Carlos David Rodriguez Boissen
Carlos David Rodriguez Boissen joined the National Guard in Puerto Rico. When his draft was called, he joined the United States Army. He served in Korea helping rebuild the country immediately after the Korean War. He describes his daily life as a member of the Military Police in Korea after the war. He expresses his pride in helping Korea begin its journey beyond the war while there. He recounts an interaction with a young Korean boy where Spanish was spoken between both him and the boy. He is proud of his own service and he believes that military service can either make or break a man.
Life in Korea After the War
Carlos David Rodriguez Boissen describes his daily life in Korea as a member of the Military Police after the Korean War had ended. He shares that it was not easy and that he and others there worked 7 days a week. He expresses that the only thing that really bothered him throughout the experience was not being with his family.
On Their Feet
Carlos David Rodriguez Boissen describes how he feels he helped the Korean people get up on their feet after the war. He shares that his aid came through distributing clothing, food, and assistance where needed while he was there. He explains that he knew they were going through a difficult time and that they needed all the help soldiers and the government could give them.
Military Service Makes You a Man or Destroys You
Carlos David Rodriguez Boissen describes his belief that military service either makes a person a man or destroys him. He adds that it is up to him to decide. He shares that a soldier must obey, do what he is told, and do his best. He feels his service in the United States Army made him into a man.
Speaking Spanish with a Korean Boy
Carlos David Rodriguez Boissen recounts a young Korean boy attempting to trade a weapon with him in exchange for a case of c-rations. He describes the boy speaking in Spanish to him rather than Korean as he had learned it from other Puerto Rican soldiers. He adds that he did not make the trade.
[Beginning of recorded material]
I: My name is Jong Woo Han. I’m the President of Korean War Legacy Foundation here in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is February 11, 2016. This is great honor and pleasure to meet with you and to listen from you about your service. Could you introduce yourself to the audience, your name and spell it for them please.
C: Yes. My name is Carlos Rodriguez. I, I am 83 years old.
I have a beautiful daughter and a wonderful wife, uh. I, I served in the Army for 23 years. Also, I worked for 20 more years with the Federal government as a civilian. So I gave the government 42, 43 years, 1/3 of my life.
I: That’ a real big commitment.
I: What is your daughter’s name? She is with you now.
C: My daughter’s name, my daughter’s name is Anna Alia Rodriguez.
I: Anna Alia.
C: Anna Alia.
I Uh. Thank you for being with us, okay? Um, what is your birthday?
C: I was born on, uh, August the 10th, 1932.
I: Wow. So it was right after the Great Depression.
I: Yeah, 1929.
I: Where were you born?
C : I was born in, in Camuy, Puerto Rico, Camuy
I: And tell me about your family when you were growing up, parents and your siblings.
C: Well, my, uh, my father used to work in the sugar mill for many years. My mother was a, and, uh, homework, housework. I have three more brothers. I got two brothers and one sister, all of them married, uh. My father and mother
passed away a long time ago. So my wife’s name is Rosalia, Rosalia Rico. I have been married for 62 years plus five years we went before I’m getting married. So I have been with her for 77 years, 67 years. That’s a long time.
I: You are endangered species. These days people just divorce.
C: People say that I should get a medal.
You need another medal. So when did you finish your high school?
C: I finished my high school in 1950.
I: Um hm. And did you know anything about Korea when you were a student?
C: I, I was so young, you know. I didn’t, I didn’t, uh, maybe I heard something, but I didn’t, I didn’t put it
I: How about in the classroom? Did you learn anything about Korea from school? History textbook?
C: No, the History we didn’t, we didn’t, we didn’t, uh, The only history that I took was the history of the United States was the only history I, I, that was teaching in high school.
I: So you didn’t know nothing about Korea.
C: Until I went there.
I: Um. When did you join the military? Why did you join the military? Were you drafted or enlist?
C: Well, I was drafted. I was drafted.
I: Tell me when were you drafted?
C: Well, I was a member of the National Guard.
I: Um hm.
C: And when my numbers came, I requested active service in the U.S. Army. So I went from National Guard to the U.S. Army, regular Army.
I: When, when did you become the real Army?
C: Well, that was in, uh, 19, because I went, first I was in National Guard, and then I reverted to RA. That was, uh, when
I had only three years service at the National Guard. I joined the Regular Arm y.
I: So was it after the War? Korean War?
C: No, it was in 1953. It was in 1953.
I: Um hm. And what was your specialty? Rifleman or
C: No, I was, I was, I took training as a Heavy Weapons Infantryman. But then, when I went to Korea, they assigned me
to be on an MP.
C: Military Policeman.
C: I have been a police all my life.
I: So when did you arrive in Korea, and where did you arrive?
C: Okay. Uh, I left Puerto Rico on the 6th of January. That was a, they had Three Kings Day here and, uh, I was
I: January 2nd?
FEMALE VOICE: Sixth.
C: Yes, six.
I: What year, ’53?
C: Fifty -three.
I: Um hm.
C: And, uh,
let me see. What was the question again? I couldn’t
I: When did you leave Korea, I mean to Korea.
C: Well I, I left Puerto Rico on January six, in the, uh, of ’56, and I arrived for Korea that, that month.
I: That month. Where?
C: I went for, I went from here to California and from California we took a boat and went to Yokohama.
I: Um hm.
C: We stayed there one night, and from there we went to Korea.
I: Where did you arrive in Korea?
C: In Inchon.
I: Tell me about the first scene of Inchon when you arrived there. How was it ? Do you remember anything about Inchon?
C: When I, uh, when I arrived in Korea?
C: Well, when I arrived in Korea, uh, it was the most quiet,
uh, I got to know people, the Korean people and, uh, during my, my, my duty around Seoul when I was stationed. The only thing I regret was going behind honey bucket to, uh, talk.
I: Yeah. Honey bucket, right?
C: Honey bucket.
I: Remember, right?
I: Smelled so bad.
C: Not too, not too good because if you happen
to be behind one of them when you were
I: Ahead of them
C: or you were eat, uh, having lunch in the mess hall and one of the trucks came in to [IUNAUDIBLE], that was, But I do, I did have a, a good time in Korea. I have, I didn’t have no, I have few danger encounters, very few.
I: Tell me about it. How was it? When was it?
Uh, I used to work railway security.
I: Uh huh.
C: And, uh, we were, uh, we were in charge of taking a train from Seoul down, down to the south. In 1956, my train, my train was
I: Nineteen what?
C : Nineteen fifty-six.
I: Oh. So you were there until 1956.
C: No, until 1957 when I came back to the States.
C: In, uh, it’d be, um, that was in 1956. I was, I took the train, the supply train with all the, [times], even dinner to each one of those, the [INAUDIBLE] along the road. That was my, my, my main, my main duty
I: Uh huh
C: [INAUDIBLE] Otherwise, uh, I worked the, uh, supply trains
uh, I got robbed one, once with a [INAUDIBLE] load. They empty, they empty me, me, me wagon. But more, but, uh, it’s, it’s a, even though I was in the danger zone, I felt secure. I didn’t,
of course we have, we have a, a, a, certain instruments that were, we have to be with the Korean people
I: Um hm
C: But the ones that worked with us in the Company of [INAUDIBLE], the way to resist, they were nice, nice people. We have, uh, uh, tailors. We have, uh, house boys. They were wonderful. But you also have, have the, had the, uh, the uh,
not too good people. But more, but in all, I did enjoy my stay in Korea.
I: Tell me about your duties in Seoul. You said you were in Seoul, right/
C: Right, uh,
I: And you stayed there until you left?
C: No. Well, yeah, I stayed there until I left. But I did leave for different duties, okay. I used to patrol the city.
I pulled duty inside the Capital Building in Seoul. I went through the, uh, [INAUDIBLE] wards. I worked security in the, in the [INAUDIBLE], uh, I work, uh, the [Usec] train was a passenger train that went from Seoul down to Inchon.
And it was, was security. It was security, security.
I: Um hm. Um, describe, talk to the audience about the Seoul you saw in early 1953. It was during the War, right?
C: Well, well after the War because I, I, I didn’t took part in the War by itself.
C: Right. But, uh,
I: But you arrived in January 1953.
C: Fifty-six, right.
I: Fifty-six or ’53?
I: You arrive in Korea in 1956?
C: Fifty-six, and I came back in ’57. I joined the service 1953.
I: Um hm. So tell me about Korea, I mean Seoul, that you saw. How was it? Was it completely destroyed at the time?
C: The Seoul I, I saw, uh, was not completely destroyed. They had, they had buildings.
The, the, uh, the Capital Building was intact, uh. I used to pull duties inside the, the, inside the building, and they were, they would pick me up in the morning and take me to my Company. But, uh, I didn’t see that destruction in Seoul. I, it was, nobody knew there was a war going on.
I: Was it dangerous to walk around or
C: No. it was not dangerous to walk around. But, but, uh, we were, we could not go downtown by ourself. We had to, we had to go in, in group.
I: Um hm.
C: Uh, it, it, it’s, it’s something, it’s something that, I would like to go there right now and see the city of it.
I: Yeah, right. Yes.
C: I would like to see how it is now
because they tell me that it’s a beautiful city.
C: I would like to go and see it.
I: So let me come from one more time. You arrived in Seoul 1956
I: Okay. You have to keep in touch with me because Korean government is now inviting
C: Um hm.
I: U.S. soldiers who stationed after the War in Korea.
C: Um hm.
C: So it’s called Revisit Program, Revisit Program,
and Korean government pay for most everything, almost everything.
C: Um hm.
I: And you can go back and see where you were, and you will, you’re not going to believe your eyes.
C: I [INAUDIBLE] I was, I was stationed in Yongseng.
I: Yongseng, yes.
C: Yongseng. That was my, well, my Company was there, my C Company, uh. But I would like to see
Seoul now and compare.
I: My house is in Yongseng.
C: No, no kidding.
I: Eighth Army.
C: Eighth Army, 8th Army
I: Right across that.
C: Right, 8th Army.
C: Seven twenty-eighth was, uh, a part of the 8th Army.
I: Tell me about the life in Korea, how, how, where did you go sleep, what did you eat? I mean, many children are watching this, okay, and they want to know how, how was your life in Korea?
C: Well, my life in Korea was, uh,
it was not easy life because we worked a lot of long hours and, uh, we work seven days a week. The only thing that, that actually bothered me was not being able to be with my family .
I: Um hm.
C: Another was to see my daughter born while I was there. When I, when I came back, she was one year old already. That was the only thing that bothered me. But, but the
Korean people were, were, were nice to us. They wanted to work for us, and were nice to us and, uh, it’s,, it, it was quite an experience. It was quite an experience.
I: How much were you, what was your rank?
C: At that time, I was an Sergeant, and E5. Sergeant E5.
I: Sergeant ?
C: E5, right.
I: E5. So How much were you paid?
C: How much
I: Your salary.
C: My salary, Jesus, I, I don’t’ remember how much I made. I don’t remember.
I: You don’t remember? Around $300?
C: More or less, more or less.
I: More or less.
C: More or less, yes. More or less.
I And you, you, did you have housing?
C: No because I was by, by, by, uh, by myself.
I: By yourself. So you sleep in the barracks, right?
C: In the barracks, right.
I: Yeah, yeah. Um hm.
C: Many of our NCO’s, well, they have, they had girlfriends downtown, and they went downtown and stayed with them overnight. That was, that was the, that was a no no. But they, they did it.
I: Um, what was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea?
C: My most difficult time, not having my family with me.
Were you married at the time?
C: Yes, I was. And I already had one kid, one, one son. So when, when I went to Korea, my wife was pregnant with her. And while, while I was there, she was born. I met her in 1950, in April 1957. That was my main, my main because we, we, being so far away from them, you know,
and, and not knowing you had, that you can’t be there for her, for them, it’s hard.
I: Um. So did you send the money back to your wife?
C: She’s yeah, every day, every month.
I: Every month.
C: Every month, yeah. And if you receive an allotment from the Army, from the service. So, but still I send money every month, every month, every month. I didn’t, I didn’t go out with women. I didn’t drink.
I: You kidding me.
C: No, no, no.
C: No, no, no. I never. I didn’t touch a woman.
I: Nice father, huh ?
C: I didn’t touch a woman while I was in Korea.
C: And I didn’t touch a woman when I was in Viet Nam. That was a no no.
I: Wow. I wanna see your wife. she is the happiest person in the world.
C: She is, she is.
I: Wow. Um, did you know why you were there in Korea?
C: Well, it was the, uh, the reason was we go to the, uh, the uh, the uh, the, the uh, what can I say?
I: North Korean Communism?
C: Right. And, and the time to over un South Korea from North Korea, see? That was it. Fighting the Communists.
I: Fighting the Communists. So what do you think you did for Korean people?
C: What did I did for the, wow. Not me.
I: Why not?
C: Well I, yes. I did, I did, I did, uh, I helped them to get under threat. I helped them. I provided them with, with, uh, with food, with clothing,
uh, even helped anyway we could to this, to the people because I knew, I knew that they were going through a very, very hard, hard time.
I: Um hm.
C: And they need all the help that we, the government, can give them.
I: Yeah. Do you know that U.S. and Korea now the strongest ally, right?
I: Yeah. What do you think about that?
C: It’s what, we are the menace of North Korea, and we had to go. We have to be [INAUDIBLE] tight with them
I: Um hm.
C: You, you, um, so when you leave,
I mean, when you left Korea and you continued to serve in the Army, right?
C: Right .
I: Yeah, yeah. Do you have any, um, message to our younger generation about your military service?
C: The military service, either, either, the military service makes you a man or they destroy you. It’s up to you.
I: Um hm.
C: If you go there,, you got to go away.
Do what you’re told, and do your best. But, but the Army can destroy you or can, or can make you a man. I think that the Army work
I: That’s very good point.
C: The, the Army worked for me and what I, what I am now, I owe to the Army.
I: You’d do that again.
C: Anytime, anytime, anytime. Right now, I’m,
I’m, I’m not that young as I was in Korea. But if they call me and they need me, I’ll go. No problem.
I: Hm. So you know that Korea has
developed their economy, right?
I: Tell me about it. What do you know about Korea now?
C: Very little. Very little.
I: Uh huh.
C: Very little.
I: Just whatever you know. Tell me please.
C: I really don’t know.
I: Hm. You know what? When you were in Korea in 1956, Korea was really poor.
C: Um hm.
I: Now Korea is 11th largest economy in the world.
Do you know that?
C: No, I don’t know that.
I: U.S. is, Korea is the 7th largest trading partner to the United States. You know how many Korean people live in the United States?
C: I might, many of them.
I: 2.2 million officially.
I: Officially. So that means around three million here, you know? And if you go to university there are many, many Korean students study here in the United States.
Um hm. We were able to develop our economy, and you came to use to protect us from North Korean Communists.
I: So I call that as a Korea Defense Veteran. You know Korean War Veteran, right?
C: Um hm. Oh, and I’m, I was not battle in combat. But I went to Korea and they stayed 15 months there.
I: So that’s why you are Korea Defense Veteran.
C: Right .
I: Not War Veteran.
C: War, no War Veteran.
C: That’s, that’s great.
I: But you know still there are U.S. soldiers in Korean Peninsula.
I: Like yours.
I: Yeah. So are you proud of your service?
C: Sure. Always. Always.
I: What are the most, proudest thing that you can talk to me?
C: The proudest thing that I can what?
I: Yeah, you think that you, that
C: being, being a U.S. citizen.
I: Yeah. Being U.S. citizen.
C: Why? Because I was born here, and that’s what I know. I know my, my birthplace
I: Um hm.
C: and my citizenship.
I: Um hm.
C: And I love that. My, I, I, if I tell you t hat I don’t like it, I’m lying. But that’s my proudest thing,
I’m a U.S. citizen. And I’ll defend that anytime, any place.
I: Um hm. So you said that you wanna go back to Korea, right?
C: I would like to go to see, to see Seoul because, to compare. They may have big buildings and many, many new things.
I: The Seoul is not 10th biggest metropolitan city in the world. It’s bigger than New York City.
I: Bigger than Chicago.
C: Um hm.
I: Yeah, it’s 10 most, one of the 10 most biggest metropolitan city in the world.
C: Um hm.
I: Yeah. There are about 10 million people live there. Ten million.
C: That’s a lot of people.
I: Yeah, a lot of people.
C: A lot of people.
I: Any other stories that you wanna share with me about your service? Think about it. Anything you didn’t tell me?
Give me some secret.
C: It was so long ago. Yeah. It was, in one of my stops on the train, we just had to go out and check the train and all that. I met a boy, small boy.
I: Korean boy.
C: Korean boy. And, uh, he wanted to trade me
a weapon for a case of C-rations and I said no. But he was talking to me in Spanish.
C: Like you, and like, like I do in here, Puerto Rico. And I asked him where do you learn to speak Spanish? He said, well the Puerto Ricans teach me. That’s one thing that I’ll always remember.
I: He was talking to you to trade?
C: Yes. He wanted me to trade a weapon for a, for a C-ration case.
I: So he wanted the C-ration case.
C: Right. And he wanted to give me the weapon. I said no. But, but this was one it’s funny, back and forth, no, no, no, no. What do, but Puerto Ricans taught me.
I: That’s amazing.
C: It was amazing.
I: Uh huh, yeah. Any other Korean people that you had?
C: Yes, uh, Suanita,
Uh, I know a Korean, uh, she’s married, she’s married to a, a, veteran. She’s from Korea, and she’s a very, very, very most close friend to us because we serve, uh, in, we serve with them in Panama, and we have, we have, keep contact with her.
And every time we, we meet each other, there’s kisses and, and hugging and it’s, it’s, it’s like family . It’s like family. Sue is her name.
I: Wow, that’s, that’s a memory.
I: Yep. Carlos, any other story that you wanna talk to me?
I: No. I want to thank you for your service in Korea.
C: Thank you.
I: Even after the War because we needed it. And that’s how we were able to accomplish simultaneous economic development and democratization. So I wanna thank you on behalf of Korean nation, and I hope that you can have a chance to go back and compare the Seoul in 1950’s and 21st century.
C: I will be a very, very
I: You’re not going to believe your eyes.
C: I [INAUDIBLE] Seoul.
I: Um hm. Thank you again for coming for the interview.
C: Thank you for having me.
I: Thank you, sir.
[End of Recorded Material]