Freeway interchange in Pacoima named for first L.A. County Medal of Honor recipient


Here is the news release from Metro:

PFC David M. Gonzales Interchange at Interstate 5/CA 118 Ronald Reagan Freeway to be commemorated with military honors

The freeway interchange linking Interstate 5 and CA-118 Ronald Reagan Freeway in Pacoima was commemorated as the David M. Gonzales, Medal of Honor World War II Memorial Interchange today at a ceremony at Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima. A bill authorizing the designation was passed this year by the California Legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown.

David M. Gonzales Jr. with his father's Medal of Honor.

David M. Gonzales Jr. with his father’s Medal of Honor.

Private First Class David M. Gonzales was a resident of Pacoima when he entered the U.S. Army in 1944. Gonzales was killed in action in the Philippines in 1945 while performing heroic acts to save the lives of men from his unit. He was presented the Medal of Honor posthumously on December 8, 1945 by President Harry Truman.

“Private Gonzales, born in East Los Angeles, lived here in Pacoima with his wife Steffanie and four-year-old son David Jr.  During World War II, to answer our nation’s call, he went to fight for our country in the Philippines. For David Gonzales’s valiant and intrepid conduct, President Harry Truman posthumously awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor.  His heroism deserves to be recognized by naming this heavily traveled corridor in his honor so that his supreme sacrifice will be remembered for as long as the structure stands,” said United States Ninth Circuit Court Judge Harry Pregerson, who led the effort to name the freeway interchange in memory of David Gonzales, a true American hero.

Caltrans has installed reflective signs honoring Gonzales at the four entry points to the freeway interchange. The signs were paid for by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).

“It is fitting that we honor the sacrifice of David Gonzales on the day before Veterans Day,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “His sense of duty and sacrifice lives on not only in his descendants, but also the generations born to the men he saved on that day 70 years ago.”

The Account of David Gonzales’ Heroism:

David Gonzales was born on June 9, 1923 and joined the U.S. Army on March 31, 1944. He was deployed to the Philippines as an infantry replacement in December 1944. On April 25, 1945, during the battle of Villa Verde Trail on Luzon, Private Gonzales and his company, Company A, 127th Infantry, 32nd Division was pinned down by enemy fire. A 500 pound bomb exploded at the company’s perimeter burying five men of Company A. Without hesitation, PFC Gonzales “seized an entrenching tool and, under a hail of fire, crawled 15 yards to his entombed comrades.” His commanding officer, who also rushed forward to help, was struck and instantly killed by machine gun fire. Undismayed, PFC Gonzales “set to work swiftly and surely with his and the entrenching tool,” and continued to dig out the trapped men. He did this while enemy sniper fire and machine gun bullets “struck all about him.”  

 After PFC Gonzales had successfully freed one of the men, he stood up to be able to dig faster, despite the fact that such a position exposed him to greater danger. He successfully freed another man, but as he “completed the liberation of the third” trapped man, PFC Gonzales was mortally wounded by enemy fire. In the words of President Harry Truman, “Private Gonzales’ valiant and intrepid conduct exemplified the high tradition of the military service.” The other two buried soldiers were later saved when the intense enemy fire subsided. PFC Gonzales was survived by his 25-year-old widow, Mrs. Steffanie Gonzales, his four year old son, David Gonzales, Jr., and his mother, Mrs. Rita Gonzales Duran.


3 replies

  1. Great and right before Veteran’s Day!

    Naming landmarks after honored veterans is far better than naming them after politicians.