Eusebio Santiago was born in a farming village in Puerto Rico on April 6, 1931. He was the school teacher for the area and used to ride from village to village on horseback to recruit students for the local elementary school. In 1950, he had already joined the National Guard but was activated into the regular Army when the Korean War started. He served as a rifleman with the 65th Infantry Regiment.
Eusebio Santiago describes bunkers and night patrols. He recalls how the bunkers were about four feet high and eight feet wide square. He shares how men would live in bunkers due to the Chinese threat. He recalls how soldiers, while in the bunkers, did not have access to a shower for up to a month.
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Loss in the Defense of Democracy
Eusebio Santiago describes the loss of a couple of fellow soldiers. The men were never found in their defense of South Korea. The soldiers of Puerto Rico were defending democracy, defending an attacked country. Eusebio Santiago describes defending against communism.
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Eusebio Santiago recalls how the sight of Korean villagers catching and cleaning fish reminded him of daily life in Puerto Rico. He describes the rice fields and how villagers continued their life with war around them. Eusebio Santiago recalls his childhood while war was going on.
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INTERVIEWER: It is February 14, 2016, Lajas Puerto Rico, my name is Jongwoo Han, I am the president Korean War Legacy Foundation, and this is my great honor and pleasure to meet you, and to be able to listen from you about your service. So please introduce yourself what is your name?
SANTIAGO EUSEBIO: My name is Eusebio Santiago.
I: And could you spell it for audience? spell It your name.
SE: E U S E B I O, first name, surname is S A N T I A G O. Santiago
I: Santiago, yes. what is your birthday?
I: Yeah, your birthday?
I: Yeah, when were you born?
SE: 6 of April 1931.
I: April six 19…
I: 31 were you born in Puerto Rico?
SE: Here in Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico…
SE: …you want me to spell Savana Grande?
I: No, no, no, but that’s the hometown of Noemi, right?
SE: Ah, Noemi.
I: Yeah. good to have you.
SE: Her father was a…
I: Noemi’s father?
SE: Yeah, we were in school together.
SE: We were neighbors in Sabana Grande.
I: Mhm. So, you had a good time with Noemi’s father?
I: And tell me about your family when you’re growing on, your parents, father, mother, and your siblings, brothers, and sister if you have any?
SE: We were many, we were 15 brothers and sisters, 16, 15 and father and mother…
SE: …17, we were 17 in the family. Numerous.
I: So, you have a 15 brothers and sisters including you, and then father and mother…
SE: Father and mother.
I: …so it’s all 17.
SE: I was born in the country, I was born in a small farm, in a…
SE: …my father bought 10 acres.
I: So, it was a farm?
SE: Then there was a… I entered the school at four years old.
SE: But yeah, not for my intelligence…
SE: …it was in the place I used to live, there was one school, and one teacher used to teach three grades, first-grade, second grade, and third grade. She alone and for the fourth year…
SE: …I have to go to town for children’s, the thing is that the place where I lived, the teacher after the third grade, the children had to move, the students…
SE: …to move to town to continue…
SE: Aha, every year, when the first-grade past to 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, then the teacher have to have a group of children, to begin the first year and she alone…
SE: …during the vacation time, had to go along the country to make a… in order to make a group for the first grade, to begin the first grade…
SE: …So, one day and I was at home talking with my mother and she…
SE: …the teacher used the transportation by that, 1935 was by horse… the teacher, well my mother saw the teacher arriving on horseback to my home and then she said: “there go to the farm now…
SE: …stay over there, because Mrs Lugo is coming with a coming, they can see you and you have only four years, and now you can go to first grade, but I went to the farm but, about 15-30…
SE: …30 minutes later, it began to rain, I was on the farm began to rain and then I’ll run to my home, I forgot what my mother said, not to stay out of home, and when I entered the house there was Miss Lugo…
SE: …was waiting for me… but always my mother keep tell in her, she says more kids he’s only four years old, and then Mrs. Lugo said: “he has to do first grade anyway to complete, even if he…
SE: …would only has four years, 5, 10 years, 12 years for the first grade. Because
I: Yeah, you saw…
SE: …she had to have to for my first grade,
I: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.
SE: …to continually change first grade second grade.
I: Right, So, you join her?
SE: I remember that… the teacher asked me…
SE: …to two or three questions and she said: “oh it’s easy his intelligent”, but my mother always keeps saying: “he’s a child, he is a child”. Yeah, well, anyway the teachers I had to made the first grade group and anyway…
SE: …the classes, the vacations ended and then I went to the first grade, when the first job I had in school was that the teacher used to horse to go from town to the to the school.
I: Okay, so when did you finish your high school?
SE: I began the high school, I began almost 1950…
SE: …I began the fourth… the high school.
SE: …the fourth year of high school.
SE: …the Korean war began in September 10, 1950.
I: June 25th, 1950.
SE: I just had entered the National Guard.
I: Guard. When September 1950?
SE: Sometime before but few months before that date.
I: Okay, the war.
SE: So the unit I was in Sabana Grande, the military unit…
SE: …Company B…
SE: …296 regiment was activated, as soon as the Korean War began was activated, from the National Guard to the Regular Army, then you said, I didn’t finish I just began if the…
SE: …Fourth year high school, I studied two months only, I finish my I high school five years later when I was in Germany, I take different test and they gave me the high school diploma.
SE: In Germany.
I: Yeah, hold on. When did you leave for Korea? What kind of training did you receive?
SE: What kind of?
I: Yeah, training to go to Korea.
SE: Well, combat training.
SE: Combat training, not with the regiment I was a part of, 296 infantry…
SE: …before going to Korea.
I: Uh-huh, did you know anything about Korea at the time?
SE: No, I just hear thy news that the North Korean had invaded South Korea.
I: That’s it?
SE: That’s all.
I: Did you know where Korea was at the time?
SE: Well, look in the maps.
I: So, when did you leave for Korea? When did you leave for Korea?
SE: At the end of 1951.
I: At the end of 1951?
SE: Probably November, October.
I: November 1950 or 51?
I: Oh, okay.
SE: 51, but it was a long trip to Korea but we left the group… let me tell you that, when the Korean War began…
SE: …the 65th Infantry Regiment was active…
SE: …from the Second World War that regimen is stood active, when the Korean war began it was taken to Korea and then as long as the regimen, the soldiers, some of them were wounded…
SE: …some of them died some of them had completed their term, then the regiment 65 needed to replace those soldiers, and that’s reason why the regiment I was in the National Guard was activated…
SE: …for taken to Korea, it was four groups, you know, from this company they sent a group, some of them, were… they asked for the volunteers first, and later for example the company…
SE: …I used to be they chose the group by a lottery.
I: A lottery, yes.
SE: …yeah, and I… in the second group I went, I was…
SE: …what the company commander did was… they took two, two replacements that say they needed, they asked him for 50 soldiers He sent 50 and two replacements and I was elected in the first replacement…
SE: …from the two replacement I was first, and other soldiers second, and they send us that day for… they sent on pass to our hometown, then the next morning the company commander asked me: “Santiago…
SE: …you had to go to Korea, you a replacement number one”, I said: “Ah yes. What happened there?”, “Well one of the men got sick during the night, well you are the first replacement, you have to going to Korea”, after that, yeah you know…
SE: …we had enough training before, and soon with go from one camp at the south of Ponce, in the south of Puerto Rico, were taken to fort Buchanan and them from there to Korea.
I: …I have some questions and we have a limited time, so, I want to focus more on the details of how you did it in Korea, Okay? So, we have a limited time, so I want to ask some questions and you answer to that question.
SE: I still had some information going to Korea, we went from here to Colombia to get a battalion of…
SE: From here, from Buchanan’s we went by boat, the name of the boat was Aiken Victory.
SE: Yeah, we went from here to Korea who got a battalion from Colombia…
SE: Then we cross by the Panama Canal and went to Hawaii…
SE: …then from Hawaii to Japan, and then from Japan to port of Incheon.
I: Incheon. When did you arrive there?
SE: Incheon… just beginning, just beginning the 1952.
I: Okay. Good, so from Incheon where did you go?
SE: Directly to the battle front.
I: Battle front.
SE: Because, you know, I remember after we get out of the boat…
SE: …in Incheon, the trucks were waiting for us and they… I remember that I travel from east to west, east to west…
I: No, west to east.
SE: …Along the parallel 38.
SE: You know, Incheon is
I: …so you went to east.
SE: I have to cross…
SE: …parallel 38 because the United Nations line was across Korea.
SE: The same as Chinese and North Korean, that they cross the North Korean.
I: Yeah, what was the name of the place did you go?
SE: No, yeah…
I: Was it?
SE: I really… because of the first time I was in Korea we traveled on trucks, and the first time I went to Korea, I remember one name, the one of Chorwon.
I: Chorwon, yes.
SE: And the rest of the… almost I guess we had half of the time, we…
SE: …went along the Imjin River.
I: Imjin River, yes.
SE: And I guess it was a little, little, over parallel 38, little the distant part little over parallel 38.
I: Yeah, what was your specialty?
SE: I was a rifleman.
SE: The one in the front.
I: So, tell me about the story of your combat?
SE: Well, yeah, by that time conversations were beginning.
I: For cease fire.
SE: Beginning but the war continued.
SE: Probably most of the time was…
SE: …patrolling land of no body, that’s a non-part of Chinese and North Korean line, and on the other side the United States, United Nations line.
I: Main line of resistance.
SE: Yeah, and that was… I tell you, that was the last…
SE: …war that the two lines were used at the two lines were used in the history, you see the two lines, after that Vietnam comes and there was no line in Vietnam, the war of Vietnam. That was the first time…
SE: …that you don’t know, you didn’t know where you were, but by the time, we last time, I was in Korea and we know that to the South was friend, were friends, the North Enemies.
SE: And we use to, for the officers used to send us…
SE: …ahead, the same thing the North Korean and Chinese did come ahead too, and sometimes patrols find a children, but really it was during… the during the night, that…
SE: …that the patrols were used most, most of the time, and we used to live on the front, the battle front to live in Bunkers, but small bonkers about…
SE: …four feet high, four feet deep, for 7 or 8 feet wide square, covered with leaves and rocks and the height was a four…
SE: …four, about four feet and we had to stay seated, or time and between the line, the battle line was made of bunkers about 15 20 feet from each bunker…
SE: …to another, to another, to another. We just use to go up there just to… when the food come, just in a hurry, walking a…
SE: …Walking on not to stray because either they Chinese could see you a walking, you had to…just walk for a 4 feet…
SE: …and that was the only time, when we went when we used to go to get the meal…
SE: …that you see some persons, some soldiers you used to know, but there was not communication with nobody, every… for the ones who were in the bunkers living, well…
SE: …No shaving, no bath, no nothing, every two or three week, every two or three weeks we used to go by taking by trucks, 12, 15 kilometers back to get a shower, but we usually stay one month without taking a shower.
I: So, was there any dangerous moments in the battle or in night patrol? can you, you want to share the story?
SE: Well, I made few patrols during the night, a few patrols but directly, I never found a…
SE: …other patrol from the other side coming…
SE: Sometimes, we fired without seen. Just to let the enemy knows that we were randomly placed and…
SE: …sometimes the tanks come, the lines were always out on top of hills, and sometimes the thanks came to the top, they used to fire heavy weapons two or three kilometers ahead…
SE: …two or three kilometers ahead, where there was a… by the time I was there, it was a winner time and then when the Chinese clear the place, where they were walking, we had some times with the brown, instead of seeing the all-white, a trace of brown trace…
SE: …and then the tanks fired over there three or four kilometers ahead, the things is that the tanks, this is the top the tank came and they shoot, shoot and they go back they…
SE: …again, but when they the Chinese and North Korea began firing from… they had a lenses and they knew where the place where we fired was started and then they sent us ammunition, but the tanks when they were doing the land, when they, the North Korean began…
SE: …fighting back, when the tank were like this they walked back, two or three kilometers back and then we stood the rifleman, stood in the line.
I: Where you wounded?
SE: My friends of mine were, some of them disappeared, Sabana Grande my hometown, two have disappeared…
SE: …We don’t know if they were killed or taken as prisoners, we never… the thing is that I myself…
SE: …was to know by… I enlisted for 3 years, activated and by September I had to come back to Puerto Rico to meet my discharge or if I wanted, if I wanted…
SE: …re-enlisted, right, on the lines for… and I first choose to stay over there. The thing is that I was 18 years old and I know that I liked it, the army…
SE: …and I thought I was doing the defending defendant democracy especially in a country that was attacked, South Korea, that before to Korea, Korea only should be friends, but it doesn’t happen, no, no by the…
SE: …by the North Koreans wanted it, it was the ones who handle North Korean.
SE: That I in that case where the Communists Russia.
SE: Russia when the Korea was divided, and the United Nations took…
SE: …the divided parallel 38 it was to help the Korea to have progress because but they suffered from Japan too with the Second World War and it supposed to be…
SE: …free after the war ended. The United Nation they divided it, that you take the north, you take the south but is to make the two countries, the two parts to progress in everything and then get out, and leave the Korea like it has been Korea…
SE: …but it doesn’t happen the Communist these days they had another plans.
I: When did you leave Korea?
SE: I left Korea by September, August, I guess it was by August because of…
I: August 1953.
SE: 52, 52 because I had to, I had to come back to Puerto Rico, I told you I was going to stay in Korea, and re-enlist for three years in the battle line, because they used to give a… some of… by that time, if you re-enlisted for three years you took like three thousand dollars…
SE: …and 3,000 dollars there were about 35 or 40 thousand now, by that time.
I: Much more than that.
SE: Aha, much more. And also…
I: But you come back?
SE: I like the Army by that time too…
I: Yeah, yeah. But you came back right?
SE: But I decided there was a friend of mine that…
SE: …we were always about the littles in sports, when we were in resting area, in the school in Sabana Grande, my friend’s name was Angel Santiago, he said” well, Eusebio…
SE: …we are going to re-enlisted” he said, but one day we were in the resting area we used to use to… every month to go to the resting area, but it was a it was a training area instead of resting area.
I: Yeah. Eusebio, we have only 15 minutes left, so I would like ask more questions to you, okay?…
I: What is the Korea that you remember when you left in 1952? what is the Korea in your memory?
SE: Well, the first farmers working in the in the rice fields, I guess one of the, one of the photos I give you I’m standing right…
SE: …in their rice field, just in the divided line…
SE: …working over there, the agriculture and when I was going on traveling across Korea I thought one thing, first a small town and I see a fish…
SE: …fish hanging and out of the sun.
I: They dried it up.
SE: To dried it and I remember one thing, that when i was living in it Puerto Rico I used to live in some place where there was a lake, sweet water lake…
SE: …and I had a about seven aunts…
SE: …and uncles living around that place and they used to fish, small fish, thin, and they used to open them in the… and put salt and hang them in there out in the sun, to hand them and keep them from 8, 10 days salted…
SE: …and after that it took them to…
I: Yeah, So…
SE: …to eat them fried, and I saw that that in a small town in Korea.
I: Yeah, it’s been more than 65 years after you left around 60 years, and you remember the Korea when you were there, right?
I: Do you know what happened to Korea now?
SE: Yeah, happened I know because I keep reading and saw them, the history…
SE: And I know and I know yeah about that Korean war, I know a lot of things.
SE: That the probably, well I know you know them…
SE: …ones in this is, you know the president of North Korea, he is a young man, about 29, 30 years probably, but it was a heredity from his father, from his grandfather and just…
SE: …for a young man in charge of an army and a president of the country that has to deal with all men in politics and in the Army. One officer that has been there 23 years…
SE: …and the one who has been in the Army, he is the chief of all those officers old the same thing with politics that just because he inherited the government, he has to show…
SE: …to show lead the people.
SE: Show that he is that, he is the president, the leader, and to show to the world and to the same country of North Korea, that he is the leader and, you know, you see, you know that… well we have weapons, we can take rockets to any place…
SE: … in the world and that, and attack the war has not ended yet and easily too, the Korean War has hasn’t ended…
SE: …since 1955…
SE: …and but he says: “well, the war has not ended”, but you know, the Chinese President says, takes the phone, “ok you took everything, and you were…
SE: …but remembered that we aren’t going to defend you, right now”
SE: “We can’t because the economy of China and United States are mixed”, and it’s impossible for the Chinese to help the North Korean…
SE: …if they enter in a war.
I: Yeah. You know a lot.
SE: I know a lot but a… I now more.
I: What about South Korea?
SE: I know more.
I: Yeah Eusebio, what do you know about South Korea? what happened to South Korea after you left?
SE: Well, I don’t remember now the name of the president of Korea, but all the conversations…
I: About South Korean economy…
I: …and politics do you know about that?
SE: No, just that they United States have been helping…
SE: …helping in order to develop Agriculture Industry, Army, everything helping to…
SE: …to develop.
SE: In all ways.
SE: And the people of South Korea know that, and also the ones in North Korea they know it, they know also the same, but in a communist country it you can… It is just for the ones that are in charge…
SE: …that’s what they think.
I: What is the importance of the Korean War and or what is the contribution that you have made to South Korea?
SE: I guess to get them free and that they have been…
SE: …they had having a develop in agriculture in industry, industry agriculture, the army too, armed forces…
SE: …in they got powerful army because they got to defend their… in case of North Korean attack but…
SE: …that is what I think, it’s not going to happen because the Chinese.
I: Chinese, yes, yeah.
SE: Well, you can talk everything you say…
I: But Eusebio, I want you to know that Korean economy now very big. 11th largest in the world, can you believe that? can you believe that Korean economy is 11th largest…
I: …in the world?
I: 11th largest, it’s a big economy, can you imagine?
SE: Yeah, I know that…
I: You know that.
SE: You know.
I: What do you think?
SE: About their cars, made in Korea.
SE: Cars, clothing, shoes… yeah some of…
I: Cellular phones?
SE: Hardware, hardware, small models, hardware products
SE: Yeah, from Korea.
SE: And lot more from China.
I: Yeah. China is…
SE: Well, I took what they want, but stay quite it.
I: So, what do you think about the Korean economy?…
I: …how did it become so big? There was a very poor country?
SE: Yeah, there was, but they have the willingness of progress, I took you and because I was in Germany, the same almost same thing happened in Germany divided by the Communists.
I: No, there was not communist so.
SE: They’re from… I relisted when I come back to Puerto Rico for three years and I stood about year and a half in Germany, and that was the destroyed, destroyed by the second world war.
SE: And I saw myself, men, women, children working in agriculture, working in construction…
SE: …and they have a great progress.
I: So, second largest economy in the world. No third or fourth, anyway.
SE: They have work hard.
SE: Hard, too hard the same at the Korea.
SE: It was, the government
SE: …you know, they, the government had work, work good but also the United States appeared then.
SE: And I hope they continue progress and I hope too sometime…
SE: …excuse me…
SE: To see one Korea.
I: Oh. you want to see one Korea?
SE: Yes. One Korea like, like South Korea.
I: …what makes you feel that? what makes you feel that?
SE: Well, I hope, I hope, but the Communist in a few places like Russia were it stopped, but how they are 2…
SE: …3 countries China, North Korea, Iran, they don’t want. Well, I got a 85 years…
SE: …I hope before dying to see…
I: You want to see unified Korea? Why are you crying?
SE: I tell you, I served in the Army volunteers for five years, and I age 85, democracy… I defend democracy…
SE: … kills me, yeah…
SE: Okay some other questions.
I: So, tell me what is Korea to you personally? how do you feel about Korea personally?
SE: How do I feel about Korea?
SE: Well, that they are, they are progressing a lot, and that they are going to see, to continue progressing but before and after, that the unification of Korea.
I: Your point is extremely important, that’s what we want, unification, to be one Korea one brother, one sister, like one family, but, as you mentioned, there is a China, Russia, and the United States they don’t want to see us to be unified.
SE: Because one have to remember, that…
SE: …there are South Koreans living in North Korea, and their families need to be united again.
I: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah we have separated families for 60 years and they are dying, without being able to see their children or their parents.
SE: I give you, the Germany for example…
SE: Germany was divided in four parts, four parts England, France, United States, and Russia.
SE: I know any other story that you didn’t tell me? Any other story that you didn’t tell me?…
I: …any story that you want to tell me and to the interview?
SE: Well, I’m thinking I live and if the democracy wants me, I gave five years, I’ll go volunteer with no payment…
SE: …to defend democracy.
SE: That includes Korea, Germany where I was stationed…
I: Yeah, go ahead.
SE: …and it has been a pleasure with to know, Noemi also because Noemi was born in the States…
SE: …and anyway you need some other information you can write to me asking these, you got my phone and my…
SE: …my address, something, probably you want to to know that I forget…
SE: …there has been a pleasure.
I: Yeah, do you read books a lot?
SE: Yeah, I am a continue reader, a book I read the papers. you know sometimes I gather the papers because I have no time to…
SE: …to read them but I keep them.
SE: But a brother of mine that lives in Florida, he studied Psychology, he said: “well you have the newspapers, but as they pass one or two days they are in history” …
I: Do you want to…
SE: …and I read everything on the papers, and some other, anyway, what happens in the world by, I am always reading and that’s because I like to be…
SE: …informed of everything.
I: Yeah, do you want to go back to Korea?
SE: Well, to go to travel, I got sometimes problem with back.
SE: But I would like to… I’d like to…
SE: …to go, but it’s hard for me to move.
I: Okay, Eusebio, I think you made a wonderful points that Korea need to be One.
I: I really hope to see that when I alive, I’m not sure how it happened and when will happen, but I appreciate your comments that we need to be one and…
I: …I want to thank you on behalf of Korea, En nombre de Corea, we want to say thank you.
SE: Very welcome.
I: Gracias por todo.
SE: Very welcome.
I: And I don’t forget Korea become now very big in economy, and we have a strong democracy because you fought for us, we don’t want to forget, and we want to preserve your memory and that’s why we are doing this.
SE: And my appreciation to all the people in Korea, even the ones who cannot go back to Korea to South Korea they ones that still live in North Korea.
SE: That would like to be in South Korea or that being port of one Korea.
I: One Korea. Yes…
I: …you’re amazing, you’re amazing, I wish I have more time to listen from you but as you mentioned I will all keep in touch, so, that you have more information you can share with us, I can give you more information to you too, Oh right?
SE: If you need more…
SE: …I will supply you, your information and…
SE: …yeah, it’s a pleasure talking to you, and Noemi I see her, the first time I meet Noemi was when I saw her in a picture on Mayaguez, and she is a good person…
SE: …as well as her family, although she had to know some relatives yet.
SE: But maybe in the next trip.
I: Noemi is doing great for the veterans from Puerto Rico, she made a film about you, and she is a strong advocate…
I: …and I couldn’t make this trip without her, too much work for, you know, she did a beautiful job and I want to appreciate and it’s specially thankful to meet you because you are the friend of the father of Noemi. So, I want to thank you, muchas gracias.
SE: Muchas gracias.
I: Thank you.
SE: You’re welcome.
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