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USCIS Field Office, Orlando, Florida

Army Private First Class Silvestre Santana Herrera - World War II

Silvestre Santana Herrera was born in Mexico, and entered the United States as a child after his parents were killed in an accident. Raised by an uncle he always thought was his father, Herrera did not learn his true nationality until the day he received his draft notice. Despite the fact that he was a Mexican national, Herrera answered the draft to service, and studied to become an American citizen while fighting in Europe. One year after his action, Mexico awarded Herrera the Premier Merito Militar, making his the only person in history ever awarded the highest medals for valor of both the United States and Mexico.
   He was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty on 15 March 1945, while serving with Company E, 2d Battalion, 142d Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, in action at Merzwiller, France. Private First Class Herrera advanced with a platoon along a wooded road until stopped by heavy enemy machinegun fire. As the rest of the unit took cover, he made a one man frontal assault on a strongpoint and captured eight enemy soldiers. When the platoon resumed its advance and was subjected to fire from a second emplacement beyond an extensive minefield, Private Herrera again moved forward, disregarding the danger of exploding mines, to attack the position. He stepped on a mine and had both feet severed but, despite intense pain and unchecked loss of blood, he pinned down the enemy with accurate rifle fire while a friendly squad captured the enemy gun by skirting the minefield and rushing in from the flank. The magnificent courage, extraordinary heroism, and willing self-sacrifice displayed by Private Herrera resulted in the capture of two enemy strong points and the taking of eight prisoners.
   Herrera returned stateside to recover from his wounds and five months later President Truman personally decorated him with the Medal of Honor. Herrera died at his home in Glendale, Arizona, on Nov. 26, 2007.

This text is from the official citations, military historical records, obituaries and other text posted on the Internet, including HomeOfHeroes.com, and the Military Times Hall of Valor.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 03/25/2011