Viater “Vick” Lopes, the son of Cape Verdian immigrants, who enlisted in the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor, flew 64 bomber missions over Italy and France, and served again during the Korean War aboard the USS Wasp, died Jan. 26 at his Plainview home.
A longtime U.S. Postal Service employee in Hicksville, Lopes was 98 and had been treated for a respiratory infection.
“He was very much at peace,” his wife, Enid, said.
Born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Lopes graduated from Woonsocket High School in 1937.
He enlisted 26 days after Pearl Harbor and trained with the Army Air Corps.
Most of his combat missions were as a gunner aboard a B-26 in support of the allied push through Italy and into France during 1944.
In an era in which 25 bomber missions were considered a complete tour of duty because of “the physical and mental strain on the crew,” and the risk of getting killed, Lopes flew 64 combat missions that year, according to military records. Twenty-three of them were in July and August alone.
Discharged with the rank of staff sergeant in 1945, he recalled only being offered jobs shoveling coal or manure upon returning to Rhode Island, his family said. Insulted, he re-enlisted the next year, this time in the Navy, reasoning that being afloat might be safer than being shot at in the sky.
Or maybe not. He was serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp on the night of April 26, 1952, when the ship was involved in the deadliest non-combat shipwreck in U.S. Navy history.
While sailing in the darkened mid-Atlantic, the Wasp collided with the USS Hobson, slicing it in half and sending it to the bottom along with 176 Hobson crew. The Wasp, its bow bearing a jagged wound, limped 2,500 miles back to New York harbor for repairs.
He was again honorably discharged in 1960, this time as an aviation boatswain’s mate senior petty officer.
A granddaughter, Melanie McElligott, said although Lopes took a generally dim view of war, he considered World War II to be an existential challenge. Still, he rarely spoke of combat.
“He showed me where his scrapbooks were when I was a teenager, but left it at that,” said McElligott, of Floral Park. “He always felt that it was a very honorable thing to do for his country.”
He married Enid Taylor in 1955, and the couple, which lived in Queens, eventually moved to Plainview in 1963. He retired from the post office in the 1980s.
McElligott said her grandfather enjoyed college basketball, the Mets, tracking stocks, and fast cars.
He is also survived by daughters Crystal Holub of Woodside, and Celeste Lopes of Plainview; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A wake is scheduled Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Wagner Funeral Home in Hicksville. A funeral is to held Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
Burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is pending.
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