"LOPEZ RAISES THE FLAG - 65 YEARS AFTER" _________________
Steve Kwiecinski

 

 

A little later Sunday morning (1 March), Tony Lopez, his wife Mary Louise, sons Tom and Steve, daughter Yolanda, and Yolanda’s husband Ron arrived on Corregidor for a two-day stay. (One son and one daughter remained behind in the States.)

Tony had been a part of the original parachute team that landed here 65 years ago to liberate the island. Tony had trouble getting approved for a passport, which made the news in Denver, Colorado, and sparked nationwide sympathy.

For several days the family couldn’t get any rest as they received phone call after phone call from interested media people.

Despite having served in the U.S. military, he faced citizenship verification questions due to records having been destroyed in a church fire. The passport was finally issued, but so late that he was unable to be here for the February 16th anniversary of the 503’rd parachute landing.

However, thanks to continued efforts by Paul Whitman, encouragement from many people – including his family members and a blatantly pleading email from us – he decided to come for the March 2 celebration marking the day of MacArthur’s return to the island.

By the way, this whole story began in December when Paul met Tony and about 20 other veterans of the 503rd at a reunion. Paul proposed the trip then, and continued to urge Tony to come to Corregidor. The rest is now history.

 

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Tony is escorted down the trail towards 'Banzai Point' by his sons Thomas (left) and Steve (right.) Ahead are his daughter Yolonda, and her husband Ron. On the night of 16 February 1945, Tony's platoon was placed in the NCO Married Qtrs which covered this track. Effectively it was the demarcation point between the US and Japanese areas for the first 24 hours. 

 

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Tony checked out the interior of the NCO Married Qtrs. As the Japanese could easily lob grenades on the verandah, the men would take cover in the inside rooms. Nevertheless, Tony lost his good buddy "Happy" Hoyt, that evening.  (Tony had visited "Happy" at the American Cemetary at Ft Bonafacio (formerly Ft. McKinley) the previous day.

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Tony revisits 28-D, where "F" had its C.P. the first night.  He was the section's BAR man. By virtue of its high rate of fire, it was generally regarded as being the most dangerous weapon in a fight, and consequently i was the weapon that attracted most attention from the Japanese.

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There was a rehearsal of the ceremony on Monday morning. The men in mid-ground are the Flag Party, those in the background fired the salute.



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On 2 March, 65 years after the flag was raised on Corregidor in the presence of Gen. MacArthur, Paratrooper Anthony Lopez raised it again.



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We were honored to have Tony in attendance. We wonder if he will be the last American Corregidor survivor to be able to attend an anniversary here. Thanks to Sun Cruises shifting their schedules, their tourists were able to attend the festivities and greet Tony personally. It made for a very nice turnout, and Tony was overcome by the expressions of gratitude and honor he received. We really enjoyed spending time in the evenings with Tony and his family.

Steve Kwiecinski

 

 

PHOTOS BY PAUL WHITMAN.

   
 

 

 

         

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