More than half a century ago, the city of Edinburg dedicated April 26, 1946, Pedro Cano Day.
On that day businesses closed, schools were dismissed, a parade was held and more than 4,000 people witnessed the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, our country’s second highest military honor, to 25 year old Army Private Pedro Cano. Sixty-three years later Edinburg will once again remember him and honor his life and service to our country.
State Rep. Aaron Peña will make a special presentation to the Cano family on Saturday at Edinburg City Hall’s western plaza at 10 a.m. Peña has also filed House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 5, which would posthumously confer the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Pedro Cano.
“Having lived in Edinburg all my life I knew of Cano Street and Cano-Gonzalez Elementary but it wasn’t until recently that I learned about the remarkable man behind the name,” said Representative Peña. “I have walked and talked on behalf of veterans services all across the state over the last few years and I’ve taken every opportunity to boast about Edinburg’s extraordinary record of heroism, sacrifice and service. Pedro Cano’s story needs to be retold.”
Cano was born in La Morita, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, on July 7, 1920, to Nicholasa Gonzalez Cano and Secundino Cano. At two months old he moved with his family to Edinburg. Cano, like many in South Texas, worked as a farm laborer before joining the Army during WWII. Private Cano was deployed to Europe, where he fought with the 4th Infantry Division. In December 1944, he was advancing with his company near Schevenhutte, Germany, when they came under withering fire from German machine guns.
With his comrades pinned down, Private Cano worked his way forward alone, through a hail of fire and over more than 100 yards of heavily mined terrain, until he was within 30 feet of the nearest German emplacement. Firing one round with his hand-held rocket launcher, he destroyed the position and killed its two gunners and five supporting riflemen. He then moved on toward a second emplacement, which he attacked with his rifle and hand grenades, killing several more soldiers. With another American company nearby similarly immobilized, Private Cano crept to within 15 yards of a third emplacement, killed its two gunners with a rocket, and then destroyed yet another emplacement and killed its gunners, enabling that company to also advance.
The next day, the Americans once more encountered heavy German resistance, and Private Cano again moved forward alone with his bazooka. Crossing open, fire-swept ground, he succeeded in suppressing three more machine-gun positions and killing their gunners, bringing to nearly 30 the number of German soldiers he killed during that two-day period. Sometime later, while on patrol, Private Cano and his platoon were surprised by German soldiers, who inflicted heavy casualties. Private Cano lay motionless on the ground until the assailants closed in, then tossed a grenade into their midst, wounding or killing all of them. It was in this engagement, or shortly afterward, that Pedro Cano sustained injuries that left him permanently disabled. In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, he was awarded two Silver Stars and a Purple Heart.
Cano returned to Edinburg after his service where the Distinguished Service Cross was mailed to him. Local Edinburg dignitaries recognized the significance of this award and the slight to Cano and wrote to the Army complaining about the manner in which the medal had been given to him. A ceremony was planned, much to the dismay of Cano who sought no attention.
The city of Edinburg declared April 26, 1946 “Pedro Cano Day” and held an elaborate ceremony on the town square. Cano was technically a Mexican citizen and a contingent of Mexican civil and military officials joined local dignitaries on the dais. Businesses were closed and local school children were dismissed so they could witness the ceremony. The medal was presented by General Jonathan M. Wainwright. After the ceremony General Wainwright commented that Cano’s heroic acts deserved the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military decoration. Many believed that Cano was not considered for that recognition because of his citizenship status.
Upon learning about Cano’s desire to become an American citizen, State Senator Rogers Kelley assisted him in the naturalization process. Cano had inquired about becoming a citizen while in service but was rebuffed because he was in combat. In May of 1946 Pedro Cano became an American citizen at the Brownsville federal court house. Cano had received from the state of Texas 40 acres of land, a truck and some farm equipment to make a living. Tragically, Cano’s life ended six years later after dying in a head on collision in Pharr. He left a wife, two daughters and a son. Cano was buried with full military honors at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Edinburg.
HCR 5 will be heard in the House Committee of Veteran’s Affairs and has been joint-authored by committee members Vice Chair Allen Vaught, Representatives Chris Turner, Diana Maldonado and Joe Farias.
Peña was successful in securing the Texas Legislative Medal Honor in 2007 for Edinburg’s Freddy Gonzalez. If awarded to Cano in 2009, Edinburg would be the only city in the state of Texas with two recipients of the state’s highest military decoration.
On Saturday, April 25, Peña will make a special presentation to members of the Cano family. The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on the western plaza at the new City Hall. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend. For more information contact Orlando Salinas at 956-383-7444.