EDWARD LOPEZ LOOKS BACK ON HIS CHILDHOOD IN L.A., LIFE AS A TEEN COWBOY IN NEW MEXICO, AND A FIGHTER PILOT IN WORLD WAR II—AND PAYS TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO DIDN’T SURVIVE THE FIGHTING, ESPECIALLY COUSIN JOHN.
By Edward J. Lopez
I WAS A “HELL HAWK.” THAT WAS THE NAME given to us pilots in the 365th Fighter Group of the Army Air Corps. Among the many missions I flew against the Wehrmacht’s last bloody stand in the waning days of World War II were two that proved decisive in the victory of the Allies over Hitler.
It’s odd to think about: I was a boy in the early days of downtown Los Angeles in the ’20s and ’30s. My brother and I would pretend we were pilots, but I never really thought I would one day become one. As a teen, I spent time as a cowboy, learning to ride horses on the New Mexico range where my family had our roots. Then, I helped the Allies finish off Germany.
There’s a through-line to this story, though and it’s this: Instinct.