Pedro Cano

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Private Pedro Cano
Pedro Cano portrait.jpg
Medal of Honor recipient Pvt Pedro Cano
Born (1920-06-19)June 19, 1920
Nuevo Leon, Mexico
Died June 24, 1952(1952-06-24) (aged 31)
Pharr, Texas
Place of burial Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Edinburg, Texas
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Rank Private
Unit 8th Infantry Regiment
4th Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II
*Schevenhütte, Germany
Awards

Pedro Cano (June 19, 1920 – June 24, 1952) is a World War II veteran who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat near Schevenhütte, Germany in December 1944.

Cano was born in La Morita, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. He moved to the United States into the small community of Edinburg, Texas when he was 2 months old. There he served as a farm laborer until he volunteered to serve in the Army during World War II. As a private, he was deployed to the European theater to serve with the 4th Infantry Division where he engaged in battles both in France and in Germany. He exhibited extraordinary courage and valor in battle and later sustained injuries that left him permanently disabled. He returned to South Texas to join his wife and children and resumed his work as a farm laborer.[1]

Private Cano received two Silver Star medals, a Purple Heart, and a Distinguished Service Cross.[2] On March 18, 2014 the Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.[3]

After repeated requests during war time to become a U.S. citizen and being ignored by his commanding officer due to other pressing matters, Cano finally achieved his longest-lasting ambition, to become an American citizen, in May 1946. He died six years later on June 24, 1952 at the age of 32 in a tragic automobile accident. He left a wife and three children.

Early life[edit]

Cano as a young boy
Pedro Cano and Johnson - Wedding.jpg

Pedro Cano was the child of Secundino Cano and Nicolasa Gonzalez Cano. He was born in La Morita, Nuevo Leon, Mexico on July 7, 1920.[1] His family moved to the Rio Grande Valley when he was 2 months old. He grew up and worked as a farm laborer in Hidalgo County prior to joining the army.[2] Very little is known about Cano's early life. However, it is known that he had a wife, Herminia Garza Cano, two daughters, Dominga and Maria, and a son, Susano.[1]

Service record[edit]

When he joined the army during World War II, Mr. Cano, a slight man with limited knowledge of English, had little wish to leave his family. He reported for duty nevertheless and subsequently deployed to the European theater. In the fall of 1944 he was with the 4th Infantry Division when that force, after helping to liberate Paris, launched an attack on the Siegfried Line.[4]

In the course of that push against German defense, Private Cano fought in the months-long battle of Hurtgen Forest, and it was during that struggle that he etched his name in the annals of military valor. He was advancing with his company near Schevenhutte, Germany, in December 1944 when the unit came under withering fire from German machine guns. With his comrades pinned down, Private Cano worked his way forward alone, through a hail of fire and over more than 100 yards of heavily mined terrain until he was within 30 feet (9.1 m) of the nearest German emplacement. Firing one round with his hand-held rocket launcher, he destroyed the position and killed its two gunners and five supporting riflemen. He then moved on toward a second emplacement, which he attacked with his rifle and hand grenades, killing several more soldiers. With another American company nearby similarly immobilized, Private Cano crept to within 15 yards of a third emplacement, killed its two gunners with a rocket, and then destroyed yet another emplacement and killed its gunners, enabling that company to also advance.[4]

American troops march down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, in the 'Victory' Parade

The next day, the Americans once more encountered heavy German resistance, and Private Cano again moved forward alone with his bazooka. Crossing open, fire-swept ground, he succeeded in suppressing three more machine-gun positions and killing their gunners, bringing to nearly 30 the number of German soldiers he killed during that two-day period.[4]

Sometime later, while on patrol, Private Cano and his platoon were surprised by German soldiers, who inflicted heavy casualties. Private Cano lay motionless on the ground until the assailants closed in, then tossed a grenade into their midst, wounding or killing all of them. However, more of them came and Pedro found himself alone, falling back. He found a small abandoned house and ran inside it for cover but the house was falling apart and they easily broke in but he pulled out a grenade with his middle finger (and after this action was done, kept his finger in this pose) and threw the grenade at them, killing them all, but at the cost of himself. He was extremely injured and was returned to the States and placed in a Veterans hospital in Waco, Texas. After which, he returned home to his wife and daughter in Edinburg.[4]

Military awards and honors[edit]

Cano unceremoniously received the Distinguished Service Cross in the mail, which he put away in a closet after showing to some of his friends. They recognized the significance of the medal and wrote to the Army that it was not ceremoniously pinned on his chest per custom. American Legion posts in his community immediately began drafting messages to the Army's Eighth Service Command requesting a military ceremony for Cano. At first, Cano was opposed to having a ceremony. [4]

Allan Engleman, publisher of the Edinburg Review, wired Senators and Representatives to tell them of Cano's story.[4]

It is customary for the President of the United States to present the Medal of Honor, which is the honor one step above the Distinguished Service Medal. His community believed that his award deserved a formal military ceremony. They requested that the War Department provide the ceremony with the award being presented by a General.[4]

Pedro Cano is pinned with Distinguished Service Cross medal by General Jonathan Wainwright

General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV, Admiral Joseph J. Clark, as well as General J. Trinidad Rodriguez and Colonel J. Tiburcio Garza Zamorra of the Mexican Army were present at the Pedro Cano Day ceremony on April 26, 1946. Also present were valley military heroes William G. Harrell, Luis N. Gonzalez, and Jose M. Lopez. The community held a parade. Schools dismissed students for the day. Approximately 4,000 people were in attendance. General Wainwright did mention during the ceremony that Pedro Cano deserved a higher award, the Medal of Honor.[2]

On that day, Wainwright, and other dignitaries rode with Cano in the parade from the Missouri Pacific Railroad station, on the East side of town, towards the Hidalgo county courthouse where the Fourth Army commander presented the Distinguished Service Cross. In the parade besides the Army and Navy officers were veterans groups, high school bands from Edinburg and McAllen high schools and the Corpus Christi Naval base band, and Edinburg High School pep clubs.[5]

It is believed that Cano did not get the Medal of Honor because he was not an American citizen. Texas State Senator Rogers Kelley, learned of Cano's desire to become an American citizen. The Senator began making arrangements for Cano's speedy naturalization. In addition, Cano was given 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land and some accompanying farm equipment, and he returned to the farming life he'd left behind when he went to war.[4]

The city of Edinburg, Texas named Cano Street after the war hero.

Texas State Representative Aaron Peña sponsored H.R. 1427 to honor the Edinburg, Texas hero during the 81st Legislative Session.

Desire For Citizenship[edit]

Being that Pedro Cano was born in La Morita, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and then moved to Edinburg, Texas when he was two months old, his longest-lasting ambition was to become a United States citizen. Citizenship was, of course, no barrier to his serving his homeland, but he wanted to make it official. So it was that during the European campaign, Cano expressed his desire to become an American citizen to his commanding officer on several occasions, but he was rebuffed time and again because he was "in combat."[2]

Thanks to the recognition Cano received upon returning home from Europe, State Senator Rogers Kelley got wind of Cano's lifelong ambition, and began the naturalization process. In May 1946 at the U.S. Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas, Cano officially gained American citizenship, signing his naturalization documents in front of deputy district clerk Frances Hines.[6] Unfortunately, his greatest desire satisfied, he only had six more years to live.[2]

Death and funeral[edit]

Cano's grave site

Those six years after returning from war were difficult for Pedro Cano. He suffered from what was at the time described as being "shell-shocked." Today, a better description would be showing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. He was noted to be quiet and moody by a family member. He seemed nervous and took on heavy drinking. He had trouble sleeping and had anxiety attacks.[7]

On June 24, 1952 at age 32, Pedro Cano died when the truck he was driving back to his home in Edinburg collided with an oncoming vehicle in Pharr, Texas. His children, Dominga, Maria, and Susano, were 9, 5, and 2 years old respectively.[8] Cano's wife, Herminia died on Sunday October 30, 1975 at age 55. Susano never married and had no children. Dominga has four sons: Marcos, Salvador Jr, Roberto, and Armando; and two daughters: Esperanza and Rosalinda. Maria has four sons: Pedro, Joaquin Jr, Andres, and David.[9]

The funeral service was held at the Sacred Heart Church in Edinburg Texas by Rev. Fr. Jerry Meagher. A squad of honor, assigned to that duty by Lieut. R. W. Byrd of Harlingen Air Field Base, guarded the body as it lay in state at the family home. A military truck of Co. I, 112th Armored Cavalry, transported the remains to Sacred Heart Catholic church for the services, and to the cemetery after Rev. Fr. Jerry Meagher had completed the service.[10]

A detachment of Co. I, 112th Armored Cavalry of the Texas National Guard, provided an escort of honor and pallbearers included friends and former comrades—Joe Avila, S. M. Cardenas, Leonard Stewart, J. J. Poinboeuf, Louis Kroupa, Tom Simmons, Charles Flores and Ralph Hinojosa.[10]

Subsequent honors[edit]

Since that time a public elementary school (Cano-Gonzalez Elementary) in the city of Edinburg was named after him. Also the parade route (Kruttschnutt Street) upon which the celebration progressed on April 26, 1946 has been changed to Cano Street in his honor.

On April 21, 2009 the Texas House of Representatives passed House Resolution 1427 recognizing the life and sacrifice of Pedro Cano. In addition to this recognition, the Texas House of Representatives adjourned on that day in honor of Private Pedro Cano. The Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives presented the Speaker's gavel for presentation to the City of Edinburg in memory of the brave Private from South Texas.

On April 25, 2009 the City of Edinburg, in conjunction with the Office of Texas State Representative Aaron Peña, holds a Pedro Cano Day celebration reaffirming the life and sacrifice of Pedro Cano.

The Texas House of Representatives is further considering House Concurrent Resolution 5 to award the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. This award is the highest award given by the State of Texas to a soldier who has distinguished himself in the service to his country.

On April 29, 2009, the Texas House Committee on Defense and Veterans Affairs unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution 5.

On May 15, 2009, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Committee - composed of the Texas Adjutant General (General Jose Mayorga), the Texas Lieutenant Governor (David Dewhurst), the Speaker of the Texas House (Joe Straus), the chair of Veterans Affairs and Military Installations (Sen. Leticia Van De Putte), and the chair of Defense & Veterans Affairs (Chairman Frank Corte) - convened. After review, General Jose Mayorga made the motion for the nomination of Pedro Cano to be the Legislative Medal of Honor recipient for the 81st Legislative Session.

Now President Barack Obama is awarding Pvt. Pedro Cano the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions while serving with Company C, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Schevenhutte, Germany on December 3, 1944. [11]

The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Ceremony[edit]

The City of Edinburg, Texas hosted a second ceremony for Pedro Cano 64 years later on May 18, 2010 at the municipal auditorium. Texas Governor Rick Perry personally presented the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to the surviving family of Pedro Cano.

Gov. Rick Perry presents the Legislative Medal of Honor to the Cano family.

About 30 family members travelled to Edinburg from California to participate in the award ceremony. Amongst the family in attendance were Cano’s sister, Alvina Cano Martinez, and his two daughters, Dominga Cano and Maria Cano.

The event began with the presentation of colors by the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Color Guard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance by the Cano-Gonzalez Elementary School student council president. Edinburg Mayor, Richard Garcia, officially welcomed the Cano family and visiting dignitaries to the ceremony. The Mayor’s welcome was followed by speeches from other elected officials, State Representatives Veronica Gonzales and Aaron Peña, and State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa. Governor Perry spoke to the Edinburg citizens in attendance before presenting the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to the Cano family. After the presentation, Stephen Cano spoke a few words of appreciation on behalf of the Cano family.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Texas House of Representatives Resolution 1427 (passed April 21, 2009).
  2. ^ a b c d e Valley Town Crier, North McAllen-Edinburg; September 7, 2005: Vol 41 No. 36, Page 1
  3. ^ "Private Pedro Cano". Army.mil. Retrieved March 19, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Edinburg Valley Review Page 1, Friday March 29, 1946, "Local Ceremony to Honor Edinburg Winner of DSC"
  5. ^ Edinburg Valley Review Page 1 Wednesday Morning April 24, 1946 "Study in Contrast: Hero Returns"
  6. ^ The Brownsville Herald Sunday May 19, 1946 "Hero Now US Citizen"
  7. ^ Valley Town Crier, North McAllen-Edinburg; September 7, 2005: Section I, Page 2
  8. ^ The Pharr Press Friday June 27, 1952 "War Hero, Pedro Cano, Killed In Car Accident"
  9. ^ Edinburg Daily Review, Page 1, Tuesday November 1, 1975, "Rosary For Mrs. Cano To Be Held"
  10. ^ a b Hidalgo County News Thursday July 3, 1952 "Pedro Cano Buried With Military Honors"
  11. ^ http://www.history.army.mil/news/2014/140221a_moh.html