Rodríguez entered the United States Army in early 1944 and served as a technical sergeant. He was an automatic rifleman with Company B, 148th Infantry, when his unit attacked the strongly defended Paco Railroad Station during the battle for Manila in the Philippine Islands. He and his partner, John N. Reese, Jr., of Pryor, Oklahoma, killed eighty-two enemy soldiers and disorganized their defense, thus facilitating the defeat of the Japanese at their strong point. Two days later, Rodríguez singlehandedly killed six enemy soldiers and destroyed a twenty-millimeter gun. Thus on two occasions he "materially aided the advance of U.S. troops in Manila." Later, he was promoted to staff sergeant. Rodríguez was the fifth person of Mexican descent to win the Medal of Honor. Fourteen Texans received the award for service in World War II, six of whom were of Mexican descent. Rodríguez was also the first Mexican American GI to win the highest award in the South Pacific. Upon his return to San Antonio, city officials and the public greeted him and gave him a key to the city. Rodríguez joined the League of United Latin American Citizens, Council 2, in 1946. In 1947 he began work as a representative of the Veterans Administration. He served in the United States Air Force from 1952 to 1954 and again in the army from 1955 to 1970. Ivanhoe Elementary School was renamed Cleto Rodríguez School in 1975. Rodríguez died on December 7, 1990, and is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
CitationHe was an automatic rifleman when his unit attacked the strongly defended Paco Railroad Station during the battle for Manila, Philippine Islands. While making a frontal assault across an open field, his platoon was halted 100 yards from the station by intense enemy fire. On his own initiative, he left the platoon, accompanied by a comrade, and continued forward to a house 60 yards from the objective. Although under constant enemy observation, the 2 men remained in this position for an hour, firing at targets of opportunity, killing more than 35 hostile soldiers and wounding many more. Moving closer to the station and discovering a group of Japanese replacements attempting to reach pillboxes, they opened heavy fire, killed more than 40 and stopped all subsequent attempts to man the emplacements. Enemy fire became more intense as they advanced to within 20 yards of the station. Then, covered by his companion, Pvt. Rodriguez boldly moved up to the building and threw 5 grenades through a doorway killing 7 Japanese, destroying a 20-mm. gun and wrecking a heavy machinegun. With their ammunition running low, the 2 men started to return to the American lines, alternately providing covering fire for each other's withdrawal. During this movement, Pvt. Rodriguez' companion was killed. In 2 l/2 hours of fierce fighting the intrepid team killed more than 82 Japanese, completely disorganized their defense, and paved the way for the subsequent overwhelming defeat of the enemy at this strongpoint. Two days later, Pvt. Rodriguez again enabled his comrades to advance when he single-handedly killed 6 Japanese and destroyed a well-placed 20-mm. gun by his outstanding skill with his weapons, gallant determination to destroy the enemy, and heroic courage in the face of tremendous odds, Pvt. Rodriguez, on 2 occasions, materially aided the advance of our troops in Manila.
29° 28.587, -098° 25.981
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery