Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army

Joe P Martinez

  • Rank: Private
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Company K, 32d Infantry,
    7th Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: May 26, 1943
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Attu Island, Alaska, Aleutian Islands
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy. Over a period of several days, repeated efforts to drive the enemy from a key defensive position high in the snow-covered precipitous mountains between east arm of Holtz Bay and Chichogof Harbor had failed. On 26 May 1943, troop dispositions were readjusted and a trial coordinated attack on this position by a reinforced battalion was launched. Initially successful, the attack hesitated. In the face of severe hostile machine-gun, rifle, and mortar fire, Pvt. Martinez, an automatic rifleman, rose to his feet and resumed his advance. Occasionally he stopped to urge his comrades on. His example inspired others to follow. After a most difficult climb, Pvt. Martinez eliminated resistance from part of the enemy position by BAR fire and hand grenades, thus assisting the advance of other attacking elements. This success only partially completed the action. The main Holtz-Chichogof Pass rose about 150 feet higher, flanked by steep rocky ridges and reached a snow-filled defile. Passage was barred by enemy fire from either flank and from tiers of snow trenches in front. Despite these obstacles, and knowing of their existence, Pvt. Martinez again led the troops on and up, personally silencing several trenches with BAR fire and ultimately reaching the pass itself. Here, just below the knifelike rim of the pass, Pvt. Martinez encountered a final enemy-occupied trench and as he was engaged in firing into it he was mortally wounded. The pass, however, was taken and its capture was an important preliminary to the end of organized hostile resistance on the island.
Medal of Honor Recipient Joe P. Martinez
Medal of Honor Recipient Joe P. Martinez
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Ault, Weld County, Colorado
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Presentation Date & Details: November 11, 1943
    Ault, Colorado, presented by Brigadier Gen. Frank L. Culin Jr. to his family
  • Born: July 27, 1920, Taos, Taos County, NM, United States
  • Died: May 26, 1943, Attu Island, AK, United States
  • Buried: Ault Cemetery (PMH) (2-15-1), Ault, CO, United States
  • Location of Medal: VFW Post 4334, Ault, CO

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