Photo By Kare Lohse


Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient
It was Wednesday, May 26, 1943. The weather was nice for a nice as weather could get for Attu during this time of year. The battle for Attu was still would be three more days before major fighting for possession of Attu would end. The bulk of the remaining Japanese defensive forces by now had retreated to Chichagof village, with pockets of Japanese defenders spread around the mountain tops and ridges protecting the village from U.S. Forces. Sixty two Air Force planes in relays attacked Chichagof village this day until the Japanese camp [and Attu Village] was destroyed. The end of the Japanese occupation of Attu was near. A battalion of the 4th Infantry reorganized into squads, elements, and individuals who inched up through the cold rocks in their attempt to drive the Japanese off the Ridge. Japanese soldiers, laying in trenches and concealed by snowdrifts and rocks along Fish Hook Ridge, held the Americans back by rolling hand grenades down into their positions. Private Joe P. Martinez, born in Taos, New Mexico and having enlisted in the U.S. Army at Ault, Colorado, was an automatic rifleman in Company K of the 32nd Infantry. With his Company stalled by entrenched enemy soldiers, Martinez stood up and walked into the enemy's fire, and slaughtered five Japanese soldiers with grenades and his BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). He reached the crest of the ridge before he collapsed with a mortal wound he had taken fifty yards down the hill. The U. S. Northern Force followed him up the hill and took the northwestern razorback of the Fish Hook that Martinez had cleared. It was too late for Martinez to revel in their victory. Joseph P. Martinez's posthumous reward was Attu's only Medal of Honor, and was awarded on 27 October, 1943. Click HERE to read his story from “The Capture of told by the men who fought there”
MARTINEZ, JOE P . Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company K, 32d Infantry, 7th Infantry Division. Place and date: On Attu, Aleutians, 26 May 1943. Entered service at: Ault, Colo. Birth: Taos, N. Mex. G.O. No.: 71, 27 October 1943. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy. Over a period of several days, repeated efforts to drive the enemy from a key defensive position high in the snow-covered precipitous mountains between East Arm Holtz Bay and Chichagof Harbor had failed. On 26 May 1943, troop dispositions were readjusted and a trial coordinated attack on this position by a reinforced battalion was launched. Initially successful, the attack hesitated. In the face of severe hostile machinegun, rifle, and mortar fire, Pvt. Martinez, an automatic rifleman, rose to his feet and resumed his advance. Occasionally he stopped to urge his comrades on. His example inspired others to follow. After a most difficult climb, Pvt. Martinez eliminated resistance from part of the enemy position by BAR fire and hand grenades, thus assisting the advance of other attacking elements. This success only partially completed the action. The main Holtz- Chichagof Pass rose about 150 feet higher, flanked by steep rocky ridges and reached by a snow-filled defile. Passage was barred by enemy fire from either flank and from tiers of snow trenches in front. Despite these obstacles, and knowing of their existence, Pvt. Martinez again led the troops on and up, personally silencing several trenches with BAR fire and ultimately reaching the pass itself. Here, just below the knifelike rim of the pass, Pvt. Martinez encountered a final enemy-occupied trench and as he was engaged in firing into it he was mortally wounded. The pass, however, was taken, and its capture was an important preliminary to the end of organized hostile resistance on the island.
His citation reads:
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