On his own initiative, Army Master Sgt. Jose M. Lopez carried his heavy machine gun from Company K's right flank to its left. He did so 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, Lopez cut down a group of 10 Germans in World War II.
Ignoring enemy fire from an advancing tank, Lopez 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 that had crashed into the ground a few yards away, Lopez 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, Lopez immediately reset his gun and continued his fire. Single-handedly, he held off the German horde until he was satisfied his company had brought about its retirement.
Lope reloaded 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. Lopez fired from this position until his ammunition was exhausted. Still carrying his gun, he fell back with his small group to Krinkelt in Belgium.
Lopez'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. His actions enabled the company to withdraw successfully and give other forces coming up in support time to build a line that repelled the enemy drive.
Editor's Note: Retired Master Sgt. Jose M. Lopez died on May 15, 2005, at the age of 94 at a daughter's home in San Antonio. Born in Mexico and orphaned at the age of 8, Lopez enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and landed at Normandy on June 7, 1944, the day after the D-Day invasion. At dawn on Dec. 17, 1944, he and his men were outside Krinkelt, Belgium, shortly after the start of the Battle of the Bulge. It was during a hasty retreat from advancing German armored units that Lopez carried out the actions under fire that led to his receiving the Medal of Honor.
After World War II, Lopez remained in the Army and fought in Korea until a superior officer learned that the Medal of Honor recipient was in combat. He was then ordered to the rear and spent months in a graves registration unit. Lopez retired as a master sergeant in 1973.
His wife of 62 years, Emilia Herrera Lopez, died in February 2004. Survivors include five children, Candida Pieratti of Mahopac, N.Y., Virginia Rogers of Ogden, Utah, Beatrice Pedraza of Lima, Peru, and John Lopez and Maggie Wickwire, both of San Antonio; 19 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
© 2006 DefenseWatch. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.
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