Tony Lopez Poma was born on January 17, 1924, in Mexico to Juan and Maria Jesus (Segura) Pompa. Juan and Maria were both born in Leon, León Municipality, Guanajuato, Mexico. The family moved to Silvis, Illinois, in 1927.1 Juan was a fire knocker for the former Rock Island Line for 37 years.2 Tony had two sisters, Clara and Aurora, and one brother, Frank. When they first arrived in Silvis, the family lived in a boxcar with two other families on Rock Island Lines property. They eventually settled on 2nd Street when the townspeople complained about the Mexicans not paying taxes.
When WWII began, Tony was fired from his job at the Rock Island Arsenal because he was not an American citizen. He worked for the Rock Island Line just prior to enlisting. He falsified his name and joined the Army Air Corp in hopes of becoming an American citizen. He enlisted as Tony P. Lopez on July 18, 1941, in Peoria, Illinois. The enlistment record also shows his year of birth as 1922, rather than 1924.5 He received his early Air Corps training at Scott Field in Illinois, now known as Scott Air Force Base.6
Tony had only been overseas for one month when, on January 31, 1944, Tony’s B-24 Liberator, was hit by enemy fire over northern Italy. They were on a combat bombing mission and were hit by flak (enemy anti-aircraft fire) over the Aviano Airdome. Col. Darr H Alkire, piloting the Lurchin Urchin, which was the group lead plane, parachuted from the plane, along with eight other members of the crew. The plane crashed into a mountain and exploded with Tony still inside. Col. Alkire and seven other crew were surrounded by Germans upon landing and taken prisoner.7 In March, it was reported by the International Red Cross that Col. Alkire was being held prisoner by the German government.8 Alkire later became a Brigadier General.
Elliott A. Thompson, co-pilot, was able to bail out of the plane but was knocked unconscious upon landing. When he awoke, he was surrounded by Germans. Elliott spent 16 months as a P.O.W. at Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, Germany.9 Wilbur N. Rasmussen, Bombardier, lived until 1974. Lloyd G Buehrer, waist gunner, died in 1994 and is listed as being an ex-POW.10
On March 1, 1944, Tony’s parents received a telegram from the war department with news that Tony had been missing since January 31. Tony had written home on January 8 saying he had been on numerous bombing missions over Italy but was looking forward to a furlough to come home.
In January 1945, Tony was still listed as missing in action.11 In April 1945, over one year after his parents received word he was missing, Tony’s wife, Delores, received word from the war department that Tony was now presumed dead after being missing for more than a year in Italy.12
Three Individual Casualty Questionnaires of surviving crew members indicated that Tony’s parachute opened inside the plane and became entangled in control cables.13 He was at the back of the bottom hatch. He was last seen helping the waist gunner open the escape hatch. Tony was lying in the tail of the plane directly behind the escape hatch.14 He did not have time to bail out of the plane.
Tony is one of eight heroes from 2nd Street in Silvis, now known as Hero Street, to have died in WWII and Korea. They are memorialized there by a monument.