Ken Harbaugh: Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Born in 1926 in Alameda, California, Harold Gonsalves was an active student in high school - a swimmer, baseball and football player, and member of the glee club.
When he was 17, at the height of WWII, Harold enlisted in the US Marine Corps. He spent the next two years on the front lines, where he served as an artilleryman during the island hopping campaign in the Pacific.
On April 1st, 1945, Private First Class Gonsalves landed on Okinawa as the Allies fought to take control of the island and clear a path for the final invasion of Japan.
Two weeks after his battalion’s arrival, Gonsalves was part of the forward observation team directing artillery fire toward a Japanese mountaintop stronghold.
His commanding officer asked for spotters to move closer to the front lines to provide more accurate directions to the artillery. Gonsalves volunteered.
Along with his commanding officer and another Marine,he advanced uphill, laying down radio wires along the way to communicate with the battalion at the rear. But just as they got to the front line, a grenade landed right beside them.
Gonsalves didn’t hesitate. He dove on top of the grenade and was killed, absorbing the blast to save the lives of his fellow Marines. The surviving Marines completed their mission that day.
The Battle of Okinawa lasted another two months and was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Theatre. When the Allies achieved victory at Okinawa, they seized control of a critical supply line and accelerated the end of the Pacific campaign.
PFC Gonsalves was the only Latino Marine to earn the Medal of Honor during World War II. His sister and parents received it on his behalf in June of 1946. Gonsalves’s body was eventually repatriated - and he was buried with full honors at the Golden Gate National cemetery in California.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.