Milton E. Vega
Milton Vega Rivera was born in Villalba, Puerto Rico, in 1929 to a humble family. He was very athletic and played baseball and was a boxer when he was young, so when he was in Korea, he was sent to Seoul to participate in a boxing match. He was drafted while he was attending vocational school, and although he was not angry about the draft, he wished to finish his studies before going to war. Because he knew auto mechanics, he was assigned to headquarters for a month until he made a mistake working on an engine. He served eleven months in Korea, fought in many battles, and remembers the propaganda used by Chinese and North Koreans to try to dissuade Puerto Ricans from fighting. When he returned from Korea, he suffered PTSD and became very violent. To this day, he is plagued with guilt about what they had to do as soldiers but believes these actions were necessary for survival. He is happy that the good people of Korea have progressed and believes that the war was not in vain. It is his belief that serving one’s country is every citizen’s duty.
Milton Vega Rivera nació en Villalba, Puerto Rico en 1929 en una familia humilde. Era muy atlético cuando era joven y jugaba béisbol y era boxeador, así que cuando estaba en Corea, lo enviaron a Seúl para participar en un combate de boxeo. Fue reclutado mientras asistía a la escuela vocacional y aunque no estaba enojado por el reclutamiento, deseaba terminar sus estudios antes de ir a la guerra. Debido a que sabía de mecánica automotriz, lo asignaron a headquarters por un mes hasta que cometió un error arreglando un motor. Sirvió once meses en Corea, luchó en muchas batallas y se acuerda de la propaganda utilizada por chinos y norcoreanos para tratar de disuadir a los puertorriqueños de seguir peleando. Cuando regresó de Corea, sufrió trastorno de estrés postraumático y se volvió muy violento. Hasta el día de hoy, tiene cargo de conciencia por lo que tuvieron que hacer como soldados, pero cree que sus acciones fueron necesarias para sobrevivir. Está contento de que la gente buena de Corea ha progresado y cree que la guerra no fue en vano. Es su creencia que servir al país de uno es el deber de todos los ciudadanos.
Difficult Choices / Decisiones Dificiles
Milton Vega Rivera explains how unprepared he was for the war. He remembers the tough choice that soldiers were required to make as they had to kill or be killed. He describes the maltreatment of a prisoner of war and attributes his speaking out about it to being denied a promotion.
Milton Vega Rivera explica que no estaba preparado para la guerra. Recuerda la difícil decisión que los soldados debían tomar, ya que tenían que matar o morir. Además, describe el maltrato de un prisionero de guerra y atribuye su denuncia al hecho de que se le negó un ascenso.
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Chinese Propaganda / Propaganda China
Milton Vega Rivera details the way enemy troops utilized propaganda to dissuade Puerto Ricans from continuing to fight. He recalls messages being broadcast in perfect Spanish which stated, “What are you doing here?” and “This is not your war; your wife will sleep with others.” He adds that on one occasion he was stalked by a jaguar whilst on patrol.
Milton Vega Rivera detalla la forma en que las tropas enemigas usaban propaganda para desaconsejar a los puertorriqueños de seguir luchando. Recuerda los mensajes transmitidos en perfecto español que decían: "¿qué estás haciendo aquí?" y “esta no es tu guerra, tu esposa se acostará con otros”. También recuerda que en una ocasión fue acechado por un jaguar mientras estaba en una patrulla.
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Fear on the Front Line / El miedo en la Línea
Milton Vega Rivera shares the memories of the battle that continue to haunt him. He feels guilty because he and a couple of others were heating up a can and thought that even though there was no smoke, this act revealed their location and led to a mortar attack which killed and injured many troops. He adds that night patrols were terrifying for him.
Milton Vega Rivera comparte los recuerdos de la batalla que aún lo persiguen. Se siente culpable porque él y un par de otros soldados estaban calentando una lata y pensaron que, aunque no había humo, este acto reveló su ubicación y provocó un ataque con morteros que mató e hirió a muchos soldados. Agrega que las patrullas nocturnas eran aterradoras.
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The American Unit / La Unidad Americana
Milton Vega Rivera speaks about his relationship with American troops. He states that he got along with everyone because Puerto Rico is diverse. He remembers sharing food his mother sent with everyone and some being surprised that he was so generous.
Milton Vega Rivera habla de sus relaciones con las tropas estadounidenses. Afirma que se llevaba bien con todos porque Puerto Rico es diverso. Recuerda que el compartía los pasteles que le mando su madre con todos y algunos se sorprendieron de que fuera tan generoso.
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The Legacy / El Legado
Milton Vega Rivera shares his message for future generations and discusses the legacy of the war. He states that he does not like war but believes it to be a necessary evil which can help countries, like Korea. He relays the importance of serving one’s country and deems it the highest duty of every citizen.
Milton Vega Rivera comparte su mensaje para las generaciones futuras y discute el legado de la guerra. Afirma que no le gusta la guerra, pero cree que es un mal necesario que puede ayudar a países como Corea. Además, él testifica la importancia de servir a la patria y lo considera el deber más importante de todos los ciudadanos.
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INTERVIEWER: I always begin, asking you for your complete name, when and where were you born, and something about your life, your family, your youth. If your family was big, what did your parents do? But begin with your name.
VEGA RIVERA: My name is Milton Vega Rivera. I was born in the town of Villalba, Puerto Rico
VA: in 1929. The 18th of December. My family was humble. My father was an operator of heavy equipment. We worked at Guajataca, the first artificial dam done in Puerto Rico, for irrigation. From there, he went to Villalba,
VA: to the neighborhood Guineo, that was where I was born. From there, we went to Matrulla, very close. That is close to Barranquitas and Torobobe. I would say, it is in the center of the island. From there, we went to Arecibo, to the lake Dos Bocas. I began my first grade in Villalba,
VA: but I didn´t finish. We arrived in Arecibo and I went to first grade, I didn´t finish it either. From there, we went to the neighborhood Casa de Anunda, where another lake was built. From there, my father was sent to work at the Lake Caonillas, that is in
VA: Utuado. So he wanted to move there, but my mother told him, the child has been already almost three years in first grade, so we stayed there. There was where I met my childhood friends. I was a sportsman. I played baseball. I was a boxer. In fact, when I went to Korea, they sent me
VA: to Seoul to participate in a championship. I fought a fight, but since I hadn´t trained, I lost it and I hadn´t had to fight anymore. But going back to Anunda, where I studied, up to 2nd grade. From there, we went to Ponce.
VA: I would say that over there, I have done all my life. My father was doing better economically. He gave me the education he could because he earn little, but he also spent little. In 1951, when I was in vocational school, I had already graduated from high school,
VA: the Army called me and I had to give up what I longed for, which was to be a diesel mechanic, like my father. I dreamt of that job. But I went to the Army, not as a volunteer. It was not that I didn´t want to serve, it was that I wanted to keep studying because my goal was to become a mechanical engineer.
VA: I passed the training in Tortuguero. When we finished training there, we left for Korea. We visited Colombia, Panama. We went to Hawaii. In Hawaii, they gave us a tour
VA: to see the city and some deserted. From there, we went to Japan, to a campsite in Sasebo. The punishment they gave to those who left was that when they arrived, they didn´t have the time to train
VA: with the rifle that they gave us. And they sent them without training. We left from Japan…
I: Give me the keys because they are doing noise. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Begin again.
VA: We left Japan and we arrived in Incheon, to the Port of Incheon. When we arrived there, there were many Koreans at the port, fleeing from
VA: the war. From there, they sent us on a train, which was not too big, it was small. It was a coal train. We all arrive with our noses full of soot, which gets into our nostrils. From there, they passed me to a good place,
VA: called headquarter, the headquarter division, where the General was. Since I knew mechanics, they left me there. But I was there for only one month because my friend, we were three friends there, four. One was from Lares. He was the driver of the General. The other three,
VA: we were in mechanics. Since I had a friend that spoke English well because his father was English, he had problems with the lieutenant. They argued. When the lieutenant came, he was pissed off and found me putting inside a box of balls with a steel bolt and it had to be of bronze to not make any damage. And he asked me why I was doing that with that bolt. I told him, I don´t have any other.
VA: He said, there is one down there, go and look for it. Okay, I will go. That same day, when I arrived at night, to see a friend. When we came back an American, an Afro American, told me, Milton,
VA: left me your trunk. How am I going to leave you my trunk? He said because mine is broken. I replied, but that trunk is mine and I need it. He said, no, you are going to the frontline. I said, but they haven´t told me anything. I thought he was joking. The next day they sent me to a replacement area, you are there for some days until they
VA: assigned you to a certain place. We were there for about 3 or 4 days. From there, they sent us to the frontline, Santos Vega, George Bruce Videl Medina, and myself. The three of us.
I: One moment. Let´s make a pause here. You gave me a lot of information.
I: Before you continued, you told me many of the questions I was going to ask you. You answered them. But
I: I wanted to know, what did you know about the Korean War when it broke out. Did you know anything about the history of the country? Where Korea was? Did you know anything about the political problem? And which was your opinion about the war?
VA: Well, really I didn´t know anything about the Korean War. And I think, also my partners. None of us had information about Korea. We were going to
VA: an unknown country. And talking about the war, I don´t want to know anything about the war. Why do I have to kill someone who hadn´t done anything to me? For a political issue? For any reason? I don´t regret I had served, but having to kill someone? Because if you didn´t do it, you were killed
VA: or a partner of yours was killed. I never fail to loyalty, but I did it against my principles. In fact, I have a memory, that I always have in my mind. When a Korean delivered in winter, he came with his hands up. But what happened? Many of them came with explosives. A squad shot at him but nobody hurt him.
VA: That indicated that nobody wanted to kill him, that’s what I thought. They sent two of us to check him. They checked him over there and he was fine so they brought him in. When they brought him in, he knelt down, and the sergeant, he kicked him, kicked the Korean with his legs.
VA: I don’t know what happened to the sergeant with the other Koreans or the Chinese. He was Chinese. So I said to my partner, did you see what the sergeant did? Can I say the word I used? Sergeant son of a bitch, I said. And he said to me, Milton, why did you say that? And I said, don’t you see how he’s beating that defenseless man? And he said
VA: they’re doing us worse than that. I said, but our principles are not the same. That happened, then they sent me to Japan, for the week they gave us a week off. There another group arrived and they told me, they already sent your documentation to promote you. I was a PSD and I thought, oh how great they are going to make me a corporal!
VA: When I got back, the first one I met, I told him, they sent me the recommendation to become a corporal. And he said, yes, but you are not going to be a corporal. And I said, but why? I have done my job. I was doing volunteer work so that Santos Vega, who was the only one who was married of the three of us, Medina and I, would volunteer on whatever patrol we were on. If it was time to replace someone,
VA: we would go and leave Santos Vega there. Well, then, the one who told me that he had lost the promotion, told me, what happened is that the sergeant is Mexican and he understood everything you said.
VA: And instead of making me angry, it made me want to laugh. And I laughed a lot because I didn’t know he was Mexican. He understood everything and that hurt me, but it didn’t take away my desire to serve my country and I was always willing. In fact, I had no problems with anyone
VA: and everyone loved me. We shared. My wife and my girlfriend would send me canned food from here and cakes. At Christmas, they even sent us canned roast suckling pig.
I: Wait a minute that I have to adjust the camera and you continue., okay?
I: Which was your first impression when you arrived? Because it was the first time
I: you were going out of Korea, sorry of Puerto Rico, right?
I: I don´t know if you mentioned before, how old were you when you joined the Army?
I: How old were you?
VA: I joined it when I was 21 years old.
I: Okay. So you were 21 years old.
VA: 21 years old.
I: The first time you leave Puerto Rico.
VA: Yes, madam.
I: You arrived in Korea, don´t you remember to what port? Wasn´t it in Busan? Don´t you remember?
I: When you arrived in Korea, where did you arrive?
VA: When do I arrive in Korea? It was
VA: Pusan or Chorwin. Yes. Yes, it was in Chorwin Valley.
I: At Chorwin Valley?
VA: Yes, Chorwin Valley.
I: Okay, so you were there, I want to know an idea, a jibarito from Puerto Rico arrives at a foreign country, who had never been outside the island, and what did you see? What impressed you from the country? About the weather, the people, the land?
VA: Well, I can talk about the river, which was plentiful. The bunkers, instead of being in the mountain, over there were in a valley. We had to be careful when we moved because it was easy for they would see us. It was hard when I finally arrived.
VA: Everything thing was new to me. In Korea, the weather, during summer, the sun is very strong. Stronger than in Puerto Rico, at least where we were. They took us out from the frontline to take a shower every two weeks. When we went back to the frontline,
VA: we needed a shower again because we were again covered in dust. In the Valley of Chowin, we received too much mortar fire. Almost every day, mortars fell on us. That was my first impression of war. I had never been in … First of all, I had never been outside Puerto Rico and secondly,
VA: even less, being in a war. But, man needs little to adapt to the situations, so I got adapted without forgetting about my people, who were in Puerto Rico. I got adapted. The Koreans, at least with me, were good people. The South Koreans. The others, as I say, they were defending themselves.
VA: They were doing the same as we did, that is why I say they were not my enemies. We had to do it. In fact, I was in a position, once, on top of a mountain. When we were down, we were far away, but when we were on the top, we were close to one and other. The North Koreans and us, because it was close to Parallel 38
VA: and in perfect Spanish, they told us, Puerto Ricans what are you doing here? This is not your war. We don´t have anything against you. Go out, that may be your wife is sleeping with someone else. Your girlfriend has someone else. When you go back, you are not going to have a girlfriend. When you go back, your children are going to have another father. In perfect Spanish, in perfect Spanish.
VA: That affected us a lot. We had to… When they sent us up and we had to guard, they told us that the Chinese were over there with ropes and took people by their neck, caught them, and decapitated them. So, I went there always with a towel, around my neck and adjust it well,
VA: so if they caught me, the rope will be entangled in the towel. But no, I really never had any contact with a Chinese. I was afraid of the jaguars. When we saw a shadow, they said, a jaguar is coming over there. You can´t shoot, you have to wait until it passes. So you had to stay there still and he came and passed by.
I: How is that?
VA: A jaguar, a wild cat.
I: A wild cat?
VA: A wild cat, but it is also called a jaguar.
I: Yes? I had never heard that word before.
I: Don´t you know the equivalent in English, right?
Someone in the back: A jaguar
I: Oh, a jaguar. They had that there?
I: Oh my God.
VA: Yes, yes.
VA: And there was an animal that was beautiful. It was the peacock.
I: The turkey, how do call that? The peacock…
SB: I don´t know how you say that in English
I: I forgot the word. I know which one is it.
I: Now, it slipt my mind. I know which one is it. I will lookup. Look it up on the internet. Let´s go on. I don´t know if you said to the camera, to which unit were you designated? Because you were first in the headquarters, but from the headquarters,
I: they moved you right?
VA: Yes, for sure.
I: Tell me where were you assigned?
VA: They sent us to Company B of the Second Division. That is, the 9th regiment, Company B. Videl and I were very happy, and Santos Vega. But since Videl had good English, he thought we were going to be sent to a bakery
VA: because is Company B. He told me, Milton, we have to learn how to make bread. After when they sent us to Korea, to the frontline, I told him, look what a nice bakery was waiting for us! That is one of the things that happened to us.
I: I want you to tell me about your friend. You knew those friends from your town, right? Did you go together or did you meet there?
VA: No, no, we went together, from Anunda.
I: But did you know each other before?
VA: We met each other in Puerto Rico
VA: during training.
I: And did you meet there?
VA: We met there.
I: Talk to me about that.
VA: We went there on the same ship.
I: Talk to me about those friends, that you met here and found them there.
VA: As I told you before, my mother and my girlfriend sent me things and I shared them with them. I also had American friends. We shared everything.
I: One moment, but I asked you to talk to me about that small group of close friends,
I: that you made there. That you met them here and found them there. Please explain that to me because I want people to understand that.
I: Who were they and how did you meet them here and how did you find each other there.
VA: In fact, it was there where our friendship grew because …
VA: They were…
I: Okay, go back because you are out of the camera.
I: Explain to me about your friends. Tell me who they were, that you met them here and found them there and became closer. About that beautiful relationship, you had with them. I want to know something about it, about them.
VA: We were three. As Santos Vega was the only one who was married, Videl Medina and myself, as I mentioned,
VA: volunteered to patrol so Santos won´t be sent. We shared everything. We were as brothers, as brothers. We defend each other. In the frontline, one, during the day, rests a little bit in case they sent you on patrol
VA: during the night, because in the Korean War all the fights were at night.
I: Let me ask you about that friendship because you are not answering what I am asking you. Have you met before? Were you from the same town?
VA: No, no, no
I: You were from different towns, you met there and became good friends there, right?
VA: It is correct
I: Okay, and did all the three
I: of you come back?
VA: Thanks to God. The only one who stayed was Santos Vegas because he messed with a lady, because of us, Videl, and me. Santos was a very faithful person to his wife, he didn’t want to fail her. When we went to Korea, we explained to him how much fun we had.
VA: And because of us, he went to Japan and because of an oversight, he got contaminated. And it was so bad, that when we came to Puerto Rico, they left him because he was still sick and did not come back with us. I have never seen Videl or Santos again. In fact, I was in a therapy group and I talked to the one
VA: who gave us the therapy to see how I could contact them.
I: Which were their names again?
I: Their names.
VA: Santos Vega is from the neighborhood of that girl…
I: Tonga… La Maria
VA: That´s it, he is from La Maria and Videl is from the metropolitan area.
I: Which was his complete name?
VA: George Bruce Videl Medina.
VA: I will never forget because he was very good to me. Yes and a good partner.
I: We are going to continue. Do you remember the food, the uniforms, how did you sleep, your daily life as a soldier?
I: You told me something about that you didn´t shower and how did you showered, right?
VA: Yes. Practically, the food was mainly
VA: canned. On very few occasions we arrived where there were some kitchens and we ate hot food. The rest was all canned. One adapts to the food. In fact, I had problems since I don´t eat that much, sometimes I had cans left. I don´t smoke,
VA: they gave me cigarettes and I keep them. And I kept candies and when we went down to shower, I throw them to the Koreans because I knew they needed them, to the civilians. And that´s why I had problems.
I: Explain to me why?
VA: Because in theory you shouldn´t do that because maybe you are feeding the enemy, but children are children no matter where
VA: and it is hard to have food and have someone by your side who doesn´t have it. All of us are human beings. Really, in that aspect, I was not a good soldier. I did my job, I did my job.
I: Would you say, because I have heard that a lot from the Puerto Rican soldiers and I have the impression because here there was a lot of poverty, as well.
I: But it seems that the poverty in Korea reminded them of the poverty here, right?
I: Do you see that connection?
VA: Yes, yes, surely. Surely. When I went to Korea, my family was already well accommodated, but during childhood, was not as if we were starving, but if you compare the childhood one had with the childhood right now, the change is big. And in Korea,
VA: they have the war on top and on top of poverty. It was hard, it was hard for those people.
I: You sympathize with that, right?
VA: In fact, I had two Korean friends. One, I don´t remember his name. But one, who was who reported to me, was called Nan Kun So and he wanted me to go to his house when they gave them leave. But they told me, no, you can´t go
VA: because they can kill you. I said, no, because he is my friend. They said, no, no, and the ones around him? You can´t go there. But they are human beings as we are. Good people, also. Good and bad as we are. In fact, and I have repeated this many times, I don´t sympathize with the war and I have taught my children in the same way.
I: I understand. I want to know
I: if nowadays do you remember because I can imagine that you participated in many battles, right?
VA: Yes, contact patrols.
I: Patrols and all that. Now, we don´t have time to listen to all of them but is there one in particular, that you remember, that you want to talk about it? What shocked you and that you still remember today?
VA: Well, I am going to explain something. It was not really
VA: a person-to-person contact. It was artillery fire. As I told you, I received canned food, so we were in a resting area but it was not far away from the frontline. So, we heated the cakes in the helmet and as a coincidence, a mortar fire came
VA: and we turn off everything, thinking that it was because of the smoke, but no smoke had come out of it. And there were many wounded people and there were deads. And I really have a big conscience because of that. In the therapy that I am going to and the psychologist told me, no, that was a coincidence. Do you think you were guilty? No, it was not your fault. It was already prepared
VA: and the mortar fell. Yes. That is something that shocked me, really.
I: Did you feel guilty?
VA: Yes, yes. But in the patrols, you go at night to fight and you basically can´t see even the card. You shoot, right? And they also shoot. And there were times, when they sent us on patrol, to explore,
VA: we had the order not to shoot, unless they shoot us. They passed very close and we didn´t shoot because we couldn´t shoot, right?
I: Let me ask you. I have done many interviews with those who served in the 65, which was a Puerto Rican unit. But you didn´t serve in that unit, you served in an American unit.
I: I want to know how they treated you there. And maybe there were other Puerto Ricans and that is why to come closer because you weren´t too many there, right? Talk to me about that, about your experience in an American unit and how many Puerto Ricans were there and how did the Americans treat you?
VA: I didn´t have problems with the Americans. The only problem that I had was, in the beginning, with the lieutenant, but I didn´t have any other problem with the rest of them.
VA: We shared. In fact, the Afro Americans, asked me why did I go there to share with the Whites and also shared here with the colored ones? I told them, yes, I come from Puerto Rico, over there we are all the same, right? In fact, the Americans respected us, and they also… I have always been short. Now I have shrunk,
VA: but I had the biggest rifle in my square. It was an automatic one. My assistant was an American, 6,4 high. We were what is called a logger, he was a logger man, a guy who worked with wood, cutting wood and he was a strong guy and since there was so much ammunition, he carried the ammunition, also.
VA: The last name of that guy was Ramsy and he was very good with me. In fact, one we were in an assault patrol. We have to attack during winter. They sent us to a position. They were going to come to replace us and from there, we had to go
VA: to attack the Chinese in the bunkers. Being there, they change the order and told us to stay in the position and the others would go. There was an Afro-American shaking, and I asked him, what is going on? Are you scared? And he says, no I am cold. I had left the pocket heaters.
VA: There were two heaters that we had, they gave them to us. So I took out one of my heaters and handed it to him. And he left. I never saw him again. When the fire began to fall on our side, Ramsy, who was behind me, took my hand and shook me, to check if I was well, and I moved one foot, to tell him I was well. And that is how we checked on each other.
VA: Somehow, he was my assistant, but he was also my brother. I feel respect because I never had racism problems with him. Never, never, never. We are all the same. I think God made us all equal. There is no need… We fought because they sent us to fight,
VA: but I am sure that the same opinion that I have is the same as the majority. We do the job that has to be done because it has to be done, but, I insist, it is hard, it is hard.
I: Didn´t you keep in contact with Ramsy? Haven´t you seen him since the war?
VA: No, no.
I: What a pity.
VA: No, I haven´t seen him since then. What happens is that
VA: my English is…
I: But at that time did you communicate with each other?
I: Talk to me about your English. Didn´t you have problems with the English there?
VA: I knew English and I could talk in English.
I: And did you forget it?
VA: I have forgotten it. My children are… I would have to ask my children, but I had to speak in English and I did. I had a rifle, that was the target of the Chinese, to hit that rifle, because that rifle,
VA: whoever has it, is the one who shoots the most.
I: One minute that you are moving again and now your head is out of the camera. Okay, don´t worry, I fix it. For how long in total, were you in Korea, and more or less when did you return to Puerto Rico?
VA: I was supposed to be there for nine months and I was there for eleven months because there was no replacement for us.
VA: So I did overtime. Coming back to Puerto Rico… On our way there, the ship was called the Lutanan Viewdain. I don´t remember the name of the ship on the way here, but while I was in Korea, I didn´t need money; I kept $10 US dollars and sent the rest to my mother.
VA: When we were coming on the ship, I had a lot of money. At that time, $80 or $90 pesos was a lot. And I had them and I bought an iron on the ship because I always liked to dress well. So I began to iron my uniform because we were going to arrive in San Francisco, California and they have told us that
VA: there would be many ladies waiting for us and one to look nice. When I was ironing, someone came and told me, oh, you know how to iron! Can you iron mine? I said, yes, I will iron it for you. How much are you going to charge me? Don´t worry, just bring it. No, I am going to give you $2 US dollars. No, give me $1 US dollar. So the news spread out and I began to iron for $1 US dollar, for $1 US dollar.
VA: So I ironed and lend the iron to one of the guys and when we arrived in San Francisco we had money, right? They gave us a great welcome. From there, they sent us to… We left San Francisco and went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. When we arrived there, they told us
VA: to wait there for a week to be sent to Puerto Rico, but whoever has money, who wants to pay for the ticket, can leave tomorrow. And I said, I have money, I raised my hand immediately. I have money. And a small group came over and that is why Mrs. Acela didn´t receive us, because we lost the welcoming. It was very calm, very calm.
I: Tell me, I want to know,
I: when you came back from Korea, how did the war shock your life? Some returned with difficulties to get adjusted to life, some not, they kept living as nothing had happened. Where were you at that moment? How did you feel?
VA: I came very affected and I am still affected. I never… And what I say, something nothing believes, but I believe that my children inherited my condition.
VA: I came being violent. I came being violent. I fought in the streets. Then, when I began to earn money, my mother didn´t want him to buy her clothes. I gave money to my wife and my wife bought her clothes. Christmas came and
VA: I gave my wife money to buy clothes for my mother. She brought it to me and I took it to my mother. She told me, how beautiful, but it has too many flowers. I told her, don´t worry you can change it. My wife had a problem there, at a store called Bargain Town and they didn´t change her the clothes. And I used to drink. When I came in the afternoon, I asked her, have you changed the clothes?
VA: I left it there because they didn´t want to change it. But, how are you going to leave the clothes, girl? That is money. I went to look for it. They didn´t treat me well. The manager told me a phrase I didn´t like about my wife and I told him another one about his mother and he threw a fist at me, but since I knew how to fight, I threw him to the ground quickly. He said to me, you fucked up! You hit me
VA: and broke my glasses. And I told him, you’re fucked up, you’re on the ground. I was coming back with my clothes, and a strong person, without asking me anything, dressed in civilian clothes, threw a fist at me, and at that time I had hair, he took me by the skin with hair and everything backward. Then I gave him a fist.
VA: It looked like a movie, but that’s how it happened. I gave him a fist and I also hit him. It turned out he was a state trooper but I didn’t know that. Then another one came up, touched me from behind, and said, I’m a cop and you’re under arrest. And I asked him, but why are you arresting me? Because you hit a state trooper. And I said, how the fuck would I know he’s a cop if he didn’t identify himself? Look how he hit me. And he threw me in my face.
VA: But he said, you’re under arrest and there’s trouble.
I: And you believe that those incidents were a consequence of your experience in Korea?
VA: Yes because I, before I went to Korea, I was always a tolerant person. It’s better to give in than to be in trouble. I had never in my life had a problem
VA: with the police. Only that one when I came back.
I: So, since then, are you better now or how is it going?
VA: I really have explosive moments and my daughter knows that. I hang in there, hang in there and hang in there. In fact, one time I told her, either you stop or I throw myself out of the car.
I: And do you have nightmares?
VA: In fact, when my wife was alive
VA: sometimes I would wake up with her hand in my mouth, trying to wake me up. And I would say to her, what’s wrong? You’re saying a lot of bad words and the neighbors are going to hear you. My grandson laughs at me because he says I talk too much at night.
I: Oh, Hail Mary. Let’s conclude with some questions about Korea, okay? You never went back to Korea, right?
VA: No, but I would like to go back.
I: There is a plan. Don’t go away because
I: the Korean Government has a program that pays you, not 100%, but a big percentage, for veterans who want to go back to Korea. And many in the United States have done it and now that we are interviewing them, many want to go, from the Puerto Ricans, with a companion and everything. So we are going to put you on the list in case you are interested, to send you information.
VA: You’re coming with me?
Someone in the back: Sure
I: Yes, it’s very nice. Very nice. So,
I: you have a picture in your mind of what Korea looked like back then. That it was destroyed.
VA: It was destroyed.
I: And a picture of what Korea looks like now. I don’t know if you know what Korea looks like now?
VA: I do know.
I: Modern and everything. What do you think of those two Koreas?
VA: Of the two Koreas?
I: Of the past and the present.
VA: Oh, I understand, I understand. Well, according to the information I have received, they have progressed a lot and I am glad,
VA: because as I told you, the Korean people, they are a good people, a good people. We have to fight because we have to fight, but I know they are just like us. We are not perfect, either. But the Koreans that I shared with, were good people, good people. In fact, I tasted the food to please them, because I didn’t like it. They used kimchi a lot.
I: The kimchi?
VA: Yes. But they are good people, really good people. And the Korean people are good.
I: And you, after so many years, what is your opinion of your participation as a soldier in the Korean War? Do you think it was in vain? Do you think it was worth it? Do you have any regrets?
VA: Well, it was not in vain,
VA: because the proof is that Korea has started to recover and is in good shape. I repent and I ask the Lord for forgiveness every day and every night for what I did. It wasn’t that I wanted to do it, but I did it and I know that somehow I will have to pay for it.
VA: May the Lord’s will be done, but I am glad that the Koreans have made progress and I know it was not in vain. Yes, I know it was not in vain.
I: I know how you feel, but, soldiers kind of forgive each other. Look, I’ve seen two countries that are fighting and they are enemies, but after the war,
I: they are friends, because they both did what they had to do, their duty as soldiers. And they try to forgive each other for what they would have done, each other. Because that’s the way it has to be, otherwise you go crazy, don’t you?
VA: I really forgive those who tried to hurt me, because thank the Lord,
VA: the only injury I received was from a box of grenades. And it wasn’t a Chinese that shot me, it was that I fell, in winter. The box of grenades was in a minefield, I grabbed it from the man and pulled it up. And they scolded me for doing that. I told them, but if I climb up where do I always come from? I climbed up with the box of grenades. But back to the closing, I don’t have a grudge,
VA: I don’t have a grudge with anyone. First, as I told you, some went out of necessity and others because they sent us.
I: So, in conclusion, if you want to give a message to the people who are watching this interview, I would like to conclude. Is there anything you would like to say about your service as a soldier in the Korean War? A comment,
I: some thoughts you have, something you want to say in general?
VA: Well, I, as I said, I don’t like the war, but if somebody benefited, and I think it was the Korean people because they made progress, I’m glad. And to serve one’s country is an obligation
VA: that all citizens have. Because if you want to be well, you have to serve your country. And many times, wars are wrong, but we are human, and those who lead the war are human too, they are not perfect. But, I defend my country no matter what it costs me, I defend it. In fact, I had a son who went
VA: to the Navy and served too. But, I am against war, but if it has to be done, it has to be done.
I: Thank you very much sir for participating. What did you do with the rest of your life when you came back from Korea?
VA: The first thing I did was get married, because my wife, my girlfriend at the time, didn’t want to get married so
VA: my parents wouldn’t think she wanted to get married for the money. And she told me, no, no. And I said, but if they kill me? We don’t get married? And she said they’re not going to kill you. You’re going to come back. Well, when I came from Korea, the first thing I did, I get married. In the same month, I got married. I took the weeks, I took the studies, but I didn’t know anything about the claims
VA: about what I had brought from Korea.
I: They didn’t tell you?
VA: They didn’t tell me anything. Neither to me nor to many of the people I met. They didn’t tell us anything. I found out later when my children were already in college and everything. They didn’t tell me anything. They gave me some benefits, but honestly, they were not what I thought they were.
I: What job did you have then?
VA: When I left for Korea, I didn’t work. I had never worked because my parents helped me. So, I reported that I had a farm with some chickens, and with that, they sent money to my mother, plus what I sent her. When I got married, my wife worked since she was a little girl. One day she said to me, what are you going to do today?
VA: And I told her, take you to work, have breakfast at my house, the same routine as every day. At that time our vehicle was a bicycle, it didn’t have a grill; I took my wife to work on the tube. And I would bring her back. And she said to me, what are you going to do today? And I said I’m going to take you to work. And she said, no, no, no, no, you’re not going to look for a job?
VA: And I said to her, but if this is enough for us? And haven’t you thought about what happens if we have children? And I can’t work, what are we going to live on? I took her to work and I went to Central Merceditas, in Ponce and they told me that they didn’t have a job for me. They told me, but go to the field workshop, which was where the agricultural machinery was
VA: and all that, maybe they will take you there. So I went and with such good luck, they took me. They told me, when do you start working? And I said, right now. I stayed working and I didn’t go to pick up my wife for lunch. I didn’t even pick her up at 3:30 p.m., which was when I was leaving the Paula Shoe Company. When I got home, my parents’ house was pretty close to where she worked. My wife had already arrived and I went up to the second floor,
VA: which was where they lived and she was waiting for me. Where were you? She had a strong temper. Where were you? Don’t you see that you sent me this morning to look for a job? So I was working, I got a job. And she came to hug me, but I told her, wait a minute, because what they’re going to pay me is 38 cents, excuse me, 28 cents, per hour.
VA: I took him because… Ah, no, no, no, no, even if they paid you less, what I need is for you to work.
I: That’s true.
VA: Well, I started there and never stopped working. I took care of my family. She worked, I worked. She managed the money. I worked as a welder. When I went to vocational school, there was no place for diesel mechanics and I took welding,
VA: even though I didn’t like it and Mr. Roman, who was the teacher, said that I was his favorite disciple, in front of the boys and the boys got jealous.
I: I finished because I already…
VA: At the refinery, that’s where I got promoted and became a supervisor. And I bought a machine
VA: and with that machine, I kept renting it and I became the owner of 35 welding machines. I was the first one to rent equipment in Ponce, before Berry Brothers. I was first before them. I didn’t get to where they got to, because I had no one to help me. It was just me. My dad worked and couldn’t help me. I did it by myself.
I: And you prospered from there?
VA: Yes, it gave me money to pay for my children’s studies, who are all professionals, thanks to the Lord.
I: Thank you, we are done here because we ran out of time.
[End of Recorded Material]