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BEHIND THE IMAGE: Inchon Landings, Korea, 1950

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On 15 September 1950, American-dominated UN forces carried out the biggest amphibious operation since WWII, landing deep behind enemy lines at Inchon in Korea.

This photograph, taken by American reporter and war correspondent Marguerite Higgins, shows the second assault-wave landing on the northern side of Red Beach.

Wooden scaling-ladders are being used to disembark the LCVP landing craft that brought the men to shore. First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, from Tampa Florida, leads 3rd Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines over the seawall. Lopez carries an M-1 Carbine, while the other Marines carry M-1 Rifles.

The North Korean invasion of South Korea had pushed most of the fighting to the Pusan Perimeter in the south-east corner of the peninsula. US Army commander Douglas MacArthur had campaigned for a surprise attack on the west coast at Inchon – thought to be a risky operation.

The attack, code-named Operation Chromite, managed to catch the North Koreans off guard, breaking their supply-lines, and paving the way for UN forces to push inland and recapture the capital at Seoul.

Just a few minutes after this photograph was taken, Lieutenant Lopez was killed. Exposing himself to enemy fire, he was preparing to throw a grenade into a North Korean bunker when he was shot in the right shoulder and chest, falling backwards and dropping the grenade.

He went to retrieve the weapon and, when not able to grasp it firmly enough to throw it, cradled it under his body to absorb the impact of the explosion and save his fellow soldiers. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.


This article was published in the December 2015 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.

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