The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Looking for Lopes, and his WWII story


September 25, 2019

Courtesy photo

Joe Wolf isn't sure where he found the World War II-era knife, but he'd like to return it to its owner or a family member.

The man's name was apparently Lopes.

He seemed to have World War II ties to Company L, Second Division, Saipan, Tarawa, and Clovis, N.M.

At least that's what was carved on the sheath of his knife, along with the words "My kiss is death."

Joe Wolf, a Texas Hill Country collector of military memorabilia, said the U.S. Marine Corps knife has a blade that is sharpened on one edge only.

"It's not a fighting knife," Wolf said. "It's certainly not a bayonet. It's for hacking the brush in the South Pacific, I think."

Wolf isn't sure how he obtained the knife. Maybe 20 years ago. Probably through the internet.

At 87 - his birthday is Sept. 11 - he has started passing on much of his war memorabilia to other collectors. He's kept the Clovis knife until now because it "flipped my switch," he said.

That's because he used to live in New Mexico, owning a book store and working for the state as an architect in Santa Fe.

But Wolf would love to return the knife to its original owner, or at least a family member, or at least somebody who knew Lopes.

"In my imagination I see a 17 or 18 year old Mexican lad who went to war for us," Wolf wrote in an email to Clovis Mayor David Lansford.

"Did he survive the war? Probably not; he would have brought it home with pride and honor."

Not much is known about Lopes.

The name does not appear in Clovis city directories in the early 1940s, though there are several families of Lopez.

The name also does not appear in context with archived newspaper stories from the Clovis News-Journal during that era.

So it's not going to be easy to solve this mystery, but Wolf is doing the best he can.

"By golly he might have given his life for this country ... So I thought some relative ought to have it," he said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Of course we don't even know the significance of Lopes' carvings.

Did he participate in the 1943-44 battles at Tarawa and Saipan in the Pacific?

Maybe he was not from Clovis at all, but longing to visit a girl who lived here?

The "My kiss is death" reference is anybody's guess.

Somebody used to know what all those things meant.

If you can help solve the mystery, get in touch with Wolf. His email is:

[email protected]

David Stevens writes about regional history for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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