Colonel Joseph Charles Rodríguez (November 14, 1928 – November 1, 2005), born in San Bernardino, California, was a United States Army soldier who received the Medal of Honor - the United States' highest military decoration for his actions near Munye-ri, Korea during the Korean War.
Rodríguez, a Mexican-American, was raised in the town of San Bernardino where he also received his primary and secondary education. In October 1950, Rodriguez was drafted into the United States Army and ordered to report for induction in his hometown.
He received his basic training at Camp Carson in Colorado. There he was assigned to Company H, 2nd Battalion of the 196th Regimental Combat Team. Private Rodriguez completed his basic training in February 1951 and volunteered for duty in Korea. He was promoted to Private First Class and sent overseas and assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division.
In June 1950, General Douglas MacArthur decided on an amphibious invasion of North Korea's west coast, entrusting the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division for the mission. The division landed in Pusan and continued to drive toward the southeast to seize key terrain, and also to cut off possible enemy escape routes. On November 27, the terrain gained by the division came under heavy attack from the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) that had intervened in the war. The enemy attack caught the 7th scattered out, with some elements as far as 250 miles apart.
On May 21, 1951, Company F was assigned the mission of occupying some high ground near the Korean village of Munye-ri. The high ground was firmly entrenched with Communist Forces, that were unwilling to give up the ground. Three times Company F attacked the ridge and three times they were thrown back.
PFC Joseph C. Rodríguez was the assistant squad leader of the 2d Platoon. His squad's advance was halted by enemy hostile fire coming from 5 different emplacements. Rodriguez then took the mission upon himself of destroying these emplacements. He charged the emplacements and hurled grenades into each of the foxholes. Rodriguez destroyed the emplacements and annihilated 15 enemy soldiers. As a result, the enemy was routed and the strategic strongpoint secured. PFC. Rodriguez was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and nominated for the Medal of Honor.
On February 5, 1952, President Harry S. Truman bestowed upon Sgt. Rodríguez the Medal of Honor in a ceremony held in the Rose Garden in the White House.
Medal of Honor citation:
After the Korean War, Rodríguez decided to make the military his career. He was assigned to the administrative staff at the ORC headquarters in San Bernardino.
On April 24, 1952, Rodríguez and his fiancée Miss Rose Aranda were the invited guests on “You Bet Your Life,” a 1950s television gameshow hosted by Groucho Marx. The following is part of the conversation between Rodriguez and Marx in the show:
In 1953, Rodríguez married Rose and together they had three children. He subsequently became a commissioned officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers, serving more than 30 years in the U.S., through four Latin American assignments, and unaccompanied tours in Korea and Vietnam. In 1980, Rodriguez retired from the Army with the rank of Colonel.
Rodríguez was residing with his wife, Rose, in El Paso, Texas, at the time of his retirement. He spent the next ten years as Facilities Director at the University of Texas. He dedicated much of his time of his last fifteen years to national speech engagements addressing young people and soldiers, encouraging them to pursue their education.
Colonel Joseph C. Rodríguez died on November 1, 2005, in El Paso and was buried with full military honors at Mountain View Cemetery in San Bernardino, California. Rodriguez is survived by his wife Rose; his sons, Lt. Gen. Charles G. Rodriguez and Lawrence R. Rodriguez; daughter, Karen Sharp; 11 grandchildren; 10 sisters and 2 brothers.
Among Joseph C. Rodríguez's decorations and medals were the following:
Badges: Combat Infantryman Badge