Angel Mendez

United States Marine Corps
08 August 1946 - 16 March 1967
New York, New York
Panel 16E Line 094

Navy Cross

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
Angel Mendez

The database page for Angel Mendez

Navy Cross


The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the
NAVY CROSS posthumously to:


for service as set forth in the following:


For extraordinary heroism while serving as a Platoon Right Guide of the Third Platoon, Company F, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, in the Republic of Vietnam on 16 March 1967. During Operation DE SOTO in Quang Ngai Province, Company F was conducting a search and destroy mission when the rear elements of the company were taken under intense 50-caliber machine gun and automatic weapons fire from an estimated hard-core Viet Cong battalion. One half of the Second Platoon was pinned down in an open rice paddy and all attempts to relieve the pressure on the beleaguered Marines had proven futile. Sergeant (then Corporal) Mendez, unhesitatingly volunteered to lead a squad into the face of the devastating and extremely accurate machine gun fire to assist the pinned-down Marines in returning to friendly lines with their two dead and two seriously wounded. The Viet Cong fire increased to a fever pitch as Sergeant Mendez calmly and courageously moved out onto a paddy dike, completely exposed to the intense fire, and commenced firing his M-79 at the enemy positions with deadly accuracy. He fired round after round as he stood, bravely defying the enemy, to give covering fire to his comrades. Sixty meters across the rice paddy from Sergeant Mendez, his Platoon Commander was seriously wounded and he fell, unable to move. Immediately Sergeant Mendez raced through the hail of bullets to his Platoon Commander's side. Shielding him with his body as he applied a dressing to the wound, he picked up the Lieutenant and started to carry him to friendly lines, which were more than seventy-five meters away. Exhibiting exceptional courage he moved toward the lines as the Viet Cong attempted to hit this double target. Twenty meters short of his goal, he was hit in the shoulder and two of his comrades ran out to assist him. Even though painfully wounded, Sergeant Mendez chose to be the rear man, refusing to relinquish his hold on his Lieutenant's legs as they carried him toward the hedgerow. He was shielding his Lieutenant with his own body when he was mortally wounded. By his dauntless courage, initiative and selfless efforts on behalf of another, Sergeant Mendez saved his Platoon Commander's life and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

For the President,
The Secretary of the Navy


by his comrades in arms from
VVA Chapter 421

A memorial initiated by a fellow Vietnam veteran,
Lester Modelowitz

12 Jul 2002

14 Feb 2004

Angel grew up at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin - Mount Loretto, an orphanage on Staten Island, New York. I also grew up there along with 1000 other kids.

I did not know him personally, but he and my sister Sally were good friends. We lost three men in Vietnam who grew up in Mount Loretto and since I am a member of the Alumni Committee, I thought it would be nice to submit his picture on your most wonderful site.

E-mail address is not available.

14 Feb 2004

Hi, Sis!

The things I remember most about Angel was that he was a sweet and shy person; never said anything bad about anyone and always went out of his way to be nice to folks. He always offered to help anyone that needed it. We were very good friends and "pen pals" from the time he left Mount Loretto until he died.

He was extremely proud to be a Marine and enjoyed the different places he was at before he actually was sent to Vietnam. I remember getting many letters (and pictures) from him but unfortunately could only find the one we've posted here.

Angel sent me that picture in one of his many letters while he was in Vietnam. He wrote on the back: "Always keep this picture in remembrance of me. Yours, Angel"

Now everyone can have it in remembrance of him!

Sally Echevarria

16 Feb 2004

Angel Mendez was a man with a very contagious smile. Out of all the Mendez brothers you could always see Angel with his starched shirts and always dressed to the tee. I knew Angel and his brothers in Mount Loretto. He was in the the cadet corps with me and many Mount kids. It not surprising that he would give his life for another for most Mount kids would do no other way. To this day when I think of the three we lost I am proud to say I knew them all. You will never be forgotten, Angel, for you were a true Mount kid and hero to us all. We love you and you always will be in our hearts.

Ray Rivera

11 Jan 2005

Angel Mendez was my cousin. We met at the Mount back in the '60s when my sister and I became residents there. I also knew his sister, Carmen. I lost touch since I left but found this site. I remember he was a very nice young man and I loved his uncle who was named Isaih Mendez - he too has since died. If anybody knows how to get in touch with any of his family especially Carmen, please forward my email address to them - My name back then was Ann Gonzalez and my sister is Lucy Gonzalez.

I look forward to the resurrection where we will welcome back the dead to a paradise earth where there will never be any more wars. If you are interested, go to and check it out or speak to the next Jehovah's Witness who comes to your door and shows you in your Bible. Peace to all.

From a cousin,
Ana Jones (Ann Gonzalez)

14 Jan 2006

Hero of another war is finally honored
by Chris Franz | Register

Medal of Honor is sought for Marine from Mount Loretto

      In a quiet spot in the rear of Mt. Loretto there is a cemetery, a grassy field that sweeps up to a small mausoleum where, over 100 years ago, the orphans of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin laid to rest Father John Christopher Drumgoole, a gentle yet courageous man who spent his life caring for them.
      In the shadow of that mausoleum is a humbler grave, but one that last week finally received an appropriate marker, a headstone inscribed with the anchor, globe and eagle of the United States Marine Corps, a cross of the Christian faith, and another cross, a Navy Cross, symbolic of the valor of the man who lies beneath it.
      Angel Mendez had not yet reached his 21st birthday when he gave his life for his comrades in a rice paddy in Vietnam. His was a story of an extraordinary moment of rising to the heights of heroism in combat.
      Last week, on the 36th anniversary of his death, his brothers and sister, his fellow Vietnam veterans, and his fellow Marines came together to pay tribute to his extraordinary sacrifice.
      "Angel and I grew up in Mt. Loretto together as kids," said Al Richichi. "He was younger than me, a year younger, so he was always one house behind me, because we lived in separate dormitories, so I never really got to know him."
      Richichi is now a member of Mt. Loretto's board of trustees and an officer in its alumni association.
      "For years the alumni have been involved in taking care of his grave there," he said. "We put flowers there on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and my youngest daughter, Noelle, would come out and help. I kept trying to get organizations interested in going there, but I never really had any luck.
      "Finally, somebody said to me, 'You know, Angel was a Marine, and there is a chapter of the Marine Corps League on the Island.' So I went down there, and they were very interested. Those guys have been terrific. Then I found out through alumni, and I went on the Internet, that Angel had the Navy Cross, and the guys at the Marine Corps League just picked up the baton from there."
      Mendez was serving in the 3rd Platoon, Company F, Second Battalion of the Seventh Marines in March of 1967. The corporal was his platoon's "right guide," a leadership post among his men. His platoon was involved in Operation DeSoto, an offensive aimed at driving Viet Cong forces out of the coastal regions of Quang Ngai province (the Viet Cong were the guerilla Communist rebel units in South Vietnam - Quang Ngai is a key coastal area, near the former border between North and South Vietnam, and has some major roads and rail lines running through it).
      Quang Ngai was a dangerous place. It is believed that it was the province most heavily infiltrated by Viet Cong units in the whole of South Vietnam, and was the theater of fierce battles -- a year later it would be the scene of the My Lai incident.
      On March 16, 1967, Mendez' unit was conducting a search and destroy mission when they came under punishing attack from 50-calibre machine guns being fired by a hard-core Viet Cong battalion. Half of Mendez' platoon was pinned down in the middle of an open rice paddy, the swamps created to grow the grain, while bullets whizzed around them.
      Mendez, who was in a relatively safe position, volunteered to lead a squad into the devastating machine gun fire to try to relieve his fellow Marines and drag them back to safety. Two were critically wounded already, and two were dead.
      Mendez calmly walked out onto one of the dikes that separated the flooded paddy squares, into the midst of a relentless hail of bullets, and turned his M-79 grenade launcher on the enemy. The M-79 looks like a sort of oversized sawed-off shotgun that fires grenades about 400 yards, but it can only fire one shot at a time, and then must be opened and reloaded. Mendez was completely exposed while he fired his powerful, but slow, weapon to give covering fire to his squad and the trapped Marines.
      As he stood there, his platoon commander, a lieutenant, was hit by the Viet Cong's automatic weapons fire, and he fell seriously wounded and paralyzed. Mendez raced through the bullets to rescue the lieutenant, shielding the officer with his own body as he quickly applied a bandage to the wound. Then he picked up his lieutenant and carried him toward the safety of the Marines' line. He was just about 60 feet short of his goal when he was hit in the shoulder, and fell.
      Two Marines ran out to help, but Mendez insisted on remaining the rear man, pushing the two other Marines who were carrying the lieutenant ahead of him, as Mendez held the officer's legs. Mendez was still shielding his lieutenant when he was hit by the bullet that killed him.
      Mendez was posthumously promoted to sergeant, awarded the Purple Heart for receiving wounds in battle, and then honored with the Navy Cross, the second highest decoration in the Navy's gift, one rung below the Medal of Honor (the Marine Corps, though often treated as its own branch of the military, is actually a part of the Navy).
      The lieutenant Mendez saved was eventually discharged due to the severity of his injuries. He went on to lead a full life, though: Ronald Castille became district attorney of Philadelphia and is now one of the seven justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, most recently the subject of controversy for turning down the appeal of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a police officer.
      Now Senator Charles Schumer, prompted by the men of the Island's Marine Corps League detachment and Richichi, and supported by Castille, is calling for Mendez to be recognized with the nation's highest honor.
      "Thank God for Americans like Corporal Mendez," Schumer said. "One of our nation's greatest assets is that in every generation we have men and women willing to give of themselves and even risk their lives in the name of freedom, democracy and justice. In sacrificing his own life to protect the life of his platoon commander, Corporal Mendez not only protected American values, he exemplified them."
      So, Schumer has written to the secretary of the Navy asking that his actions be reviewed for a Medal of Honor citation. "A greater example of courage and sacrifice than the act of heroism performed by Angel Mendez would be extremely difficult to find," he wrote.
      In the meantime, Angel Mendez has a new gravestone, one donated by Hall Monuments and set into place by his three brothers, his sister, a rifle team and color guard of Marine veterans, fellow Vietnam veterans and alumni of Mt. Loretto who have never forgotten.
      His stone is not far from that of Alex Santiago, the other Mt. Loretto alumnus who lost his life in Vietnam and whose body was returned to Staten Island to be laid to rest. Their fallen brother, Kevin O'Brien, has a place only in the hearts of his Mt. Loretto friends - he is still missing in action, 34 years after his plane crashed in a Vietnamese jungle.

Copyright 2002 Staten Island Register
Reproduced under 17 USC �107

Photos courtesy of
Bruce W. Barraclough, Sr.

04 Nov 2006

While helping my son research a project for his high school Viet Nam studies class I found myself at The Virtual Wall and looking up Angel's name. My father was a teacher at Mount Loreto back then. His name is the same as mine although he went by Dick Lewis. He's a Marine and was activated and sent to Korea when I was 3. When he took the job at the Mount he and Bernie Campbell and several others started a cadet corps to help teach the guys something about military life and to build a stronger sense of camaraderie. They used to take us up to Stokes State Forest and Worthington State Forest in October and go camping. I remember going on "patrol" with the guys, Angel and his brother among them, and getting so lost we had no idea where we were. Bernie had to go out searching for us in his blue Chevy with the tailfins. We all piled into the car and onto the trunk and the hood to ride back because there was about 12 of us, maybe more. I also remember tin can jam sessions at night around the campfire. When we finally stopped you could hear the other campsites in the distance applauding.

My bother Mike and I had good times with those guys. A lot of them came to our house over in Perth Amboy for dinner and such, Angel and his brother among them as well. I felt like I had a bunch of cousins that lived over on the Island.

I was 14 when Angel was killed. It was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me and I remember it really shook me up to know I would never see Angel again. He was a good guy and treated my bother and me real well.

When I read he received the Navy Cross I was stunned. It figures though. He was that type of guy. He was a hero. No surprise to me. As tragic as his death is, his legacy is important as an example to all to be courageous and do good things and not necessarily in war.

I am an Air Force Reserve Flight Surgeon now. I have been overseas to many places and worked taking care of injured servicemen from all over the world. It never ceases to amaze me how dedicated these young men and women are to the cause of freedom from tyranny. Angel died for it. Many more have since. But they keep going into harm's way because the cause is just. Keep the faith.

From a friend,
Lt Col (Dr.) Richard J. Lewis

A Note from The Virtual Wall

The Fox 2/7 Marines lost eight men killed in action in the engagement described in Sergeant Mendez' Citation:
  • Sgt Angel Mendez, New York, NY (Navy Cross)
  • Cpl Frank M. Pokey, Milwaukee, WI
  • HM3 Travis A. Simmons, Midland, TX (Corpsman from H&S 2/7) (Silver Star)
  • LCpl Nelson A. Matlock, Depew Creek, OK
  • PFC Michael C. Dominguez, Santa Barbara, CA
  • PFC Andrew Fedor, Flemington, NJ
  • PFC John A. Graber, Wichita, KS
  • PFC Pearl W. Myers, Terre Haute, IN

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 12 Jul 2002
Last updated 08/10/2009