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First Name: Rudolph

Last Name: Davila

Birthplace: El Paso, TX, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Los Angeles, CA
Middle Name: B.

Date of Birth: 27 April 1916

Date of Death: 26 January 2002

Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served: 1941 - 1945
Rudolph B. Davila

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Rudolph B. Davila
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

First Lieutenant Rudolph B. Davila (27 April 1916 - 26 January 2002) was a U.S. Army officer, of Spanish-Filipino descent, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Italy during World War II. He was the only person of Filipino ancestry to receive the Medal for his heroic actions in the European theatre. He was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. However, after an extensive review in 1998, his DSC was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Rudolph B. Davila was born to a Spanish father and a Filipino mother on 27 April 1916 in El Paso, TX. His family moved to Watts, CA, when he was a child. There he was raised and received his primary and secondary education. Davila enlisted in the Army at Los Angeles.

World War II

On 28 May 1944, Davila was a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant assigned to Company H of the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. That day, his company was involved in an offensive near Artena, Italy, which broke through the German mountain strongholds surrounding the Anzio beachhead. His company was under heavy enemy attack and, for some unknown reason, his machine gunners were reluctant to risk putting their guns into action. Realizing that his company was in danger, Davila crawled 50 yards to the nearest machine gun and fired over 750 rounds into the enemy strongholds in the foothills.

His fellow machine gunners reacted and Davila directed their firepower with hand and arm signals until the two enemy hostile machine guns were silenced. Despite being wounded by the enemy, he continued his assault by engaging the enemy from the turret of a burnt tank.

Davila then spotted what he believed to be a rifle barrel in a farmhouse window. He grabbed a rifle and two grenades and went inside the farmhouse. He tossed the grenades at the attic and shot at the troops inside, destroying two more enemy machine gun nests. The enemy was forced to abandon their prepared positions.

Davila received a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant and even though a Captain in the rifle company said he would recommend Davila for the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor, Davila was instead awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second highest award for valor.

Davila continued to serve with his company after he recovered from his leg wound. A few months after the Artena attack, Davila found himself in France's Vosges Mountains. He received a chest wound from a shell which ricocheted off a tree as he was ordering his men to storm a German tank. The tank shell caused injuries that left his right arm paralyzed.

Back Home

Davila was treated for his wounds at a hospital in Modesto, CA. There he met a nurse named Harriet and three months later they married. He continued his education and earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Southern California, and became a high school history teacher in Los Angeles. He moved to Vista in 1977 with his wife after he retired from teaching.

After she became aware of her husband's heroic actions performed during the Allied offensive in Italy, his wife, Harriet Davila, lobbied Army officials to award the Medal of Honor to her husband. For years, she petitioned the government for her husband's medal; making phone calls, writing letters and researching military records to prove her husband deserved the Medal of Honor. No reply ever came.

DSC Upgraded to Medal of Honor

In 1996, Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka secured a Congressionally-mandated review of records for Asian-Americans who had earned the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II. Congress reviewed the records to determine whether they were unfairly denied the military's highest award for valor. That review caused Davila's DSC to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company H, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Artena, Italy, 28 May 1944.

Citation: Staff Sergeant Rudolph B. Davila distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action, on 28 May 1944, near Artena, Italy. During the offensive which broke through the German mountain strongholds surrounding the Anzio beachhead, Staff Sergeant Davila risked death to provide heavy weapons support for a beleaguered rifle company. Caught on an exposed hillside by heavy, grazing fire from a well-entrenched German force, his machine gunners were reluctant to risk putting their guns into action. Crawling fifty yards to the nearest machine gun, Staff Sergeant Davila set it up alone and opened fire on the enemy. In order to observe the effect of his fire, Sergeant Davila fired from the kneeling position, ignoring the enemy fire that struck the tripod and passed between his legs. Ordering a gunner to take over, he crawled forward to a vantage point and directed the firefight with hand and arm signals until both hostile machine guns were silenced. Bringing his three remaining machine guns into action, he drove the enemy to a reserve position two hundred yards to the rear. When he received a painful wound in the leg, he dashed to a burned tank and, despite the crash of bullets on the hull, engaged a second enemy force from the tank's turret. Dismounting, he advanced 130 yards in short rushes, crawled 20 yards and charged into an enemy-held house to eliminate the defending force of five with a hand grenade and rifle fire. Climbing to the attic, he straddled a large shell hole in the wall and opened fire on the enemy. Although the walls of the house were crumbling, he continued to fire until he had destroyed two more machine guns. His intrepid actions brought desperately needed heavy weapons support to a hard-pressed rifle company and silenced four machine gunners, which forced the enemy to abandon their prepared positions. Staff Sergeant Davila's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

On 21 June 2000, President Bill Clinton bestowed the Medal of Honor on Rudolph B. Davila and 21 other World War II servicemen of Asian descent at a White House ceremony. Only seven of the 22 recipients were still alive when the Medals were presented. Previously, only two of the 40,000-plus Asian-Americans who served in World War II had been awarded the Medal of Honor.

Army Secretary Louis Caldera inducted the soldiers into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes on 22 June. Sadly, Davila's wife, Harriet, had died six months before on 25 December 1999.

Subsequently, Davila was honored by the city of Vista. He served as the guest speaker at the Veterans of Foreign Wars' Memorial Day ceremony in 2001.

Medals and Awards

• Medal of Honor
• Distinguished Service Cross
• Purple Heart
• American Campaign Medal
• European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
• World War II Victory Medal

• Combat Infantryman Badge

Death and Burial

First Lieutenant Rudolph B. Davila died of cancer on 26 January 2002 in Vista, California. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, in Section 67, Lot 3458. A memorial headstone to his wife, Harriet R., is next to his grave.

At the time of his death Davila was survived by his three sons, Roland, Jeffrey, and Gregg; and two daughters Jill and Tana; and nine grandchildren.

Honoree ID: 1358   Created by: MHOH




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