José M. López

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José Mendoza López
Master Sergeant José M. López, Medal of Honor
Born(1910-07-10)July 10, 1910
Santiago Ihuitlán Plumas, Oaxaca[1]
DiedMay 16, 2005(2005-05-16) (aged 94)
San Antonio, Texas
Place of burial
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1942–1973
RankMaster Sergeant
Unit3rd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, U.S. 2nd Infantry Division
Battles/warsWorld War II
*Battle of Normandy
*Battle of the Bulge
Korean War
AwardsMedal of Honor
Purple Heart

José Mendoza López (July 10, 1910 – May 16, 2005) was a Mexican-born 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.

Early years[edit]

López was raised by his mother Cándida López in the town of Santiago Ihuitlán Plumas, Oaxaca, Mexico. As a young boy, he and his mother moved to the city of Orizaba, where he helped his mother sell clothes that she made as a seamstress in the city. However, his mother died of tuberculosis when he was only eight years old. López then relocated to Brownsville, Texas, United States, to live with his uncle's family.

While living in Brownsville, 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 Army. López was first sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and then to Camp Roberts, California, where he received his basic training.[2]

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
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.

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.[3]

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


The city of Mission, Texas, López' hometown, named a street and a city park — José M. López Park — in his honor.[4]

The North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, named a school in his honor, José M. López Middle School.

A statue of Sgt. López stands in Brownsville's Veterans Park.

Awards and decorations[edit]

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

A light blue ribbon with five white five pointed stars
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 scarlet ribbon with width-4 ultramarine blue stripe at center, surrounded by width-1 white stripes. Width-1 white stripes are at the edges.
Badge Combat Infantryman Badge
with 1 star (denoting 2nd award)
1st Row Medal of Honor Bronze Star
with 1 Oak leaf cluster (2 awards)
2nd Row Purple Heart Army Commendation Medal Army Good Conduct Medal
with bronze clasp with 4 loops (4 awards)
3rd Row American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
4th Row World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal National Defense Service Medal
5th Row Korean Service Medal
with 3 Campaign stars
United Nations Korea Medal Korean War Service Medal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oliver, Myrna (18 May 2005). "José M. López, 94; Battle of the Bulge Hero Killed 100+ German Soldiers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  2. ^ Jose M. Lopez interview Archived 2006-09-19 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Jose M. Lopez interview/continued Archived 2006-09-19 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Sergeant José M. López, U.S. Army, 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division (1912-2005)". Famous People. City of Mission, Texas. Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. Retrieved 2006-07-23.


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