Laredo: Fort McIntosh Transcript

When David Barkley joined the Army at 17 years old, there was one thing he didn’ttell the enlistment officers about: his Mexican heritage. Not only were minorities kept segregated in the Army - they were kept away from the front lines. But Private Barkley wanted to fight- so he went to the war... with a secret.

November 9, 1918. France. The US 356th Infantry, 89th Division, is camped on the Meuse River. The Germans are entrenched on the other side.

An American officer asks for volunteers - he needs two men for a daring recon mission; to swim the river, infiltrate German lines, and report back. Private Barkley raises his hand. One other soldier joins him.

They swim the freezing river, and emerge, soaking and silent, on the German side. They crawl 400 yards through enemy territory.

Then, exhausted, they return to the river. But as they swim back under enemy fire, Private Barkley is seized with cramps. And there, he takes his final breath - and drowns.

He was 18 years old.

In 1921, his body was returned to American soil and lay in state at the Alamo. - He was awarded the Medal of Honor, one of only four Texans awarded during WWI. It was presented to his Mexican-American mother, Antonia Cantú , at her home in San Antonio. But still, his secret remained.

In 1989, more than 80 years after his death, David Barkley’s descendants decided - it was time to share his secret. The revelation officially made him the first Hispanic to ever receive the Medal of Honor. Today, Private David Barkley-Cantú is a hero in his hometown of Laredo. He is buried with honors in the San Antonio National Cemetery.