Medal of Honor Awarded 63 Years After Being Killed in Action

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Master Sergeant
Mike Castaneda Peña

U. S. Army

November 6, 1924
September 5, 1950

Cedarvale Cemetery
Bay City, Matagorda County, Texas

Gold Star Mother
Maria M. Castaneda Peña Peña

(April 10, 1943)

Valor 24 Medal of Honor Presentation                Congressional Medal Of Honor Society Page



Miguel (Mike Castaneda) Peña (Jr.)
November 6, 1924 - September 5, 1950

MSGT Peña’s family history begins in old Mexico where grandparents Ventura Peña (c1849 - c1900) and Felipa Torregrosa (5 February 1851 - 6 October 1934) were born.  They married before 1873, and began their family.  In 1891 they immigrated to the United States with their children: Rosita (1874 - 1941), Maria (1876 - 1957), Ventura Jr. (1878 - 1949), Aldolpho (1881 - 1903), Elena (1883 - 1971), Julia (1887 - 1912) and Miguel (c1889 - c1941).  They first settled in Robstown, Nueces County, Texas, then they moved to Corpus Christi, and established their Texas roots there.  The last child, born in their new home in Robstown, was Adelina (1893 - 1939). Around 1900 Ventura (Sr.) passed away leaving Felipa as the matriarch of the family.

Felipa passed away on 6 October 1934 in Corpus Christi and was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Their youngest son, Miguel, moved to Bay City, Texas about 1910 and settled in as a farmer. On December 6, 1913 he married Maria Castaneda (c1895 - c1954) in Bay City. The most extant record that has been found regarding Maria was a border crossing document from Mexico to the United States at Brownsville, Texas dated 18 April 1913.  Within this document it revealed she was age 21 and was born about 1892 in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.  She stated she was going to Houston  by way of San Antonio.  A 1913 city directory of Houston revealed she was employed as a servant in the home of Horace A. Kelly, and was residing in their home. Their family grew to include: Adelina (1914 - 1986), Angela [Angelita] Helen (1917 - 2003) and Isabelle Betty (1920 - 1998).

In the 1920 Federal census it reveals the family had moved to Corpus Christi, and was living in the home of Miguel’s mother, Felipa.  There, Miguel managed a bicycle shop, and did repairs on bicycles.  While living in Corpus two other children were born: Ofelia [Ofilia] and Miguel, Jr. (1924 - 1950).

Sometime between 1924 and 1928 Miguel and Maria separated.  It is believed Miguel  may have returned to Mexico.  Maria, with her children, returned to Matagorda County and on 20 March 1929, she married Santos Peña (1892 - 1977) in Bay City, Texas.

Santos was born in Nuevo Leon, Mexico on 5 February 1892 and immigrated to the United States and settled in Texas in 1912.  Nothing has been found concerning Santos for the period between 1912 and when he married Maria in 1929.

To this marriage was born: Ruben (1928 - 2012), Alfredo (1930 - 2014), Jesse [Jesus], Jose (1933 - 1934) [twin to Jesse, buried at Matagorda Cemetery] and Jose [Joe] (1937 - 2000).

Santos was employed with the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company at Gulf (near Matagorda).  It is not known if Santos and Maria resided at Gulf or in Matagorda. During the years of the operation of Texas Gulf Sulphur, older students attended school in Gulf, while the younger children attended school in Matagorda. Mike was a student of Matagorda ISD, which included Gulf, for at least the first six years of his school education.  There was a hospital at Gulf, and some of the children were born there.

The plant closed its Matagorda County Operations in 1932 and moved to Wharton County, where it established a new town which was named Newgulf. Because of the oil and sulphur discoveries in the area where Newgulf was established, during this same period the town of Boling emerged three miles to the West.  Santos, Maria and the family followed the plant and reestablished their roots in Boling c1937. Maria passed away c1954 and was buried at Cedarvale Cemetery in Bay City.  Santos passed away on 19 February 1977 in Wharton, Texas and was buried at Cedarvale Cemetery.

About two years after moving to Boling, Mike enlisted in the U.S. Army at Houston.  At that time he was only 15 years, 10 months and 7 days old.  To get into the service he told the recruiters he was born in 1921, which would have made him 18 years, 10 months and 7 days old.

It is not known where Mike completed his basic training, but he ultimately ended up as a member of F Company, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.  On December 7, 1941,  just one month and a day after his 17th birthday,  the Empire of Japan made a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Mike served throughout World War II with great distinction serving in the Pacific Theater. He participated in the Luzon Campaign, New Guinea Campaign, Southern Philippines Campaign, the Leyte Campaign and the Bismarck Archipelago Campaign.  He was first wounded on 3 March 1944 on Los Negros Island where he received a shrapnel wound to his face.  Then on 24 February 1945 he received a shrapnel wound to his left thigh.  Mike participated in the liberation of Manila on 3 February through 3 March 1945, and the release of the civilian POWs being held at the St. Thomas Internment Camp located on the campus of the St. Thomas University.

Returning to the United States in 1945, he met his beautiful bride to be at El Paso, Texas. 

Aurora Lola Urenda was born on 21 February 1926 at Brackettville, Kinney County, Texas. Her parents were Luis Barcena Urenda (1883 - 1960) and Trinidad Martinez Urenda (1894 - 1962). Luis and Trinidad were buried at Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso.

Her parents were living at El Paso, and Mike and Aurora were married there on 5 September 1945.  On 3 October 1945, Staff Sergeant Peña was Honorably Discharged from the U.S. Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  After his discharge he and Aurora took up residence at El Paso.  Aurora and Mike shared in the joy of the birth of their first child in 1947, and he was  named Michael David. 

Written By: Kenneth L. Thames
Matagorda County Genealogical Society
This material may not be reprinted without permission.

Aurora holding Frederick and Mike holding Michael David

Medal of Honor Citation

For acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a member of Company F, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Waegwan, Korea, on 4 September 1950. That evening, under cover of darkness and a dreary mist, an enemy battalion moved to within a few yards of Master Sergeant Peña’s platoon. Recognizing the enemy’s approach, Master Sergeant Peña and his men opened fire, but the enemy’s sudden emergence and accurate, point blank fire forced the friendly troops to withdraw. Master Sergeant Peña rapidly reorganized his men and led them in a counterattack which succeeded in regaining the positions they had just lost. He and his men quickly established a defensive perimeter and laid down devastating fire, but enemy troops continued to hurl themselves at the defenses in overwhelming numbers. Realizing that their scarce supply of ammunition would soon make their positions untenable, Master Sergeant Peña ordered his men to fall back and manned a machinegun to cover their withdrawal. He singlehandedly held back the enemy until the early hours of the following morning when his position was overrun and he was killed. Master Sergeant Peña’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.  

First picture after joining the army

Master Sergeant Peña (19009659), United States Army, was a member of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. He was Killed in Action while fighting the enemy in South Korea on September 5, 1950. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Korean War Service Medal.

The Korean War Honor Roll
American Battle Monuments Commission

Mike & Aurora taken in El Paso

February 25, 1949
LT GEN Wedemeyer, Deputy Chief of Staff, USA; MAJ GEN Chase, Commanding General, 1st Cavalry Division; SFC  Mike Pena



Distinguished Service Cross

Awarded for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Master Sergeant Mike C. Peña (ASN: RA-18009659), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving with Company F, 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment (Infantry), 1st Cavalry Division. Master Sergeant Peña distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Waegwan, Korea, on 4 September 1950. On that date, at approximately 2300 hours, an enemy battalion moved up to within a few yards of Master Sergeant Peña's platoon under cover of darkness and an obscuring mist. Observing the enemy, Sergeant Peña and his men immediately opened fire but the sudden, point-blank fire of the hostile forces made it necessary for the friendly troops to withdraw. Rapidly reorganizing his men, Sergeant Peña led them in a counterattack, regained the lost positions, and attempted to hold back the enemy. Despite the devastating fire laid down by the friendly troops, the enemy continued to hurl themselves at the defenses in overwhelming numbers. Realizing that a scarcity of ammunition would soon make the positions untenable, Sergeant Peña ordered his men to fall back, manning a machine-gun to cover their withdrawal. Single-handedly, he held back the enemy until the early hours of the following morning when his position was overrun and he was killed.

General Orders: Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army, Korea: General Orders No. 622 (August 6, 1951) as amended by General Orders No. 638 (August 13, 1951)

Action Date: 4-Sep-50

Army, Master Sergeant, Company F, 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment (Infantry), 1st Cavalry Division


Aurora receiving Mike's posthumous DSC sometime in September 1951.
Maj. Gen. John Lewis, Commanding General Ft. Bliss, Fred, Aurora, Michael David

DSC Posthumously Awarded Mike Peña


The Distinguished Service Cross has been posthumously awarded Master Sgt. Mike C. Peña of El Paso, Texas, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Santos Peña of Newgulf. Sgt. Peña was killed in action in Korea, near Waegwan on September 5, 1950, while fighting in the 1st Cavalry Division.


The citation said Peña led a counter attack on September 4, 1950, that regained lost positions. When ammunition ran low Peña ordered his men back, then alone covered their withdrawal with a machine gun. He held off attacking Reds until early the next morning when his position was overrun and he was killed.


The award was received by his widow, Mrs. Aurora Peña, of 1002 Wyoming Street, El Paso.


Paper and date unknown.

Burial Services For Korean Victim

The body of Sgt. Mike C. Peña, of Newgulf, arrived in Bay City last night at 11:45. Sgt. Peña was killed in the Korean War September 5, 1950. He enlisted in service from El Paso, but he is from Newgulf and Bay City.

A wife, Mrs. Aurora Peña of Newgulf and two sons, Michael and Frederick of El Paso survive. He is also survived by four sisters, Mrs. Ophelia [Ofilia] Peña of Newgulf, Betty Fergueroa of Corpus Christi, Mrs. Helen Hernandez and Mrs. Adelina Tijerina of Newgulf; four brothers, Rubin of Corpus Christi, Alfred, Jesse and Jose of Newgulf.

Burial will be in Cedarvale Cemetery under the direction of Taylor Bros., but date of the funeral is pending arrival of relatives.

The Daily Tribune, June 11, 1951

Body of Mike Peña Is Brought Home

The body of 1st Sgt. Mike C. Peña, son of Mr. and Mrs. Santos Peña of Newgulf, was brought home and buried with military honors on Wednesday, June 13, 1951. Sgt. Peña was killed in action in Korea on September 5, 1950, while serving with the 1st Cavalry on his second tour of service in the Pacific. He first volunteered for army service in September, 1940, at the age of 16 and served 27 months in the Pacific for which he was awarded five battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation ribbon. He served with the 1st Cavalry in Australia, New Guinea, the Admiralty Islands, Leyte and Luzon. He was with the first group to enter Manila where they liberated the Santo Thomas prisoners. The Presidential Unit Citation was for their successful "suicide" landing on Los Negros Island in the Admiralty group with only 700 men against 7,000 Japs.

He was discharged in 1945 but re-enlisted within a short time and in the early fall of 1950 rejoined the 1st Cavalry Division, 5th Regiment, somewhere in Korea.

He is also survived by his widow and two sons, Michael and Frederick of El Paso; four sisters, Mrs. Ophelia [Ofilia] Peña of Newgulf; Mrs. Betty Figueroa of Corpus Christi; Mrs. Helen Hernandez and Mrs. Adelina Tijerina of Newgulf; four brothers, Rubin of Corpus Christi, and Alfred, Jesse and Joe Peña of Newgulf.

Services were conducted by the Bay City American Legion Post and burial was in the Cedarvale Cemetery at Bay City.

Paper and date unknown.

(Picture was taken March 31, 1947 in Yokasuka, Japan and signed "with Love, Mike.")

Look Back: Peña Killed in Korea
By Merle Hudgins

September 22, 1950 - 50 Years Ago

Sulfurcrat News: 1st Sgt. Mike C. Peña killed in Korea. Peña joined the Army, age 16, in 1940, serving in the Pacific 27 months, where he earned five battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation ribbon. He served with First Cavalry and was a part of the first group to enter Manila to liberate Santo Tomas POWs. He was a member of forces landing at Los Negros and Leyte.

He wrote that American planes planned to drop roasted turkeys to the U.S. troops on Leyte, but accidentally dropped them to the starving Japanese. Mike's group occupied Tokyo. He reenlisted and was sent to Korea with 1st Cavalry, 5th Regiment. He is survived by his parents, wife and two sons. His father has worked for TGS [Texas Gulf Sulphur] for 24 years.

Paper and date unknown [on or near September 22, 2000]


Maria C. Peña
1895 - 1954


Santos Peña
Feb. 5, 1892 - Feb. 19, 1977

Photos courtesy of
Ken Thames

Aurora Lola Urenda Pena Connell


Aurora L. (Mickey) Connell, age 86, passed away from natural causes on December 1, 2012. Aurora was born on February 21, 1926 in Brackettville, Texas. Aurora is retired from Sears Roebuck and Co. Before illness slowed her down, she enjoyed her weekly shopping trips to the commissary at Ft. Bliss, gardening in her beautiful back yard and taking care of her beloved dogs. Aurora was a kind spirit, a very generous and giving person and was loved by many. Aurora is survived by Leslie Kathleen Connell of El Paso, TX, Debra Ann Jameson of Arlington, Texas and Michael Pena of Warminster, PA. Aurora leaves behind numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. Aurora is preceded in death by her husband David Connell and son Frederick Pena. Rosary service will be held on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 7:00PM at Harding-Orr & McDaniel Funeral Home. Funeral Mass will be held on Thursday December 6, 2012 at 11:30AM at Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church, 4800 Byron St. Interment will follow at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, 5200 Fred Wilson. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Wreaths Across America, Fort Bliss National Cemetery, 5200 Fred Wilson Blvd. Ft. Bliss, TX 79916, A heartfelt thanks to Dr. Jerry Miller, Dr. Renee Martinez, Dr. Alan Karp, the staff at Sierra Medical Center and the El Paso Fire Dept/Ambulance/EMT. Services entrusted to Harding-Orr & McDaniel

El Paso Times from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10, 2012

Marker photo courtesy of Charles Bowman


Ret. Msgt. David Connell

Ret. Msgt. David Connell passed away on Monday, December 17, 2007 at the age of 87.

Mr. Connell was born on March 5, 1920 in Glasgow, Scotland. Preceded in death by his parents, John and Mary Connell, sister Margaret Daly.

Survived by his loving wife Aurora, daughters; Debbie Jameson of Arlington Texas and Kathy Connell, son Michael Pena and his wife Reggie of Warminster Pa, and daughter -in- law Irene Pena. He is also survived by his 10 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. Mr. Connell retired from the United States Army in 1962 and then went on to work for the International Boundary and Water Commision until he retired. He was a long time member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church. Visitation will be held on Thursday, December 20, 2007 with a Vigil Service at Harding-Orr & McDaniel Funeral Home. Funeral Mass will be held on Friday, December 21, 2007 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 1315 Travis, officiated by Father Benjamin Mones. Interment will follow at Ft. Bliss National Cemetery with full military honors. In lieu of flowers please make contributions to a charity of your choice. Services entrusted to Harding-Orr & McDaniel Funeral Home, 320 Montana Ave.

El Paso Times, December 20, 2007

Marker photo courtesy of Charles Bowman

Frederick W. Pena

PENA,  FREDERICK  "FRED"  W.  On  September 9, 2001, Frederick W. Pena (Fred) was called  home  to  be  with our Lord. He was a longtime resident of El Paso. He was a graduate of Austin High School and a U.S. Navy Veteran. Fred worked as a technician for the Steris Corporation.

He is survived by  his  wife  Irene  Adauto  Pena, daughters Victoria Gibson (Shawn),  Mollie  Pena,  parents David and Aurora Connell, brother Michael David  Pena,  sisters Debbie Jameson  and Kathy Cross.

The Pena and Connell  Families  would like to extend their heartfelt thanks and appreciation  to the IHS Staff, 5th Floor on North Oregon Street and to the Staff at Loma Vista  Dialysis  on  Lomaland  Drive. 

Visitation  will  be  on   Wednesday, September 13, 2001 from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Martin   Funeral Home-Central. Graveside Service will be on Thursday, September  13,  2001  at  9:30  a. m.  at  Ft. Bliss National Cemetery, Pastor Tom Delgado  officiating.  Burial  at  Ft.  Bliss National  Cemetery with  Military  Honors.  In Lieu of flowers, please make donations to the El   Paso Diabetes  Association,  1921  E.  Yandell  Drive, El Paso, Texas   79903.

Marker photo courtesy of Charles Bowman


Please don't say I gave up, just   say  I  gave  in.
Don't say I lost the battle, for it was God's war to lose  or win.
Please don't say how good I was, but that I did my best.
Just  say I tried to do what's right, To give the most I could, not to do  less.
Please don't give me Wings or halos,  that's for God to do.
I want no more than I deserve, no extras, just my due.
Please don't give flowers  or talk in harsh tones.
Don't be concerned about me now, I'm well  with  God,  I've made it home.
Don't talk about what could have  been,  it's  over  and it's done.
Just see to all my family needs, the battle has been won.
When you draw a picture of me, don't draw me as a saint. 
I've done some good, I've done some wrong, So use all your paint,
Not just the bright and light tones, Use some gray and dark.
In fact don't  put me down on canvas, Paint me in your heart.
Don't just  remember good  times, but remember some bad.
For life is full of many things, some happy and some sad.
But if you must do something then I have one last Request.
Forgive me for the wrong I've done And with the love that's left.
Thank God for my soul's resting, Thank God for I've been  blessed,
Thank God for all who loved me, Praise God who loved me best. 

El Paso Times, September 11, 2001

Ruben Pena
(Died October 19, 2012)

Ruben C. Pena, 84, born July 29, 1928, has gone home to be with our Heavenly Father on October 19, 2012. Ruben was retired from Reynolds Metal after thirty three years of faithful service. After his retirement from Reynolds Metal he worked for the Department of Justice as a prison guard for about ten years. He served in the U. S. Air Force where he studied as a radio operator, which led to a hobby of a ham radio operator, which he was very passionate about. He was a loving, caring, strong, passionate and ambitious man who will be missed dearly by many. Ruben always found himself making friends where ever he went, telling many jokes, bringing laughter to everyone. He will be loved and missed by many, but never forgotten. We love you Grandpa Joe. He is preceded in death by his wife, Adelina Pena, his parents, Santos and Maria Pena, brothers, Mike Pena, Joseph Pena, and sisters, Adelina Tejerina, Helen Hernandez and Betty Ruiz. He is survived by four daughters, Elizabeth (Peter) Agostino of Palm Harbor, Florida, Grace (Roy) Del Bosque of Corpus Christi, Texas, Diana (Dan) Rodriguez of Channelview, Texas, and Rose (Rick) Pimentel of Corpus Christi, Texas; one son, Daniel J. (Erlinda) Robles of Corpus Christi, Texas; two brothers, Jesse (Janie) Pena, Alfredo (Corina) Pena and one sister, Ofelia Pena.

Visitation will begin 5:00 p.m., Monday, October 22, 2012, at the Maxwell P. Dunne Funeral Chapel with a Prayer Service to be held later that evening at 7:00 p.m. A Funeral Service will be conducted at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at Our Savior Lutheran Church, 6102 Greenwood Dr., with Pastor Gilbert Flores officiating. Burial will follow in Seaside Memorial Park. Serving as pallbearers will be Daniel J. Del Bosque, Ricky Pimentel Jr., Andrew J. Robles, James Rodriguez, Roland Pimentel, Ruben Pimentel, Mark Villarreal, Damian Trejo.

Maxwell P. Dunne Funeral Home

Alfred C. "Kenny" Pena

February 10, 1931 - April 29, 2014

Alfred C. Pena (Kenny), 83, of Missouri City, Texas went to be with the Lord on April 29, 2014.Mr. Pena was born in Gulf, Texas on February 10, 1931 to the late Santos and Maria Pena. He spent his childhood surrounded by 8 beloved siblings and many friends. After playing baseball and football at Boling High School, he earned a scholarship to Wharton Junior College before he was drafted to the military.A proud Korean War veteran, Corporal Pena served in the US Army from 1952 to 1954 where he earned the Korea Service Medal, two Bronze Stars, the UN Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal. After leaving the Army, Mr. Pena married his childhood sweetheart Corina Garcia of Gulf, Texas in 1954. Together, they raised their family in Houston, Texas where he spent 38 years working for the US Postal Service. Mr. Pena's passion for baseball led him to coach his sons and he loved watching them play from Little League to high school. Perhaps his proudest moment was seeing his brother, the late Master Sgt. Mike C. Pena, recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his acts of heroism during the Korean War in 1950. He will always be remembered for his quiet, thoughtful personality, his fedora hats and shiny shoes, and his love of all the foods he couldn't have. Mr. Pena is survived by his wife, Corina Pena; and four children; Mario and wife Sylvia, Irma and husband Richard, Alfred and wife Patsy, Ruben and wife Alma; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mr. Pena is also survived by his sister, Ofelia Pena of Boling, Texas; brother, Jesse Pena and wife Janie of Wharton, Texas; and many nieces, nephews, and friends.

Funeral Information

A Memorial Service will be held 10:30 a.m., Saturday, May 3, 2014 at Bellaire United Methodist Church, 4417 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX 77401. Burial will take place at Houston National Cemetery May 6, 2014 at 11:15 a.m.

Donations Information

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in his name to the American Diabetes Association.

Miller Funeral & Cremation Services

Joseph C. Pena

JOSEPH C. PENA, 62, of Houston, passed away Saturday, January 1, 2000. He is survived by children David Pena, Eva-Wirth Pena, and Trisha Cortez, all of Houston and 5 grandchildren. Funeral service will be Tuesday, January 4, 2000 at 1:30 p.m. in the Chapel of Forest Park Westheimer Funeral Home with Rev. Eugene Vickrey officiating. Interment will follow in the Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery.

Published in the Houston Chronicle, January 3, 2000

Pictures and articles courtesy of sister, Mrs. Ofilia Peña and son, Mike Peña.

Medal of Honor Presentation

Copyright 2007 - Present by the Peña family and source newspapers
All rights reserved

Jan. 14, 2007
Apr. 26, 2014