The Mexican Immigrant Who Saved His Buddies & Earned A Medal Of Honor
Born in Oaxaca, Mexico, Jose Lopez became an orphan at age eight when his mother, a seamstress, died of tuberculosis. His uncle in Texas then brought him to the United States and raised. Lopez, tough and flinty, excelled at boxing and traveled the country for seven years to compete in fifty-five boxing matches as ‘Kid Mendoza’.
Lopez also fought abroad and, in 1934, while competing in Australia he left boxing and joined the Merchant Marines for five years. He was serving in the Merchant Marines when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The next year, Lopez was drafted into the Army.
On December 16-17, 1944, Lopez's regiment, the 23rd Infantry, was one of the first units to try to hold back the massive German Battle of The Bulge attack. On his own initiative, Lopez moved forward with a .50 calibre heavy machine gun to protect the flanks of his company as it attempted to withdraw.
With incredible initiative and valor, Lopez moved from flank to flank, covering his buddies withdrawal, all the while under constant artillery bombardment. Lopez killed at least 100 German troops in his valiant and, to some, suicidal, lone man stand.
After the War, Lopez returned to Texas where he lived with his wife and family until passing away in 2005. There are several monuments to Jose Lopez in his adopted state, including a city park in Mission, Texas, to a middle school in San Antonio, Texas, and a statue of Sgt. López at Brownsville, Texas' Veterans Park.
Medal of Honor Citation - José M. López
Rank and organization:Sergeant, U.S. Army, 23d Infantry, 2d Infantry Division
Place and date:Near Krinkelt, Belgium, December 17, 1944
Entered service at:Brownsville, Texas
Born:Santiago Ihuitlán Plumas, Oaxaca
G.O. No.: 47, June 18, 1945
On his own initiative, he carried his heavy machine gun from Company K's right flank to its left, in order to protect that flank which was in danger of being overrun by advancing enemy infantry supported by tanks. Occupying a shallow hole offering no protection above his waist, he cut down a group of 10 Germans. Ignoring enemy fire from an advancing tank, he held his position and cut down 25 more enemy infantry attempting to turn his flank. Glancing to his right, he saw a large number of infantry swarming in from the front. Although dazed and shaken from enemy artillery fire which had crashed into the ground only a few yards away, he realized that his position soon would be outflanked. Again, alone, he carried his machine gun to a position to the right rear of the sector; enemy tanks and infantry were forcing a withdrawal. Blown over backward by the concussion of enemy fire, he immediately reset his gun and continued his fire. Single-handed he held off the German horde until he was satisfied his company had effected its retirement. Again he loaded his gun on his back and in a hail of small arms fire he ran to a point where a few of his comrades were attempting to set up another defense against the onrushing enemy. He fired from this position until his ammunition was exhausted. Still carrying his gun, he fell back with his small group to Krinkelt. Sgt. López's gallantry and intrepidity, on seemingly suicidal missions in which he killed at least 100 of the enemy, were almost solely responsible for allowing Company K to avoid being enveloped, to withdraw successfully and to give other forces coming up in support time to build a line which repelled the enemy drive.