Joe P. Martinez


Private Joseph Pantillion Martínez (July 27, 1920–May 26, 1943) born in Taos, New Mexico, was a United States Army soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor — the United States’ highest military decoration —- for his actions on the Aleutian Islands during World War II. Private Joseph P. Martínez was the first Hispanic-American and first Coloradan[1] to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II. His posthumous award was the first act for combat heroism on American soil (other than the 15 at Pearl Harbor) since the Indian Wars.[2]


Early years


Joe Martínez was one of seven children born to José Manuel Martínez and María Eduvigen Romo, both who were natives of New Mexico. In 1927, his father, who was an agricultural laborer, decided to move from Taos, New Mexico to Ault, Colorado. There, Martínez received his primary and secondary education. On August 1942, he was drafted into the United States Army and sent to Camp Roberts, California where he received his basic training.[3]


World War II


On June 6, 1942, Japanese forces invaded the island of Kiska and on June 7, the island of Attu. These islands are among the western most islands on the Aleutian chain and are part of Alaska. The U.S. feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to launch aerial assaults against the West Coast, and it became a matter of national pride to expel the first invaders to set foot on American soil since the War of 1812.


After Martínez completed his basic training, he was assigned to Company K, 32d Infantry, 7th Infantry Division. The 7th Infantry Division landed at Holtz Bay, Attu. On May 26, 1943, 32nd Infantry Regiment was engaged in combat in the vicinity of Fish Hook Ridge against enemy troops. The regiment was pinned down by enemy fire and Martinez on his own account led two assaults. He fired his rifle into the Japanese foxholes and the men of his unit followed. Martínez was shot in the head as he approached one final foxhole after the second assault, dying of the wound the following day. Martínez was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.


Private Martínez was the first Hispanic-American recipient who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for combat heroism on American soil during World War II.[4]


Medal of Honor citation


Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army,

Company K, 32d Infantry, 7th Infantry Division.

Place and date: On Attu, Aleutians, May 26, 1943.

Entered service at: Ault, Colorado

Birth: Taos, New Mexico

G.O. No.: 71, October 27, 1943.


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 Holtz Bay and

Chichagof 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-Chichagof

Pass rose about 150 feet higher, flanked by steep rocky ridges and

reached by 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[5]


Martínez was buried with full military honors at Ault Cemetery, Ault, Weld County in Colorado. On April 13, 1945, the United States Navy named one of its ships, which served as a troop transport during the Korean War, the USNS Private Joe P. Martinez. The state of Colorado has honored his memory by naming a street and renaming a former base reception center and early officer’s club which currently serves as the service center after him. The government named a Disabled American Veterans chapter in Colorado and an American Legion post in California in his honor. Three statues were erected with his likeness and are located in the Colorado cities of Ault, Greeley at the Weld County Veterans Memorial Park, and Denver. The U.S. Army also named an Army Reserve military installation in Denver, Colorado after Martinez.[6] The 7th Infantry Division honored him by naming the Fort Ord Welcome Center (originally the Post

Headquarters built in 1941) Martinez Hall in 1977.  Although Fort Ord closed in 1993, Martinez Hall still serves as a Veterans Transition Service Center.

Awards and recognitions

Among Private Joe P. Martínez' decorations and medals were the following:


 “USS Pvt. Joe P. Martinez”. Retrieved September 29, 2010.

 “Private Joe P. Martinez Bronze Sculpture”. Jan 16, 2015. Retrieved March 20, 2015. External link in |website= (help)