1965 from Edinburg High School, where he played football. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve at San Antonio on June 3, 1965, under his mother's name, Gonzalez. He enlisted in the regular marines on July 6, 1965. After completing recruit training in September and individual combat training in October, he served as a rifleman with Headquarters and Service Company, First Reconnaissance Battalion, First Marine Division, until January 1966. He then served a year as rifleman and squad leader with Company L, Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, Third Marine Division, in Vietnam. On January 1, 1966, he was promoted to private first class, in October to lance corporal, and on December 1 to corporal. Gonzalez returned to the United States in January 1967 and served as rifleman with the Second Battalion, Sixth Marines, Second Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

In May 1967 he was ordered to the West Coast, where he joined the Third Replacement Company, Staging Battalion, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California, to await transfer to the Far East. On July 1, 1967, he was promoted to sergeant. Later that month he was transferred to Vietnam to serve his second tour of duty. In Vietnam he was a member of Company A, First Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, and saw action against the Viet Cong near Thua Thein. He was serving as platoon commander on January 31, 1968. His unit, formed to help relieve the pressure on the beleaguered city of Hue, was moving by truck convoy near the village of Lang Van Lrong, when the platoon came under heavy enemy fire. Gonzalez aggressively maneuvered his troops and directed their fire until the area was clear of snipers. A marine on top of a tank was wounded and fell to the ground. Gonzalez ran though heavy fire and, although he too was wounded, rescued his comrade. Later, he moved through another bullet-swept area and destroyed a hostile position with hand grenades. On February 3 he was wounded again but refused medical treatment. The next day the enemy pinned his company down, inflicting heavy casualties with automatic weapons and rocket fire. Sergeant Gonzalez, using light antitank weapons, moved from place to place, successfully knocked out a rocket position, and suppressed much of the enemy fire before falling mortally wounded.

He is buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Edinburg; There is a permanent exhibit of his uniform, medals, and biography at the Hidalgo County Historical Museum. Various materials relating to his life form part of the museum's archives. His medals include the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Star, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Military Merit Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. Gonzalez was the only person at the battle of Hue City to be granted the Medal of Honor. Among the structures named for him are Freddy Gonzalez Elementary School and the Alfredo Cantu Gonzalez American Legion Post, both in Edinburg, and the Alfredo Gonzalez Dining Hall at the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi. Also named in his honor are Freddy Gonzalez Drive in Edinburg, the Alfredo Gonzalez Athletic Award at Edinburg High School, and Alfredo Gonzalez Boulevard at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, as well as the missile launcher USS Alfredo Gonzalez, the first ship named for a Hispanic Texan military man.

Sol Marroquin, Part of the Team (Story of an American Hero) (Mission, Texas: Rio Grande, 1979). Committee on Veterans' Affairs, United States Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863–1973 (Washington: GPO, 1973). John W. Flores, When The River Dreams: The Life of Sgt. Freddy Gonzalez (Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2006).
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Military

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

Art Leatherwood and Alicia A. Garza, “Gonzalez, Alfredo Cantu,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/gonzalez-alfredo-cantu.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995

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