Parade leader, 91, offers first draft of life story
Anthony Iniguez, 91, lives in Buffalo Grove and was a longtime resident of Northbrook. He will join Monday's Memorial Day Parade. | Photo courtesy Anthony Iniguez
Updated: July 2, 2012 8:51AM
When Anthony Iniguez rides Monday in the Northbrook Memorial Day Parade, the World War II veteran will carry with him many memories of his military service.
The former, longtime resident of Northbrook who now lives in Buffalo Grove, is the sergeant-at-arms at George W. Benjamin American Legion Post 791, and soon will be its historian.
But like many other veterans, the 91-year-old has memories he will always remember and those he prefers to forget.
He is recalling many right now, as he works on his autobiography.
Iniguez, the son of Mexican immigrants, was born July 23, 1920, in Toledo, Ohio. His family moved to Chicago when he was about 6 years old, where two more brothers were born.
However, his mother died as they was growing up, leaving his father to raise the three boys.
Iniguez attended St. Francis of Assisi School on Roosevelt Road in Chicago, then went to Washburne Trade School, also in the city, to learn machine shop work.
Two of his friends had joined the Navy at the beginning of World War II, and so, as a 21-year-old, he thought he could, too.
But when the Navy found out that he had suffered a broken leg in an auto accident as a child, the Navy said he wasn’t eligible. However, the Army had no trouble drafting him when he was 22.
“I ended up at Camp Cooke in California and was assigned to the 13th Armored Division of the 498 Armored Field Artillery,” Iniguez said.
“We went to France and Germany, and when the war ended in Germany, we were redeployed back to the states as a division for redeployment for the invasion of Japan.”
But before Iniguez was to see further action, he and his fellow soldiers were given a 30-day furlough.
That’s when he saw a Chicago newspaper article that said the casualty rate for the first wave of soldiers going to Japan was expected to be between 90 and 95 percent. And the second wave was to be between 85 and 90 percent.
Iniguez said he doesn’t remember much about what happened, but he survived to be discharged in 1946.
He remembers only one incident during his service that he still thinks about today.
“I was a corporal and a mechanic in the last vehicle of my battery, which consisted of three firing units that were like tanks with the tops cut off,” Iniguez said.
“We were going through this little German town when all of a sudden I heard firing — booming from all around. So I jumped out and spotted a woman carrying a German hand grenade toward me.”
Iniguez, who knew a spattering of different languages, pointed a loaded gun at her and told her in German, French, Spanish and Polish not to come closer or he would kill her.
“She had to be 70 or 80 years old, but she just kept coming! She was holding the hand grenade in her right hand and pointing to it with her left,” he said.
“I didn’t know if she was going to throw it at me and if I should shoot her or not. Finally, she got so close that I reached out and just took it out of her hand.”
Then, Iniguez asked the woman in German why she didn’t stop when he ordered her to do so.
“She said she was tired of all this killing and she didn’t want anyone to trip over this hand grenade,” he said. “To this day, I have no idea why I didn’t shoot her. But if she had been a man in or out of uniform, I know I would have.”
After surviving many such perils, Iniguez returned to Chicago and married Florence Lee in 1955. They moved to Northbrook in 1958 with adopted daughter, Lisa.
Florence died when she was only 42 years old, but Lisa provided Iniguez with two grandchildren - Ashley and Larry Dahl, all now living in Fayetteville, Ga.
Tony stayed in Northbrook for decades, before moving to Buffalo Grove in 1993.
“I have ties to both communities, but especially to the American Legion. Now, I’m looking forward to riding in the parade with other members in a Model A or Model T.”