Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
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.
Rodolfo Hernandez, known as Rudy, was born in 1931. His parents had immigrated from Mexico to rural California, where they worked on a farm and raised eight children.
Rudy enlisted in the army in 1948 at the age of 17. He was sent first to Germany, then into battle in North Korea.
On May 31st, 1951, 20-year-old Corporal Hernandez was in Korea with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. His platoon was assigned to defend a position the Americans called Hill 420, to halt an advance of enemy forces near the 38th Parallel.
Around 2:00 in the morning, Cpl. Hernandez was dug into a foxhole on Hill 420 when he heard North Korean bugles approaching.
North Korean troops attacked first with heavy artillery fire, then with a frontal assault.
Hernandez began to fire back. His fellow soldiers were forced to withdraw due to a lack of ammunition, but Hernandez continued to fight, despite suffering major wounds.
A cartridge in his rifle had ruptured, leaving him armed only with a bayonet and a few grenades. But that’s all Rudy needed.
He shouted “Here I come!” as he charged forward with his bayonet, killing six enemy fighters before losing consciousness from his wounds.
His solo attack stunned the enemy long enough to allow his fellow soldiers to reload and mount a counterattack. They fought through the night and early morning, retaking Hill 420.
After dawn, medics declared Cpl. Hernandez dead. They were about to zip him into a body bag when one of his fingers twitched.
Weeks later, Cpl. Hernandez woke up in a South Korean hospital, unable to walk or talk.
He remained partly paralyzed and spent years regaining the ability to speak, but in April of 1952, Rudy was able to say a few words to President Truman at his Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House.
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.