Manuel Pérez, Jr. was born on March 3, 1923 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He grew up living with his father in Chicago, Illinois. His enlistment record is not one preserved by the National Archives, but by February 13, 1945, Pérez was a Private First Class in the United States Army‘s Company A, 1st Battalion, 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 11th Airborne Division.
Pérez’s unit was locked in combat with the Japanese occupiers of the Philippines during the Battle of Manila. On this day seventy years ago in the recapture of Fort William McKinley, using both his own weapons and those he seized from the Japanese soldiers he killed, he routed the enemy out of several strong points with both rifle fire and in hand-to-hand combat. Pérez’s charge cleared the way for his comrades, and saw him posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.
*PEREZ, MANUEL, JR.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company A 511th Parachute Infantry, 11th Airborne Division. Place and date: Fort William McKinley, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 13 February 1945. Entered service at. Chicago, Ill. G.O. No.: 124, 27 December 1945
Citation: He was lead scout for Company A, which had destroyed 11 of 12 pillboxes in a strongly fortified sector defending the approach to enemy-held Fort William McKinley on Luzon, Philippine Islands. In the reduction of these pillboxes, he killed 5 Japanese in the open and blasted others in pillboxes with grenades. Realizing the urgent need for taking the last emplacement, which contained 2 twin-mount .50-caliber dual-purpose machine guns, he took a circuitous route to within 20 yards of the position, killing 4 of the enemy in his advance. He threw a grenade into the pillbox, and, as the crew started withdrawing through a tunnel just to the rear of the emplacement, shot and killed 4 before exhausting his clip. He had reloaded and killed 4 more when an escaping Japanese threw his rifle with fixed bayonet at him. In warding off this thrust, his own rifle was knocked to the ground. Seizing the Jap rifle, he continued firing, killing 2 more of the enemy. He rushed the remaining Japanese, killed 3 of them with the butt of the rifle and entered the pillbox, where he bayoneted the 1 surviving hostile soldier. Single-handedly, he killed 18 of the enemy in neutralizing the position that had held up the advance of his entire company. Through his courageous determination and heroic disregard of grave danger, Pfc. Perez made possible the successful advance of his unit toward a valuable objective and provided a lasting inspiration for his comrades.
Manuel Pérez, Jr. was killed in action one month later on March 14, 1945. His remains were brought home and laid to rest in the Fairlawn Cemetery of Oklahoma City.
Both the 511th Parachute Infantry and the 11th Airborne Division are presently inactive.