Jose Mendoza Lopez was born on 10 July 1910 in Mexico and was raised in Vera Cruz by his mother. His father had died at sea while Jose was still in the womb, and by his 9th birthday his mother had died of tuberculosis, leaving him orphaned and alone. His relatives weren't able to take care of him, so he headed off on his own to try and find a better life in America. He snuck across the border and settled in the town of Mission, Texas, where a family was nice enough to give him some food and let him sleep out in their tool shed until he got his feet under him.
Nothing in life was easy for Jose. He had no worldly possessions to speak of, and worked subsistence jobs to try and keep his head above water and food on his table. Later he took to riding the rails of this country looking for opportunity and adventure. When he was 17, he found a little of both. He was just hanging out in Atlanta minding his own business when all of a sudden some big cro-magnon behemoth jackass started talking smack to him. Despite being only 5'5" and 130lbs, Jose Lopez wasn't the sort of badass who was going to let anyone fuck with him, no matter how big he was. Jose got nose-to-nose with the guy and was all like, "hey bitch why don't you say that so that San Miguel and San Gabriel can hear you?", nodding to his clenched fists. The guy pressed his luck and the next thing he knew he was getting his fucking ass kicked by Lopez.
As luck would have it, one of the bystanders watching the beatdown just so happened to be a boxing promoter. After Jose was finished pummeling the fuck out of that jackass, the promoter came up to him and recruited him into the world of professional boxing. The newly-dubbed "Kid Mendoza" went 52-3 in his boxing career - pretty fucking respectable numbers, and proof that he was not someone to mess with.
Eventually Kid Mendoza decided he wasn't really interested in getting paid to beat dumbasses about the head and neck anymore, so he quit boxing and enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marines in 1936. He had several seafaring misadventures, including one time when he was stranded at sea for several weeks on a cargo boat with only bananas to eat.
After several ordeals on the high seas, Lopez decided it was safer on dry land. He enlisted in the Army at the start of World War II, was trained to be a squad machine gunner and shipped out for Europe to help the Allies fuck Hitler in the ass. On 7 June 1944 he landed on the beaches at Normandy and promptly had a German bullet ricochet off his ammo belt. He didn't give a fuck though. He fought bravely throughout the Normandy Campaign, but his legend would be made in the Ardennes Forest in December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge.
On 17 December Lopez was stationed outside the Belgian town of Krinkelt as part of Company K of the 23rd U.S. Infantry Division. He had been assigned to protect Co. K's right flank from a potential German attack, and set up his Browning .30 caliber m1919 machine gun in a fortified foxhole. But the attack wouldn't come on the Company's right.
Fighting started on the left side of the line, so PVT Lopez packed up his 30+ pound machine gun and rushed over there to help prevent his unit from being flanked by the Germans. He leapt into a shallow hole that exposed everything from his waist up to enemy fire, set up his gun, and started spraying bullets at the advancing Nazi soldiers. He dropped several of them, when all of a sudden he saw a goddamned Tiger I tank rolling through the forest towards him with several squads of infantry supporting it. Lopez knew he didn't have the firepower to deal with the tank, so despite his almost complete lack of cover he continued to concentrate his fire on the advancing infantry, cutting them down in droves while the rest of Lopez's company fell back to the town to fortify defensive positions there. A group of Germans attempted to flank Lopez's machine gun nest, but he was able to reposition his gun and neutralize this threat as well.
U.S. gunners with a .30 cal Browning like the one Lopez was using.
Fire continued to pour into Jose's position, this time coming from a group of soldiers attempting to flank him on the right. To further complicate things, the Tiger had turned it's attention towards him, and now the Krauts were calling artillery down on his position. Despite being knocked over by an artillery shell, Jose Lopez managed to pick up his weapon and fall back to another defensive position where he once again opened fire on the advancing Germans, buying time for his men to retreat. Tanks and soldiers continued to fire on him, and at one point the Tiger's main gun threw a shell so close to him that it knocked him over and gave him a concussion. This wasn't going to hold Jose Motherfucking Lopez back though; He immediately reset his gun and continued firing at the endless German onslaught. Once all of his men had reached the safety of the town, and he had exhausted all of his ammunition, Lopez fell back to town to re-supply.
The Germans knew what was up. They bypassed the town and continued their push towards Antwerp, convinced that they didn't want any more of what Lopez had to offer them. He had single-handedly saved his Company from being overrun by intensely superior numbers. His final kill count during the battle was estimated at just over one hundred enemy soldiers.
For his actions in the Ardennes Forest, Lopez was promoted to Sergeant awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for what the Army dubbed "undergoing seemingly suicidal missions". He fought until the end of the war, and served in Korea before finally retiring in 1973. He continued a regimen of jogging every day and saw a personal trainer three times a week until he was 88 years old, because he knew that he needed to keep his badass physique. He had five children and was married for 64 years before dying of cancer on 18 May 2005 at the age of 94.
Jose Lopez was a true American badass. The man came from humble beginnings, worked for everything he had, and proved himself a hero when the time came for him to save his friends. He battled fiercely, won the United States' top honor for bravery, and was only bested in physical hand-to-hand combat three times in his entire life. He was awesome.
"Fear is the one thing that will hold you back in life."
- Jose M. Lopez
Medal of Honor Citation
Biography at Medalofhonor.com