Wednesday, March 03, 2010

IN MEMORIAM SFC MODESTO CARTAGENA

It is with profound and sincere sadness that I inform you of the death of Sergeant First Class Modesto Cartagena (Ret.) in Guayama, Puerto Rico at the age of 90 on March 2, 2010. During the Korean War he performed feats worthy of the Medal of Honor. But prejudices in those days didn't allow for that. A movement recently started to give this hero his proper recognition but unfortunately if the injustice is corrected it will be too late. He was very proud to be a Borinqueneer. Modesto served with the 65th during World War II (where he earned a Bronze Star) and the Korean War. He became the most decorated Puerto Rican soldier earning 20 awards and medals including a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, another Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Following is Sr. Cartagena's sworn testimony, as verified by others:

MODESTO CARTAGENA AFFIDAVIT

I certify that I was a sergeant in a squad of the Third Platoon in Company “C”, 65th Infantry Regiment. On April 19, 1951, Company “C” was assigned the mission of capturing Hill 206 near Yonch’on, Korea. When we arrived at the rice paddies below the hill, the Chinese were directing intense cross fire against us. It reached the point where we were immobilized. My squad and I dragged ourselves to the left flank so we could climb up through the rear of the enemy. There was a depression where the Chinese had three positions that were giving protection to their artillery and machine guns. The enemy continued to fire, but we continued to advance ourselves up the hill.

It was there that one of my men was killed, PFC Antonio Colon Flores. And they wounded 11 others. The soldier who carried the automatic rifle called out to me. He had been wounded by two rounds to his thigh. I dragged myself to him, applied morphine and filled out an evacuation card. During the action my rifle had been broken into two pieces, so I took the wounded soldier’s automatic weapon along with his ammunition and grenades to augment mine. I continued going uphill by myself. The Chinese would hurl their grenades at me and I would catch them in the air and quickly throw them through the air opening in the Chinese trenches. They would take cover and I would advance my position. And that’s how I destroyed a Chinese position that was nearby.

When I reached the top of the hill, I thought I still had 2 or 3 men, but there was no one. I noticed that I had fallen into the enemy’s circle. There were 80 to 100 Chinese in their mortar nests – three mortars, three machine guns and there were five automatic weapons on the left. I continued dragging myself until I reached the first mortar nest, I threw a grenade and it blew up. Then I would spray automatic fire. Then I quickly moved to the second position that had a machine gun and blew it up also. And that’s how I destroyed three positions with machine guns, mortars and five automatic weapons. When the Chinese discovered my position, they threw so many grenades that three landed on me. One landed on my back, another in between my legs and the third on my right side. The last one wounded me. The bone was sticking out from my arm. I lost a lot of blood, but luckily I didn’t faint. I kept fighting wounded for almost 3 hours. Eventually, the Chinese withdrew from the hill with many wounded. I took the hill from them. Later they found 33 dead Chinese in the machine gun and automatic emplacements and they found 15 more dead in the positions I had destroyed on my way up the hill.

I went back downhill and returned to my men. One of our tanks that had fallen into a hole after an ambush was there. I assigned two squads to remove the tank from the hole using shovels and picks. And I assigned two squads to search for the wounded and dead. Then I loaded them on the tank and personally took them to the First Aid Station. There were 17 of us wounded, including me and one dead. But when we arrived there, I was the one in worst shape because I had lost a lot of blood. They sent me to Taibu in a helicopter and then to Japan to the 128th Marines Hospital where I stayed for 62 days.

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