Louis F. Santangelo
Louis “Lou” F. Santangelo served in the US Navy aboard the USS Sarsi during the Korean War. He was born on May 5, 1928 in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Northumberland High school in 1945, he joined the US Navy. With WWII coming to an end, he was released from service and attended Susquehanna University earning his degree. Upon completion of his studies, he reenlisted to the Navy and attended Communication School in Monterey, California. His assignment to the USS Sarsi, a fleet tug, traveled to Korea in July 1951 and operated in the East Sea. On August 27, 1952, during a typhoon, the USS Sarsi struck a mine and sunk. Louis Santangelo and his fellow crewmen were rescued at sea and returned home to the US. He was reassigned to a ship in Florida where he finished his enlistment. After service, he resided in Pennsylvania and was active in the Lancaster Chapter of the KWVA.
The Sinking of the USS Sarsi
Louis Santangelo describes the details of the sinking of the USS Sarsi, a fleet tug that was part of the US Navy's 7th Fleet. The USS Sarsi struck a mine during a typhoon and sank in 20 minutes on the night of August 27, 1952. Louis Santangelo describes being one of the last men off the ship and eventually saving 37 men from the sea.
Recovery from the USS Sarsi
Louis Santangelo describes the time after the USS Sarsi sank off the coast of Korea. The area where the USS Sarsi sank was controlled by North Korea. He describes that four sailors perished and how he was recovered in the hours after the sinking by other US ships. Louis Santangelo earned accommodation for keeping his men at sea, instead of allowing them to go ashore into enemy hands.
Louis Santangelo describes the conditions of the people in and around Busan Harbor. He describes people coming up to the ships in boats begging for cigarettes and being "poor." Louis Santangelo compares the conditions of Busan Harbor during the Korean War to the pictures he saw during the 2018 Winter Olympics and was amazed at the changes.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
L: Uh, my name is Lou Santangelo. Louis F. Santangelo to be proper, uh. The last name is spelled S A N T A N G E L O.
I: Is it Italian?
L: Very Italian.
I: Very Italian.
L: Proudly Italian.
I: Proudly Italian. I love it. Um, what is your birthday?
I: Twenty-eight, one year
L: I’m going to be 90 years old in May.
I: Wow. Wow, you look great.
L: Thank you.
I: And where were you born?
L: I was born in Northumberland, Pennsylvania.
I: Could you spell it?
L N O R T H U M B E R L A N D. North
L: North N O R T H U M B
I: E R
L: E R L A N D
L: Northumberland. A small community in, uh, um, north central Pennsylvania.
I: Um hm, um hm. And tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings.
L: Uh, my parents, uh, my father, uh, uh, came from Italy. He was, uh, about 15 years and, uh, came, uh, uh, uh, across the waters with a, uh,
a counselor, uh, to help him get into this country, and that was at that, uh, what’s the name of the, um, the, receiving area there from, uh,
FEMALE VOICE: Ellis Island.
L: The, uh, people that come into the country, and the first thing they do is try to, they evaluate them to see whether they’re in good health and then try to get them to an area where they can, uh, get a job, and that’s the key thing is to get almost any kind
of a job. So that he was 15 years old, uh. My mother was born in this country, uh, to an, it, very, very Italian family, one of about, um, let’s see, 4, 5, 6, six people, six, six children so that, uh, um, they were born in that area where I, I was born, in Northumberland. Um, that’s, uh, my, my grandfather
was a, worked in a coal and, uh, ice business delivering coal and ice throughout this little town, uh. The children grew up, uh. Most of them did not go to, uh, because they had to work. They had to, they had to get jobs and work. So that, that’s, uh, uh, a basic, uh, uh, beginning of my family, um. I came from a family with a,
brother and a sister. My father was a shoe repairman, the one that came over when he was 15 years old.
I: Um hm.
L: Never spoke a word of English, uh. He spoke bro, broken English, uh, later in life and never signed his name with a, you know, properly like you and I do, with a, is, when he signed any kind of a document, when he bought a property or something, he simply made an x or, uh, something. But, so
he was not an educated person. But just had a small shoe repair shop, and that’s
I: That’s the era of immigration.
L: And that’s how we grew up.
L: Exactly. Yeah. We didn’t have a whole lot, uh, but we always had, uh, plenty of food and clean clothes and, and, uh, and, uh, that was, that was it. In an Italian neighborhood, uh, so that we got our Italian foods and met Italian people and, you know. It was very, very nice.
I: Um hm. How many siblings, you said seven?
L: Uh, I have a brother and a sister.
I: That’s it. You are the youngest?
L: My brother is deceased, and my sister is still alive. She’s 80, um, she’s 86.
I: You’re the eldest or second?
L: I, I am the mi, no, I was the middle one. My sis, my brother past several years ago, uh. He’s, uh, now no
I: Um hm.
L: longer there.
I: So tell me about the school you sent through, uh, what high school did you graduate, when?
L: Uh, I graduated from, uh, Northumberland High School
I: Um hm.
L: in 1945.
L: That’s it. That’s why, that’s why I’m 90.
I: Oh, ’28. Yes, yes, yes, yes. And?
L: Seventeen years old. That’ll, we can get to that in a, in, in, in a little while. I’ll, I’ll, amp, amplify some of that because, uh, um, when I was, when I
graduated, I started a year before most children, before most children do. And, uh, uh, it was hard for me to, to, to learn things and, way to learn because one of my, my, wife, my mother’s friends was, uh, my teacher, and she used to come to, after hours come to my house and say now this is how you do this, and this is how you do that, and finally I picked it up. But I was pre, I was, uh,
I was started earlier than I should have been
L: Anyway. But anyway, that’s, that’s a, that’s a basis of, uh, of starting education and because I grad, therefore I graduated when I was just 17 years old and, uh, so it was, uh, uh, it was a case that, uh, I will tell you that’s when I entered the, uh, service from the beginning. I went into the Navy in the beginning, and I’ll, I’ll amplify that, uh,
if you wish.
I: But before you get into the military,
L: Okay, sure.
I: let me ask this question. When you were in school, did anybody or did any of your text book talk about Korea?
L: I can say no to that. I had no knowledge or, uh, or, or, uh, uh basis of any kind of information on Korea other than to know geographically, uh, about where it was and, and the, uh,
the, uh, on a map and how it, how it, uh, uh, related to Japan and so forth, but nothing that I knew really about Korea,
L: no, no I didn’t.
I: Um hm. And you are the Korean War veteran.
L: Very much so, yes.
I: And you were, have you been back to Korea since then?
I: But you know about Korea now, right?
L: I do. I do.
I: How do you know? And what do you know?
L: I read a little,
uh, you know, I’m just recent, uh, member of the Korean War Veteran’s Association here in the, uh, Lancaster area.
I: Um hm.
L: Uh, I answered a little ad in the paper because they, I didn’t even know about a Korean War Veterans Association.
I: Um hm.
L: I joined and, uh, I was, I’ve been pleased. Uh, we went to, first thing that happened, we went to, uh, uh, a, a, a large, uh, meeting in Washington several, oh, three to five, there to five months ago
down in Washington and, on a bus with, with other Korean people, and I enjoyed that very much, very, very much, my wife and I.
L: It was very, very interesting. So I really, uh, have picked up an interest now, and it’s kind of a, uh, uh, it was, it’s, it’s made me jog my memory in terms of things, um. But I will get, I will relate to it and, uh, uh, Korean meetings and so forth later.
But as far as just learning about Korea, no, I didn’t, I, I had no knowledge of Korea.
I: But what do you know about the contemporary Korea now, modern Korea? Do you know about its economy?
L: Yeah, oh yeah. I, uh, like, uh, like anybody that is, that should, uh, uh, be knowledgeable about, uh, North and South Korea and, uh, differences and meetings, uh. I have a property in Hershey that’s, uh
hat I lease to, uh, a young man whose mother and father work in Korea right now
L: They, uh, have, uh, have, uh, uh, a job there and will come back in a couple years. But in terms of, uh, a lot of political knowledge of Korea, I don’t know a lot about that. But, uh, obviously I read about current events in Korea because, become, it’s very attractive. I’ve always heard that Korea, you know, the Forgotten War, that, that was always, uh, uh, knowledgeable to me.
I never understood that too much because to me, it wasn’t forgotten. I mean, I knew very much about Korea and, uh, uh, whether we’ll ever go back to Korea, I don’t know, uh. But I, I doubt it, uh. Our, it’s just, the two, there’s too many other items, uh, too many other places to, uh, to, to see.
I: But what about Korean economy? Do you know about Korean economy now?
L: The Korean economy, I don’t. I really
don’t know much about that to be honest with you. I can’t say that I do.
I: Do you know Korean economy is ranked number 11 in the world?
I: Eleventh largest economy in the world.
L: That’s very interesting. I did not know that really.
I: So compared to the country
I: you saw in 1950’s
L: Yes, yes.
I: can you imagine that transformation?
L: I am, I am startled by that, uh, because, uh, I can remember, uh, uh, having been ashore only, not been ashore but into a
harbor in Pusan, Korea, uh, at one point where, uh, uh, uh, it looked very, very, you know, uh, needy, uh, where children would come out on little boats and beg for candy bars or cigarettes or something, you know? And so I had a, not a good knowl, uh, good basis of thinking about Korean, uh, the economy. But I did hear
from my tenant that when he visited his parents over in Korea
I: Um hm.
L: that, that it was, uh, outstanding, that Korea is, is a different world, and frankly, having just watched the Olympics, I was startled by the beauty of, of what I saw. Obviously I was seeing, you know, dressed up images of Korea. But I must, uh, then, then that showed me the quality of, of, of
the, uh, of the facilities there that they had for the Olympics, and it was, it was terribly impressive. Terribly impressive, um. It would almost, uh, invite you to go back to Korea again, and I’m not saying I wouldn’t, but, uh, they do have a program, uh, that they advertise in the Korean, uh, magazine that I get
I: Uh huh.
L: now that, that, uh, offers, uh, uh, very, uh, economic, uh, way to go there
and enjoy it at very minimal costs. So that’s, that’s a tempting invitation, but I don’t whether that’ll happen or not. But that’s, that’s
I: I think you should go back to see what’s been done.
I: You’re not gonna believe your eyes.
L: Is that right?
I: When were you in Pusan, when was it?
L: Uh, that would be 1951.
I: So 1951, current Pusan is completely changed.
L: Yeah. That’s 49, that’s, uh, uh, what, ’49 and 20, about, uh
I: Seventy years.
L: Seventy years, yes. Yes.
I: And we just finished the special documentary film, uh, with the main actors of ex-POW of Korean War veteran who were kept in North Korea for three years, and his great-grandson just graduated from high school last year, and we took them to Korea, took them to DMZ, to, to Pusan, and he landed in Pusan in 1950,
and he was not able to recognize anything.
L: No kidding.
I: And we, I’m going to let you know about that movie because, um, we don’t have time today, but, uh, Paul Cunningham, your President,
I: will show that to you later, in April.
I: so it’s good that you are comparing the Pusan you saw in 1951.
I: Great. Uh, so when did you enlist Army?
L: Uh, I’ll take you back to, to when I was 17, when I said I was 17. A friend of mine, uh, a classmate and high school friend of mine, at that time, uh, uh, we, um, decided, uh, because we were in this, we were at war, the country was at war at that time, and so we decided we would enlist in the Navy since we didn’t have, uh, jobs, uh., you know. We weren’t working anywhere, so we
went down to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and enlisted in the Navy. We went to Bethesda to a naval training base for nine weeks.
I: When was it?
L: And that was 1945.
I: Wow. And? Go ahead.
L: At the age of 17, just 17, and I often relate that to, uh, young people, particularly to my grand, grandkids, uh, sons particu, grandsons,
at, that when they’re now, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re not, uh, uh, familiar with, uh, being independent, uh, at that age, you know.
I: Um hm.
L: They’re, they’re older and still not that, but I learned quickly how you have to take care of yourself
L: and how you, how you obey orders and how you have to do things whether you want to do them or not, that you’re, you’re, you’re, uh, really commanded to, to, uh, take care of yourself and do
things for yourself, and I think it’s something that we, that I, I, preach about this, that all kids ought to do this. I, I think it was a wonderful way to get started in life, that, uh, you, you, you know, it, it is early, but, uh, anyway. So then I was, uh, at, at that age of 17, I was there for nine weeks, and then I was assigned to a ship, uh, and, and that’s when they dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima.
I: Um hm.
L: That very time. So right after that, so that’s why I only spent one year in the Navy, and then, uh, after they dropped the atom bomb, I came out. But I was on a, a Navy ship out of New Orleans at that, at that time.
I: Um hm. Keep going.
L: We were in, uh, we were in, uh, uh, my friend, my friend who grad, who went into this with me, uh, was assigned to a ship
also, a Navy ves, we were both on destroyers, destroyer, uh. I was on a destroyer [INAUDIBLE] and he was on a bigger, uh, bigger ship. We ended up in, we ended up in, uh, dry dock. They had to put the ships in dry dock to recondition them and, uh, uh, so as young sailors, we were together on two different ships om dry dock together, and I often tell the story what little I have every become,
if anything, that I was working, uh, as a kid at the bottom of this ship cleaning the bilges, the dirt, the filth. I looked up, and I, uh, I’d see these young men in their beautiful, uh, khakis with a nice gold bar, you know, I, uh, and I thought if I had no motivation, that was the time that motivated me to say if this every happens again,
I’m going to, uh, I’m going to get my, uh, uh, commission and become a Naval officer.
I: So, I’m sorry. I, I have to correct that you were in, enlisted to Navy, not Army.
L: Navy. Navy, yeah.
L: Oh yes.
I: So how did you come to Korea then? When?
L: Well, I went on, from there, I went into co, after I was released from the Navy and went to college, uh, uh.
I went, um, I, I grew, I went into, uh, a University called Susquehanna
I: Um hm.
L: Susquehanna University which was near my home. I had a little, I had, uh, some, uh, I had some, uh, educational, uh, provisions provided by the, uh, service, education offered and then, uh, I, I athletically, I was chosen to, to play a sport, football
L: and because I played that, uh,
I was, uh, my father had no money to send me to college. The, uh, there was a Senator in town who knew my father well and knew that I was str, I wasn’t prepared for college. I hadn’t talk, thought I would go to college. So that, um, I was living at home, but I, uh, was daily going to the University and playing sports, and I wasn’t doing well, and I was, uh, struggling, struggling and, uh,
then I thought about, uh, then another University contacted me, and I, my father, I talked to my dad, and then he talked to this Senator, Senator Steel, and Senator Steel says, well he was very Susquehanna minded, very, uh, big, uh, uh, contributor. Anyway he said if you, if your son stays down there, I’ll take care of him. I’ll pay for it. So I had no, no more expense. I had, uh, my military expense,
whatever that was, uh, maybe a year offering, uh, free, free education plus my, Senator’s, uh, money that he paid for my books and, and board, or room and board down there when I, I was on campus.
I: Um hm.
L: So that was, that was that, and, and then, uh, uh, I graduated from Susquehanna University. You asked me about how I got into this Korean
I: Korea, yeah.
L: situation. I’m I’m, I’m, uh, coming to that. Is this the way
you want me to
L: develop this?
L: Um, I went, I, uh, decided that, um, uh, I, I, I, I struggled but made it through Susquehanna University, and it seemed like each year I got better. each year I worked harder and got better, uh. I was never a top student, but I was more than a C student, maybe a B-,
L: you know?
I: You, you too honest, okay?
L: I struggled, I struggled, and I worked, and I,
I would come, I would, uh, I was a, I was a day student, you know, struggling, playing sport s at night and, and, and thumbing my way home at night to my home, uh, home in Northumberland a few miles away, but I made it. I graduated, and proudly, and became a, a, I, I was, I was honored in my sports program and became a, a, a Sports Hall of Fame up at that University,
L: uh, for what, uh, what, uh, uh, talent I had there, and they honored me for that, and then I graduated from Susquehanna and decided that, uh, uh, I, I, uh, the war was going on as I say, and I thought well, I better, I better, uh, think of what I want to do. It took a couple of, I went with two different companies,
uh, which didn’t work out. I wasn’t
L: happy at all on that basis. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, uh. I kept thinking of this war in Korea, uh, and, and, and, even, at both sides they were, at both sides of the ocean there was war, in Germany and then in Korea. I decided that I better get down to Philadelphia and see if I can, uh, take some tests and get this commission in case I’m ever called back in.
I: Um hm.
L: And I did.
I: Um hm.
L: I went down to, uh
Philadelphia, took some tests and graduated, uh, not graduated but got my commission and, uh, went back to work with, I think it was Wilson Sporting Goods at the time. But darn if they didn’t say call me or contact me and said would I like, would I in, would I consider going into the Navy as a Naval officer, as an Ensign and, uh, uh, they would send me to, uh, to the west coast to, uh, Monterey to go to a Naval, uh, a Naval
communications school for four months. And I did. And I, I, um, I loved it. I loved my communication school out there.
I: Um hm.
L: Keeping in mind that I was on a small vessel when I, and when I got, uh, out of boot camp which was in Bethesda, um, which would, on heavy seas was very, very bad. This destroyer was very, very bad. It was very bad sailing. Any, anyway, went
to this wonderful communication school on the west coast, met some great, great people who were, uh, family members and, and, uh, heavy, heavy college people. They were all, they were all graduates of heavy colleges, and so, uh, I went through that and, uh, uh, I think I was the, uh, out of about 17 or 20 people, uh, officers, I asked to be, uh, on a, uh,
larger ship should I be called to go to Korea. I got assigned to San Diego to a small ship called the U.S.S. Sarsi which was a laugh till we all had
I: U.S.S. what?
L: The Sarsi. I have a picture of it here.
L: S A R S I.
I: Sarsi. And we have about 20 minutes, so I want you to more
I: concentrate on Korea, okay?
L: Okay, okay.
I: Let’s get to the Korea.
I: So when did you leave for Korea, when?
L: Uh, I left for Korea
I: From where?
L: I, I went, I was assigned from there to San Diego and San Diego was a short time, July of 1951 is when
I: Um hm.
L: I went to Korea.
I: Wow. Through
L: We sailed, ’51.
I: Through sea.
FEMALE VOICE: High Sea.
L: How, part of me, pardon me?
I: High sea.
L: High sea. With a small vessel, you know. I have a photograph of it here
L: because that’s
anyway, from there we, uh, it took us almost two weeks.
L: We stopped in Hawaii, but then we went, from there we went to Sasebo, Japan which is on the south east
L: coast of Japan.
I: South west.
L: South west, pardon me.
L: Right. Exactly. South west, right there at the Sea of Japan. And that’s when we were given various assignments, uh, to patrol the west
I: Um hm.
L: coast of Korea,
uh, for, uh, between Wonsan and, and Hungnam.
I: That’s east side of the Korea. Yeah.
L: Yes, you’re right.
I: Um hm.
L: Thank you.
I: Um hm.
L: Will that all be corrected in your, yes, the east coast.
I: I mean, this is for the students, so I need to do that, yeah.
L: Yeah, um hm.
I: Yeah. And so
L: We were, that was our assignment, too.
L: And our assignment was, uh, was, uh, uh, was a towing vessel, as a rescue vessel, uh. We placed buoys. We, we,
had transportation activity. We had, uh, assignments of, uh, nighttime, anti-mining, uh, an anti-junk, uh, activity up, up the east coast of Korea, but always between Wonsan and Hungnam about, and if, as you know, there’s a nice little harbor in there that we would stick our heads in. It was about 1,000, 1,000 yards right off the coast of Hungnam.
I: So what was your unit then?
L: I was a Naval officer on the ship. We had five officers. I was the Operations Officer.
I: But what is the unit, 7thFleet or what is it?
L: Uh, it was Commandant Pacific Fleet. His fleet was, was Pacific Fleet, and we, under the, the tot, total command of a, of the whole thing was under the Commander of the 7thFleet. I don’t know how to give you anything more direct on that.
I: So 7thFleet, and do you know of any lower unit?
L: No I don’t.
I don’t know.
I: What is the vessel name that you were in?
L: The vessel, pardon me?
I: Vessel name?
FEMALE VOICE: The Sarsi.
L: The USS
L: USS Sarsi.
I: So you took that USS Sarsi from San Diego
L: From San Diego
L: all the way over, that’s right.
I: Oh, so tell me about that
L: They, they, they, they were vessels. It’s a, it’s a big vessel with about 100 compliment of people.
I: So tell me about that. What is, is it destroyer?
L: No. This is a, this is a Fleet tug.
I: Fleet tug.
L: Fleet tug,
and it’s used for towing
I: Yeah, right.
L: major vessels like
L: even aircraft carriers and carry, uh, cruisers and, and battle wagons, battleships and so forth. That’s, yes.
I: How big was it?
L: About, uh, 250 feet.
L: Length, yes.
I: Okay. And tell me about this, uh, vessel? How many people were there, and how was it to be there,
like sleeping, eating, shower, things like that?
L: I had a, well I, we were on, I was one of, uh, of five officers
I: So you were the officer, not non-commissioned officer?
L: No, no. At that point, I had, had received my, uh, that’s why I took my tests in Philadelphia. I was an Ensign. An Ensign.
I: So what was your rank?
L: An Ensign.
L: I was an Ensign.
L: Uh, later to become a Lieutenant Junior Grade. However, at that time, in the beginning, I was an Ensign, and as I said, our function,
out of, working the east coast of Korea was, uh, uh, mostly anti-mining patrol, uh, anti-junk patrol, troubles to, and, you know, and we would always, we were working with battle ships, uh, like the USS Missouri, the USS Bremerton, uh. That was a big cruiser. So we were working with them daily, and then go back to Sasebo for a, a brief, and then back, back up the coast. And we,
and there was a major typhoon that happened in Korea at that time, uh, 26thof August, 1952 so that I hadn’t even, I had just been on the vessel about a year, one year when we were up the coast, we went up the coast and, uh, uh, we were about to turn, uh, on the night of August 27th, 1952
to come back to Wonsan, uh, for a little lesser activity. Wonsan was, Hungnam was very active up there. They didn’t let, like to see American vessels up there. And when we hit this mine on the night of, we hit a mine a floating mine from this typhoon on the night of August 27th, 1952 and, uh, went down in 20 minutes in 75 feet of water.
Ninety-two people were aboard. We lost four men, one man disappeared. We don’t know whether he tried to make it to the shore or not. We were only 1,000 feet, 1,000 yards off the shore, and on the night it went down in the, as I say in 20 minutes, um, I had been on the bridge of the ship, but, but, at that point, went down after the, my,
my time was up on the ship, on the, on the bridge, and that’s when the mine hit. I was just asleep and, so my
I: You might be killed.
I: You might been lost in the sea.
L: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, I was, I was awakened by water in my room. That’s how fast it happened. I didn’t have, I didn’t have time to, to do what I really was, really should have been able to do is to go to my, to get these publications and classified information and put them in bags
and store them and get them away. We didn’t have time to do that. Anyway, I did get out, and I was one of the last people off the ship cause I don’t remember seeing anybody. Oh, I went up to the top, I went up to get above water with my roommate. Uh, I first made an attempt to get out the, our porthole, and he said Lou, you’ll never get out of there. So anyway, I, uh, I, uh, got
above, I,I got up the, I got up the staircase, got a preserver, knew where they were, and got off, and it was completely dark, uh, almost quiet at the moment and then start, then I heard voices, and somehow or other, uh, I, there was a raft, and I, I got the raft, got, one or two guys on a raft there, and I got the raft together, and we collected 37 people in my group. My group.
L: There were other groups. One was the captain with the whale boat
I: From the water you mean?
L: From the water, yeah. I watched. I turned around, and I watched the Sarsi, uh, tail go down. I watched it for five minutes. It was, it was kind of light cause I could see, I mean, I don’t know if it was daylight, not daylight but it was moonlight. I could see the, the, uh, the base, the, uh, the, uh, the ship go down under water, absolutely.
And of course I swam away from that fast. But I did hear a lot of people, a lot of, and then I started to hear more and more guys, and I collected two or three people I helped. I helped to go get to the raft cause they weren’t good swimmers. And we got to the raft. Would you believe we collected 37 people?
L: that stayed in that com, we, we shot up some flares. We didn’t know about the rest of the people.
I: Um hm.
L: We had no knowledge of, of that, that where they went. But anyway,
to make, uh, to make a long story short, we, we, they tried to find out where we were, and nobody was answering where we were. So we, we got, uh, the next morning about 11:00 throughout the night at 11:00 the next morning, uh, two mine sweepers, the Competent and the Zeal and a, uh, destroyer of the name of Boyd, USS Boyd, collected all of us outside of the four that were, that died. There was four people that died
as I say
L: in the, in the vessel, and, at the time of the sinking, and one that was, we never knew. But we knew that we were in trouble, and I was rewarded because they wanted to go ashore. My people wanted to go ashore, and my command was we’re not going ashore. We’re gonna stay here till we’re seen, and it was getting to be discouraging because we saw some activity way out at sea, but nobody was seeing us. We, even
with a couple of flares, we shot up during the night, then we ran out of flares. And then by daylight it, it seemed the, uh, well, well, maybe someone will come along. But nobody was coming out after us from Korea.
L: The Koreans were not, uh, knowing that we probably were there. But then they didn’t come out. But anyway, we were collected by these three ships that I told you
I: Um hm,
L: and, um, uh, some had 25 a, of 25 of us, another with 36 of us. The destroyer I think
had maybe 16, uh. But anyway, I, uh, uh, uh, we were then taken back to Sasebo and put on other ships and, uh, and, uh, collected and, uh, um, disappeared from there.
L: That was the end of our Korean experience.
I: Wow. That’s a story to tell. And 37 people
L: They had, they, they then, they then, uh, and I have
information here to tell you that they, they went up right after that because they were concerned about the classified information and the publication materials that I used to be in charge of that were scattered. Some of it was in the water scattered, uh, throughout the water that had floated back up. They did collect a lot of that, much of that, and they found the Sarsi, of course, uh. They found a man that was in one of the, one of the persons was still in the vessel
in 73 feet of water. But they did it with gun, gun fire from the Korean coast because they, they could see the, uh, the ships that were trying to either resurrect the, get the Sarsi up or, uh, stop the activity that there. They didn’t, they didn’t like, the Koreans didn’t like that.
L: So that was the end of the Sarsi and, uh,
I: What a story. Um, you told me that you were in Pusan, right?
L: Uh, well, there was a plane. We lost a plane over there, and our job was to, you know, rest, as I said, all the different kinds of activity. We were a multi-usage, and we, we rescued this plane and, uh, took it into Pusan. and, uh,
L: and we took the plane into Pusan, into the harbor, right into, almost to the town.
I: What, what aircraft was it?
L: I don’t know the name of the aircraft. It was, I really don’t.
I: Our, ours, right?
L: Yes, it was ours. It was our, our, our, our
I: And that’s how you saw the Pusan?
L: That’s how I saw Pusan.
I: And that was 1951, late 1950
L: 1951, probably around, uh, uh, October of ’51. Yes. Yes.
I: I see. Um, so after that, you, when did you leave Korea?
L: Uh, so then I was uh, a, assign, we all got, uh, we all were put on different ships
and then we were collected and sent, all of us were sent back to the United States for Survivors leave. And of course we were, we got, uh, our, our personal allowance for everything we lost. The United States gave us monies
I: But when was it?
L: When was what?
FEMALE VOICE: What year?
I: When did you leave Korea?
L: Uh, that would have been, let’s see.
L: Well, yeah. Well, maybe, uh, maybe a could, maybe a week after the accident.
We were, we were together in Sasebo for about a week and then
I: And then you
L: sent back to the United States via Hawaii, and then to the United States, I got a 30-day Survivors leave to come home to Pennsylvania. And then I was reassigned to a vessel in, in, uh, in Florida.
I: See, all this things that you have in your memory is a very
important, but why don’t we teach about this thing in our history text book, only about a paragraph talking about the Korean War. Why? Do you know why?
I: Why is it known as Forgotten War in the United States?
FEMALE VOICE: Who was the President then?
L: I, I just, uh
I: It was Truman.
L: I think there were more, I think there were more important wars. I think there were bigger wars and, and, uh, longer wars and more serious loss of personnel, and I think
they downplayed our activity in Korea for that reason.
L: Why do you think?
I: There are several reason. Obviously, you mentioned about the bigger war, and there was World War II, not,
L: Sure, sure.
I: finished in 1945. There was nationally mobilized. Everybody was into this war, and the country that our GI fought for was the country that their great-grandfathers came from. It’s not strange
country. They knew all about Germany, France, Italy and United Kingdom, and finally they won the victory, right?
FEMALE VOICE: Um hm.
I: But the Korea was trade country. They never heard about. They never taught about, and when it was finished signed with the Armistice, it was not victory. It was Armistice, Cease Fire, and there are several other reasons. But I want to hear from you, not from me
L: Um hm.
I: why did you think it was forgotten?
L: Um hm.
I: But by this time, I want to invite your wife, right?
I: Ash, could you join us?
L: And would you like to see a picture of the ship?
I: Absolutely. Show it to the cam, show it to the camera.
L: This is a photograph of the USS Sarsi.
I: And that’s the Sarsi?
L: That’s the Sarsi.
I: And it’s gone?
L: It’s at, it’s at the bottom of the Sea of Japan 1,000 yards off the coast of Hungnam.
I: And we call that East Sea, not Sea of Japan.
L: East Sea.
L: That/s right.
I: Yeah. Wow, that’s the, and that was, uh, sank in 1952, August 27.
L: August 27, 1952.
I: Um. And you saved 37 people.
L: And I was rewarded. I don’t wanna,
I: What is it?
L: I don’t wanna overplay it, but I was
I: Yeah. Tell
L: I was given the, when I was in Florida, I was called to, to the, uh, the Admiral’s office one day and, uh,
I was rewarded, uh, with a beau, wonderful co p, uh, uh, uh, wonderful, uh, commendation
I: Um hm.
L: Uh, uh, um, uh, for having, uh, made that decision that these people should not go ashore
I: Um hm.
L: in North Korea, and they, they rewarded me for that, and it was really nice. And I have, I have other, uh, Korean Service Medal, a Korean, two Korean Medals that I have, plus other,
I: Obviously you deserved that. Could you sit tighter? Yeah. That’s good. That’s good. So please introduce yourself. What is your name?
A: I’m Ashey Santangelo.
I: Santangelo. And you been listening to this interview.
A: I have been listening.
I: What were you thinking?
A: Well, I’ve heard it several times, of course.
L: Maybe too many times.
A: No, not too many times because I think it was a wonderful experience,
and certainly something people should know about. You are right. People don’t know enough about Korea
I: Um hm.
A: and I think when he mentioned the, um, Korean Olympics, that had to be
I: Did you watch?
A: Of course. Of course. For two weeks.
I: How did you like it?
A: I loved it.
I: How did you like it?
A: I loved it.
I: Did you
A: I loved hearing, well, hearing about the cuisine and, um, the reaction of people who were there, the radio, or television personalities who went out beyond the, um, sports area
A: and experienced the city. So I thought, thought it was all wonderful.
I: Um hm.
A: I, I’m always surprised that Korea can be so cold and so hot.
I: Hahaha, right.
A: I’ve read that before and, uh, that was a surprise to me. I mean, I’ve
I: Um hm.
A: when I’ve read about it. I find that interesting.
I: When did you marry Louis?
A: In 1958.
I: ’58. So after he returned from Korea.
L: Um hm.
I: Um hm. Did you know anything about Korean War at the time?
A: I was aware of the Korean War.
A: Yes. Um, I may have known some people who were drafted. I, I was young at the time. But, um, there were people in our community who were involved, so I heard about the Korean War.
I: Heard about it. Um hm. Why do you think, in your opinion, not as a veteran but as a normal citizen
who stayed in the United States, why do you think that the Korean War has been known as forgotten?
A: I read a lot, and I have to tell you I have read that the reason it was not an “important” war was the fact it ended in an armistice rather than a victory.
A: And that seems to, that’s the only reason I can think of.
I: Um hm.
A: But I’ve been influenced by what I’ve read.
I: I see. Um hm.
L: It’s really because of, now because it’s known as the Forgotten War, it’s getting more publicity than some of the major wars.
I: That’s a good point actually. Yeah, that’s right.
A: I think you’re right.
L: We, you know, this, it’s, because it’s, and it’s no longer the Forgotten War. It’s, it’s become a, a well-known war now because it go that label.
I: Yeah. So it’s a evolving victory
L: Um hm.
I: Every day
L: A very good point.
I: the Korean War tells something
L: Right, right.
I: about what happened, right?
L: Right. Yeah. Well this is, this is great, yeah. So just briefly, I mean, to wind it down, I, I finished, uh, my, uh, naval experience and went to work, uh, with another company and got, uh, met this wonderful lady I married, and, uh, have been with for the past 60 years, so life has been good.
I: Um hm.
L: But proud to have been a, uh, a, uh, Korean veteran. Uh, I, I’ve been a very fortunate person, uh. I had a lot of good luck, um. We’re both enjoying our later years and have a great, great family.
I: Um. Ash, do you know about Korean economy now? Have you heard about it?
I: Have you seen any pictures
of modern Korea?
A: Not recently except because of the Olympics.
I: Um hm.
A: And that’s the only thing I’ve seen recently.
I: Um hm.
A: As Lou said, we have this tenant whose parents, the, the wife, the mother of the tenant, is a friend of mine, and they’re living in Korea now.
I: Um hm.
A: So we’ve heard that through them. But that is it actually.
I: Um hm. And what do you think about the
legacy of your husband as a Korean War veteran?
A: Well, I think it’s a wonderful legacy. It’s, um, and my, our grandchildren have actually, um, spoken about it at school, so that’s nice.
I: Um hm. Um hm. Excellent.
L: It’s, it’s a, you know, it’s amazing thing what you’re, what’s thrown at you in life e. Who would ever experience something like that, with, with my responsibility
of, uh, for 37 people, uh, at the age of 23, to make a decision rather than get your feet on land and know you’re gonna be alive or staying in the water until maybe someone’s gonna rescue you, you know. Or to know that they may come out after you
I: Um hm.
L: and, um, and treat you improperly.
L: But, it’s, it’s, uh, I was very, very happy that I made that decision
I: Um hm.
L: strange thing with
A: I’m getting teary-eyed.
I: Yeah. Yeah, that’s amazing.
L: But you know, but you know, uh, it’s wonderful now to, to, I have such great feelings for the South Koreans and bad feelings for the North Koreans because of the, the leader there of North Korea. But they must be great, great people. I’d love to be able to
L: meet, uh, a lot of Koreans now
I: Um hm.
L: and talk about this kind of a story.
L: I’d love that, you know? Where were you born?
L: Oh, were you born in Seoul?
L: Uh huh.
A: And how long have you been in this country?
I: About 20 years.
A: Did you go to school here or
I: Yeah. I went to Syracuse University for Master and PhD.
L: Did you really?
I: Yeah. And been teaching there.
A: Uh huh.
L: Oh, wonderful.
L: That’s great.
I: And I wrote about this whole thing on Korean economic development and demoncratization and
North Korea, I have a book about North Korea. I have a book about how information technology been used in Korea and the United States for politics, election and democracy. So I think I have some say to about what happened after the Korean War
I: and that is your legacy. You were there, and you deterred the Communist expansion and given us opportunity to rebuild our nation, to know by 2030 Korea’s
economy will be ranked number 7 in the world.
A: Oh, that’s fabulous.
I: What do you think will be the, the, the strongest economy, China,
A: Um hm.
A: Oh, U.S.?
I: Third will be India. Fourth Japan, fifth Germany, sixth UK, and then Korea.
L: Isn’t that, that’s remarkable.
A: Isn’t that amazing?
I: Can you believe that?
L: That’s really, really wonderful. That’s almost motivating to say well, you know, maybe we should take a peek at a, you know,
I: Yeah. And eight will be Brazil which is
I: tremendously bigger than
I: than, than South Korea.
A: Well that’s [INAUDIBLE]
I: And then ninth will be France.
I: That’s your legacy, and that’s the story that we need to tell.
L: Well, thank you. That, that’s wonderful to hear.
L: That’s great, yeah.
I: And that’s why this interview will be analyzed by the history
teachers that working for my foundation.
A: Um hm.
will use it as a classroom lesson plan
A: Um hm.
I: so they will hear you, okay?
I: You going to be famous everywhere, and on behalf of Korean nation, I want to thank you for your fight and what you did at the East Sea on August 27, 1952
L: East Sea.
I: is something that God made you to do it. It’s a miracle.
L: Well, I th, I, I,
I really received that, uh, with, with, uh, heartfelt thanks and, uh, happy that I was able to do something for my country and for your country.
L: and, uh, I would do it again for Korea.
I: There you go. You my friend. Thank you, sir. It’s my great honor to meet you and your lovely wife, Ash Santangelo, and we’ll go from here, okay?
I: And make it as a curricular resources for our
younger generations. Thank you.
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