José M. López

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José Mendoza López
Sgt. JOSE LOPEZ.jpg
Master Sergeant José M. López, Medal of Honor
Born (1910-07-10)July 10, 1910
Santiago Ihuitlán Plumas, Oaxaca[1]
Died May 16, 2005(2005-05-16) (aged 94)
San Antonio, Texas
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1942–1973
Rank Master Sergeant
Unit 3rd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, U.S. 2nd Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of Normandy
*Battle of the Bulge
Korean War
Awards Medal of Honor
Purple Heart

José Mendoza López (July 10, 1910 – May 16, 2005) was a Mexican and United States Army soldier who was awarded the United States' highest military decoration for valor in combat — the Medal of Honor — for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge, in which he single-handedly repulsed a German infantry attack, killing at least 100 enemy troops.[2]

Early years[edit]

López was raised by his mother Cándida López in Santiago Ihuitlán, Oaxaca, Mexico. As a young boy he helped his mother sell clothes that she made as a seamstress in the city. However, his time with his mother was cut short due to tuberculosis which took her life when López was only eight years old. López then relocated to Brownsville, Texas, USA, to live with his uncle's family.

While living in with his uncle's family López began working various jobs to bring in income and never returned to school. As a young man, López caught the attention of a boxing promoter and for seven years he traveled the country fighting a total of 55 fights in the lightweight division with the nickname of 'Kid Mendoza'. In 1934, during a boxing match in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, he met a group of Merchant Marines and signed a contract with them. He was accepted in the union in 1936 and spent the next five years traveling the world.

He was en route to California from Hawaii on December 7, 1941, when he learned about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he arrived in Los Angeles, the authorities believed he was Japanese and he was forced to prove otherwise.

López returned to Brownsville and, in 1942, married Emilia Herrera. That same year, he received his draft card and relocated to San Antonio where he enlisted in the U.S. Army. López was first sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and then to Camp Roberts, California, where he received his basic training.[3]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

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
Citation:
On his own initiative, he carried his heavy machinegun 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 machinegun 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.

Post World War II[edit]

López received an enthusiastic reception when his ship landed in New York City and he was greeted by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. On a visit to Mexico City, he was greeted by the president of Mexico, Manuel Ávila Camacho and awarded Mexico’s highest military commendation, la Condecoración del Mérito Militar.

He later moved his family to San Antonio, where he was hired as a contact representative with the Veterans Administration. Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, López was accidentally ordered to serve for his country and without hesitation was prepared to do so, until President Harry S. Truman, heard of and corrected the matter so that López could remain in the United States.[4]

José died one year after his wife; they were together for 62 years

Namesakes[edit]

The city of Mission, Texas, López' hometown, has recognized Sgt. López by naming a street and a city park — José M. López Park — in his honor.[5]

The North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, has recognized Sgt. López by naming a middle school in his honor, José M. López Middle School.

A statue of Sgt. López stands at Brownsville, Texas' Veterans Park.

Awards and recognitions[edit]

Among José M. López's decorations and medals were the following:

A light blue ribbon with five white five pointed stars 
Medal of Honor Purple Heart
American Campaign Medal European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]