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First Name: David

Last Name: Gonzales

Birthplace: Pacoima, CA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Pacoima, CA
Middle Name: M.

Date of Birth: 09 June 1923

Date of Death: 25 April 1945

Rank: Private First Class

Years Served: 1944 - 1945
David M. Gonzales

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


David M. Gonzales
Private First Class, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Private First Class David M. Gonzales (9 June 1923 - 25 April 1945) was a U.S. Army soldier who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War II.

David M. Gonzales was born on 9 June 1923 in Pacoima, CA, one of 14 children born to Mexican immigrants. He joined the U.S. Army at the recruiting station in his hometown at the outbreak of World War II. In December 1944, he was assigned to Company A, 127th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Division and sent into combat in the Philippines.

On 25 April 1945, at age 22, PFC Gonzales was killed in action in the Philippines while, in the face of fierce enemy machine gun fire, digging out fellow soldiers who had been buried in a bomb explosion. For over 60 years, Gonzales' son, David Jr., wondered about the men his father had saved, unaware that one of the men, William W. Kouts was also searching for the family of the person who saved his life. Finally, the search came to an end on May 2007 with the help of Tony Santiago, an editor of Wikipedia.

World War II

On 1 February 1945, after only a few weeks with his division, Gonzales was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge. On 25 April 1945, Gonzales' company found itself engaged in combat against Japanese forces at Villa Verde Trail on Luzon Island in the Philippines. A 500-pound bomb smashed into the company's perimeter, burying five men alive. Gonzales and his commanding officer rushed to rescue the buried men. The commanding officer was killed by enemy machine gun fire while Gonzales was digging out the men using a shovel and his bare hands. In an attempt to dig faster, Gonzales stood up, exposing himself to enemy fire. With his actions, he was able to rescue three of the men before he was hit and mortally wounded. The third soldier saved by Gonzales' actions was Sgt. William Walter Kouts, who later received a field commission of Lieutenant. Kouts was the senior NCO at the time of the incident and wrote the initial account citing the heroic efforts of David M. Gonzales that April day. His report resulted in the posthumous awarding of the Medal of Honor to David M. Gonzales.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company A, 127th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Division.

Place and date: Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 25 April 1945.

Citation: He was pinned down with his company. As enemy fire swept the area, making any movement extremely hazardous, a 500-pound bomb smashed into the company's perimeter, burying 5 men with its explosion. Pfc. Gonzales, without hesitation, seized an entrenching tool and under a hail of fire crawled 15 yards to his entombed comrades, where his commanding officer, who had also rushed forward, was beginning to dig the men out. Nearing his goal, he saw the officer struck and instantly killed by machinegun fire. Undismayed, he set to work swiftly and surely with his hands and the entrenching tool while enemy sniper and machinegun bullets struck all about him. He succeeded in digging one of the men out of the pile of rock and sand. To dig faster he stood up regardless of the greater danger from so exposing himself. He extricated a second man, and then another. As he completed the liberation of the third, he was hit and mortally wounded, but the comrades for whom he so gallantly gave his life were safely evacuated. Pfc. Gonzales' valiant and intrepid conduct exemplifies the highest tradition of the military service.

On 8 December 1945, President Harry S. Truman presented David M. Gonzales' Medal of Honor to his family, which included his mother, Rita Gonzales Duarte; his wife, Steffanie; and his newborn son, David Jr.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars
World War II Victory Medal
Philippine Liberation Medal

Combat Infantryman Badge
Expert Rifle Badge


In 1999, David Gonzales, Jr. and his wife Bea attended a ceremony for war heroes in Santa Ana, CA. There they discovered that the picture the Army was sending out to military ceremonies was not of his father, but of someone else. Gonzales Jr. wrote to the Army in Washington, DC, to tell them of their mistake, but did not receive a response. He then wrote to Congressman Howard Berman, who in turn referred the letter to his aide, Fred Flores.

Flores, who was also from Pacoima, CA, immediately called Pentagon officials and had them correct the mistake. However, Flores found out that the family had only been presented with a Medal of Honor and a duplicate Purple Heart - the original one was stolen - and he realized that Gonzales had earned many other medals. During a 7 November 2002 ceremony at Los Angeles Mission College, Congressman Berman presented David Gonzales, Jr. the following medals earned by his father: the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the World War II Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, the Philippine Liberation Medal, the World War II Honorable Service Lapel Button, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Expert Rifle Badge. Finally he presented the Gold Star Lapel Button, which identifies the next of kin of members of the military who lost their lives while engaged in action.

The photo of a soldier who was not Gonzales, but identified as that of the Medal winner, had been erroneously displayed in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes. This was removed and replaced with a correct one of Gonzales after the renovations of the Pentagon - made necessary by the 9/11 attack - were completed on 31 March 2003.

Reunion between the Gonzales and Kouts Families

On 20 March 2007, Maribeth Kouts, daughter of William Walter Kouts posted the following message in Wikipedia:

"my father, William Kouts, was the soldier David M. Gonzales was digging out when he was shot and killed by sniper fire. My Dad is 85 and in ill health and we want to get into contact with the Gonzales family before Dad's passing so that Dad can tell David Jr. of his father's heroics firsthand. Mbkouts"

Tony Santiago responded to the message and told Maribeth that he would try to help her in their quest. Santiago, who is a contributor in Wikipedia sent e-mails to Congressman Howard Berman and telephoned every David Gonzales in the Los Angeles area without any luck. He then placed a message in "Somos Primos," a Hispanic heritage cultural magazine, and on 11 April 2007, Santiago made contact with Ernestine Gonzales, cousin of David Gonzales Jr. and, as a result, both families met in the Atlanta suburb of Powder Springs, GA, for the first time on 24 May 2007. The event brought closure to over 60 years of searching for the relatives of David M. Gonzales on behalf of William W. Kouts.


In honor of David M. Gonzales, Pacoima Park in Los Angeles County, CA, was renamed David M. Gonzales/Pacoima Recreational Center.

The local Army recruiting station in Pacoima, CA, carries Gonzales' name.

A Los Angeles County, CA, Probation Department camp in Malibu is named for Gonzales.

Death and Burial

Private First Class David M. Gonzales was killed in action on 25 April 1945. His body was initially buried in the Philippines but, in 1949 his remains were shipped to the U.S. On 2 February 1949, Gonzales' body arrived in a funeral train at San Fernando, CA. His remains were re-interred at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, CA.

Honoree ID: 1410   Created by: MHOH




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