William M. Hernandez
Biography: William McKinley Hernandez was born on November 3, 1896, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Isidro Hernandez, who was born in Cuba, and Minnie Cora Burroughs.
Service Time: William served in the Virginia National Guard and was called on to deal with the Mexican border wars and Pancho Villa in 1916. At the time, he held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
In 1919, William married the former Lucille Bernice Crawley who was born in Virginia and was the daughter of Edgar B. Crawley and Emma Julia Bohannon. The couple had one son, William Jr., born in 1922.
In the years between the wars, he worked for the RCA-Victor Company and later as an inspector for the Navy. He was also serving in the National Guard and the 108th Field Artillery of the Pennsylvania Guard when it came into Federal Service in February 17, 1941. Later that year, in November, Major Hernandez was called on to command the 28th Division Antitank Battalion while the unit was taking part in the Carolina Maneuvers.
The unit then moved to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in Pennsylvania, where they were reorganized as the 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion. From there they moved to Camp Livingston, Louisiana, Camp Hood, Texas and then Camp Bowie, Texas, receiving critical training at each facility. They then moved to Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida, where they received amphibious training in the Gulf of Mexico.
The 628th moved back west to Camp Rucker, Alabama, in preparation for the Tennessee Maneuvers which were held in July and August of 1943. They received additional training at Camp Pickett and Camp Bradford in Virginia. The unit then moved to Camp Dix, New Jersey, for final preparations prior to leaving for Europe and then on to Camp Shanks, New York, where they awaited shipment overseas. They left the port aboard the H.M.S. Aquitania on January 29, 1944.
They arrived at Greenock, Scotland, on February 6, 1944, and were kept busy training and overseeing marshaling camps in Southern England. On July 26th, they were loaded on LSTs and left England on the 28th, landing on Utah Beach on the 30th. They were committed to battle on August 2nd near Periers, France. They next participated in the envelopment of the Falaise Pocket. On August 14th, now Lt. Col. Hernandez’s armored car was fired upon by heavy artillery in the vicinity of Bourg St. Leonard, France. Just over an hour later, the vehicle hit a German mine which injured the driver and the battalion surgeon but Hernandez was not injured.
On August 20th, in the vicinity of Douains, France, Lt. Col. William M. Hernandez went out to contact Company A while directing indirect fire on enemy tanks. He was killed at 1630 hours and the battalion executive officer took command. At the time of his death, his son was also serving in France. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart. The image shown above was published in the unit’s history.
He was buried in the Brittany American Cemetery, Saint-James, Normandy, France, Plot N, Row 4, Grave 18. I want to thank William’s great niece Jamie, for providing information for this tribute and also the personnel at the Brittany American Cemetery for providing the image of his grave marker.