Korean War Legacy Project

Gustavo Mendez


Gustavo Mendez was born on April 27, 1929 in Las Marias, Puerto Rico.  After high school, he moved to New York City to work and was drafted into the US Army in 1951.  He received basic training at Camp Tortuguero, Puerto Rico before being deployed to Korea as a part of the 23rd Infantry Combat Team.  He participated in several battles including the Battle of Old Baldy and returned home in 1953.  Today, he lives in the town of his birth, sings songs, writes poems, and is known as “the gentleman of Las Marias.”

Video Clips

"I Don't Need Bullets"

Gustavo Mendez arrived in Inchon and then went to the Battle at Old Baldy. After getting to Korea, he had to deal with prejudice against Puerto Ricans because he didn't speak fluent English. A South Korean soldier that was embedded with Gustavo Mendez warned the US troops that many Chinese were headed their way. As he engaged the enemy, Gustavo Mendez's rifle jammed. He though that he it was a sign from God.

Tags: 1952 Battle of Old Baldy, 6/26-8/4,Yeonpyeong,Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,Physical destruction,South Koreans,Weapons

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"...The Next Day, I'm a General"

Gustavo Mendez recalled a first sergeant who wanted him to stay in Korea for three additional months and become a sergeant. He cleverly replied, "If I go home to my house, the next day, I'm a general." Dr. Han, the interviewer, found a connection between the treatment of Puerto Ricans and Koreans.

Tags: 1952 Battle of Old Baldy, 6/26-8/4,Yeonpyeong,Front lines,Home front,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Pride

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Prayer and the Bible Was All that Was Needed After being Drafted

Gustavo Mendez was drafted into the Army in 1951 while living in New York. He asked if he could go back to his hometown to attend basic training and the US government allowed him to move back to Puerto Rico for training. Gustavo Mendez was a Christian and he was nervous about having to use his weapon in warfare, but as he read more of the Bible he learned that he will be protected which made him feel better.

Tags: Basic training,Fear,Home front,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Weapons

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