Virgilio N. Cordero, Jr.

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Virgilio Norberto Cordero, Sr.
Virgilio N. Cordero.JPG
Brigadier General Virgilio N. Cordero, Jr.
Born June 6, 1893
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Died June 9, 1980 (aged 87)
Naval Station Roosevelt Roads in Ceiba, Puerto Rico
Buried Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch Emblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service 1917-1953
Rank US-O7 insignia.svg
Brigadier General
Commands held Battalion Commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars World War I, World War II and the Korean War
Awards Silver Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart Medal

Brigadier General Virgilio Norberto Cordero, Jr. (June 6, 1893- June 9, 1980) was a Puerto Rican soldier who served in the United States Army. Cordero authored two books about his experiences as a prisoner of war, and his participation in the Bataan Death March of World War II.

Early years[edit]

Cordero was born in San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico when the island was still a Spanish colony. There he received his primary and secondary education. He moved to the United States and earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Penn State University in 1917. That year he also graduated from the ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) program of that educational institution.[1]

Military career[edit]

In 1917, Cordero enlisted in the United States Army after graduating from PSU. He served in World War I and by 1922, according to the Official Army register, he held the rank of Captain of Infantry.[1][2]

American prisoners of war, in a burial detail, carry the bodies of those who died weeks that followed the Bataan Death March

On December 8, 1941, when Japanese planes attacked the U.S. military installations in the Philippines, Cordero, who by then held the rank of Colonel, was the Battalion Commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment.[1] The 31st Infantry covered the withdrawal of American and Philippine forces to the Bataan Peninsula and fought for 4 months despite the fact that no help could come in from the outside after much of the Pacific fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbor and mid-ocean bases at Guam and Wake Island were lost. The Bataan Defense Force surrendered on April 9, 1942, and Cordero and his men underwent torture and humiliation during the Bataan Death March and nearly four years of captivity. Cordero was one of nearly 1,600 members of the 31st Infantry who were taken as prisoners. Half of these men perished while prisoners of the Japanese forces. Cordero gained his freedom when the Allied troops defeated the Japanese in 1945.[3][4] From July 1946 to November 1947, he served in the US military base in Caserta, Italy before returning to the United States. While in Italy, he was awarded a Silver Star Medal and the Legion of Merit for his actions in Bataan.[5]

Silver Star citation[edit]

Silver Star medal.png

Virgil N. Cordero
Company: Commanding Officer
Regiment: 72nd Infantry Regiment
Division: 71st Division, Philippine Army

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in Lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Colonel (Infantry) Virgil N. Cordero (ASN: 0-7472), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Commanding Officer, 72nd Infantry Regiment, 71st Division, Philippine Army, in action in Bataan, Luzon, Philippine Islands, on 9 April 1942. Upon the termination of the fighting in Bataan, Colonel Cordero was occupying a defensive position near Bagac while awaiting final surrender instructions. During an inspection of the front lines, he heard small arms fire nearby and, inasmuch as orders had been issued not to fire unless attacked by the enemy, he immediately proceeded toward the firing and found a burning ammunition truck being attacked contrary to the terms of the negotiations. Colonel Cordero, with no thought of his own safety, personally directed the extinguishment of the dangerous fire. By his clam and fearless leadership and unhesitating willingness to risk his life, Colonel Cordero prevented an unnecessary engagement with the enemy and loss of life among American soldiers. Colonel Cordero's gallant actions and selfless devotion to duty, without regard for his own safety, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Forces, Pacific, General Orders No. 276 (1945)[6]

Post-World War II[edit]

Cordero continued to serve in the military retiring in 1953 after 36 years of service.[1] Cordero wrote about his experiences as a prisoner of war and what he went through during the Bataan Death March. He authored My Experiences during the War with Japan, which was published in 1950. In 1957, he authored a revised Spanish version titled Bataan y la Marcha de la Muerte; Volume 7 of Colección Vida e Historia, published by: A. Aguado.[5]

On June 9, 1980, Cordero died of lung ailment in the U.S. Navy Hospital in the Roosevelt Roads base in Ceiba, Puerto Rico. He was buried with full military honors in Section G, Plot 3 in the Puerto Rico National Cemetery located in the city of Bayamon, Puerto Rico.[1] Cordero was survived by his wife, the former Gloria Haydon (1922-1981) of Needham, Massachusetts,four children and three grandchildren.[7]

Military decorations[edit]

Among the military decorations which Cordero earned were the following[citation needed]:


Further reading[edit]

  • Puertorriquenos Who Served With Guts, Glory, and Honor. Fighting to Defend a Nation Not Completely Their Own; by : Greg Boudonck; ISBN 978-1497421837

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Toledo Blade - Jun 9, 1980
  2. ^ Official Army register
  3. ^ 31st Infantry Regiment Association
  4. ^ Bataan Death March
  5. ^ a b Cordero, Virgilio N. (1957). A. Aguado, ed. Bataán y la Marcha de la Muerte. Colección Vida e historia (in Spanish). 7. LCCN 58027575. 
  6. ^ Silver Star citation
  7. ^ Philippine Defenders, The Quan; Page 13