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Interview on experiences in World War II

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Creator: Lopez, Ambrose

Date: April 27, 2006

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 211402

Biographical sketch: Ambrose Lopez's father first came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1921 and was back and forth between the countries until 1925 when he got a job on the section crew and stayed there until he retired. His father couldn't read English but he understood it and his mother never learned to read Spanish or English. Ambrose remembers that he had to sit in a special section of the movie theaters in Emporia, Kansas, where he grew up. When he graduated from the eighth grade he went to work for the Santa Fe on an extra gang in the summers and moved around quite a bit. Pearl Harbor was attacked on his sixteenth birthday and the rumor was that the war would only last six months and he thought he wouldn't have to go. He remembers hearing President Roosevelt's speech on the radio and "where he says infamy." In the middle of January 1944 he was called to take his physical, passed, and he told them that he wanted to go to the Navy. They sent him back home and told him they would call him. When he got sent to Kansas City for the Navy a "big old Marine came in and said he wanted two volunteers." Nobody volunteered so he chose Ambrose and another guy from Emporia and instead of going to the Great Lakes he was sent to San Diego to boot camp. They had to learn to march in the sand but he didn't think it was too rough. After completing boot camp he was sent to machine gun school at Camp Elliott, which was about ten miles from San Diego. They took away their M1s and gave them new carbines, and they trained with .30 caliber machine guns. If anyone made expert they were supposed to get a 72 hour pass; he was the only one that made it but instead they gave the pass to one of his drill instructors. The guy borrowed a dollar from each of the sixty men in the platoon to go on the 72 hour pass and never paid it back. Ambrose was the only Mexican-American and there was one Indian in the outfit but they never had any prejudice, they were treated just like everybody else. Before going overseas he was given a weekend pass and ended up being AWOL because he was a day late getting back. On June 29, 1944 they boarded ship and went to Pearl Harbor. He said that there were so many Marines that they just got fed twice a day but he was so seasick that he only ate an apple, orange and some crackers on the seven day trip. After two weeks in Honolulu they boarded ship and headed for Guam where he was assigned to the Third Marine Division in the machine gun platoon. They trained every day and then went down to the south part and swept the island to the north, killing probably 300 Japanese. He never saw any live Japanese, only dead ones, and said he didn't feel any animosity towards them as they hadn't done anything to him yet. When he first arrived in Guam he remembers eating some green coconuts and he was sent to the hospital. They thought he had appendicitis but it just turned out to be a bad stomach ache. In February of 1945 they invaded Iwo Jima, four or five days after the first wave, and landed in the middle of dead marines who had been killed in that first wave. His 9th Division relieved the 21st Division and the first night he remembers the "screaming mimis" that landed and covered him with sand, or volcanic ash, when they hit close to him. Every night they spent in foxholes, two in each one, and he said they would sweat because the ashes were hot. There were approximately 35,000 men on the little island which was only about the size of the city of Emporia, and his division lost over a thousand Marines. After Iwo Jima they returned to Guam where they trained some more for the invasion of Japan until the bomb was dropped. In November or December he said they disbanded the division and he worked in an ice plant making ice for the troops. Altogether he spent nineteen months on Guam before heading back to the United States in February of 1946. As to an opinion of the world leaders he really didn't have one, although he did approve of Truman's use of the atomic bomb. The mail took a long time to get back and forth, he said he would write to his mother in English and his younger brother would tell the family what he had written. Ambrose also had three brothers who were in the service and they all got back safely; he says he was very proud to serve and would do it again if needed. On September 28, 1946 he got married and he and his wife had three boys and three girls, losing one of the boys at age three. When he got out of the service Mexican-Americans weren't allowed to join the VFW or the American Legion but the government got that changed and he now belongs to both. He feels that now there is less prejudice in Emporia than there used to be, even though he feels there is still some at their church. The Marines taught him to live by the rules and that has helped him, he said. He feels that World War II was justified, but isn't sure about Vietnam, and in regard to the Iraq situation, he feels like President Bush was given the wrong information and doesn't blame him for getting involved.

Summary: Corporal/Specialist Lopez entered the Marine Corps in 1944 and served until 1946 in the B Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment, Third Marine Division. Interviewed by Loren Pennington on Apr 27, 2006, Lopez talked about military experiences in the Second World War. The 2005 Kansas Legislature passed a bill funding the WWII Veterans Oral History grant program. This transcript is from one of the nine community institutions that received these grants. The transcript from the interview is presented here; the original audio copy of the interview is available through the Emporia State University (Flint Hills) and through the Kansas State Historical Society.

Space Required/Quantity: Audio

Title (Main title): Interview on experiences in World War II

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019-14-04-08  Cassette Audio Tape (2) 

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