Korean War Legacy Project

Albert Gonzales


Albert Gonzales was drafted into the United States Army in 1950 knowing very little about Korea. He eventually became an interrogator, learned some of the language, and even married a Korean woman. He describes what it was like when he first arrived to Busan. He also remembers what it was like questioning North Koreans. He concludes his interview discussing how Korea has shown appreciation for everything that America did for them in the war.

Video Clips

First Impressions of Busan

Albert Gonzales describes what he saw when he first arrived in Busan. He explained how there were machine guns at every intersection as they rode in on the cattle cars. He remembers how terrified he and the soldiers felt not knowing what to expect during this war, yet they persevered.

Tags: Busan,Fear,Impressions of Korea

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The North Korean Soldier

Albert Gonzales explained that the North Korean soldiers were very intelligent and skilled. He said that they knew a lot of details about their weapons and supplies. He also describes how they were so well versed that they would stare at new things to gain a better perception.

Tags: Impressions of Korea,North Koreans,Weapons

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Korea is Thankful

Albert Gonzales describes how he believes Korea is the only country thankful for what America has done for them. He explains how they have assisted in several other wars and have shown their appreciation over time. He states that they are proud of us and we are proud of them too.

*There is some explicit language in this clip.

Tags: Seoul,Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea,Pride

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

A: Albert P. Gonzales.

I: Could you spell your last name?
A: G O N Z A L E S 

I: Um hm.  And what is your birthday?

A: Two, three, twenty-nine.

I: February third.

A: Uh huh.

I: Where were you born?

A: In, in New Mexico.

I: New Mexico.

A: Uh huh.

I: Tell me about your family when you were growing up with your siblings, how many siblings?



How  about your parents?

A: We were, uh, eight in my family.  And I was the second to the last.

I: Eight?

A: Eight.

I: Wow, that’s a big family.  

A: Well, they were (INAUDIBLE)

I: And you’re the second largest, I mean eldest?

A: Second eldest, yeah.

I: Eldest.  Yeah.

A: No no, wait.  Second youngest.  Yeah.  There were one more young than me.


I: So, what school did you go through?

A: I went to, uh, a Catholic school.  The first one was Our Lady of Sorrows.

I: Um hm.

A: In Las Vegas, New Mexico.

I: Um hm.

A: And the next one was group high school, Immaculate Conception High School.

I: When did you graduate?

A: Uh, 1948.  

I: So, what did you do when, after you graduate?



A: I went to work, um, just normally, you know, and everybody had to go to work.  And I went to work, then I got drafted into the, into the Army.

I: When did you, when were you drafted?
A: Uh, February the 8th of 1950.  And, and I went directly to Advanced Basic Training, five weeks.



I: Where?

A: In, in uh, Arkansas, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.  And then from there, got shipped to Korea.

I: Right away?
A: Right away.  I mean no.  (INAUDIBLE)
I: So, when did you leave for Korea, from where?

A: I left in December of 1950, and I got there, I got there the following  month.



We went by boat.

I: So, you arrived in Pusan?

A: In Pusan.  Well, we arrived first into Japan.

I: Yeah.

A: And then, then from there we went to Sasebo.

I: Uh huh.

A: And then from there overnight to Pusan.  And there was a Ripple Nipple there is what they called it.  Everybody got there, you know.

I: So, you arrived in Pusan in January 1951?

A: Yes.  



I: And before you left Korea, for Korea, did you know anything about Korea?
A: No.  I didn’t even know where it was.

I: You didn’t know anything about Korea?

A: I had no idea.  All I know is that it, all I can remember was watching the news and the Russians were boycotting the, the intervention.  And uh, we wanted to rush to get out of the way, you know.  Everybody, public opinion.  



But uh, they vetoed it.  So, during the meeting, in the U.N. meeting

I: Yeah.

A: He, the delegate had to go to the bathroom, and when he left, they voted, and when he come back, it was done, you know.  And they started to read it.  You probably don’t know that.

I: I, I’m teaching about that.  So, I know well.



So, you didn’t know anything about Korea.

A: No.

I: No. 

A: All I know is I knew it was a protectorate of, of Japan.

I: Yeah.  So, when you arrived in Pusan, how was Pusan at the time?

A: Oo, bad.

I: Tell me details. What, what was so bad?

A: Well, first of all those machine guns at every intersection, machine guns all over, you know.  And they were pointed at us, you know.  They were there.

I: Um hm, yeah.  



A: And uh we put our rifles back at them, you know.  But we didn’t know who they were, you know.  There, they were Korean.  They might have been Japanese, I don’t know.

I: Um hm.
A: But uh, we didn’t speak the language.  We didn’t know anything about them.  We realized that we were in cattle trucks.  



You know where they keep cattle?

I: Yeah.

A: They loaded us in there.  In those cattle trucks we were standing up.  Those semi-trucks.

I: Um hm.

A: And we were all soldiers standing up on the thing there.  And they were making turns and we had no idea where we were going.  

I: So, what was your specialty?

A: At that time?

I: Yeah.

A: I was Infantry then.  Everybody was Infantry.


I: So, you were the rifle man?

A: Well yeah if you want to call it that. 

I: (LAUGHS) Um, were you belong to Second Division?

A: No.  We didn’t belong to any division at all.

I: What was your unit?

A: It was a, uh, I don’t know the, 81, no, 80, 81 AU, something like that.  It was

I: You don’t remember your unit?

A: No.  No.

I: Why not?



A: Because when you come into a Ripple Nipple, you don’t come in with a unit.  You come in one man.

I: Uh huh.

A: And then you’re there.  And then they assign you from there to report

I: So, what unit were you assigned to?

A: I was a, I was assigned to an MI unit.

I: What?

A: MI Unit.

I: What is MI Unit?



A: A Military Intelligence Unit.  

I: Oh.  So, you are completely independent of any division?

A: Um um, no.

I: No.

A: No.  No.  The, the MI is, is, is by itself.  And then from there they have detachments, and they assign you to each division.  So, when the balloon goes up, you go with it.



I mean everybody knows that.  You belong to that cell.

I: Um hm.

A: And, and it’s, it’s right there in the (INAUDIBLE) border that, what they call a (Teal and E), the Table of  Equipment.  What is it?  (TABLE OF E)  Table of Organization Equipment, uh.


I: Um hm.

A: Uh, it shows your name, Dr. Han, First Division.

I: Um hm.

A: You know?

I: Um hm.



A: So, when the balloon goes up, Dr. Han went with it.

I: So, you were not trained as an Intelligence soldier, right?
A: Not until later.

I: Not until later.

A: Yeah.  

I: So, what did you do?
A: It was by then, it was like a hands-on training.

I: Hm.  

A: You know.  It’s, it’s assigned and interpreted to you,  and then you did the best you could. 



You know, you’d ask some questions that needed to, well you know, like everything else in the Army, they had, if I remember correctly, they  had an arrival report, okay.  This arrival report was about whoever it was that arrived that night, whether the MP’s brought him or whether the Infantry brought him or whoever brought him [AUDIO GAP]



A: One of the most important parts of that arrival report was do you wanna be, do you wish to be returned to one company’s control, you know?  And the guy would say yes or no.

I: Um hm.

A: Mostly they would say no.  They don’t, they didn’t want to, you know.

I: They didn’t want to what?


A: Go back to North Korea.

I: Um hm.

A: And, and the, you know, they’re thinking ahead.  They’re thinking about over, you know, what do you wanna do when it’s over, you know?  And so, they would ask them that question.  And mostly all of them would say no.

I: But you are getting ahead of.  If so, you were assigned to MI Unit.

A: Uh  huh.

I: Where did you go?



A: In Pusan.

I: You stayed in Pusan?

A: Yes, yes, yes.

I: All the time?

A: Uh, well not all the time.  Time in Kojovo.

I: Okay.

A: There was a big POW camp there.

I: Yes.

A: And, and I went there.  And

I: So, let’s start here.

A: Uh huh.

I: You stayed in Pusan how long?

A: Oh, a good, a good nine months.

I: Nine months?
A: Yeah.



I: And what was your job?

A: I just told you.

I: Interrogation?
A: Interrogator, yeah  

I: Uh huh.  And how many North Koreans did you actually interrogate?

A: Oo, get out of here.  

I: Hundred, thousand?

A: No, not that much, not thousands.  But I don’t know how many.  Sometimes you could do maybe 10, 10 a day, sometimes maybe one.



I: Did you do it by yourself, or were there any other people?

A: I had an interpreter.

I: Wow.

A: Uh huh. Korean man.  I learned a lot from him.  And then I had another guy, a Japanese guy, Osakawa.  He was, you wanna close the door?  He was, uh, Japanese, (NESA)

I: Uh huh.

A: And then there was Frank Miata, Burano was there, uh.



The, some of the guys that I, that I knew.

I: So, did you have a questionnaire or, I mean how, you didn’t have, uh, any intelligence training before, and how did you do it?

A: No, they had, they, they had training, you know, you know.  You’re not gonna put somebody in there like that and say hey, that’s questions.  No.  They, they had classes.



And they says you know you gotta ask this question, make sure we want.  For instance, one was religious activities in North Korea.

I: Um hm.

A: You know?  That was very important.  And then they

I: So, explain, explain.  This video will be watched by the young kids.  They would like to know what kind of questions you asked to this, uh, North Korean soldiers were arrested.

A: Yeah.  



I: So, think about and tell me detail, what kind of question, first, first what did you ask and so on.  No?

A: No.  It, it, it, it, it would take all day be, before we, we got to the first part, you, you know.  It, it’s uh, that’s not the way the Army works.  The Army says you go do it.  And this is the way you’re gonna do it.  


Then, and if you deviate, then you have to answer to me, you know.  Then most of that stuff was classified.  It, it was not to be divulged.  It was for national suc, none.  You couldn’t discuss that with the interpreter.  

I: Right.  So, I am asking you to tell us what kind of questions you asked of the North Korean soldier.



A: What kind of questions do you think that, that a guy 

I: I don’t know.  You tell me.

A: If, if he got captured

I: Yeah.

A: What, what to you think they’re gonna ask you?  First thing they’re gonna ask you your unit.

I: Yeah.

A: Okay.  They, they’ll want to know where your unit is.  Okay.  They wanna know what kind of training you’ve had.  They wanna know what kind of equipment you have, you know, something that you would see.

I: Um hm.

A: That uh, only you would know, you know.  



Uh, now sometimes a guy would be talking about tanks and, and, and uh, and the interrogator was talking about tanks, water tanks, you know, and a guy says well I saw one, one tank up on a hill (LAUGHS) and then it turned out it was not a tank, you know. It was a, a water tank.

I: Water tank.

A: You know what I’m saying?  So you had to wait around that, you know.  They got excited.

I: Yeah.  



So those are the questions?

A: Yeah.  (STUMBLES)  You were just a soldier, you know.

I: Um hm.

A: You were not in this for, got a, a crystal ball and you could tell everything you knew, you know.  You just get to, you just had to tell them look, this is the end for you.  There’s no more war.  That’s it.  You’re gonna go to a place where you’re gonna have a bed, three squares and a flop, okay, and you’re gonna be able to write letters home.  



You can, a whole bunch of other stuff you can do here, you know.  But to you, it’s over.  Not to me.  I have to be here, you know.  And they kind of put to your side a little bit, sort of help you.

I: What kind of North Korean soldiers you, you dealed?  I mean, can you categorize type of personality?

A: Yeah.
I: Tell me about those.

A: Let me tell you.

I: Yeah.  



A: The North Korean soldier was very well versed on his unit.

I: Um hm.

A: He knew, he knew how many weapons they had, and he knew who had what weapons, okay.  He knew where supply was.  He, he, he knew that if something went wrong with your weapon that you could turn it in and get one for another one.

I: Um hm.

A: You know?



A: He, he knew that.  Like if, if he saw something that he hadn’t seen before like a jeep, a Russian jeep, they would describe that thing to you to a tee, to include the, the, the (ANN) meters, you know, the, the speedometer, the, you know, stuff like that.  They were good.  And you know why?  Because they used to stare at things.  They see something new, they would stand up and look at it and look at it and look at it.



The Americans said why they always staring at me?  Well cause, they’re, they’re, they’re, that’s how they are.  When they see something new they never seen before, they stare at it. I don’t know if they do now, you know.  That was years, years back.  

I: Were they cooperative to you?  North Korean soldiers.  Were they cooperative to you?



A: Yeah.  Most of them were.

I: They just answer if you ask questions?

A: Yeah.  That’s why you have to ask the right question.

I: Right.  

A: Yeah.  You could

I: So we, we wanna know what, what was the right questions that you asked?

A: Yeah.  

I: Were there any, uh, North Korean soldier refused to talk to you?

A: No, I don’t remember.

I: Really?

A: I don’t remember ever.

I: So, all of them were really



A: Well, they would refuse to talk to the interpreter.  No not refuse to me.

I: Um.

A: And the interpreter would talk back and forth and say what the hell are you really, blah, blah, blah, you know?  You did, not, it was not until after I learned Korean. I  was sent to, to language school, uh, and I learned for, for one year, I learned Korean.

I: When did you learn Korean language?

A: 1953, 1952.



I: 1952:

A: Two, yeah.

I: Where, where were you sent to learn Korean language?

A: Monterey, California.

I: Monterey.  And how long did you study there?

A: One year.

I: One year.  And then you went back to Korea?

A: Yes.

I: When did you arrive back to Korea?

A: Uh, April of that year.

I: 1953?

A: Three, was it ’53?  No, ’52.  I don’t remember exactly what year it was.



I: So, you were in Pusan for nine month, in 1950.

A: Um hm.

I: No, ’51.  And then you went to Monterey, 1951.
A: No, no.

I: You went to Kojodo?

A: I went to Kojodo.

I: Um hm.  How long did you stay in Kojodo?

A: Probably another nine months.  



I: So yes, you went to Monterey in 1952.

A: Um hm.

I: Right?  And you came back 1953 before, before the war ended.

A: Then I went to uh, to uh, Intelligence School.  You had a different MOS, but you, you still there.

I: Yeah.

A: You know the, you reported, and they said okay.  Put your tent up there.  Up there’s where you’ll be.  And so, you went there.  They got attacked that night.  They didn’t go around your tent.  They just went right through.



If you didn’t you had to.  I swear, lot of plans I spent, uh, what they called Stand two, you know, for, where you, you stand facing that way, and the other guy stands facing this way.’

I: Uh huh.

A: Okay.  And I used to fall asleep, and the guy would be hey, hey, hey, hey, you know.

I: So, you called this stand two?



A: I did.

I: Uh huh.

A: Everybody did.

I: I didn’t know.  I didn’t know the terminology.  Stand two means that two soldiers against each other

A: Yeah.

I: And looking at opposite directions.

A: Opposite directions.

I: Uh huh.

A: Yeah.  And all way, keep the enemy from sneaking up on you cause they would go in there and, and, while you were sleeping, uh.

I: They’d kill.

A: And close the, the zipper, you know.  



You wanna get out and you can’t get out.

I: Hm.

A: They shoot you. Huh.

I: So, they closed the sleeping bag, and then they shoot.

A: Well, some would just caught with their sleeping bag closed.  Some were with a hole in them.  But you, you heard that noise when that, that, locked that bed

I: Um  hm

A: It’s a shot like that.

I: Uh huh.

A: That loud.

I: Um.  



A: It goes bang, and then you look, and somebody fell.  Somebody, yeah.  It’s, it’s not like uh, huh, 

I: Must been very scary, huh?



A: Yeah.  A little, you know, kids like now when they come back, it, and it, because you force them to come back.  And I don’t particularly care to talk about that.

I: Um.

A: But I know it’s probably gonna serve a purpose.  I don’t know what purpose.  But I don’t wanna say things that makes me look good.



I: So, after you, when did you leave Korea?

A: I left in 1950, uh, three, on the, 1953 after the war ended.

I: Um hm.

A: We had to leave.  And then uh, I went back in 1960.  And then I went back in 1972, same unit, same everything but different people.  It was really strange, you know.  



I: So, you were still in MI unit?
A: Yeah, still.

I: Wow.

A: I, I retired as an interrogator.  Yeah.

I: Did you have a chance to interrogate in 1960 and 1972?

A: Yeah, maybe criminals.

I: Just criminal.  American soldiers.

A: Yeah.  But they needed somebody to interpret.  I, I was a court interpreter, too.  

I: Were you able to speak Korean at the time?



A: Um hm.  I learned it right quick.

I: Um hm.  I think that’s why they liked you.

A: Woody, woody uh, woody uh, (SPEAKING KOREAN?)



I: So, you learned Korean to eat?

A: Uh, yeah.  

I: Yeah, yeah, yeah.  That’s the best way to, to learn.

A: (INAUDIBLE)  Rose wouldn’t let me, wouldn’t let me eat unless I said it in Korean.

I: When you left Korea after the Korea, 1953,

A: Uh huh.

I: You stayed in the military.

A: Yes.

I: And you continued to do

A: In MI.

I: MI.

A: And I came to Fort Hood.

I: Fort, uh huh.  



A: No.  I came to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  And then from  North Carolina, I went to the language school to study Persian.

I: Um hm.

I: Have you been back to Korea?

A: Since then?  Yes.

I: When did you

A: I went back in ’84.

I: Eighty-four?

A: Uh huh.

I: For what?

A: To visit.

I: Just to visit or to work there?

A: No, to visit.

I: Oh.



A: I was out of the Army then.

I: So, what, what did you saw?

A: Well, I saw my mother-in-law’s grave, uh, and visited with her family.  They lived in, they lived in Inchon now, you know.

I: Um hm.

A: And I went there.  We stayed there for about two, three weeks.  And uh,

I: How did Korea change?

A: It, it was different.  It

I: You were at, you were in Korea 1950’s, and now you are in 1984.

A: Okay.



I: Much difference?
A: What’s the difference?  In 1950, you couldn’t even ride a taxi in Korea.  You couldn’t eat.  You couldn’t drink the water.  You couldn’t do nothing like that.  Then in 1984, you could go to one of the finest restaurants in town and uh, be treated like a king. 



I: Anything you found very interesting from your interrogation of North Korean soldiers? Anything that you remember?
A: Yeah.  It was different.  The, the, the place where we kept them is no longer there. It was civilian.  There was a hotel in one of them.

I: No, no, no.  I’m talking about at the time in 1950.

A: Oh, in 1950.
I: Yeah.  Any, anything, anything that you can share which is declassified, anything that you found very interesting to hear from  North Korean soldiers.



A: Yeah.

I: Well, tell me please.

A: Not, not North Korean soldiers.  South Korean soldiers where I saw both, and the difference was they would come in.  The America, the, the Ko, South Korean soldiers would come in and just grab anybody, anybody from the street, and march them.

I: Why?

A: Put them in the Army.  

I: Oh.

A: That’s how they drafted them.



You could see the mamas crying along the side of the, and just try to keep in line and march them up there. 

I: So they just picking up every man from the street.

A: In the market, yeah.  Every man that they thought should be in the Army, you went.

I: Hm.

A: He’d find himself the next morning marching.


A: Yeah.  



They did.  And I loved them to pieces, those, they called them Katusas.

I: Uh huh.

A: Korean Army Attached to US Army, yeah.

I: But anything that you remember from what you interrogated North Korean soldiers?



A: Yeah.  (INAUDIBLE) send out to me is, you know, when, when, when they capture, uh, uh, a hill like Old Baldy for instance

I: Um hm

A: somebody had to take the ammo over there.  And so, they had what they called the (CHUGGY)bearers.  (CHUGGY) bear was a, was a, a, a guy that carried weapons, carried, uh, 

I: Heavy

A: Any stuff on the (INAUDIBLE)

I: Right.  



A: Take it up there.  And they would be mistreated by the Army, even to people that were helping.  They would make them sit over there and they’d smoke a cigarette and, you’d think maybe they’d give them food or something, you know, while they were waiting.  I used to give some of my C-rations, you know.  But nothing else.



Just leave them alone.  Don’t, don’t, don’t mess with them.  And, and I don’t, they were on our side, you know.  And I don’t, I never, never, never have seen, and you need to put this down, anybody thanking those people.

I: Um hm.

A: They, they called them (CHUGGY) bearers.

I: Um hm.  



A: And they were, uh, old men, old men.  And they got killed a lot.  The, the North Koreans would shoot them in a minute.  They were coming down from the hill, hardly ever going up.  But coming down, they knew which rock they would come down on.

I: Uh huh.

A: And they would just ambush them.

I: Yeah.  



A: They’d kill them.  And nobody, they never got, uh, you know how they shoot a soldier to get so much recompense, you know.  They didn’t get nothing.  Just laid there and had the folks bury them.

I: You didn’t know nothing about Korea when you left for Korea.  But you married Korean woman,

A: Yes.
I: And you been there for long time

A: Uh huh.

I: And you are very exceptional that you speak like a Korean people.

A: Yeah.



I: So, what is Korea to you now?  In, personally, personally.


I: Um hm.

A: You know.  If, if, if I don’t speak Korean, I, I feel bad, like, like you eating rice, you know.  Uh, I have to, I have to.

I: So

A: So, I speak.  I see somebody that looks Korean, I’ll ask them right away.  How, (INAUDIBLE) And they, and they (INAUDIBLE) Vietnamese I said oh shit.  Forget it.



Some look a little bit like Korean.  But most of them don’t.  The Cambodians don’t; don’t pass for Korean.

I: So, what is Korea to you personally?
I: That’s your own country?
A: Well no, I don’t wanna say

I: You feel like your own country?

A: No.  I, I feel close to it.  When something happens to Korea, boy I bought three newspapers to make sure that I, I read uh, the right thing.

I: Um.  



A: And before I, I left the, the, the, the school, they taught us how to read Korean.  Korean is not very hard to read.

I: It’s very easy actually.
A: Easy actually, you know.  But uh, like everything else, you forget, you know.  Where one word ends, the other one begins.

I: Um hm.  So, it’s a very strange.  You never knew before you go there.

A: Um hm.

I: And you have a merry, marriage.  And then now you feel very close to that country.



A: Um hm.  

Male Voice: Love at first sight.

I: Hm?

Male Voice: Love at first sight.

I: Yeah.

Male Voice: (INAUDIBLE)

A: No.  I, I, I, what everybody else, everybody else would go like on R and R?  I, I wasn’t allowed to take that.  I’d go visit her; you know.  

I: Right. You don’t need R and R.  You have your wife right there.

A: Yeah, right there, you know?

I: Yeah.  How did your wife like American life here?



A: No, she, she didn’t like it.  And very, very shocking for her because first of all, um, we came to North Carolina, right, Fayetteville.  They didn’t have any Oriental food there, you know.  We’d have to find a Chinese restaurant somewhere for her, you know, cause she missed their food.  



And, and so did the, the children.  Later one we had two, then three, then four, then five and six.  That’s six children in my house, in my family.  They’re all alive, and uh the eldest is an attorney.  


After my wife died,

I: Um

A: everything, everything shut down on me.  My kidneys went, and my, everything.  Forgot how to walk, forgot how to talk. I forgot to swallow. I forgot how to eat, how to chew, uh

I: Any other message do you wanna leave to this interview about your Korean War service?
A: Yeah.  Only thing I can tell you, I, I’ve been saying this without reservation in front of these two people that

I: Yeah.



A: that who are veterans from there.  And that is that Korea is the only country that I’ve been appreciative to what we did there. I mean they had fought in Viet Nam with us.  They have fought wherever we needed it.  They’re ready to go.  And, and without any bull shit, you know.  Um, well, they met and they, they just couldn’t do it. 



And they never say anything.  They, we have a function, they, they donate towards it.  And uh, they, they help us, and they’re very proud of us.  And we’re proud of them, too.  They, they, we, I’d heard a guy from, from uh, uh, some (INAUDIBLE) the President, we, I was able to get him to speak to us.  And he came to spoke to us and he said the only thing he remember from the Korea War was this truck going back and forth making a lot of dust, you know.  



That’s all the only thing that he, he didn’t hear any bang bangs or, or the (INAUDIBLE) or anything like that, you know.  He, he, they don’t, they don’t have that.  Don’t have that feeling.  So I’m saying that, uh, Korea is only, France, we saved their ass twice, twice, by the Germans.  The country.  They never said thank you.  They, they were pissed off cause we were using the word French fries.



So that’s the only thing I’ve gotta say, uh, about a lot of Korea.  And, and because of their appreciativeness, I’m also appreciative to them.

I: Thank you.

A: Okay, thank you.

I: Very nice.

A: Thank you, Mr. Han, Dr. Han.