Delcio Rivera Rosario
Delcio Rivera Rosario served as part of the 65th Infantry Regiment, a segregated Puerto Rican regiment, Company G during the Korean War. Following a conflict with one of the American cadres at officers’ training school, he left prior to completing his officer training and was shortly thereafter sent to Korea. He was stationed near Outpost Kelly and Jackson Heights for much of his time in Korea. He received the Purple Heart for injuries suffered during the Battle of Jackson Heights. To this day, he still suffers from the pain of the injury but is nevertheless proud of his service in the Korean War.
Delcio Rivera Rosario recalls most of his time in Korea was spent in formal combat lines and trenches. He remembers those times a kind a game for him. He recounts one occasion when he narrowly escaped being shot after making a mistake he would never do make again. He also briefly describes an attack on Outpost Kelly which resulted in the loss a friend from his high school.
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Battle of Jackson Heights
Delcio Rivera Rosario recalls his unit replacing South Korean troops at the outpost at Jackson Heights. He notes that moving through the Kumwha Valley meant traveling very close to enemy lines and when they arrived to the outpost there were no trenches or fortifications, only hard rock. On the third night after their arrival they were ordered from the mountain as the enemy was approaching. Rosario reflects on the events of that night which lead to his own injury.
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Injured at the Battle of Jackson Hill
Delcio Rivera Rosario received the Purple Heart for injury suffered during the Battle of Jackson Heights. He recalls the enemy throwing hand grenades in his vicinity which resulted in his injury. He describes despite being wounded in his heel running downhill to escape the enemy advance. He notes that he still suffers pain from this injury to this day, but does not regret his service.
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INTERVIEWER: So, what is your birthday?
RIVERA ROSARIO: First is the November the 27th 1932 old-timer already.
I: So where were you born?
RR: I was born little town in the North zone of Puerto Rico. It’s been called Hatillo, H A T I L L O. Hatillo.
RR: It is famous for cattle, you know? milk production.
I: I see…
I: …tell me about your family when you were growing up your parents and your siblings.
RR: Well, my parents were, you know? typical Puerto Rican countryside people, very humble, very religious, but very friendly to their children, we were two brothers only, I was the oldest and my mother became sick…
RR: …mentally sick, so they sent me over to live with my rest of my growing up with my grandparents, so, I went to a different town and at a different school, so, I got educated mostly by my grandparents.
I: Ah, you have missed your mother, so, what high school did you graduate?
RR: She had schizophrenia…
RR: …you know? which is a mental disorder nowadays they treat it differently, but at those times they didn’t have the proper medications or so. So, they would hospitalize her for long periods.
I: What about school, did you graduate high school?
RR: Beg your pardon.
I: Did you graduate high school?
RR: Oh yeah, sure. I attended high school in one of the… there were three towns, Hatillo was my hometown, first…
RR: …but then I move it with my grandparents to the norther town nearby, they were only at least a very short distance one from the other, It’s being called Camuy, C A M U Y, and so, there was a high school, so people from the other two towns, nearby towns would come over, so I became friendly with many people from other towns.
I: When did you graduate high school?
RR: That was… well 19… same year that I began the ending in the army nineteen fifty-eight, I think, 1958.
I: So, that’s after the Korean War.
RR: No, no, no, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, let me see, let me think better… Of course, that was before my service in the military…
RR: So, you drive back from my time in the military was 1851, so was nineteen fifty I graduated.
I: Aha, and did you know anything about Korea at the time that you graduate high school?
RR: No, I didn’t, I didn’t know much about, no.
RR: Not really, we’re very little I would say, only studying history, you know? There was a court…
RR: …that we would have to follow through history, and I think we studied some of the world population and countries and… otherwise, I didn’t know much about it, no.
I: Yeah, I mean so still small country, and at the time it was very poor, and it was under the influence of China and Japan, so nobody knew about it.
RR: Well, we knew a little about…
RR: …Japan because Japan at those times most of the toys been being sold in Puerto Rico where from Japan, but did you know those have toys mostly made by cheap metal, and they will allow us only few ours, I was given… they won’t celebrate Christmas in here in the sense of Santa Claus, you see? it’s only the three kings…
RR: So, we will have to wait all the time through Christmas…
RR: To the Christmas to get a little present the day of the three kings, and then the next day we would probably go to school, so, that toy was only last for a few hours…
RR: …because they were very cheap toys.
I: Right, did you join the army enlisted or were you drafted?
RR: I was drafted.
RR: Yes, right.
I: And when was it?
RR: That was right after graduating from high school, nineteen fifty-one.
I: 50 or 51?
RR: 1951 because I stayed in the army with, you know? we have to go through the basic training, that would last about six months, then I was sent over to officer school, I spent some time in the officer corps, but when I was about…
RR: …to graduate from the officer school to become an officer, I had a problem with one of the… how they called it? The “Cadeters”, a “cadeters” you know? Is a coachman, so I had a problem with that young “Cadeter”, and I decided to abandon the school, and I would have to go for a board, the Commander board of the court, and they told me: “you’re doing okay, you’re about to graduate, what’s wrong with you?”, I said: “no, I just want to get out”…
RR: …that’s the time they sent me over to the Korean War.
I: When was it?
RR: Right after that…
RR: That was by early 1950-51.
I: Mhm, and what was your specialty?
RR: Well, at that time, I mean, you mean in the officer?
RR: In the army?
RR: I was a regular private soldier, regular troops, you know?…
I: Infantry, but you were officer, right?
RR: Right, I was to become an officer, I didn’t get to it. I didn’t get to the point of graduating from the officer’s school.
RR: But I attended and I learned most of the, you know, the specialty treatment for officer, the formation of officers, and so on, it was very good for me because, I think, I inherit a lot of traits in my whole life, responsibility, punctuality…
RR: …and so on, out of that school.
I: Hmm. What was your rank, private, right?
RR: Yes, yes sir.
I: What was your unit?
RR: Well, at those times it was company, I think, company E or something that I couldn’t recall exactly.
I: And 65th?
RR: Then when I did enter the formality the military the Army in the Korean War, I was in company G, G like you know like goat.
RR: Yes, Company G.
I: And 65th infantry regiment.
RR: That was from 1952 through 1953.
I: When did you arrive and where did you arrive in Korea?
RR: Well, we did travel by ship, by boat, it was a long way from here to Japan, we stayed in the port of… I think the port of… the port near to Tokyo…
RR: …for a while, for about a couple of weeks or so, I remember was wintertime and there was a lot of snow, you know? then we were transfer to another boat to Korea.
I: Aha. Where did you arrive?
RR: I think near to Pusan.
I: Pusan, how was Pusan at the time?
RR: I was not even 19 yet.
I: How was Pusan? The port.
I: Yeah Pusan?
RR: Pusan is a port, is a big port.
RR: It’s a huge port. It’s up north.
I: It’s in the south…
RR: Yes, right.
I: Yeah, and from there where did you go?
RR: Beg your pardon?
I: From Pusan where did you go?
RR: Well, we were taken into the individual units, company G, I was assigned for the 65th infantry regiment, which was a Puerto Rican segregated regimen.
RR: So, we were transfer directly to the individual units, to which were assigned.
I: So, what did you do there?
RR: Well, initially we underwent through more training, you know? Actually, combat training, and then we were formally incorporated into units that were in the different lines. As long as I could recall, most of the time they’re spending Korea was in formal…
RR: …you know? combat lines, trenches and so.
I: Yeah, tell me about it, how was it there? Was there any danger…?
RR: Well, it was not really bad because, you know? I think I had a different narrative form the one that I may have today, but at those times was kind of a game for me, so it was, you know? always I enjoy life, I’m friendly with people, I like people talk, so I think it’s in some ways…
RR: I did enjoy it, I remember one day that, I started looking with binoculars to the enemy lines we were posted in some hills, and the only thing was a small valley in between, and they were in the opposite field, you see? but I was looking with binoculars right at noontime, of course the sun was reflecting my glass in my binoculars, so, some one should directly…
I: To the binoculars?
RR: …and by that time, I came over, you know? step over where I was standing, and then I did hear the shot behind me, it was cross my head totally.
I: You almost get kill.
RR: Yeah, sure, for sure, no question about that, for sure, yes because it was my stupidity, I was looking with binoculars their sun was reflected, so, I was actually a good target for the enemy…
RR: …but it was a perfect sniper because, suppose that this was the backward, you know, ground, and I was standing just here. And the moment I stepped down, the shot came right here.
RR: It would cross my head from one side to the other.
I: God saved you.
RR: Oh yes, and I learned, I won’t do it anymore.
I: And you have a purple heart, right?
RR: Yes sir.
I: How did you get it?
RR: Oh well, in the big hill, in the Jackson Heights.
I: Jackson Heights?
RR: Yes sir.
I: Tell me.
RR: I was first in the Kelly, Kelly hill…
RR: …but not in in the hill at south, in the front line, but we were doing patrols at nighttime and then, after a while, we were move it…
RR: …to another hill, what they called an outpost, I think you know, what is an outpost.
RR: It’s a OP, they say in the military, you see, they uses acronyms for everything, so missed outpost, a post that is close to the enemy, and that was right behind the Kelly hill.
RR: When the Kelly hill the night that they invaded, and actually they invaded at mealtime for the soldiers…
RR: …there were some friends of mine, I also lost a companion that was a colleague in high school with me, from my own time, and now they massacred them.
I: But how did you get the purple heart? Where did you earn it?
RR: That was in the other hill, the Jackson Height.
I: How describe…
RR: I will explain to you, actually, I do have a writing here, that if you ‘re ok with…
RR: …let me give it to you right now. Thank you, I appreciate it. That actually describes… you may keep it if you to.
I: Yeah, but explain it briefly.
RR: Yeah, I’m going to explain to you. We were replacing, actually, Korean troops there was a Korean unit…
RR: …that we were replacing, those replacements were being carried out at nighttime, because of, you know, there was more security because the enemy wasn’t attempted of was happening in the front line, so, that was a particular outpost, that was too far from our friendly lines and there was an extended valley, I think the valley was called the Kumhwa Valley, or something like that.
I: Kumhwa Valley Yes.
RR: …you probably know, it’s quite away through, so, we were very close to the enemy lines, I think that that was an error, military error, I think, but anyway we were replacing Korean troops that were occupying the hill, so, there were no trenches, there were no fortifications, it was broke, pure rock, hard rock so we replaced them about close to midnight or so…
RR: …so we only have the amount for about two or three days, so, about the third day the command ordered to withdraw from the mountain, you see, because we were… apparently we were… well not apparently it was for surely that we were overpowered by the enemy, so they say: “well, there is a withdrawal order”, but the problem was that…
RR: There were snipers down below, and the sniper were catching all the soldiers that would, you know, walk through the valley, so, many of us decided to stay and said: “no, we better stay here, we would defend ourself in here, because we are risking our life if we go through the valley now”, so we decided to stay, but that night the antenna was calling the military about powerful effect, perfect there was a very frightful…
RR: …mortar, you know what a mortar?
RR: …weapon is…
RR: The 120 they called it. It’s a thing was hundred twenty millimeters the diameter of the mouth, so, they were pondering our unit, it is very heavy, some cannons, or some other big weapons…
I: And that’s how you got wounded?
RR: That’s correct, because I was wounded in my left leg, I but the perimeter that…
RR: …there was the commanding officer, it was a sergeant, you know, there is the commanding officer of course, the captain but another officer, but then they whet and talked to the troops, and the regular troops is the first sergeant, they called, so the first sergeant gave us a call: “come on, come on, that the enemy’s is coming over the hill, so, the enemy was approaching the hill and they were making all kind of noises, which they were shouting,
RR: …and crowding, and you now, making all kind of noises, and just making noise with everything that they could, but they were coming up through the hill, so, at that moment, we confronted them, we fired them with our weapons, we did everything we could, but at the moment they were throwing to us hand grenades, because they were very close, actually we could see them,
RR: So, it was nighttime, T think nine in the evening or so, one of them throw me a hand grenade, and it exploded in front of me…
RR: …and I have connected the bayonet in my rifle, it was ready in my rifle because my rifle got crowded with soil, you know, we saw dust…
RR: …So, it won’t function, my rifle so, I put on the bayonet and I said: “well, I would have to fight my way, the way I could”, so at that moment another handed exploded in front of me, and it cut the bayonet and leave only about half an inch or so,
RR: So, I didn’t feel that I was bleeding in my heel.
RR: So, I’ve retrieved myself to a little more safer place, you know, to check what the bleeding was for, and so I took off my boot, my combat boot, and my socks and I saw that there was a small bleeding, but not big enough, I’d say: “I could survive” because my real concern was that I may not be able to run away, because for sure the enemy was, you know…
RR: …overpowering us, so, at that time the first Sargent gave order to “abandon the hill”, so I run down to down the hill, no one runs downhill because, once you take speed, you gain speed and then you can’t stop. You see that, and you don’t know what’s going to be facing down the way, but I was running down the way, you know, it’s “you save your life”, and I said the deeper I go down the hill, the more difficult for the bullet to get me…
RR: …but sometimes I got a shortcut harder than this wall, I think, a shortcut cutting the hill, and I don’t, I didn’t think it over, I just jump over, I’m fell down, and I got all crowded in serpentines, and, you know, wires, barbed wires, and I got… my belt got crash, you know, what the campaign work, and things so on…
RR: …So, I took it over and keep running.
RR: So, that way I would say I was able to walk for most of the distance, most of the distance to our friendly lines, but then finally a vehicle from the hospital people from, you know, from assistant medical team got me and took me to a hospital.
I: And… Where, I Incheon or…?
RR: No, no, right there in the…
I: Right there?
RR: …in one of those are squat tents…
RR: …that they used for medical services in the front, and the thing is that, while I was waiting because there were, of course, there were people more seriously wounded, I was waiting in that… you’re not, you’re familiar with those quad tents? They accommodate 18 people, soldiers so they have a roll of canvas, so you enter the door, the middle door is only one, in the front…
RR: …and then, they extend to the other end, so, I was standing in that side of the wall, and the door was here, and I was standing there for probably an hour or so, trying to stand in a single foot because, you think, I was not pressing on it because of the wound, so while I was standing in there, I say: “I am going to move to the other side for some reason”, something came to my mind, move, move, move, so I moved to the other end, and someone took my place…
RR: … and someone left a rifle in the outside, you know, just against the canvas, the rifle shoot itself and this fellow fell down, I think that was totally dead, it was for me again.
I: So, were you discharged?
RR: I was safe.
I: No after that, did you go back to the front line or were you discharged?
RR: I beg your pardon?
I: After your injury…
I: Did you recover, right?
RR: Yes, I did.
I: And then you went back to serve in the front line or…?
RR: Well, I did but for a time they sent me to several hospitals because of there were splinters…
RR: …they were left and they were not able to find the splinters, they were not using x-ray so, there it was not available or something, so… now, this thing, it pains me every, every, every year of my life…
RR: I feel these difficulties once again, just a couple of months ago, it was hard for me to walk because I was paining me the heel, once again.
I: You went to a country you didn’t know before, you were wounded, and you’re still suffer from pain, what do you think about all these things? why did it happen to you? do you regret or what do you think?
RR: No, I don’t regret, I don’t regret because I like it, I came to like your people.
RR: You were friendly, you know, some of these soldiers in our unit were Korean actually, they were serving with our troops, and they were very friendly, we became very friendly. It was a friendly country, I admired your country the way it is nowadays because those cars Hyundai, I don’t know how you pronounce it the name, those are wonderful vehicles, they’re being sold like, I don’t know, were like hot cookies or something, because they’re very good car…
RR: …very reliable, I’m amazed about the progress of your country, while the other country, the north one is in shambles.
I: What do you know about the progress that South Korean made? how do you know? and what do you know?
RR: Through the lady here behind you.
I: …and tell me about the Korean economy that you know now?
RR: I beg your pardon.
I: Tell me about the Korean…
I: …economy you know now.
RR: Oh well, I try to learn about Korea and I do everything that I could I find in the magazine or in the papers, I do read it, I was reading about the actual conflict that your enemy the north is, you know… shooting… trying to develop atomic bombs, and missile, and so on. So, I was reading about it and concerned about…
RR: …I think that’s a war that never stopped actually, that war never came to an end realistically, only was a kind of an accord, and I think it, sometimes I try to figure myself in the north part where I was, you know, in the in very limitation area between the two countries because I expend quite of time there. We were not too far from… I still remember some names, Panmunjom…
RR: …Where the talkies were been doing, the conversations about, you know, peace conversations.
I: So, what do you think about your service? are you proud?
RR: Oh, of course I am. Yes, I’m very happy that I did serve. Yes, I think that provided to me, you know, a way for my living the rest of my life, I became…
RR: …more concern about life is and such…
RR: …you know, preserving my own life, caring for the life of others you know considering all people where was in the same planet, so we are related to each other, we may accept it or no but we are at all, so I feel kind of obligated to take care of South Korea because I was there and I have to fight for it.
I: That’s very nice.
RR: Well, I think that everyone that was there would say the same thing, I guess, because… of course and you know, it was a friendly country and actually, and I’m very happy it has been very successful.
I: You paid a big price, wounded, and still bothers you but still you think that you’re happy, that’s amazing.
RR: I’m happy, I’m happy.
RR: You know, pains and you know who in this level would suffer from pain once in a while, so, I got also a service-connected condition, because everyone that has been in a war never comes the same individual once again, you know, many people have come out with many difficulties it’s all right beside any injuries in their bodies or so…
RR: …but I came out with digestive system discomforts and they determined that is was service connected at first, because it began during my last time in the service, so, I’ve receiving treatment through the Veterans Administration.
I: Have you been back to Korea?
RR: No haven’t, I wish I would.
I: You want to go back?
RR: Oh, I’ll be more than pleased to see those places that are you experiencing, I’ll be pleased to go again, I was talking to a gentleman that you probably knew him, he died already, he died last year Mr. Herman Bravo and he told me… she, they were very friendly, they were friends a Mr. Bravo told me that he visited Korea several times, he was a translator in the military…
RR: …I was looking for that gentleman for a long time, I went over a year and no one could tell me where I could find him, because he was from a town that was not far from my home town, so, I at first someone told me: “no, but he lives in the countryside”, in Arecibo is the name of the town, and I start looking for him and actually, I came over to meet some of…
RR: …his relatives, a brother, and some other relatives, and they told me: “No, no, he no longer lives here”, so finally one of them gave me the right address and telephone. So, I was able to contact him, and that was the end of his life almost, I think that was a little over a month before he died, actually, he gave me that cap, presented it to me, and he is helping me to secure the…
RR: …Yes… that’s my cap.
I: Wear it.
RR: Thank you.
I: Put it on.
RR: Thank you.
I: That’s the 65th. Yeah.
I: “En nombre de Korea, gracias por todo” [On behalf of Korea Thanks for everything] for your sacrifice and your service. There are any other comments that you want to leave to this interview.
RR: No, the only thing that I wish I would see are the end to that fighting and they both Korea’s getting united once again. I hope so, well, you know, I know the problem is on the other side, however they are going along in the world…
RR: …because even the Chinese, that they use it to help them very closely, are no longer agree with their behavior, you know, the Chinese too, they have a different attitude nowadays, they’re friendly to the United States, they are investing everything…
RR: …and everything we buy, you know, try to bay a tennis shoes from any other country besides China, you won’t find them in any place.
RR: But I think that they are…
RR: … the North Korea is just staying away from other countries, becoming alone and finally they would have to find their way…
RR: …to unite the country, I think they have tried so many times, but they don’t behave the way they should.
I: Delcio thank you very much for your fight, and I hope that you have a chance to go back to country where you fought, and see the changes…
I: …that we were may able to make because of your fight.
RR: I could figure that challenge now because, you know, by the time that I was there, there were barely any major roads in the country, in the part of the country I lived when I was, you know, up north, and I remember that the main road that were being built were only plain soil, you know, a lot of those and there were troops, army, military trucks going all the way…
RR: …spreading water, you know, just to get the dust down, when nowadays I understand their highways by every place.
I: Yes. They were only one bridge left during the war, the Han-gang River, I mean the one bridge, now we have more than 30 bridges.
RR: Let me ask you question please.
RR: Which part of the country are you from?
I: Seoul, I’m from Seoul.
RR: Seoul, yes. Ok that’s the capital.
I: Capital yes.
I: But I know…
RR: I visited it once, the capital, only one.
I: Ah, tell me about it.
I: Okay, again thank you very much.
RR: Thank you, sir, thank you for inviting me. My pleasure.
I: This is very important so that young children’s listen from you about your service.
RR: I don’t know whether you would like to get, you know, this the letter, I think there is a new president now, a young lady, I guess it’s a young lady.
I: Oh, President Kim Dae-Jung yes.
RR: If you would like copies of this, I’ll be glad to…
RR: …to send copies to you.
I: Yes, could you show that? that’s a purple heart right?
RR: Purple heart.
I: Just hold it for the camera, show it to the camera, yes.
I: Smile. Thank You Delcio.
RR: You’re welcome.
I: It’s a February 16, 2016,
I: …Aguadilla Puerto Rico, my name is Jongwoo Han, I’m the president of Korean War Legacy Foundation, this is my great honor, and pleasure to meet you, and to be able to listen from you about your honorable service. So please introduce yourself, your name and spell it for the audience, please.
RR: My name is Delcio Rivera, D E L C I O R I V E R A.
[End of Recorded Material]