Domingo B. Febre Pellicier
Domingo B. Febre Pellicier, a native of Puerto Rico, enlisted in the Army in 1950 and served for fourteen years. He is very proud of his service in Korea, Germany, and Panama. He recalls his first impressions of Incheon when he arrived in 1950. He also describes what it was like to be on the frontlines as a Rifleman. Unfortunately, for the men that served, the living conditions were harsh. He explains what it was like having access to a limited water supply. Overall, he recounts the difficulties of the war, but how important they were in helping Korea modernize.
Landing in Incheon
Domingo Febre Pellicier describes what it was like when they landed in Incheon after a month's-long journey to Korea. He talks about climbing down rope ladders to get off the ship. He shares how they then went to the train which took them to the front lines. He remembers how cold it was when they landed. He recalls how friendly the Korean people were.
Share from this page:
Danger on the Front Lines
Domingo Febre Pellicier describes his experiences on the front lines. He shares that they would often be on patrol watching for the Chinese troops. During the attacks on the hills, there would often be mortar flying around. He recounts a mishap he had with a hand grenade that almost cost him his life.
Share from this page:
Lack of Water for Hygiene
Domingo Febre Pellicier explains how scarce water was on the front lines. He explains that they were only able to shower once per month and how brushing one's teeth was a luxury. While some of the hills had a water pipe, using it often meant making oneself a target for the Chinese who were watching.
Share from this page:
FEBRE PELLICER, DOMINGO
Transcribed by Juan Carlos Lozano Arguello on 01/29/2021
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
INTERVIEWER: HI, my name is Jongwoo Gan. I am the president of Korean War Legacy Foundation and I am here in Caguas, Puerto Rico, February 12 2016. This is my great honor and pleasure to meet you. Please introduce yourself. What is your name and spell it for the audience.
FEBRE PELLICER: Okay. My name
I: You look at me, okay.
FP: My name
FP: (is) Domingo Pisie Febre. Do you want me to spell it?
FP: My first name is D O M I N G O and the second name is P E LL I C E R and the last one is F E B R E.
I: Okay, thank you. What is your birthday?
FP: I was born in May 12th 1930.
I: And where were you born?
FP: I was born in Santurce.
I: Here in Puerto Rico?
FP: Puerto Rico, yes.
I: Tell me about your family when you were growing up? Parents and your siblings.
FP: My family? The family that I got? Did you say that?
I: Yes, your parents, what did they do and so on. How many brothers and sisters?
FP: I got, now I have two brothers and two
I: No, at the time you were growing up.
FP: When I was in Korea?
I: No, at the time that you were growing up. Like a child.
FP: Oh, yeah, when I was a kid. I had 8 brother (he meant siblings). Five brothers and three sisters.
I: Wow, you were a big family.
FP: Big family, yes. Big family.
I: And when did you finish your school?
FP: I finished my school in 19…,
FP: wait, wait, in 19…, when I was a kid, 19… 1940, 1940.
I: And when did you join the military?
FP: I joined the Army in 1951.
I: And it was the Army, right?
FP: Army, yes.
I: Did you enlisted or drafted?
FP: I enlisted. I was like a volunteer.
I: So where did you get the basic military training?
FP: My training was in Fort Olimpo.
I: And what was your specialty?
I: Specialty. Did you do like communication?
FP: No, no, I was Infantry man.
I: Infantry man. So, rifle man?
FP: Riffle man.
I: And then what happened? When did you leave for Korea?
FP: I left for Korea in 195… 51. Before, no 51 left to Korea and it took me about a month to get to Korea.
I: Do you remember the month?
FP: The month, no I don´t remember now.
I: Was it summer or fall or winter?
FP: It was like summertime.
FP: We took a ship from Puerto Rico
FP: to New York.
I: And then?
FP: From New York went to California, going through the Panama Canal, through Panama. Then in California, we took another ship to Japan. It was two weeks in the travel. Japan, Yokohama. In Yokohama, we took another ship to Korea, to Hwcheon. So in Hwcheon. We landed in Hwcheon. So, from Hwcheon we passed through
FP: Seoul and then we went to the front-line.
I: So, before you left for Korea, did you know anything about Korea?
FP: No, nothing.
I: You didn´t know anything?
FP: I didn´t know Korea existed.
I: Not at all.
FP: No, nothing. I have never heard about Korea.
I: You have never heard about Korea?
FP: No, no.
I: So tell me about when you first arrived in Hwcheon, how did Hwcheon look?
FP: The water was brown, like yellow. Yellow water. So we went from the ship by a rope. Rope down to a small landing craft, right to the shore. They opened the door and we run to the train. The train had lot of holes. Various holes from bullets. And it was cold, very cold. We had to sleep on the floor. So we went from Hwcheon, we went to…
FP: To Seoul.
I: Yeah. How was Korean people? Did you see them?
FP: Yeah, I saw the Korean.
I: How did they look?
FP: Nice people, good people. Good people, very friendly.
I: Very friendly?
I: Did you talk to them?
FP: Yeah, I talk to them and I learnt a little bit of Korean.
I: Ha. So you went to Seoul, right?
I: What did you do in Seoul?
FP: We stayed there for two couple days in Seoul. We took a
FP: truck to the front-line. We went to fight.
I: Do you remember the name of the place you were in the front-line?
FP: No, I don´t remember where we go (went) because the [00:05:47 inaudible] he said “wait” and I remember Tewoo [00:05:50 not sure if that is the city he is mentioning]. I was in Tewoo in the hospital.
I: But that was before you went to the front-line?
FP: Yeah, I went to the front-line. In the front-line, I was sick,
FP: so I went to Tewoo and from Tewoo, I went to Busan to the hospital.
I: So, what did you do in the front-line? Tell me about the details.
FP: There we had to go on patrol. We had to watch the enemy and we had to attack the hill. We had to go up the hill
FP: and [00:06:31 – 35 inaudible], where we watched the Chinese, to see that they wouldn´t come to us. And sometime we had a problem. Every time we moved around there was mortar fire. I was almost killed about two or four times. Thanks to God, I am still alive, because I saw a lot of mortars going by me, near me. Also one night, I was
FP: on guard, on the [00:07:04 inaudible] and I saw with the moonlight people walking around, like walking around. I took a hand grenade and when I was going to throw the hand grenade, there was like a branch behind me and the grenade got out of my hand. Thanks to God, I jumped forward and then the grenade exploded. I almost got killed with the hand grenade.
I: With your own grenade?
FP: With my own grenade.
I: So the main enemy was Chinese?
FP: Chinese, yes.
I: Tell me about them. Tell me about them.
FP: The Korean War was alright until the Chinese came. Almost everything was good, until they came in. Because Douglas Macarthur, he wanted to bomb China, because the Chinese were the ones who were giving trouble. Because the Korean Army, the Korean Army was nothing.
FP: It was easy for us. But the Chinese were too strong for us, too many. Those were too many.
I: Did you see them?
FP: Yeah. Sure.
I: Tell me about them.
I: How did they look and what kind of weapons did they carried out? How do they live?
FP: They have the bird gun. The bird gun is like a carbine and with a round, round magazine. And the hand grenade, the hand grenade is
FP: like a German hand grenade.
FP: German. The one with string. With string out. Because one time we were inside the hill. That hill was like a house, like this, with a big hole in it. We go inside and there was no Chinese. They left, they left when we went inside. So we found, we found blow hand grenade by box,
FP: case, big one, hand grenades and they throw one. And we found sugar and rice. They eat rice in the soup like this, they put the rice over there and there.
I: Were you afraid of them?
FP: I was afraid, sure, I had to be afraid, yeah. And one day, there was some patrol, I remember, were seven people. And we were
FP: walking around and then suddenly the silence, the guy says, the one says: “silence, they go back to the company, go back to the company”. We were too far away from the company. [00:09:43 – inaudible] moment. And they want to move around. They were waiting for us on top of the hill with the machine gun and they start shooting us.
FP: And we had to run, we had to run, because there was a lot of fire, you know? From the hill, because they had a machine gun.
FP: But they was waiting to us to go right in front of the machine or maybe like this, so they could conquer us, but we were far away from the machine gun. They start shooting. When they saw we were going out, they start shooting for the enemy. Shooting to us. We had to run, because if we stayed, it was very dangerous. Also one day we were also on patrol and the American
FP: jet plane was shooting to the Chinese. We were firing the Chinese and then they went back to us and they thought we was Chinese. So, we a piece of crown, like this column. And then we opened the crown, and they went out. [00:10:54 inaudible] went out. They moved out.
I: Have you thought that you were going to be in a country that you never been before and fighting like that, have you thought, have you imagine that?
FP: Yeah. I never imagine that. Never thought.
I: What were you thinking when you were fighting against Chinese, when you were running away from them and you are in danger. What were you thinking?
FP: I was thinking that is the end of me, I am not going to make it over here. I was also young.
FP: I was afraid it was it for me.
I: You are from Puerto Rico, right?
I: So you are accustomed to this warm weather, hot weather.
FP: Oh yeah, it was cold there.
I: And Korea is…
FP: Too cold, we had to wear and sleep in the [00:11:48 inaudible] and very cold, below zero. One night I was up in the hill, I thought I must die. And it was windy, windy, windy and snow, snow.
FP: And my hands were frozen like this. My hand grenade was cold. My riffle was full of snow inside. I was waiting for the Chinese to come. They came. They came with the [00:12:17 inaudible]. Because when they came, there was another troop over there, another squad and they had to call for fire. In the morning, when we left the
FP: hill, there was three or four Chinese, there in the ground.
I: Must be very hard for you to, to stay there, because it is so cold during the winter, right?
FP: Yes, too, too cold.
I: Did you get the frostbite?
FP: No, thanks God, no, no
I: You didn´t?
FP: No, no. My friend, was my friend. My friend, he had frostbite in the leg. He almost loose the leg [00:12:57 inaudible]. One my company.
I: Where did you sleep?
FP: We sleep in the hole.
I: Fox hole?
FP: Yeah, fox hole.
I: How big is it?
FP: Like this, not too big. I say like from here to here. Not too big, not too big.
I: How deep is it?
FP: Big? Deep?
FP: Not too deep. Not too deep.
FP: Not too deep.
I: And did you have a sleeping bag?
FP: We had sleeping bag, yeah. We had sleeping bag and we sleep in the sleeping bag and we had to, so we go inside with the riffle, everything inside, with belt, with boots, everything.
FP: Everything. One time, one time, one time we had to go on patrol. We was going to attack a hill. And then there was, you know, the [00:13:58 inaudible] river, the [idem]. We had to cross the
FP: [idem]. The water up to here. When we passed the [idem] river on the other side, the Chinese, they exploded all that was there and they start shooting to the river with the mortar. Mortar fire in the river and so we had to pin down in this new river and then we had to come out. They said: “listen we have to get out in here because it is 3:00 in the morning, if you wait until the morning,
FP: all of us we will get killing.” We had to go back to the Company and we had to go back in the morning. And they stop shooting, so we hit the river and went back to the Company. So we had to go, hit the water, we go back to the Company and we had to go pass the [00:14:56 inaudible] full of water, go back and sleep in the hole with the clothes full of water, in my boots, my clothes, all wet. We went back in the hole.
I: How often did you have a chance to take a shower?
FP: Once a month, maybe.
I: Once a month?
FP: Ahh. Once a month and we had to take a shower for once a month, so we go with [00:15:21 inaudible] up of the hill, the front-line, maybe, two or three weeks. Then we go back to the rear.
FP: Stay in the rear for maybe one week and then we come back to the front-line. So in the front-line, you had no water, you had nothing. You know. [00:15:43 inaudible].
I: So there is no water for you washing your face?
FP: No, no water.
I: How about, how about washing your teeth?
FP: That is because no water in there. So
FP: one time some places have like a, up in the hill they have one, like a pipe inside the hole, inside the hill. And the water come from the hill. And sometime we took the water from it but you had to be careful because when you went to take the water, the Chinese were watching us and they start shooting us.
I: What about food? What did you eat?.
FP: The food, we had the C ration.
I: C ration.
FP: The C ration.
I: what was your favorite
FP: My favorite was…
FP: Pork and Beans, Frank and Beans, that was my favorite and [00:16:43 inaudible], and then we have for the breakfast in the morning cocoa with sugar and we had to eat it like a little…
FP: and put it on fire, but you have watch, you have to be cover, so no one can see it from there, from the outside, they don’t see the smoke from there, you have to cover the fire. That’s what we had to eat and a little bit for the coffee, do a little bit with. I forgot the name.
FP: Like a little candle, candle.
FP: Like a candle, you put the stuff and you do the…
I: I mean. That’s miserable. Cool, always eating C rations, not hot meal, right?
FP: No hot meal. An also, when you have to go to take a shit,
FP: There is not paper. No paper. We have no paper.
I: No toilet paper.
FP: No toilet paper, we have to put it back.
I: That’s miserable.
FP: That’s miserable.
I: I am sorry that you have to go through it lake that. You know. Did you have the chance to write a letter back to your family?
FP: No, because we do not have paper, no paper.
FP: The first time we arrive to Korea a Wrote a letter to my mother in a piece of paper that I found, but that’s it. No more. There was not paper.
I: You said that you were sick, right?
FP: Yeah, I was sick.
I: What was it?
FP: Oh, my stomach because we don’t have water to drink.
FP: Yes, I was sick of my stomach because I had to drink water from the hole. You see the hole, and you have to put the cantin (water bottle) into the water and they give you a pill, you put the pill in the pin,
FP: and then you suppose to wait half hour drink that water
FP: I was so thirsty and did not wait half hour, I drink it right away, I drink that water right away, so I have problem in my stomach. And them on sometime when you have you have to wait the aid you have the wash the mess kit with diary because there is not place to wash it, the mess kit when you eat.
I: So you when to Daegu?
FP: I want to hospital.
I: Hospital in Daegu.
I: And then you go to Pusan.
FP: From Daegu they took me to Pusan. In Pusan they have a ship, hospital ship. I came combat from to the hospital and then go back to de front line.
I: Front line again.
FP: Front line again yeah.
I: What was your rank?
FP: I was corporal.
I: How much did you get paid, I mean, what was your salary?
FP: My paid was
FP: 130 dollars.
I: 130 dollars.
FP: A month. Whit that money I never see that money, because there is not where to spend that money, where are you going to spend? So then, after some much they give you three day in Japan, at the RnR, and they give you some money, 300 dollars and in three days…
I: Did you send the money back to your family?
FP: I don’t remember.
FP: I don’t remember because…
FP: And then they don’t pay you with American money they give you copy money a script money.
I: When did you leave to Korea?
FP: I leave Korea 1952. Also, the Sargent told me if I stay in Korea he gives me another rank, hi gives me a first Sargent if don’t I have to go for feally. So,
FP: I have to go back to Puerto Rico, “No you stay here I give you first Sargent” I said “No”. So when I left Korea I was in California, my regiment went to attack the hill, that was in Poncho Hill, and there was where they kill most people they kill in Poncho hill. I was supposed to go there to Poncho hill so I was back to Puerto Rico
FP: I came to Puerto Rico.
I: What was your unit?
FP: I was in the 65 infantry, company Air, 65 infantry.
FP: Sixty-five infantry.
FP: 65 infantry company Air.
I: Yeah, When did you leave Korea, wat did you think about the future of Korea?
FP: Because they were talking about the peace time, but you know one think of Korea, Korea was rising right, rising good until the chinese came. General McArthur wanted to bomb China, so the president Nixon.
FP: Truman, he said “get out of Korea, get out”. Because if he bombed China there was
FP: another war. Big, big war, because China is big. But the Korean war was almost over. I went to fight the Chinese to recover South Korea to us. Belong to us now. The Chinese came and it was a big mess a big problem.
I: Have you been back to Korea?
FP: No, no.
FP: I would like to go to see how it looks now.
I: Do you know what happened to Korea
I: after you left? Now.
I: Do you know something about Korean economy?
FP: No, no. They say that if is beautiful now they say. That’s what they told me. Because I have a Korean friend in New York, and he told me that Korea is so different now, you know they say, and I was there. When I was in Korea, Korea was very poor.
I: Very poor.
FP: Very poor Korea, the houses were poor houses, the street was poor, everything was poor. But they say
FP: now it is different they say.
I: Have you been to New York city?
FP: Have I been in New York City? Ah… Two years ago.
I: You know, Seoul, is much bigger and modernized than the New York City.
I: Oh Yeah.
I: Ten million people lives there, so many buildings and so many cars, too many.
I: So, if you go back to Korea
I: you are not to recognize it.
FP: I would like to go back to see how it is.
I: Yeah, you know, Korean government has a program called Re-visit program. It is run by the Minister of Patriots and Veterans affairs, it is like the Veteran’s Affairs in the United States, and they invited you to go back to Korea.
I: Yeah, the pay for everything except half of the transportation airfare. So, if you are interested in go back to Korea
I: You let me know.
FP: Ok, cool.
I: Oh Right?
FP: Oh right, oh right!
I: You will be surprised.
FP: I would like to go back to Korea again. Because those days there was terrible, it as very poor.
I: You know how big South Korea is? Right, it is a very small country, right?
I: It is just a little bit bigger than Indiana state.
FP: Oh Yeah?
I: But they are the eleven largest economy in the world.
I: Eleven largest.
I: Right? So Korean people were able to accomplish very rapid economic development because you fought for us and gave opportunity to rebuild our nation.
FP: Because you know what happened, what happened in Korea was that the North Korea invaded South Korea, and then, because the army in South Korea was a small army, they didn’t have
FP: to many weapons, so the American had troops in Japan, the first calvary and the second division, there were in Japan. So, they went to Korea, they move to Korea and they run the north Koreans out of Korea.
I: You know. Are you proud of your services?
FP: I am proud. I am proud.
FP: I was for 14 years in the army. I went to Germany, I stayed three years in Germany. I was in Panama. I was one year in Panama. You know, when I was in Korea, we had the Korean soldiers with us, we called them the rock, the rock.
FP: They were and fought with us.
FP: They were mostly over there.
I: We fought together, right?
FP: Right, right.
I: Yeah, yeah,
I: So, what do you think of the Korean economic development, so fast?
FP: I think maybe because Korea democratic, I think South Korea is democratic, and democracy is more money, more opportunity. Communist the have not, thy are hungry.
I: Mm-hmm that is right.
FP: They are hungry, they have nothing.
I: So, Korean people
I: always thank American soldiers, you know, because they gave us, they fought for us, right?
FP: Yeah, Yeah.
I: Now, we became so develop and now we are very strong ally to the United Stated.
FP: I know that.
I: So, what do you think about that?
FP: It’s good, I think it’s good. Is good to be friendly.
I: Mm-hmm. So, you want to go back to Korea, right?
FP: I like to see Korea again to see how it looks now.
I: you are not going to believe your eyes. Because it’s all changes.
FP: All changes.
FP: Because when I was there it was very poor Korea. Very poor.
I: Anything you want to talk to me about more of your service, anything you didn’t tell me please.
FP: Let me see… you know I have… when I was in Korea
FP: I was luck at Sankar, because I came alive form Korea because God is good with me. I almost get killed at that time. At that time, I almost get killed. One day I was upon the hill, I was making a hole and there was snow, so I was digging the hole and the Chinese were looking with the binoculars.
FP: Because the hill ours, they have, they were top of the hill
FP: very high. Our hill was low, and they were watching us all the time with the binoculars. I was digging the hole when the mortar come. When I heard it I jumped into the hole and bum, and you know I went down rolling from upon the hill. Rolling down like ball. Rolling down, down the hill and when I hit the [00:29:29 inaudible],
FP: my first service “are you ok?”, “yeah, I am OK, but I don’t want come back again over there because They will kill me”.
FP: The first one they missed the first one, the second one, forget it they will kill me. I was luck it.
FP: And another time, another day I was with three people. My squad, there was a Korean guy, his name was Neri Iong-De
FP: He was a short guy, and my corporal and me. Three people. We were running I wire, we call this wire for the… to put it first in the front, and the Korean and the corporal were in the front
FP: with a roll and I was in the back, I was holding the wire. And then the Chinese saw them and they shoot them with a mortar, Pa, Pa, Pa, I was in the back, I was looking because I was in the front in the same line, and then my corporal was shoot and was hit in the back and nothing happened to the Korean, nothing happen
FP: but the corporal was hit in the back, they was hit bad in the back from the mortar.
I: You know, you talk a lot about your own dangerous moments, severe battles against the Chinese but it’s been known as Forgotten War the Korean War as forgotten.
FP: Oh yeah.
I: Why? Why it’s been forgotten here in the United States?
FP: I don’t know why; I don’t know why.
I: It was a very important war, right?
FP: Oh yeah. It was rough.
I: You almost lost your live.
FP: I almost lost my life; I was luck in Sankar. God was good with me.
FP: That I came back from there alive. Because I never see that I would not come back again. I feel that, that was the end of my life. I think. I was 21 years old, I was young, I had my family in Puerto Rico, mi mother, my father,
FP: my mother was praying for me all the time, and my sisters, and a group of “primos” (cousins) praying for my life. I though they say, maybe he will not come back, no more.
FP: From Sankar, From Sankar I came back again. So, I came my life.
I: Any other story you want to share with me?
FP: Well, that’s it.
I: That’s about it.
FP: That’s about it.
I: Domingo, it is great honor
I: and pleasure to meet you and to listen from you about your fight for Korean nation, and because you sacrifice for us that we are… we were able to build the nation again and became a very strong ally to the United States.
FP: Thank you, thank you.
I: So, I want to thank you again, and I hope that you can talk, keep in touch with me.
I: So that you can go back.
I: To Korea. Okay?
I: Oh, right?
FP: Oh right.
I: Thank you very much.
FP: You’re welcome.
[End of Recorded Material]