This week, we continue with our Hispanic Heritage month of remembrance by introducing another Hispanic Hero.
David Barkley-Cantu was born in Laredo, Texas, in 1899. Barkley-Cantu enlisted in the U.S. Army in San Antonio and was assigned to the 89th Division of the 356th Infantry. On his enlistment, he withheld the fact that he was a Hispanic as he feared he would not be allowed to fight on the frontlines and went by the name of David B. Barkley.
Barkley-Cantu then deployed in support of World War I as Private Barkley. During his service in WWI on November 9, 1918, he and another member volunteered for a reconnaissance mission. They had to swim across the Meuse River in France at a time in which the temperatures were dropping greatly. As the two reached the other side then low-crawled 400 yards while evading enemy forces they gathered as much intelligence as they could. Upon their return to the river they were discovered and quickly evaded capture and began to swim back across the cold, deep flowing Meuse River. It was at this time that Private Barkley was overcome by severe cramps and drowned.
Private David B. Barkley's sacrifice came only two days prior to the Armistice that ended the "Great War." He was awarded the Medal of Honor for the information that he and his partner gathered. He was believed to be 19 years old at the time of his death. Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, praised him for his sacrifice. Along with the Medal of Honor he also received the French Croix de Guerre and the Italian Croce Merito.
It was not until 1989, a full 71 years later, that Private Barkley-Cantu's Hispanic heritage was discovered. This made him the first Hispanic in the U.S. Army to have been awarded the Medal of Honor.