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In memory of a real war hero

Baldomero Lopez Pool is named in honor of a Tampa man who gave his life to save others in the Korean War.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 18, 2002


It's a staple of classic war films. The soldier winds up to throw a grenade. A volley of enemy fire. Soldier collapses. Grenade drops free. Too wounded to do anything else, the stricken hero throws his body over the live grenade to shield comrades from the blast.

It doesn't just happen in the movies.

It happened to Tampa native Baldomero Lopez. As a result, the final moments of his life are described in his official Medal of Honor citation.

Lopez, a member of Centro Asturiano, graduated from Hillsborough High School in 1943 and immediately joined the Navy. He later switched to the Marine Corps, and by the time he rushed an enemy bunker during the U.S. invasion of Inchon in the Korean War, he was a first lieutenant. But he died on that fateful day in 1950, when enemy machine gun fire rendered him unable to do anything else but smother his grenade and protect his comrades.

He was 25. The city of Tampa dedicated the pool complex at 3200 W Spruce St. in his name in 1963.

Lopez's posthumous fame extends beyond West Tampa. There's Baldomero Lopez Elementary School in Seffner, and Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home in Land O'Lakes. A 46,000 ton military freighter, the MV 1st Lt. Baldomero Lopez, currently serves as one of 38 vessels in the Navy's Military Sealift Command.

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