b. 23/08/1925 Tampa, Florida. d. 15/09/1950 Inchon, Korea.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 15/09/1950 Inchon, Korea.
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 Asturias in the north 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 Qingdao 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.
In Korea, Lt. López served as a platoon commander in A Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced). On September 15, 1950, he took part in the amphibious invasion of Inchon. After landing on the beach, he was captured in an iconic photograph by Marguerite Higgins as he led his men over a seawall. Moments later, while preparing to throw a hand grenade into a North Korean bunker, he was struck by automatic weapons fire in the chest and right shoulder, causing him to drop the activated device. Although seriously wounded, Lt. López crawled toward the grenade and unable to throw it because of his injuries, pulled it under his body to shield others from the blast. He was killed in the resulting explosion and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Secretary of the Navy Dan A. Kimball presented the medal to Lopez’s parents during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on August 30, 1951.
News of his death spread quickly among fellow Marines on the battlefronts. A Scripps-Howard war correspondent, Jerry Thorp, said in a news story on López’s deed that he “died with the courage that makes men great.”
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a rifle platoon commander of Company A, in action against enemy aggressor forces. With his platoon 1st Lt. 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 1st Lt. Lopez and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
BURIAL LOCATION: CENTRO ASTURIANO MEMORIAL PARK, TAMPA, FLORIDA.
SECTION 57, LOT 1.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.