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Joe P. Martínez
Private Joe P. Martínez, Medal of Honor recipient
Born (1920-07-27)July 27, 1920
Died May 26, 1943(1943-05-26) (aged 22)
Place of birth Taos, New Mexico
Place of death Attu, Aleutian Islands
Place of burial Ault Cemetery, Ault Colorado
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1942-1943
Rank Private
Unit Company K, 32d Infantry, 7th Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of the Aleutian Islands
Awards Medal of Honor
Purple Heart

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 yearsEdit

Joe Martínez was one of nine 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 IIEdit

On June 6, 1942, Japanese forces invaded the island of Kiska and on June 7, the island of Attu. These islands are the western most island 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 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 citationEdit

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]


Statue in Denver of Private Joe Martinez

Statue of Martínez in Denver

USS Pvt Joe P Martinez

USS Pvt. Joe P. Martínez

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 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 recognitionsEdit

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

A light blue ribbon with five white five pointed stars
Purple Heart BAR.svg American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
Medal of Honor
Purple Heart American Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal

See alsoEdit


  1. Dedication of a July 1988 statue of Martinez in Civic Center Park, Denver, reads: "Dedicated to honor Private Joe P. Martínez Colorado's first Congressional Medal of Honor recipient of World War II".
  2. Congressional Medal of Honor Society
  3. Hispanics in Americas Defense
  4. Battle of the Aleutian Islands
  5. Medal of Honor citation
  6. U.S. military Installations

External linksEdit

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