Andrew Lanza was born in 1931 in Brooklyn, New York. He was studying to be a watchmaker when he decided to enlist because his brother was serving in Korea. He enlisted in the United States Marines and was in Korea from 1952-1953. As a Marine, he specialized in artillery and security all the way through the end of the war. He revisited South Korea in 2002 and was awed by its advancement along with the gracious hospitality of the Korean people. He feels great pride in the fact that he played a role in helping to forge a path to freedom for the people of South Korea.
Children of War
Andrew Lanza's initial encounter as he landed in Pusan was filled with shock because he never heard of Korea. One image that he will never forget is hungry children carrying other children on their backs. Some of the children were, as he described, "disfigured."
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Police Action or War?
Andrew Lanza debated about the early onset of the Korean War being described as a police action by President Truman. The American foreign policy of containment provided Truman leverage to become involved in this conflict. Andrew Lanza felt that it should be considered a war.
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Andrew Lanza was upset when the armistice took place in 1953 because he was fighting for every last hill against the enemy. The United States Marines were so sad to see his fellow troops die on the last few days of war. After going home, he was overjoyed to see his girlfriend, family, and friends again.
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[Beginning of Transcribed Material]
A: My name is Andrew Lanza. I am 81 years old. I was born in 1931 in Brooklyn, New York. I got, I went to Korea in 1952, and I left Korea in 1953.
I: What were you doing around the time the Korean War broke out?
A: Well, it was, right. Well, I was working, I was learning to be A watch maker.
And when I went in at that time, I thought it was a good time because I heard about Korea. I didn’t know where it was. And I felt that it was good to be in the Service at that time. My first reaction to Korea first of all, I didn’t know where Korea was. I had no idea where it was. I never heard of Korea. But when that thing, War started, my brother Ralph Lanza was in the United States Army.
And he went to Korea before I did. And if my brother went, I felt that it was my duty then, time I’m ready to go. I was frightened. I, when we landed in Pusan, I, when we landed in Korea, I was devastated that it was pouring rain. They, we had the trucks take us to a destination,
I: Um hm.
A: And we had to stand in this, in the pouring rain. I never saw rain like that. And the thing that kept in my mind which I never forgot is seeing the little children coming, seven years old, six years old, carrying babies on their back. I never seen that. I couldn’t believe it. And there they were. They didn’t have much to eat, and see, some of them were disfigured. I never seen a child disfigured, and I couldn’t believe it.
I: What month of 1952 did you arrive in Korea?
A: In August 1952. And we left in August ’53. And that was the big thing, to see these little children asking for something. So, we had chocolate and we gave it to them. And to that, in my mind, was one of the hardest things to see a child like that.
I: What kind of military training did you receive in the State before you.
A: Well, the Marine training, every Marine is trained to be an Infantry man. But my MOS was O811. That is Artillery. And I, we had the 105 Howitzer. That’s what I was attached to. Later on, I was in the S2. That’s Security 2. It’s with the FDC
And we would, our job was, the FO’s would call us if they saw different movements or anything now. They would give us the coordinates where it is. I’d put it on the map. If we, that, we’d know that’s where we had to fire. I would call the other FO; I see where they got their (UNINTELLIGIBLE) their movement. And then I’d get the two of them, throw my line, we got a destination to hit. And that’s where we used as a firing there.
I: So, where did you arrive in Korea? Was it Pusan?
A: In Pusan. Inchon.
A: Inchon, I’m sorry.
I: Um hm.
A: Inchon. And the first I ever saw Seoul where we went to, it took us past Seoul, and it was all the homes were flat. That is the first time I had seen that. And I tell you something. I went back 50 years. It was a beautiful city.
What they did I couldn’t believe. And that’s the Korean people. The Korean people, the way I looked at it, everything they do has to be straight and to the point but right. If it’s not right, they wait till they get what they thought was right. And I admire that. And I’m very fortunate that I did go there.
I: When did you go back to Korea?
A: Fifty years. We went, the President.
I: What year is that?
A: Well, it was 50 years. I don’t know from ’52, when the War began.
A: It was 50 years from the ending of the, when the Marine, when the Korean War started. We were invited over.
I: It must be 2000, right?
A: Yes, 2000, yeah.
I: Yeah, uh huh.
A: Cause the War ended what, ‘54 I believe, something like that. And we went there, my wife and I and two other couples with their wives. And we were amazed how Seoul was so brought up.
Then we went to Panmunjom, and there I gotta say they had a big map outside. And I saw exactly where I was, and the hills that we fired on. And the only thing, I couldn’t believe it. Like Vegas was one hill called. The other ones I can’t remember. Vegas was one, and I can’t think of the other one right now.
A: Gave me chills.
I: Nevada City?
A: No. It’s in the, Carson, CARSON. They were two of the hills I remember.
A: And then we were in Panmunjom, and we saw the hills, where they were. We had an idea, and it looked altogether different.
I: What did you think about when you saw those locations that you used to serve and fight?
A: When I saw that, I got nervous.
I thought about the time when we were there, and I was a young kid, you know, and never been away from home. Never went away. And I saw that, and it brought back memories. I remember certain things. In fact, the FOs used to call me Brooklyn because I guess the way my accent is. They knew me as Brooklyn. And our thing was, our code name was Woodcock 2, and I used to answer Woodcock 2, and the guy, whoever was there, recognized my voice and he says Brooklyn, whatcha doing there?
And we would talk. And it’s something that we were very fortunate to be there to help the people. They were worth it.
I: So, you stayed there in the West side of it, right?
A: I was the West.
I: Yeah. After you arrived in Inchon, you went straight to that
A: Went, yes.
I: Yes. To the hill. And do you remember any battle that you engaged or anything like that?
A: I was with the Artillery.
I: Okay. So
A: I was the Artillery. The Infantry would be the combat. But we were in combat zone. The Infantry’s altogether different. The Artillery, we were a little further back in the combat area.
A: We consider. And we used to get probably every night what we called Bed Check Charlie, and they would drop a bomb or two on our area.
And uh, it’s different. Very cold in Korea, very cold.
I: Is there any occasion where you encountered Chinese soldiers or the North Korean soldiers?
A: No. We were in no, that was like I say, where we were, we would, the Infantry would be first right there. The FO, they would be there, and they let us know where that we should have our Howitzer, 105 Howitzer shooting in.
And it was different. It’s, when you think about it and see how lucky I am to be here and so many other fellas are not here. And the few times when the rough, when it got rough, the FOs would complain that they need more artillery fire, we would have to send some fellas from our section to the front lines which they went.
And one of the fellas, I was pretty friendly with. I don’t remember his name. But he got killed over there.
A: He was with the Infantry. We, I just got notice that he died out there. And to me when you hear that, you know, you’re scared. You get nervous.
I: What was the most difficult and painful moment that you experienced in your service?
A: In my service complete?
I: Yeah. In Korea.
A: In Korea.
I: While you were, you know, fighting against the Communists.
A: Well, one of the big things when I found out that my friend got killed, you know. The idea, you know you’re there and he’s there, and when you get the word that he died, it’s scary. And I don’t know how he passed away. I can’t even think of his name. But I can see his face. He was a tall man, tall young kid. He was younger than me.
I: Could you talk about your brother, older brother, who was in Korea other than you, right?
A: Yeah, my brother is.
I: What’s his name and what happened to him?
A: My brother Ralph, he was.
I: Ralph Lanza, right?
A: Ralph Lanza, he was in the National Guard back home, and he was activated early in the War as it started.
In fact, his Artillery unit was supporting the Marines when they broke out of Frozen Chosin. He supported. He was an Artillery man also. Happened to be in the Artillery. He fired; he was a head. He was, I don’t know. He was the head of that section. And he’s the one, when he came back, he says I hope you don’t go to Korea. It’s tough. But he don’t talk much about the service.
Like we never did. We never talked. When we were there, we did what we were supposed to do. And when he came home, he got married, and that’s the first time I ever, he told me stories about it, always funny thing about chestnuts. And we loved chestnuts. They used to tell me that they had chestnuts there. You know where to get it, and one of the things, that’s right.
I remember now one of the Korean kids saw there. They brought me a big thing of chestnuts. And it was like Christmas tree because that’s my family celebrated. But and he was a Marine. He was there, Korea. And my other two brothers were in World War II. So, we were all taken in the Service.
A: In fact, my mother, I gotta say this. She had to become a citizen because she came from Italy.
A: And the judge asked her what are you doing for this country? And being a small old Italian lady, nurse and everything,
like we taught her who was the first President, things like that. And she said, she says I have my all my sons in the United States Army and Marines. And to us, I thought, the judge looked at her and he said that pray came from the heart. A few daughters do the same thing that she did when she said this.
I: That’s the best answer to the question.
A: She said from the heart.
A: It’s the way it was. And you know, being, and I tell you.
On the visit to Korea, they were, the people treated us excellent. We got off the plane that happened to be the first one, my wife and I. And they had a band there. They had the color guard there. And my wife was worried about her hair, you know, and we were the first ones off. And couldn’t believe what they did. They gave me a watch; they gave us watches. They gave us,
It’s unbelievable. And I always say I was very fortunate I went there and came back safe. A lot of people didn’t come back with the, 36, I don’t know how many thousands of kids didn’t come back.
I: When did you leave Korea?
A: In August. I came home August.
I: August 19
A: I was there a year. 19 uh
I: ‘ 53.
I: So, you experienced the Armistice there, right?
A: The, uh, yes. That’s when we went to the West coast. We were there, and when the War ended.
And it annoyed us because they never considered the Korean War a war. They called it a Police Action, and no way it would be a Police Action. We were there, in fact I came back with the first PWs that we had. We brought, our ship was the General Brewster, brought us home.
And uh, it was unbelievable to see these guys, prisoners and how they are.
I: Can you describe the moment that you heard about the Armistice, and what were you thinking?
A: Well, we were very annoyed. I think we; South Korea was waiting and ready for the Armistice, and North Korea wanted more and more.
That’s when, at the end when the Armistice was pretty close, they were trying to take another hill. And we didn’t want to give it to them. And we lost a lot, a few men like that, a lot of men like that cause we felt that we don’t wanna give it to them. And it was so happy to hear this. We’re going home. We couldn’t believe it, you know. See your mother. See your father. See your brothers and sisters and even see your girlfriend which is now my wife of 57 years.
She waited quite a long time for me to come home.
I: Did you write her letters?
A: Oh, I always used to write. But I never told her what went on.
I: Uh huh.
A: I never told her what went on. I used to just say different things, whatever came to my head. But I wouldn’t tell her. I didn’t want, I wouldn’t tell her how cold it was, how warm it was, you know. Why should I tell her that things that I didn’t care for?
I: What did she write about back to you?
A: Well, I would say it’s nice here. I mean, it’s raining. Boy, they got four or five days back to rain. When the hell, when the heck it’s gonna stop? When it’s gonna stop or how cold it was. It was very cold, but I said that we had these what we’d call Mickey Mouse boots.
A: But we didn’t get them right away. Marines didn’t get them right away. But I got to tell you one incident, okay?
While I was in Korea, every now and then we used to get maybe about 10 from our set, you know, our area there, go back where, further back in the lines and go there and take a shower. It was the Army shower. And uh, we used to go there. We just thought it was a big, big treat to go and take water coming down and washing. That was something to see. I never thought I’d be doing this.
It is a disgrace. I mean, what these people went through and what they’re doing. I’m, I would like to see at peace.
A: For, especially for the people the and the soldiers and Marines and Navy and Air Force, especially for them who didn’t come back. I mean, how could they say it’s an arms, well, that’s terrible.
I: It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? The War lasted
A: Terrible. How many years?
I mean, here I am an old man and they didn’t do anything. And I went there as a young man. But I mean, that’s the way they do things.
I: Um hm.
A: But I definitely think I would sign.
I: That’s great.
A: They deserve it. Again, I gotta say you people were very good to me. Mae Young, you know what she did? I was in Korea 50 years, I was happy to be very lucky at the right place at the right time, I got pictures what they took of me.
And I was interviewed, and she got me the newspapers.
I: What is the lesson and message that you want to transfer to the young generations in this country about your service and the Korean War?
A: Number one, I think I would definitely tell them it wasn’t a Police Action. It was a War. It was, and like any other War, World War I, World War II, it was a War. When anybody can get hurt, it’s a War.
And the Korean War was, it should be put more, it should be right next to World War II, World War I, World War II and then the Korean War. It should be right up with them. A lot of lives was taken. And we feel that the schools should bring it out. My granddaughter when she was young, what that be 12 years old, she had to write about the Korean War.
And they never heard of it. They’d never heard of it. They didn’t know what it was. They didn’t know. And I had a book of Korea and I gave it to her and she said Grandpa I can’t believe it, you know. It, they didn’t know much about it. But now I think it’s getting on in school. The Korean War veterans, very good. You can’t believe it. You would have seen it 50, 60 years ago and see it now, you can’t believe it’s the same place.
You can’t. And they are hardworking people. And they proved it. They proved how good they are. They showed what it is all about. And they are so appreciative. They can’t thank you enough. And believe me, it makes you feel good right here, that you were part of it, that saw the freedom that these people deserve. It really was.
I: Um hm.
How many grandchildren and great-grandchildren do you have?
A: I got 11 grandchildren. I don’t have any greats. And the good Lord gave me 11
grandchildren. But I don’t, I’ll be honest. I don’t talk about being in the Service.
I: Um hm.
A: That much. That’s something I might think. But when questions come up about the Koreans, what they’re doing, they’re doing an excellent job. And you gotta get em young and let them grow up with it.
And when they grow up with it, it’ll stay with them. You can’t get them when they’re a teenager. You want when they’re young and be put in their head how much suffering they had and what they did to prove they’re going to Korea.
Male Voice: My name is Tian Kim. I’m a rising senior in New York University. And as a Korean who’s been living abroad for many years,
I just naturally developed sheer respect for who helped protect our country, who helped re-establish our country in times of crises. And so, I started looking up any organizations that could help me contribute to preserving memories and the legacy that the Korean War veterans. So here I am.
And I’m really honored to be a part of this incredible project.
I: How did you find the Korean War Veterans
Male Voice: I started Googling initially.
Male Voice; That’s it. But I knew that this was sponsored by the Department of
Male Voice: Patriots and Veterans Affairs in Korea. And I think that young generations today in Korea, they are, they easily learn about the War on the internet.
Male Voice: There are a lot of artifacts with detailed descriptions which are solely provided by the veterans. And there are also interviews like this. So there are a lot of video clips that . can, that you have access to. Also, there’s the data base which you can find a number of veterans, personal information, their biographies and some descriptions of what this organization means and what this War was about.
A: This is the first time I’ve met you. First of all, I think the Korean children are excellent. No, you see the difference of them in school than some of the other children. They’re willing to learn, and they’re good people. They come from their heart. They come from their parents who were very good. And it’s great what you’re doing. Me myself, I don’t do that much at my age now. For that, I’m sorry.
But I can’t, what you’re doing is unbelievable. And God should be with you all the time.
Male Voice: Thank you.
A: I thank you for being the way you are.
Male Voice: This is Ambassador for Peace official proclamation, both in Korean and in English given by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs from the Republic of Korea. And I also have a Ambassador for Peace medal.
A: That’s the way I am. [HUGS]
Male Voice: Thank you.
A: That’s what I do to my kids.
[END OF RECORDED MATERIAL]