Korean War Legacy Project

Alford Rodriguez Rivera


Alford Rodriguez Rivera served as an Army medic during the Korean War, hailing from New York. He shares that, prior to the war, he knew nothing about Korea. He recollects Korea’s landscape and recounts his experiences as a medic. He also shares accounts of meals and living conditions as well as sending letters home to family during the war. He is proud to have served in the military. He offers encouragement in joining the military to younger generations.

Video Clips

Letters with Money Sent Home

Alford Rodriguez Rivera explains that he sent letters home to family during the war. He shares that he cannot quite recall the amount of money he made each month, but the figure ranged between $100-$200. He describes sending some of his earnings to his uncle during the war. He confirms having a girlfriend during the war but cannot recollect sending her letters.

Tags: Home front,Letters

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Living Conditions in the Foxholes

Alford Rodriguez Rivera recounts his meals and his living conditions during the war. He explains how he ate C-rations and slept in foxholes during his time there. He shares that he did not know anything about Korea before arriving. He recollects Korea being mountainous with many trees and there being snow in the winter.

Tags: Cold winters,Food,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Prior knowledge of Korea

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Poud To Have Served the Flag

Alford Rodriguez Rivera shares that he is proud to have served the flag of the United States. To younger generations, he offers encouragement for joining the Army. He emphasizes his pride again regarding his service in Korea.

Tags: Message to Students,Pride

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Video Transcript

INTERVIEWER: Hi, my name is Jongwoo Han. I’m the president of Korean War Legacy Foundation, and this is February 11th 2016, San Juan Puerto Rico. It is my honor to meet you here. Would you please introduce your name for the audience? Please.


RODRÍGUEZ RIVERA: Alford Rodriguez, A L F O R   R O D R I G U E Z.


I: Mhm… 




I: …And when were you born 


RR: March 9, 1931.


I: And where we’re born?


RR: New York, Brooklyn.


I: New York? Brooklyn? 


RR: Yes sir.


I: Wow so you from New York.


RR: Nuyorican. 


I: Tell me about your family when you were growing up, 




I: …your siblings, your parents.


RR: My family, I got three sons, one daughter and two sons.


I: What about your parents? what were you doing?


RR: My parents live in New York.


I: Okay, and what school did you finished there?


RR: I went to Puerto Rican school, [0:01:29 inaudible.]




I: So. you moved to Puerto Rico?


RR: Yes


I: When?


RR: 1970-71.


I: What school did you finish in Brooklyn New York?


RR: Over there I don’t went to school I went to Puerto Rico.


I: Oh.


RR: I don’t study.


I: When did you move to Puerto Rico?


RR: 1971.


I: 71?




RR: Yes.


I: Okay. So, when did you join the military?


RR: I was in the National Gard first. 


I: When was it?


RR: 1949.


I: 1949.


RR: Yes.


I: …and how did you come to know




I: …about the breakout of the Korean War?


RR: Because I was active, they take me I was in the National Guard and then I was force active that year.


I: Aha.


RR: Yes, and then I joined the army.


I: So, when were you called to serve for the Korean War when war is when was it?




RR: 1950 – 52.


I: And do you remember how did you come to know about the Korean War?


RR: The Korean War?


 I: Did you see it from the news, or did you read the newspaper or, or…?


RR: Oh yes, I was in the army.


I: You were in the army. 


RR: Yes. I was in the army…




RR: …and for the paper.


I: Oh, you came to know through the paper.


RR: Yes sir.


I: Right.


RR: Before.


I: So, tell me about your basic military training where did you receive the basic military training and what was your specialty and what was your unit?


RR: I was in the Camp Tortuguero. In Tortuguero I joined the army then they sent me to service.




RR: I take the training over there in Tortuguero, and then I went to Salinas, I went to Cayey, I took training in special services in the medical company.


I: But where was it? is it in the Puerto Rico or it was in the States?


RR: In Puerto Rico.




I: Puerto Rico. So, you didn’t move to Puerto Rico in 1971?


RR: Yes sir.


I: Okay what was your unit? 


RR: Medical company.


I: Oh…


RR: 99 combined.


I: 99?


RR: 91… 


I: Okay.


RR: Yes 91.


I: So, you were trained as a medic?


RR: I was. 


I: Hmm. How was it? was it difficult?… 




I: …what kind of skill did you learn from them?


RR: They give me some training, and then the give first aid, and then pressures, I put needles in the hospital. I work in the Hospital and then I took some x-rays.


I: X-ray.


RR: X-ray, they put me…




RR: …In x-rays to work.


I: Was it difficult to work with?


RR: No.


I: No?


RR: No, it was not. I liked it so much and then to the company.


 I: What was your rank at the time?


RR: I was PSC.


I: Private.


RR: Yes.


I: Okay.






I: Mhm. I mean when did you leave for Korea?


RR: I don’t remember when… I joined the… [0:06:18 inaudible], no I don’t remember.


I: What year? what year were you in Korea?


RR: 51…




RR: …50, 50…


I: 51?


RR: Yeah, 50, 51. I worked six months. 


I: I’m sorry?


RR: I was six months.


I: Six months?


RR: Yeah.


I: So, was it 1950 or 1951?


RR: 1950.


I: 1950?


RR: Yes.


I: Where were you? 




I: …did you did you took the ship, or did you fly?


RR: We took the ship and then we join over there in Korea.


I: Where did you arrive in Korea?


RR: I was attached to a company, to Company B or C, I don’t remember then I was in in the parallel 38.  




I: Aha. Did you arrive in Pusan or Incheon, do you remember the harbor?


RR: Busan, Busan.


I: Busan?


RR: Busan.


I: Ah, tell me about the Pusan you saw when you first arrived there? how was it how was Pusan at the time that you arrived there? 


RR: When I arrived, I joined the company and then I made guards, I made attached to…




RR: …the unit, and then I served the company. 


I: How was Korean people that you saw them?


RR: The Korean people was nice for us, okay. They’re friendly, good.


I: Really?


RR: Yes.


I: One day looking for something to eat, or was it all day poor, miserable?


RR: Sometimes, they look




RR: …and everything, sometimes, I have a boy, that is on that picture. He was my friend and then he helped me with the laundry with the shoes with the… Korean boy, he was a Korean boy.


I: Uh-huh.


RR: And then I give him food, we eat…




RR: …he helped me to take the bed and everything.


I: Uh-huh. So, you move 38 parallel from Busan?


RR: Hmm?


I: Did you move to 38 parallel?


RR: No, I stayed there.


I: In Busan?


RR: Si.


I: You were in Pusan?


RR: Yes after, after I went to the company.


I: Uh-huh. So, you didn’t you didn’t go up to the parallel 38?




RR: Yes, I went to the parallel.  I was in the parallel 38, we were guarding the line.


I: Yep.


RR: We were the support and then we used to go to look for Korean people in the mountains. To see, and then they attack, we attack sometimes the Kelly.



RR: Kelly.


I: But you were medic you were medical?


RR: I was a medic.


I: Yeah. So, tell me about the typical day of your service, how was it? what did you do? and what happened to you?


RR: Well, we used car just to make my contact with the Korean people at night




RR: And we stayed there watching for big attacks, the attackers.


I: And you treated many wounded soldiers right?


RR: Yes.


I: Tell me about it, how was it?


RR: Sometimes they attacked us and then was one…




RR: …ones that we take care of their wounds.


I: Can you tell me the details? For example.


RR: I took it, I put a patch to stop the blood, made some push and send him back to the hospital.




I: How difficult was it? to treat those whom these soldiers? Did you do you still have some memories about pains that the soldier used to have?


RR: Yeah, I took care of the wounded.


I: Do you still have that memory?


RR: I still have them. Yeah, I remember. 


I: Does that appear in your dream?


RR: No.


I: It doesn’t bother you?


RR: No.


I: No?


RR: No.




I: Hmm.  


RR: Doesn’t bother me.


I: So, you saw many people killed?


RR: No in front of me. We used to attack one day; we attack them too. I was frozen the leg.


I: Aha.


RR: Someday…




RR: …they were falling in the water, and we finish.


I: What was the most difficult thing during your service in the Korean War?


RR: I don’t think so, I don’t think not. Nothing, no.




I: No?


RR: No.


I: Nothing difficult? 


RR: Nothing, nothing.


I: Wasn’t it too cold for you? or too hard?


RR: Well, it went to cool and everything, we used to go sometimes in guards, no too many. 


I: Hmm.


RR: Not too many.


I: Were you afraid?




I: Were you feel did you fear that you might lose your life?


RR: No.


I: No? 


RR: No because… I don’t know. I don’t think of that, no? because I was always protected. 


I: You were protected?


RR: For the company.


I: So, you were in the hospital? mass unit? or you are in somewhere else in the frontline?




RR: I was in the frontline.


I: So, you were not protected?


RR: I was protected, yes. Be careful and taking care of my friends, and then one time I got sick of my hands, I was sick I went to the hospital.




I: Mhm.


RR: Background and therefore in went back.


I: Did you write a letter back to your family?


RR: Yes, one time.


I: What did you write?


RR: Well, asking how they feel…




RR: I would say everything, I sent money.


I: You sent the money?


RR: I sent the money. I put my uncle to receive it. 


I: Your uncle?


RR: My uncle.


I: Why not your parents?


RR: Because he had no money and the father there in New York. They had no money.




I: You didn’t have father?


RR: No.


I: No?


RR: Without, no.


I: He died? 


RR: No, he used to live but I don’t know. I don’t recognize him.


I: Oh, okay.


RR: No.

I: So, you gave the money to your uncle?


RR: My uncle.


I: Okay. You will not be married at the time?


RR: No, I wasn’t married.




I: Did you have a girlfriend?


RR: Yes.

I: Did you write the letter back to your girlfriend?


RR: I don’t know. 


I: Did you have a girlfriend during the war?


RR: Yes, I had it.


I: During the war.


RR: During the war?


I: Yeah. Whom did you write letter?


RR: I don’t remember. I don’t remember.


I: Hmm. How much did you receive during the war?




RR: 100, 200, I don’t remember. 


I: You don’t remember.


RR: No.


I: Mhm. what else did you do rather than treating the wounded Soldier? what did you do during the war in Korea? did you talk to Korean people, or did you go out or… what did you do?


RR: Well, I used to take care of…




RR: …the frontline, guard, read…  


I: What did you eat?


RR: We eat can food.


I: Ah?


RR: We eat can food.


I: Can food?


RR: Yes.


I: C ration.


RR: C ration.


I: Huh, how about hot meals like an egg or hot meal,


RR: No, no.


I: No hot meal at all?


RR: No, no.




I: Where did you sleep?


RR: In the bunker.


I: Bunker. 


RR: Yes, a hole, we used to make a hole.


I: It’s a bigger than foxhole. 


RR: Foxhole, Foxhole.


I: Full charge?


RR: Foxhole.


I: Poncho?


RR: Like you said.


I: Poncho?


RR: No, no, foxhole.


I: Foxhole.


RR: Like you said.


I: How was it? to sleep there, how was it?




RR: Well, too cool, too cool.


I: Do you remember?


RR: I don’t try to remember. No sir, I don’t try.


I: Did you know anything about Korea before you went there?


RR: No.


I: You didn’t know anything about Korea.


RR: No.


I: Uh-huh, you didn’t know where Korea was, right?




RR: No.


I: No, how was Korea when you were there? can you describe the scenes of Korea how was it?


RR: It was like a mountain, a lot of trees, a lot of snow during the winter.  We used to…




RR: …to make connection more far than…  we used to tent, make a tent, a hospital and everything, medical.


I: Where there nurses?


RR: No.


I: Female nurses.


RR: No. 


I: How many doctors?




RR: Two, two or three. I didn’t count. I don’t know.


I: So, when did you leave Korea?


RR: I don’t remember.


I: Uh-huh. Have you been back to Korea?


RR: No.


I: Never?


RR: No.


I: Uh-huh.




I: Do you know what happened to Korea after you left? after the war? do you know their economy? Korean economy, Korean democracy?


RR: I’ve read the paper and the television, and by bulletins. The news.


I: Oh, so…


RR: I watched the news.


I: Uh-huh. So, what do you know about Korea now? Korea now?




RR: Well, now is… I mean I read about North Korea; I don’t distinguish South Korea is award way.


I: Yep. 


RR: North Korean is looking for trouble, now making… 




RR: some bomb or some like that…


I: Mhm.


RR: Armaments. They are looking for trouble, and making noise…




RR: …some noise desperate.


I: Do you know about South Korean economy?


RR: No.


I: The Korea was very devastated, right? mostly destroyed?


RR: Mostly, they…




RR: …don’t…. they don’t live to good.


I: Do you know now Korean economy is 11th largest in the world? Very developed?


RR: Yes, I know.


I: You know that? 


RR: Yes, yes.


I: What do you know tell me about it?


RR: I won’t tell you.


I: You know Korean economy is now very big, right?




RR: Yeah.


I: Yeah?


RR: Yeah. 


I: So, Korea in 1950 was miserable, very poor, now we are the 11th largest economy in the world.


RR: Now they have progress. 


I: So, what do you think about that?


RR: No good, not to good… 




RR: …I know is good.


I: Is good.


RR: Is good.


I: Because you helped us.


RR: Mhm. Yes, United State helped South Korea. They’re pushing to live better.


I: Yes. So, I want to thank you for your fight for us.




RR: Well, a lot of people say that when I came out of Puerto Rico.  


I: Are there Korean people here in Puerto Rico?


RR: Yes, here are some, not too many.


I: Not too many?


RR: Many but they live. 


I: Do they say thank you?


RR: Yeah, they thank you.




I: Mhm. So, are you proud of your fight for us?


RR: Oh yes. Yeah, I’m proud of the flag. The flag of the United States, and honor veterans.


I: Mhm.


RR: And American too. 




I: What would you say to our young generations about the Korean War?


RR: Well, I’ll tell them to join the army, navy and to be proud of being there…




RR: …in the United States, and so and so. 


I: Do you want to go back to Korea? Want you see what’s been happening there?


RR: Well, I tell you my friends that I’ll go over there and service again, and then to pick up these dead people…




RR: …the wounded people.


I: Yeah.


RR: The wounded, I say.


I: So, do you want to go back to Korea?


RR: No, I don’t want it?


I: Why not? don’t you want to see developed Korea now?


RR: No, I don’t want it, I don’t want it.




RR: I don’t want to go.


I: Mmm. It’s too much for you?


RR: Yeah, over here I live my life, over there they live their lives their way.


I: So, you live your life here and they live their own life.


RR: Yes. That’s it.


I: Anything that you want to say to Korean people?




RR: No.


I: No? tell me any other story that you want to tell me, and to the people who will watch your interview, anything you want to add?


RR: I don’t say nothing at all.


I: Mhm.




RR: Not yet. I dot want to talk about.


I: Does that bother you?


RR: No.


I: But then you can talk.


RR: I don’t want to talk to.


I: Why? why you don’t want to talk?


RR: Well…


I: Is it true is it hurting you?


RR: No.




I: No, okay. Alford, just tell me if there is anything you want to say to me about your service during the war. Any other thing you want to say to me?


RR: No, no.


I: Thank you, Alford.


RR: Thank you very much. 


I: Yeah, you came to Korea…


RR: It is a pleasure to serve you.


I: Yeah.




RR: And Noemi I remember “siempre en español” [always in spanish].


I: Uh-huh. It is my honor and great pleasure to meet you here in San Juan Puerto Rico, and to learn from you about what you did during the war, I have my friend here Gisela and could you ask him… 




I: …if there is anything, that he was to say and add to this interview in in Spanish?


GISELA: Si tiene algo mas que usted quisiera decir, que quisiera añadir y lo puede decir en Español acerca de Corea, algo que quiera decir y lo puede decir en Español.

GISELA: Is there anything else you want to say or add to the interview, ad you can say it in Spanish, anything about Korea, something you want to say, you can say it n Spanish.


RR: No remember.


I: Uh-huh.


G: ¿No se acuerda?

G: Don’t you remember?


RR: No, me acuerdo. No.

RR: I don’t remember. No.




I: Ask him to see if he wants to go back to Korea?


G: A usted le gustaría regresar al Corea? Ver a Corea como esta ahora?

G: Would you like to go back to Korea? See how Korea looks now?


RR: Bueno, me gustaría viajar como dice, verlo pero de viaje de visita.

RR: Well, I would like it but see it just as a visit.


G: He will love to go and see it, but just to visit. 


I: Not to fight, right?


RR: No to fight, not to fight.


I: Hahaha. That’s right. No more fights. No more fights. 




I: Yeah.


RR: No more fights.


I: Tell him that Korean government has a program inviting veterans and it’s almost free for a week.


G: Lo que pasa es que el gobierno de Corea tiene un programa…

G: The thing is that Korean government has a program…


RR: Si

RR: Yes.


G: …donde casi, paga el viaje casi completo…

G: …which pays almost the whole trip…


RR: Si. 

RR: Yes.


G: …a los veteranos de Corea que quieran regresar ver como esta Corea ahora, en forma de agradecimiento…

G: …to the veterans that want to go back and see how Korea is now, In a thankfulness way…


RR: Si.

RR: Yes.


G: …de demostrarles a ustedes que…

G: …to show all of you that…




G: …la participación de ustedes es lo que ha hecho posible que Corea del Sur este como este ahora. 

G: … your participation is what has made possible that South Korea is now as it is today.


RR: Si.

RR: Yes.


G: …tiene un programa el gobierno, que si les interesa y puede ir usted y el gobierno paga casi todos los gastos.

G: The government has a program that, if you are interested you can go and the government will pay almost all the expenses.


RR: Tengo que hablar con mi jefa.

RR: I have to talk to my boos.


G: He say he has to talk with his boos.


I: Boos, yes. So, I’ll talk to her. So, I think I have to conclude because 




I: I don’t think he will not have any more to talk.


G: Ok. Concluimos entonces, esta concluida la entrevista.

G: Ok, we finished, we finished the interview.


RR: Aja, como no.

RR: Yes. You’re right.


G: Muchas gracias por venir. Muchas gracias.

G: Thank you for coming. Thank you very much.


RR: It’s a pleasure to talk to him and know him.


I: Alford Rodriguez Rivera thank you so much thank you so much for fighting for Korea because you fought for us now, we are very much 




I: developed economy and democracy, thank you again.


RR: Yes, very much.


I: Thank you.


RR: Thank you


G: Ok.


[End of Recorded Material]