Sometimes, recognition comes long after a good deed is done- but such deeds are rarely done for the sake of recognition.
In 1944, a young American Army Private by the name of Pedro Cano took on an overwhelming number of German troops with such courage as to be worthy of the Medal of Honor- only to die long before he ever received it.
Born in Mexico and brought to Texas before he could even walk, Cano considered himself an American for all intents and purposes, and left his agriculture job behind when his foster nation needed Soldiers to answer the call of duty around 1944.
Despite not being a bonafide American, not knowing much English and having no real desire to leave his family and farming life for bloodier pastures, Cano soon found himself in the 4th Infantry Division, and on his way as part of the push to the German Siegfried Line.
During the offensive, the 4th found themselves bogged down in the Hurtgen Forest. As Cano’s company advanced near Schevenhutte, they came under heavy fire from German resistance, pinning down the entire unit.
Knowing such a pause was not sustainable, Cano -who was armed with a Bazooka, a rifle and no shortage of hand grenades- advanced alone towards the Germans, covering over 100 yards of heavily-mined ground until he was within 30 feet of the enemy.
In the first attack, Cano fired the Bazooka at nearly point-blank range, destroying a machine gun nest and seven soldiers. Continuing on, he made it to a second gun emplacement, killing several men with his rifle and some grenades.
Seeing another US company pinned down by the remaining german gun nest, Cano sneaked within fifteen yards of the position, taking out two positions with his remaining ammunition. With the threats cleared, Cano watched as both Army companies advanced.
The following day, Cano would once again repeat his valor, utilizing his trusty Bazooka to suppress three more German gun nests, tallying his 48-hour kill count to around 30.
Cano would be wounded at a later date after an ambush set by German troops nearly decimated his platoon, but not before he incapacitated every single one of the enemy troops with a grenade.
Permanently disabled by his wounds, Cano was sent home and reunited with his family after a recovery stay in a Waco hospital.
Cano would later receive the Distinguished Service Cross in the mail, which he immediately put away after he showed a select few friends. Despite his humility, his friends wrote messages to military commanders, demanding that Cano receive a proper ceremony. Several years later, US and Mexican Army generals, as well as a Navy admiral arrived to a Pedro Cano Day ceremony, pinning the award on Cano’s chest.
While some military brass believed that Cano deserved the Medal of Honor, it is largely believed that he was skipped over due to his Mexican nationality. In truth, Cano wanted nothing more than to be an American citizen, but his requests for naturalization had frequently been set aside in the heat of battle.
Realizing this was a problem, Texas State Senator Rogers Kelley made expedited arrangements for naturalization. By 1946, Cano was made an American citizen, given 40 acres of land and some farm equipment, allowing him to return to the life he put on hold when he volunteered to fight.
After the war, Cano suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, sleepless nights, anxiety attacks and drank excessively to numb the pain. In 1952, he was killed after his truck hit an oncoming vehicle, widowing his wife and leaving their 9,2, and 5-year old children without a father. His wife, Susano, never remarried.
In 2014, Cano’s DSC was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, and President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Pvt. Pedro Cano’s family the medal on the deceased hero’s behalf.
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