Honoring Hispanic WWII soldier for bravery

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Luis Guajardo
  • 71st Medical Group
Seven years ago, I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I remember going to a Spurs basketball game at the Alamodome. During the halftime ceremony, former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen was present for a tribute to Medal of Honor recipients from Texas. One of those honored was a San Antonio native and retired master sergeant, Jose M. Lopez.

I have always been proud of my heritage, and I was intrigued by this Hispanic figure and his impact during World War II. I searched the Internet excerpts of "Hispanics in America's Defense" by retired Lt. Col. William Luna, curious to know what Sergeant Lopez did to deserve such a tribute. When I did, I was amazed by the actions of this proud man.

Jose M. Lopez was born in Mexico, and after taking on odd jobs, enlisted in the Army during World War II. He received a Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the "Battle of the Bulge". Dec. 17, 1944, Sergeant Lopez was with Company K outside Krinkelt, Belgium. Carrying a heavy machine gun, he was caught by surprise by a German Tiger Tank, which was accompanied by a horde of German foot soldiers. Thinking of the safety of his comrades just a few hundred yards away, he opened fire on the Germans, killing 10 of them.

The Tiger Tank fired three shells in his direction in return, sending him to the ground with a concussion. Gaining his composure, he opened fire once again to buy the time needed for his company to retreat to safety. This time he killed 25 Germans and allowed time for his comrades to retreat to a safer position. After firing, he retreated further into the woods, safely repositioned himself and fired his heavy machine gun at the Germans who kept advancing.

After doing this a few times while being fired upon by small arm weapons and the Tiger Tank, he eventually escaped capture by using the dense woods as protection and successfully drew attention away from his comrades. They retreated safely back to Krinkelt and held their position there through the night. The remaining German forces eventually bypassed the town. Because of his actions, Company K eluded the Germans and quite possibly avoided their demise.

I was sad to hear five years later, Sergeant Lopez died from cancer at age 94. Sergeant Lopez was a proud Hispanic man. I will always remember him as a hero who one day fought against all odds and won.