BALDOMERO LOPEZ, 1LT, USMC
Baldomero Lopez '48
Date of birth: August 23, 1925
Date of death: September 15, 1950
From the 1948 Lucky Bag:
From Wikipedia's entry:
López was born on August 23, 1925, in Tampa, Florida, and grew up in the neighborhood of Ybor City. His father, also named Baldomero López, had immigrated to the United States from the Asturias region of Spain as a young man. The younger Lopez attended Hillsborough High School, where he was an accomplished basketball player and a regimental commander in the school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program. He enlisted in the United States Navy on July 8, 1943, shortly after graduating from high school, and served until June 11 of the next year.
He was selected to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in the midst of World War II, and because of the ongoing war he and his classmates were placed in an accelerated three-year program. Upon graduating on June 6, 1947, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He attended The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, after which he became a platoon commander in the Platoon Leaders Class Training Regiment.
In 1948, López went to China, where he served as a mortar section commander and later as a rifle platoon commander at Tsingtao and Shanghai. On his return from China he was assigned to Camp Pendleton, California. He was serving there when, shortly after the outbreak of the Korean war, he volunteered for duty as an infantry officer in Korea. He was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant on June 16, 1950.
From St. Petersburg Times on July 22, 2003, by Rob Brannon:
Baldomero Lopez was bored.
The day was Sept. 14, 1950, and Lopez, "Baldy" to his friends, sat bobbing on a boat somewhere off the coast of Korea. It was the same endless view of sky and water that the 25-year-old Marine first lieutenant had seen for days.
And so, with nothing better to do, Lopez sat down to write a letter to his parents and 21-year-old brother, Joe, at home in Tampa.
In the letter, Lopez asked his Spanish father to send him some good cigars. And he spoke of the battle awaiting him on the Korean Peninsula, and of his fears and sense of duty.
"My business is out here in the Far East where the present international crisis is located," Lopez wrote. "Knowing that the profession of arms calls for many hardships and many risks, I feel that you all are now prepared for any eventuality. If you catch yourself starting to worry, just remember that no one forced me to accept my commission in the Marine Corps."
Lopez signed and sealed his letter.
The next morning, he boarded a launch that took him to the shores of Inchon harbor, part of the second wave of Marines to land on the beach. This attack - a surprise thrust to Seoul that divided and trapped enemy forces in the bottom of the peninsula - would help Gen. Douglas MacArthur's reputation as a brilliant military tactician.
Lopez stepped onto Korean soil with his troops and immediately had to contend with a 10-foot seawall.
Without hesitation, he turned and yelled, "Follow me," to his platoon and was first over the wall.
On the other side, an enemy machine gun bunker poured fire down on the Marines, pinning them behind whatever cover they could find.
Lopez pulled the pin on a grenade. But, just as he raised his arm to throw, bullets tore through his right arm and shoulder.
He fell to the ground, his grenade landing a few feet away. Realizing that the blast from the live grenade would probably kill several nearby Marines, Lopez cradled it with his arm and pulled it under his wounded body. He took the full brunt of the explosion and died instantly.
Lopez's family received a telegram informing them of their son's death one day after they received his final letter.
Some time later his parents, who described their son in contemporary newspaper articles as "always so happy," were given the bittersweet duty of accepting his posthumous Medal of Honor. He was one of two men from Florida to receive the ultimate distinction in Korea.
Lopez's death at Inchon was the culmination of a lifelong desire for military duty. Lopez, who grew up in the vibrant world of 1920s and '30s Ybor City, was named brightest, most bashful and most representative of his 1943 Hillsborough High School graduating class.
From there, he attended and graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and chose the life of a Marine. During this time, Hillsborough County School Board member Glenn Barrington got to know Lopez. Both men had attended Hillsborough High School and both chose a life in the service.
Barrington, who was a year behind Lopez in school, said he recalls little about Lopez in high school other than that he was popular, smart and had a reputation for being a good guy.
Barrington and Lopez spent time together while serving in the Navy in Quantico, Va. Barrington said he and his former wife had dinner with Lopez on several occasions. He remembers a polite, quiet man who could bring smiles to the dinner table with well-timed funny interjections.
Lopez's death was a shock, he said.
"It was just one of those terrible things, but a hell of an act of bravery on his part," Barrington said. "But I guess that was the kind of man he was."
Lopez has been credited with giving Tampa an identity. He was a patriotic Hispanic-American who came out of a mostly immigrant neighborhood to give his life in service to his country.
The city of his birth has honored Lopez in many ways. In 1963, a pool complex was named for him. His name is on an elementary school in Seffner and the state veterans nursing home in Land O' Lakes. The nation honored Lopez by placing his name on a 46,000-ton military freighter, currently moving supplies through the oceans of the world.
So it was with a sense of hometown pride 41/2 years ago that Murdock Ford, upon founding the Tampa Chapter of the Korean Veterans Association, named the chapter for Lopez.
Ford said the organization hopes to put up a new community building. Central to that will be a statue in memory of Lopez.
But the statue, Ford said, will not be of his bust, or of him standing in full dress uniform. Instead, it will be modeled after a famous picture of Lopez. A Defense Department photographer snapped a photograph of Lopez mounting the wall at Inchon at the head of his platoon. Just seconds later, Lopez died.
Ford, who as a 16-year-old landed at Inchon a mere 300 yards from Lopez, said this image will be cast in bronze, not just because of its meaning to the community, but because of what it represents to Korean War veterans.
"That's our picture for the Marines in the Korean War," Ford said. "It's like (the flag-raising) at Iwo Jima was for the Marines in World War II. . . . It means so much to local veterans."
From Tampa Bay Online on April 20, 2016:
Tribute was paid to the namesake of Lopez Elementary School in Seffner at the Medal of Honor Memorial Dedication ceremony, held March 26 at the Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins Jr. Museum in Tampa.
On hand for the ceremony was Mike Lopez of Fort Lauderdale, who was born a year after his uncle, U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Baldomero Lopez, lost his life in the Korean War.
"He was a son of an immigrant from Spain who went to the U.S. Naval Academy and made something of himself," Lopez said about his uncle, known as "Baldy" to his family and friends. "He inspired us to go to school and be successful."
Lopez said he was at the posthumous dedication to represent his grandmother, dad and other family members, including his brother, Capt. Paul Lopez, "who followed Baldy into the Marine Corps, as a pilot, and lost his life to cancer in January 1984."
Medal of Honor
From Hall of Valor:
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez (MCSN: 0-49344), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 15 September 1950, as a Marine platoon commander of Company A, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces during the landing at Inchon, Korea. With his platoon First Lieutenant Lopez was engaged in the reduction of immediate enemy beach defenses after landing with the assault waves. Exposing himself to hostile fire, he moved forward alongside a bunker and prepared to throw a hand grenade into the next pillbox whose fire was pinning down that sector of the beach. Taken under fire by an enemy automatic weapon and hit in the right shoulder and chest as he lifted his arm to throw, he fell backward and dropped the deadly missile. After a moment, he turned and dragged his body forward in an effort to retrieve the grenade and throw it. In critical condition from pain and loss of blood, and unable to grasp the hand grenade firmly enough to hurl it, he chose to sacrifice himself rather than endanger the lives of his men and, with a sweeping motion of his wounded right arm, cradled the grenade under him and absorbed the full impact of the explosion. His exceptional courage, fortitude, and devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon First Lieutenant Lopez and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Action Date: 15-Sep-50
Service: Marine Corps
Rank: First Lieutenant
Company: Company A
Battalion: 1st Battalion
Regiment: 5th Marines
Division: 1st Marine Division (Rein.)
Legacy and Honors
From Wikipedia's entry:
Several structures have been named in López's honor, including a state nursing home and an elementary school in Seffner, Florida. A Korean War memorial at the Ed Radice Sports Complex in Tampa was opened on November 11, 2007, and dedicated to Lopez. The memorial features a rock from the beach at Incheon. A public swimming pool across from Macfarlane Park in West Tampa is named for him. …
In Bancroft Hall … a room is dedicated to him (Room No. 3021), with a display including his photo and a bronze plaque of his Medal of Honor citation. There is also the Baldomero Lopez State Veteran's nursing home in Land O'Lakes FL at 6919 Parkway Blvd.
López's Medal of Honor remains in the possession of his extended family.
USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez (T-AK 3010) was named for Baldomero.