Ysmael R. Villegas
Ysmael R. Villegas
Staff Sergeant Ysmael R. Villegas, Medal of Honor recipient
|Born||March 21, 1924|
Casa Blanca, California
|Died||March 20, 1945 (aged 20)|
|Place of burial|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1944–1945|
|Unit||Company F, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
*Battle of Luzon
|Awards||Medal of Honor|
Staff Sergeant Ysmael R. Villegas (March 21, 1924 in Casa Blanca, California – March 20, 1945 in Luzon, Philippines), was a United States Army soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor – the United States' highest military decoration for his actions during World War II. On March 20, 1945, at age 20, Staff Sergeant Ysmael R. Villegas was killed in action during the Battle of Luzon in the Philippines. Villegas single-handedly cleared five enemy foxholes that had his squad pinned down.
Villegas was a Mexican-American born and raised in Casa Blanca, the Hispanic section of Riverside, California. There he received his primary and secondary education and joined the United States Army in July 1944. After he finished his basic training, he was assigned to Company F, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division which was assigned to the invasion of the Philippines.
World War II
On March 1, 1945, Villegas' company found itself engaged in combat against Japanese forces at Villa Verde Trail on Luzon Island in the Philippines, in what is known as the Battle of Luzon. His squad was attacked by an enemy machinegun nest. Villegas took it upon himself to save his squad by destroying the nest and its occupants. For his actions he was awarded the Silver Star medal.
On March 20, 1945, Villegas was ordered to lead his squad in an advance which would result in the taking of a hill. They confronted an enemy which was entrenched and who attacked them with heavy machinegun and rifle fire. He led his men towards the crest of the hill and then upon his own initiative attacked five enemy foxholes, killing all of its occupants. Villegas was mortally wounded when he attacked the sixth foxhole.
On October 19, 1945, President Harry S. Truman posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Villegas, presenting the medal to his surviving family.
Medal of Honor citation
- He was a squad leader when his unit, in a forward position, clashed with an enemy strongly entrenched in connected caves and foxholes on commanding ground. He moved boldly from man to man, in the face of bursting grenades and demolition charges, through heavy machinegun and rifle fire, to bolster the spirit of his comrades. Inspired by his gallantry, his men pressed forward to the crest of the hill. Numerous enemy riflemen, refusing to flee, continued firing from their foxholes. S/Sgt. Villegas, with complete disregard for his own safety and the bullets which kicked up the dirt at his feet, charged an enemy position, and, firing at point-blank range killed the Japanese in a foxhole. He rushed a second foxhole while bullets missed him by inches, and killed 1 more of the enemy. In rapid succession he charged a third, a fourth, a fifth foxhole, each time destroying the enemy within. The fire against him increased in intensity, but he pressed onward to attack a sixth position. As he neared his goal, he was hit and killed by enemy fire. Through his heroism and indomitable fighting spirit, S/Sgt. Villegas, at the cost of his life, inspired his men to a determined attack in which they swept the enemy from the field.
Villegas was the first Riverside County resident to ever receive the Medal of Honor and the first veteran to be buried at the Riverside National Cemetery when the cemetery opened in 1978. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) named Post #184 in Riverside the "Ysmael R. Villegas Memorial Casa Blanca Post" in his honor. A statue by sculpture Gary Coutrer, called Villegas Memorial, was dedicated on May 27, 1995, and is located on Main Street Civic Center Courtyard in Riverside. The Ysmael R. Villegas Middle School in Riverside is named in his honor.
Awards and decorations
Among Staff Sergeant Ysmael R. Villegas' decorations and medals were the following:
|Medal of Honor|
|Silver Star||Purple Heart||American Campaign Medal|
|Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal||World War II Victory Medal||Philippine Liberation Medal|
- List of Medal of Honor recipients for World War II
- Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients
- David M. Gonzales, who was also a 32d Infantry Division Medal of Honor recipient.
- Hispanic Americans in World War II
- The 32nd Div. in WW II
- Medal of Honor citation
- Wall, Stephen (March 24, 2014). "Riverside: Medal of Honor recipient honored". The Press-Enterprise.
- Following the war he was buried in Riverside's Olivewood Cemetery. See: Riverside National Cemetery: "Veterans Day Marks Cemetery's 35th Anniversary". October 25, 2013
- Ysmael R. Villegas middle school