America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan

By James H. Willbanks | Go to book overview

Davila, Rudolph B.

Born: April 27, 1916

Died: January 26, 2002

Home State: California

Service: Army

Conflict: World War II

Age at Time of Award: 28

Born to a Spanish father and a Filipino mother in El Paso, Texas, on April 27, 1916, Rudolph Blanco Davila was raised and educated in Watts, California. He enlisted in the Army in Los Angeles. During World War II, he served as an infantryman assigned to Company H, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. In 1944, Staff Sergeant Davila and his company were part of the Allied force trapped in the Anzio pocket. The invasion of Anzio (Operation Shingle) had been an effort by the Allies to flank the German positions in Italy by landing a force between the main enemy lines and the city of Rome. In theory, the Germans would be forced to abandon their defensive positions in order to defend Rome and protect their rear area. In reality, the slow, methodical pace of the Allied forces after the landing allowed the Germans time to regroup and counterattack. As a result, what should have been a rapid flanking movement by the Allies resulted in continued stalemate both along the main front line and in the defensive pocket created around the city of Anzio.

The final, successful breakout from the Anzio pocket started on May 23, 1944. On May 28, 1944, Davila and his company were near Artena, Italy, when they were caught in an exposed position on a hillside by German machine guns. Rather than engage the German positions, the American machine gunners (Company H was the heavy-weapons company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment) were reluctant to move for fear of drawing fire on themselves. The result was that the Americans were trapped—unable to move forward or backward. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Davila crawled 50 yards under fire to the nearest American machine gun and put it into action. In order to observe the effect of his shots, he fired from the kneeling position despite the fact that enemy rounds struck the machine gun’s tripod and passed between his legs. His efforts inspired the other machine gunners of the company, who also opened fire on the German positions. Davila then ordered his weapon’s original gunner to take over so that he could crawl forward, still under enemy fire, and direct all of the American guns until both of the German positions had been destroyed.

With these enemy strong points eliminated, Company H continued advancing until they were again engaged by German troops. Despite being wounded in the leg, Davila mounted a burning American tank and, though drawing a considerable amount of German fire in this exposed position, eliminated this second group of enemy soldiers with the tank’s.50 caliber machine gun. Dismounting the tank, Davila advanced 150 yards toward a German-held farmhouse where two more enemy machine guns were firing on American troops. Using two hand grenades and his rifle, he killed the five Germans who occupied the main floor of the house. Davila then climbed up to the attic, where he destroyed two more enemy machine gun teams with rifle fire.

For his actions, Davila was given a battlefield commission to second lieutenant and recommended for the Medal of Honor by his company commander. The award was downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the Army’s second highest award for valor. After recovering from his leg wound, Davila returned to combat. A few months later, when the 3rd Infantry Division found itself fighting in the Vosges Mountains of France, he and his men were taken under fire by a German tank. The shell struck a nearby tree, and Davila was hit by shrapnel, which pierced his lung and severed nerves on his left side. This wound caused permanent damage to his arm, which would remain partially paralyzed and withered despite 13 operations. While he was being treated for his wounds at a hospital in Modesto, California, he met a nurse named Harriet, and three months later they were married.

After being medically discharged from the US Army, Davila used the GI Bill to attend the University of Southern California, receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology, and subsequently taught high school in Los Angeles.

In 1996, in the wake of an independent report that found significant racism in decisions not to award the Medal of Honor to African Americans in World War II, Hawaii senator Daniel Akaka requested that a similar study be performed regarding Asian Americans. This report returned similar conclusions, leading the US Army to upgrade 22 of the 104 DSCs awarded to Asian Americans in World War II to Medals of Honor. On June 21, 2000, President Bill Clinton presented the medals to Rudolph Davila and 21 other recipients, only 7 of whom were still alive. Davila died of cancer on January 26, 2002, and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Alexander M. Bielakowski


Further Reading

Collier, Peter, and Nick Del Calzo. Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor beyond the Call of Duty. New York: Artisan, 2006.

Tillman, Barrett. Heroes: U.S. Army Medal of Honor Recipients. New York: The Berkley Group, 2006.

-69-

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America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Entries ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Adams, Lucian 1
  • Baca, John P. 2
  • Bacon, Nicky Daniel 4
  • Baker, Vernon 6
  • Baldwin, Frank D. 8
  • Ballard, Donald E. 11
  • Barfoot, Van T. 13
  • Barnum, Harvey C., Jr 14
  • Barrett, Carlton W. 16
  • Basilone, John 18
  • Benavidez, Roy P. 20
  • Birkhimer, William E. 22
  • Blake, Robert 24
  • Bleak, David B. 25
  • Boyington, Gregory 27
  • Brady, Patrick Henry 29
  • Britt, Maurice L. 30
  • Brown, Bobbie E. 32
  • Bucha, Paul William 34
  • Burke, Lloyd L. 36
  • Bush, Robert Eugene 38
  • Butler, Smedley Darlington 40
  • Butterfield, Daniel 42
  • Cafferata, Hector a., Jr 43
  • Carney, William H. 45
  • Cavaiani, Jon R. 48
  • Chamberlain, Joshua L. 49
  • Childers, Ernest 51
  • Cody, William F. 53
  • Cohn, Abraham 55
  • Cole, Robert G. 57
  • Craft, Clarence B. 59
  • Crandall, Bruce P. 61
  • Custer, Thomas W. 63
  • Dahlgren, John Olof 65
  • Daly, Daniel Joseph 67
  • Davila, Rudolph B. 69
  • Davis, Charles W. 70
  • Davis, Raymond G. 73
  • Davis, Sammy L. 74
  • Day, George E. 76
  • Dean, William F. 78
  • Deblanc, Jefferson Joseph 79
  • Dix, Drew Dennis 81
  • Donlon, Roger Hugh C. 84
  • Donovan, William Joseph 85
  • Doolittle, James H. 87
  • Doss, Desmond T. 88
  • Dunham, Jason L. 90
  • Dunham, Russell E. 91
  • Dyess, Aquilla James 93
  • Ehlers, Walter D. 96
  • Evans, Ernest Edwin 98
  • Faith, Don C., Jr 100
  • Finn, John William 102
  • Fletcher, Frank Jack 104
  • Fluckey, Eugene Bennett 105
  • Foley, Robert F. 107
  • Foss, Joseph Jacob 109
  • Fox, John Robert 112
  • Freeman, Ed W. 113
  • Funston, Frederick 115
  • Galer, Robert Edward 117
  • García, Macario 119
  • Gonsalves, Harold 121
  • Gonzalez, Alfredo 123
  • Gordon, Gary I. 125
  • Hagemeister, Charles Chris 126
  • Harmon, Roy W. 128
  • Harrell, William George 130
  • Hatch, John P. 131
  • Hayashi, Shizuya 133
  • Hayes, Webb C. 134
  • Heard, John W. 137
  • Hendrix, James R. 139
  • Hernández, Rodolfo P. 140
  • Herrera, Silvestre S. 142
  • Hooper, Joe R. 144
  • Howard, Oliver O. 146
  • Howard, Robert L. 148
  • Inouye, Daniel K. 150
  • Irwin, Bernard J. D. 154
  • Izac, Edouard Victor Michel 155
  • Jackson, Joe M. 158
  • Jacobs, Jack H. 160
  • Joel, Lawrence 162
  • Kaufman, Benjamin 164
  • Keeble, Woodrow W. 166
  • Kelly, Charles E. 167
  • Kerrey, Joseph R. 169
  • Kisters, Gerry H. 171
  • Kouma, Ernest R. 173
  • Lang, George C. 175
  • Lemon, Peter C. 177
  • Levitow, John L. 178
  • Liteky, Angelo J. 181
  • Livingston, James E. 182
  • Lopez, Jose M. 184
  • Lucas, Jacklyn Harold 186
  • Luke, Frank, Jr 189
  • Mabry, George L., Jr 191
  • Macarthur, Arthur, Jr 193
  • Macarthur, Douglas 195
  • Mackie, John F. 198
  • Mallon, George H. 200
  • Marm, Walter Joseph, Jr 201
  • Martinez, Joe P. 203
  • McCool, Richard Miles, Jr 204
  • McGinnis, Ross A. 206
  • McGinty, John J., III 207
  • McKinney, John R. 209
  • Merli, Gino J. 211
  • Miles, L. Wardlaw 213
  • Miles, Nelson A. 214
  • Millett, Lewis L. 218
  • Miyamura, Hiroshi H. 220
  • Mize, Ola L. 223
  • Moffett, William A. 225
  • Monsoor, Michael A. 226
  • Monti, Jared C. 227
  • Munemori, Sadao S. 229
  • Munro, Douglas Albert 231
  • Murphy, Audie L. 233
  • Murphy, Michael P. 235
  • Murphy, Raymond G. 236
  • Norris, Thomas R. 238
  • Novosel, Michael J. 240
  • O’Hare, Edward Henry 243
  • O’Kane, Richard Hetherington 245
  • Okubo, James K. 246
  • Olive, Milton L., III 248
  • O’Neill, Richard W. 249
  • Page, John U. D. 251
  • Paige, Mitchell 254
  • Parker, Samuel I. 256
  • Pennypacker, Galusha 258
  • Penry, Richard A. 260
  • Pitsenbarger, William H. 262
  • Pittman, John A. 264
  • Pittman, Richard A. 265
  • Pope, Everett Parker 267
  • Pope, Thomas A. 269
  • Rascon, Alfred V. 271
  • Ray, Ronald Eric 273
  • Red Cloud, Mitchell, Jr 275
  • Rickenbacker, Edward V. 278
  • Roberts, Gordon R. 279
  • Rocco, Louis R. 281
  • Rodriguez, Joseph C. 283
  • Roosevelt, Theodore 285
  • Rosser, Ronald E. 287
  • Rubin, Tibor 289
  • Rudolph, Donald E. 291
  • Ruiz, Alejandro R. Renteria 293
  • Sakato, George T. 294
  • Salomon, Ben L. 296
  • Sandlin, Willie 298
  • Sasser, Clarence Eugene 300
  • Schofield, John M. 302
  • Shafter, William R. 303
  • Shoup, David Monroe 305
  • Shughart, Randall D. 307
  • Sickles, Daniel E. 310
  • Sijan, Lance P. 312
  • Simanek, Robert E. 313
  • Sitter, Carl L. 315
  • Smith, Andrew Jackson 317
  • Smith, Paul R. 319
  • Spurrier, Junior J. 320
  • Stockdale, James B. 322
  • Stone, James L. 324
  • Stowers, Freddie 326
  • Thornton, Michael Edwin 327
  • Thorsness, Leo K. 329
  • Titus, Calvin Pearl 332
  • Turner, George B. 333
  • Urban, Matt 335
  • Vandegrift, Alexander Archer 337
  • Vargas, Jay R. 339
  • Versace, Humbert R. 341
  • Wahlen, George Edward 343
  • Wai, Francis B. 345
  • Wainwright, Jonathan M. 347
  • Walker, Dr. Mary E. 349
  • Ware, Keith L. 350
  • Warren, Francis E. 352
  • Watson, George 353
  • Watters, Charles Joseph 354
  • Webb, Alexander S. 358
  • Wetzel, Gary George 360
  • Whiteley, Eli 362
  • Whittington, Hulon B. 363
  • Williams, Hershel Woodrow 365
  • Wilson, Louis Hugh, Jr. 367
  • Wood, Leonard 369
  • Woodfill, Samuel 372
  • York, Alvin C. 373
  • Young, Rodger W. 375
  • Zabitosky, Fred William 377
  • Zeamer, Jay, Jr. 379
  • Recipients of the Medal of Honor 381
  • Double Award Recipients 487
  • Medals of Honor Awarded by Conflict and Service 489
  • Bibliography 493
  • Index 511
  • About the Editor 529
  • Contributors 531
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