One of the Korean War’s most recognized images is that of a young Marine scaling a wall during the invasion of Inchon on Sept. 15, 1950.
Stepping over the seawall on the northern side of Red Beach, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Baldomero Lopez is the picture of courage.
Lopez, the son of Spanish immigrants, grew up in Tampa, Florida, and enlisted in the Navy in 1943, but was soon tapped to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. He joined the Marines after graduation. Today, a picture of Lopez and a citation hang outside his academy room. Lopez’s actions immediately after the photograph at Inchon was taken are why his picture will always have a place of honor in that hallway.
Just a few months into the Korean War, Lopez and his platoon were engaged in the reduction of immediate enemy beach defenses after landing with the assault waves. Exposing himself to hostile fire, Lopez moved forward alongside a bunker and prepared to throw a hand grenade into the next pillbox from which 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, Lopez fell backward and dropped the deadly grenade. 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. He did not survive the blast.
President Harry S. Truman presented the Medal of Honor posthumously to Lopez’s parents in a ceremony at the White House in 1951. Lopez is the only Hispanic-American graduate of the academy to receive the Medal of Honor.
We honor you, Baldomero Lopez.