Korean War Legacy Project

Rafael Gomez Hernandez


Rafael Gomez Hernandez enlisted in he US Army in 1950 just days before the Korean War broke out. He recalls receiving his basic training in Panama and being shipped to Korea upon his request. He describes his experience at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, recalling the deep snow, cold temperatures, cold food, and having to fight the Chinese. He shares that he saw many refugees at the time and that his unit was the last to leave the Heungnam port during the Chosin Reservoir evacuation. He recounts the segregation in the US military at the time, detailing how the squads within the 3rd Infantry Division were divided by backgrounds. He shares that after his return from Korea he remained in the US Army to complete his three year service and later utilized the G.I. Bill to study economics at the University of Puerto Rico. He is proud of his service and speaks highly of South Korea’s progress and economic achievements since the war.

Video Clips

Enlistment and Request to Serve in Korea

Rafael Gomez Hernandez recounts his enlistment into the US Army on June 20, 1950--merely five days before the Korean War broke out. He recalls traveling to Panama to receive his basic training and speaks of how he requested to serve in Korea rather than accept a hospital pharmacy position in Panama. He states that he was not afraid to fight as he was in his early twenties and was not really afraid of anything at the time.

Tags: Basic training,Home front,Pride

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Chosin Reservoir Experience

Rafael Gomez Hernandez describes his experience at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. He recalls the deep snow, cold temperatures, cold food, and having to fight the Chinese. He shares that he saw many refugees at the time and that his unit was the last to leave the Heungnam port during the Chosin Reservoir evacuation.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Chuncheon,Heungnam,Chinese,Civilians,Cold winters,Front lines,Living conditions,Poverty,South Koreans

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Segregation in the US Military

Rafael Gomez Hernandez recounts the segregation in the US military at the time. He recalls squads within the 3rd Infantry Division being divided by backgrounds. He shares that there was a squad of Black soldiers, one of Puerto Rican soldiers, and two of White soldiers from the US.

Tags: Home front,Living conditions,Personal Loss

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Utilizing the G.I. Bill

Rafael Gomez Hernandez shares that after his return from Korea he remained in the US Army to complete his three year service. He describes utilizing the G.I. Bill to study economics at the University of Puerto Rico and states that he worked for the government for roughly twenty-three years. He adds that he retired as a lawyer working for himself.

Tags: G.I. Bill,Home front,Pride

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Recorded Material]


INTERVIEWER: My name is Jong Woo Han, I am the president of Korea War Legacy Foundation. Here in San Juan Puerto Rico. It is my great honor and pleasure to meet you. Could you please introduce yourself to the audience? Your name and spell it for them.


GOMEZ HERNANDEZ: I am Rafael Gómez Hernández. 


I: What is your birthday?


GH: Is January 26 




GH: 1928.


I: Wow. So, you born one year before “the Great Depression”.


GH: No.


I: 1929 There was a Great Depression.


GH: 1929 [0:00:45 inaudible] That is right. 


I: Yeah, yeah. And where you born?


GH: In San Lorenzo Puerto Rico.


I: Tell me about you family when you were growing up. Your parents and your siblings.




GH: I am a member of a family of eight brothers, father and mother. 


I: Eight brothers?


GH: Brothers and sisters. 


I: Sisters. 


GH: Yeah.

I: Eight of them.


GH: Five…


I: Brothers?


GH: No. Three brothers and five sisters.


I: Are you the eldest?


GH: No, I am number seven.


I: Number seven. Tell me how was it?




I: growing as the number seven in your family.


GH: Well, I don’t know why, but I was number seven. I studied in the schools in the country most of the time and later I gradated form High School in San Lorenzo Puerto Rico.


I: When?


GH: It was in 49.


I: And 




I: did you learn anything from Asia or Korea? During your school.


GH: I never knew anything about Korea in particular. And about Asia Yes. About China and India and other countries around but not Korea.


I: Why Not? You did know about my country?


GH: No.


I: Oh! Come on.


GH: When the war ended. I mean when the war started.




GH: I knew about Korea because the radio and the newspapers.


I: So, what was you thinking after the High School graduation. What was you trying to do? 


GH: The economic situation was different in Puerto Rico from now. There were no money to continue studying, so when I finish High School I started working in a drugstore. 




I: How much were you pay?


GH: They used to give me six dollars per week.


I: Six dollars per week?


GH: Yes.


I: So, what could you buy with six dollars?


GH: I don’t know. Go to see a movie or buy some small things with six dollars. But, by that time six dollars was a lot o money. 




I: A lot of money?


GH: Yeah.


I: How much was for the gasoline of one gallon?


GH: There was not cars. 


I: No cars. 


GH: Yeah.


I: Hmm.


GH: No gasoline. 


I: So, when did you joint the military them?


GH: in 1950, after graduated from High School as I told you, I was working in a drugstore, and some militaries from The Canal come to Puerto Rico 




GH: and talked to me about the examination they were about to give in Fort Buchanan Puerto Rico. They were going to get some 85 students from Puerto Rico, graduated form High School to study for officers at the Canal zone in Panamá.  


I: Ahh!


GH: So, I was one of them.


I: Aha…


GH: But…


I: Was it draft or enlist?


GH: I enlisted.


I: Enlisted.




GH: Volunteer. It was the 28 of June 1950.


I: I’m sorry?


GH: 28 of June 1950 I entered the army. 


I: Mhm.


GH: five days later the Korean Was started. 


I: Why? Wow.


GH: So…


I: You never imagined it.


GH: No. So, we were taken to Panama to take basic training for two months.


I: What kind?




GH: Combat infantry practices at the canal zone in Panama in the jungle. Almost day and night. 


I: Mhm.


GH: So, from there they… we form with the company I form the third battalion of the 65 Infantry which was stationed at the canal zone. 




GH: The two other regiments were stationed in Puerto Rico. So, the two battalions stationed in Puerto Rico left for the Canal for Korea.


I: From…?


GH: From Puerto Rico about the 20th, I think it was, the 20th of September 1950.


I: Mhm. 


GH: So,




GH: Three or four days later, the ship which was the “Marine Leens”


I: Yeah.


GH: Join our ship at the canal zone in Panama City. The third battalion was using the 




GH: the ship Sargent Woodford from the Navy. So, during the day, maybe the 23 or the 24 I don’t remember exactly.


I: September.


GH: September.


I: Yeah.


GH: 1950, their ship left the canal zone for Korea.


I: Mhm.


GH: I think they went to Japan before going to Korea.


I: Yeah.




GH: Our ship which was the Sargent Woodford to cost to Honolulu in Hawaii. There they passed us during the day and during the night we returned to the ship but three or four days later the ship, something wrong with it, and came back to Hawaii. In that case they took us to Pearl Harbor.   


I: Mhm. When was it? Is it also September?




GH: Yes. September.


I: OK. What did you know about Korea War at that time? Did you know anything what was going on there?


GH: I only knew that North Korea had invaded South Korea and we were going there.   


I: What makes you feel about it?


GH: Because of the talking in the ship. 


I: And were you afraid?


GH: No. when you are 20 years old you are not afraid of anything. 


I: You were not.


GH: No.


I: Hmm.




GH: So…


I: But you were not excited to be in the war, right?


GH: It was fun for me. I was 20 years old, and I didn’t care anything about… I didn’t know how been scared I was. So…


I: So, what happened to you…


GH: I went voluntary to Korea because in the canal zone in the I company, when we finished the training, 




GH: The company commander asked me if I wanted to stay in one of the hospitals. At the pharmacy in one of the hospitals at the canal zone. I said: “no I want to go with the company”, So I went voluntary also t Korea. Because I could stay in the canal zone in the pharmacy at the hospital, see you what I mean? 


I: Yeah.


GH: So, as I told you before, our ship 




GH: got wrecked in some way and returned to Pearl Harbor. In Pearl Harbor we took big ship called General Partridge, it was a big ship like a hospital ship or something  


I: Mhm.


GH: That ship took us to Korea and when we arrived there was the first of October. 


I: Where? 


GH: To Pusan.


I: Hmm. Tell about 




I: Pusan you saw for the first time.


GH: Pusan, all I remember was a city with a lot of people. And a lot of movement, military troops and the… you know… but at the moment when I was in the port, they took us in trucks some miles to the north, where they




GH: have the crops, the rice.


I: Paddy.


GH: Near the river.


I: Yeah.


GH: And from there we stared to moving more often. 


I: Did you in kind encounter north Koreans at that time, No?


GH: No.


I: Not many, right?


GH: we used to encounter north Koreans in small groups, mostly in the mountains.


I: Mhm.


GH: But, going on was 




GH: easily for us with north Koreans, because some people said that the north Koreans were pretty scared of Puerto Ricans.  


I: And, September 15th there was the Inchon landing by General MacArthur, so the north Korean soldier was flattening away 


GH: Yeah.


I: from Pusan area.


GH: Yeah.


I: Yes.


GH: I remember that.




GH: I mean the south Korean army was divided in groups and assigned to units of the US. So, in our company we have some of them. South Korean soldiers. 


I: Do you remember any?


GH: I remember some of them used to sleep at night when they were not supposed to been sleeping.




GH: So, the situation or the problem with the north Korean was not so hard, but when China came down with a lot… with about, I think it was 200,000 soldiers…  


I: Yeah.


GH: There were Chinese people for everybody. 


I: Do you see them now? can you see them now?




GH: In my imagination.


I: Yeah.


GH: I can see all of them coming to attack us day and night. 


I: So…


GH: Mostly during the night because Chinese used to attack during the night. 


I: But…


GH: Making a lot of noise. Maybe you know about that. 


I: From Pusan you march to north and where did you go?


GH: We walked 




GH: the Korean Peninsula, three or four times, all the way up, all the way down, depending on what we get with North Korea. 


I: Did you go through Seoul?


GH: Sure.


I: So, from Pusan you marching to Seoul?


GH: We stopped in different places. 


I: But tell me the major path that you took. Where did you go and what did you do?




I: As long as you can remember.


GH: I remember we were young people and we used to do what we were told to do, and move to some place and most of the time they never gave us the name of the place. I remember the Han river, I remember the Chosin Reservoir which was the place 




GH: where we defended the first marines. Because the Chinese when they came down, in November, destroyed most of the marines of the first division.   


I: Mhm.


GH: So, I remember, we took care of the first marine division, all the way down until they went to the ships in 1950 evacuation. 




I: Yeah.


GH: Something I will never forget, I think. Because the 65 was the last unit to leave the Hungnam Port when the evacuation came.


I: Wow, so 65 Infantry Division was… Infantry Regiment.


GH: Regiment.


I: was the last unit?


GH: the last unit to leave the Hungnam Port at the evacuation in 1950.




I: Where you at the Chosin Reservoir?


GH: Yeah.


I: You where there?


GH: Where there taking care of the marines that were been destroyed by the Chinese. 


I: Describe that scene, please. 


GH: Well, the snow was up to here. And everything, everybody was covered with everything they had because of the cold weather. And the… 


I: Tell me about the cold weather. How did you feel? You are from 




I: Puerto Rico.


GH: But I think we Puerto Ricans can afford been in cold weather better that the guys form the US.


I: Really? 


GH: I don’t know why. Because when there was the Honor Guard of the third infantry division, that it was from January first 1951 to June the same year, six months, I was with the Honor Guard 




GH: of the third division. During the morning we could see the soldiers from the US warming their hands in some fire. And I used to go out without shirt to wash my face with ice, that is a big difference.   


I: Yeah. 




I: I heard there it was almost 50, 40 minus Fahrenheit. Right?


GH: Sure.


I: Yeah. Did you wear winter jacket? You didn’t have it winter jacket. Right? 


GH: We had winter jacket. 


I: You did?


GH: Yeah.


I: You had it?


GH: Mhm.


I: Ahh! You’re lucky.


GH: Mhm. We had winter jacket and we had the… 


I: Mickey Mouse?


GH: Sleeping bags. 


I: Ohh!


GH: And we had… we had good equipment. 


I: So, tell me about when you were




I: facing the Chinese there in Chosin battle. 


GH: When you have to shoot somebody, in order to keep yourself alive, yo do what you have to do. 


I: What were you thinking at that time?


GH: When you are young you don’t care about anything most of the time I would say. That is my case. 




GH: But I just did what somebody else asked me to do. 


I: How often were you able to eat and what did you eat?


GH: Sometimes we stayed three or four days without a hot meal. Just eating C rations and sometimes they were frozen. And one time, I remember I ate the frozen hamburger from our rations, it was like eating soil. 


I: Hmm.




GH: My teeth used to… 


I: Yeah.


GH: like grinding some soil. But, thanks to God I am alive.


I: Yeah. Did you see many Korean refugees in Hungnam Harbor?


GH: Korean refugees were all the time going up, going down, going up, going down with the cows and with…




GH: all their belongings and it was… you should be glad you didn’t see that. But Korea was really poor country. Now it is different.


I: Mhm. So, when you graduate your High School in 1949 and join the military you never imagined 


GH: No.


I: to be in Chosin Reservoir.


GH: No.


I: Looking back 




I: all those years. How do you put all those experiences into perspective? Why were you there and what would you doing, and why do you think it’s…?


GH: I was there because I decided to enter and dedicate my life, maybe in the military of the US. If the Korean War happened, I had to accept everything about going to Korea. 




GH: Because I was a soldier and soldiers are supposed to obey orders. So, If I am in the US army and the US army is defending a country like yours, it was nice for us to be there doing our job defending your country.


I: Do you remember the name of the ship that you were in from Hungnam Harbor




I: when you get evacuated form there? The name of the ship.


GH: When? During the…? 


I: At Hungnam. You’d evacuated from Hungnam, right?


GH: No, no. there were a lot of ships outside there.


I: Mhm.


GH: receiving troops. I think the least think I could work was the name of the ship.  


I: Hmm, OK. So, what happened to you after that? Where did you go? Did you go to Pusan?




GH: After what?


I: After Hungnam. From Chosin battle where did you go?


GH: From Hungnam.


I: Yeah.


GH: From Hungnam we keep going all the way up… I mean, from Hungnam to Pusan 


I: Pusan.


GH: and the… go back to the front again.


I: Front again. Where? Remember? Pork Chop Hill?


GH: It was…




GH: Few miles north of Pusan and it was the almost of the 31 of December, when we were there.


I: Aha.


GH: And in the same night we were… we reached a place where we were going to stay. They assigned me to the Honor Guard of the third infantry division. As I told you I was with 




GH: the Honor Guard six months until the first of July 1951, in September 1951 the 18 of September I got wounded on my back while I was trying to get one of our soldiers dead, out with me. 


I: What was it? A bullet or…?


GH: Artillery fragment. 




I: Hmm. Where was it.


GH: Close to my backbone here. 


I: Backbone. Where was it, do you remember?


GH: Where?


I: Where, yeah.


GH: It was… I remember… I was… we had taken a hill at the north of the Chorwon valley. 


I: Mhm.


GH: Chorwon is about 12 miles from the parallel.


I: Yeah. That is one of 




I: The Iron triangle. 


GH: Yeah.


I: Wow, you were there.


GH: Sure.


I: And how was your enemy, north Koreans or Chinese?


GH: Most of them were Chinese.


I: Chinese. 


GH: Hmm.


I: Hmm. Do you remember any moment where you were fighting against the and…?


GH: Three or four times about the same. You shoot them, they shoot you and you are… 




GH: sometimes, you don’t remember what happened.


I: How close were you?


GH: Whit the enemy?


I: Yeah.


GH: Just…Like here. 


I: No, you are kidding.


GH: We used the bayonet one time. 


I: Like this?


GH: Sure.


I: No, no, no.


GH: It’s signed in the history of Korea. The Puerto Ricans was the only one, I think, that used the bayonet with the enemy.




I: Ohh! You have a men to men with the bayonet?


GH: Sr. yeah. 


I: Jeez… 


GH: It is one of the things that never forget. And the time I tried to go with our boys, dead out to be send to the family, I couldn’t do it because I was wounded. As I told you, the 18 of September 1951.


I: So, you were awarded with the purple heart?




GH: Sure.


I: Hmm. Yes. When did you leave Korea?


GH: Around the first days of December 1951.


I: So, you were treated in the Hospital?


GH: Sure.


I: Where?


GH: I don’t remember, it was a…


I: MASH unit?




GH: The use tents, tents.


I: MASH, yeah.


GH: For the military.


I: Aha.


GH: I mean for the medical personnel. 


I: And were you completely recovered from the wound?


GH: Yeah


I: Aha. Tell me about, what was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea? If you were asked one thing to come up. What was the most difficult?


GH: The time we expend 




GH: helping the marines get out of Korea.


I: In Chosin Reservoir.


GH: In Chosin Reservoir.


I: Tell me more about it.


GH: Sometimes we had to be without sleeping three or four, I mean or more, five or six or something nights, and sometimes you sleep while you walk. 


I: Is that possible?


GH: Some cannot do it,  




GH: Some can do it. But the desired to keep alive help you to do things there are not in your imagination.


I: Did you pray God?


GH: No.


I: You didn’t talk to God?


GH: No, sr.


I: Hmm. Does that bother you still?




GH: Yes.


I: Do you see some dreams?


GH: I have dreams and bad dreams and I have nightmares and I have everything.


I: Do you have a PTSD?


GH: I’ve been in a PTSD clinic here for three years, but they haven’t given me anything for that.


I: Why not?


GH: I don’t know. Because of the guys working on that aspect, maybe I think, 




GH: most or near, all of them had never been in the military. And they are deciding what they can give in regards, I mean, to us.


I: Did you family knows about your wounds?


GH: I don’t think so.


I: You didn’t write a letter back to them?


GH: My younger, two daughters have known 




GH: about my wounds…


I: No, no, no. Not your children… but your family, your brothers, your sisters and your parents?


GH: No, no.


I: You didn’t…


GH: They never knew about that.


I: Why not? Didn’t you write letter back to them? You didn’t write.


GH: No. 


I: Ahh.


GH: I never mentioned anything. As I told you, I was telling you during the last couple of years, I have been told my youngest two daughters about that.  




GH: But before, I never say anything about that. 


I: Why not?


GH: I never saw interest in anybody. You see, in Puerto Rico the idea about the veterans is different from the idea in the US.


I: How different?


GH: Because…




GH: in the US, a wounded soldier with this they are patriots…


I: Mhm.


GH: And almost the young kids say you: “thank you for the service”. Not here.


I: What do you mean not here?


GH: Because this is not the continental US. Thinking about war is different.


I: So, tell me how different is it?




I: Why is it not here? Is there because many Puerto Ricans were to war? So, there become just normal?


GH: Well, the felt of Puerto Rico about the veterans change when the Vietnam war. You know, many people form veterans from Vietnam are sick. 


I: Yeah.




GH: And the… in Puerto Rico, there was a general idea that the guys returning from Vietnam were crazy people. 


I: Hmm.


GH: Or sick people or… anything.


I: Mhm.


GH: But we have to live with it.


I: Yeah. Have you been back to Korea?




GH: I would like to. 


I: You would like to?


GH: Sure.


I: Huh!


GH: In one of the meting we had last year, I think it was, people from Korea… 


I: Yes.


GH: I suggested to one of them to talk with the governmental people in South Korea to see about the opportunity for us, 




GH: Puerto Ricans veterans, Korean veterans to go there, somebody has paying.


I: Yeah. We, Korean government has a program called revisit program and they pay for it. 


GH: Mhm.


I: So, if you want to, let me now. 


GH: I would like to.


I: Yes.


GH: I am telling you now.


I: Yeah. So, do you know what happened to Korea after the war? About the economy and the politics…




GH: During the Korean war, I would you didn’t see it. Because it was very poor country, very poor country in all aspects. Now, Korea within the ten economic powers in earth. And it is technological power also. Everything is different. 




GH: Korea now, as I’ve seen in pictures is beautiful.


I: Yeah.


GH: And I would like you didn’t know about… about Korea 65 years ago.


I: Yeah, Korea is now 11 largest economy in the world and most substantives democracy in Asia. It’s a prospering country.


GH: Sure.




I: And we were able to do that because you fought there in Chosin Reservoir.


GH: Thank You.


I: Oh my God. You know.


GH: [0:31:13 inaudible]


I: So, what is the legacy of the Korean War and the Korean War veterans in your opinion?


GH: That the… we have to do everything possible 




GH: to keep our democracies, our good people, working people, like the Koreans. I am happy to know that things have being changing in Korea, and something scares my, the North Korea. 


I: Mhm.


GH: North Korea has been all the time willing to invade the south because the south produce thing they don’t have. 




I: Mhm. 


GH: And North Korea is bigger than South Korea. you know that?


I: Yeah. They used to be better often than South Korea until late 1970, 


GH: Sure.


I: because there are, North Koreans have most of the natural resources,


GH: Mhm.


I: industrial bases there, 


GH: Mhm.


I: because Japanese put all those there.


GH: But the agriculture is in the south.


I: Yes. That’s right. 




I: So, I feel like this metaphor…


GH: Mhm.


I: “What good can come out of Nazareth”, it’s from the Jhon chapter one.  


GH: Yeah.


I: From the new testament.


GH: Mhm.


I: There Phillip introduces Jesus to his friend Nathaniel, and Nathaniel was meditating under the big tree. And when Phillip said to Nathaniel: “hey, there is Jesus from Nazareth”, and Nathaniel said: “what good can come out of Nazareth”.   




GH: Mhm.


I: The Korea you saw in 1950 was like Nazareth.


GH: Yeah.


I: Did you have any hope about the future of Korea when you left Korea in 1951.


GH: I never imagined about what was the change that were going to take place in Korea when we left there. We didn’t have any idea about 




GH: of the possible changes there. But I am glad that they have change a lot about everything.


I: Mhm. Because of the sacrifice and honorable services of the soldiers, especially on the very early days of the Korean War from Puerto Rico and Hawaii, 


GH: Mhm.


I: And these are the people we called minorities. 


GH: Mhm.


I: So, tell me about the segregation.




I: Did you experience some discriminative policies of US military at that time?


GH: At… I mean, until 1951 or 52 there was segregation everywhere in the US, 


I: Mhm.


GH: including the military. So, I think it was 




GH: MacArthur came out with the idea of unifying the units.


I: Mixed them together.


GH: Mix them, yeah. And so, they did it. I don’t know if it was better or worse, but they did it and that was the best thing to do. Unified the forces.  




GH: You know the black people; I mean the black soldiers in the US were separated form the white ones. And for example, in the Honor Guard of the third infantry division, where I was during the first six months of 1951, there was one square… “escuadras”




GH: One…


I: “Escuadra”? Squad, squad.


GH: Squad. Squad. One squad of Puerto Ricans, twelve Puerto Rican Soldiers, one squad of color people from the States, negros, 


I: Mhm.


GH: And two squad of white soldiers from the US. Four squads.


I: Mhm.


GH: So, whit that, 




GH: this segregation continued… I mean, began in 1951.


I: Then finally President Truman desegregated. 


GH: Yeah.


I: Yeah. What do you think about the reunification of Korean peninsula, North and South?


GH: I don’t think it will work.




I: Why not?


GH: Because, if North Korea invade, I mean getting in south Korea, they will try to spread communism in the whole peninsula.


I: Mhm. 


GH: With the help of China and Russia. So, on the other side, if South Korea invade North Korea it is impossible 




GH: without getting in a war with China and Russia, which are the defenders of North Korea.


I: Mhm. So, after you returned, what did you do? I think your job, your career is lawyer, right?


GH: I entered the army for a period of three years. 


I: University?




GH: In the Army.


I: Army, yes.


GH: In the Army, 


I: Yeah.


GH: In the Army, when I finished my three years, I got out and I stared to study in the University of Puerto Rico.


I: Mhm. What did you study?


GH: I studied for economist. 


I: Ahh! Did you get GI bill?


GH: Yeah. 


I: Ahh!


GH: I studied with the GI bill. 


I: Mhm.


GH: Four years at the University of Puerto Rico.


I: Yeah.


GH: And I worked for the government 




GH: 23 years and then retired as a lawyer.


I: As Lawyer?


GH: Yeah.


I: So, did you have a BAR exam pass?


GH: I had the BAR in 1990.


I: Wow, that is an achievement.


GH: Yeah.


I: Hmm. So, what do you think about the impact of your military service especially about Korean War upon your life?  




I: What is the impact, overall, in your life?


GH: Me, getting into the army was, I think, the best opportunity. Because by that time it was difficult.


I: Difficult what?


GH: To get a job in Puerto Rico and some other places. Because of the economy. 




GH: So, I was doing something at the drugstore, in order to do something, because there wasn’t nothing else for me, I couldn’t go to the University because there was not money in my family. So, when I could entry the Army, 




GH: I saw the sky open for me. I felt important.


I: Hmm.


GH: More brave than before I would say. And… I saw 




GH: I could go now into the Army and stay my life at the military.  But it was not possible.


I: Hmm.


GH: Because when I finished my three years the US was drafting every people from the streets.


I: Yeah. For Vietnam War.


GH: Vietnam War and the… I was a Sargent when I left Korea and I was going to be one of the instructors for




GH: all those guys, getting in, so I decided not to stay.


I: Mm. Did you regret that you…?


GH: No. Never… sorry, you didn’t finish your statement.


I: Even before I finish my statement you said… you’re not stupid, right?


GH: I don’t think so. 


I: And you don’t regret?


GH: No.




I: Why is this happening? Us has to be in the war all the time, somewhere, you are still fighting in Afghanistan against the IS.  


GH: When I completed my three years, I said that is enough for me. So, I think it was the best thing I could do at that time. 


I: Mhm. So, what is Korea to you know? You didn’t know damn thing about Korean when you left for Korea. 


GH: No.




I: You didn’t have any hope about the future of Korea when you left Korea   


GH: No. I never thought about that.


I: So, what is Korea to you now? and what is Korean people to you? Be honest, OK?


GH: Different people, different things… different economy, different everything, everything… they didn’t have everything at that time. Jut poor people in the country with some cows and the… I don’t know.




GH: Some agriculture. While I was with the Honor Guard. One time I remember that the Generals of the Third Infantry Division and all the officers, stayed at the University. The University was without windows, most of it was without ceiling, all destroyed.




I: Was in Seoul?


GH: In Seoul.


I: Yeah.


GH: The University of Korea in Seoul. It was one of the only buildings with some structure still up, because the rest was destroyed. You can imagine the rest. For example, Chorwon was…




GH: As they told me, it is a big town. During the war Chorwon was destroyed. Wholly destroyed. And some marine wrote a sing saying: “This was Chorwon” at the main entrance of the city, but close to the armistice, all those mountains to the west and the north of 




GH: the Chorwon valley were totally covered with Chinese troops. And capturing one of them was when I got wounded. 


I: Now, all those mountains covered its soil much of the trees. 


GH: Si. (Yes).


I: And when your goo back. If you’ll back. I hope that you can go back.


GH: I hope so.




I: You will not be able to recognize the palce. 


GH: No. I would not like to be there to because it is in the north. 


I: So, you are… how old are you now? You were born in 28, so, let see… 72, 82, 87.


GH: I am… I arrived to 88 the 26th of last month.


I: I know your birthday is January. 




I: So, tell me. What is Korea to you now? What does that mean to you?


GH: Korea, South Korea is a nice country, a beautiful county, nice people. I am glad to know that it is one of the best economic… in relation with economy I think it is within the ten first, am I right?


I: Mhm.


GH: And it is 




GH: technological power…


I: Yeah, but personally, what is…? What does it mean to you? We talked about the statistics, Korea is good in economy and so on.  


GH: Korea will be always a nice place to be. 


I: Even after you got wounded from there?


GH: That is OK, because it was in the north with the Chinese. 


I: Mhm. 


GH: So, here we are yet. 




I: Rafael, do you have any other stories that you want to leave to this interview? Any message or any story?


GH: I can remember nice things from Korea, but the most of them were not so nice. Because most of them were facing the North Koreans first and later the Chinese, 




GH: So many Chinese. And the… I remember thanksgiving of 1950. We had the thanksgiving dinner about 5 o’clock, and about 8 o’clock or 9, we had to forget about everything and 




GH: faced the North Koreans, 


I: Yeah.


GH: And the Chinese and everything.


I: Mhm.


GH: Jesus. But one of the things I can never forget is when I tried to get one of my buddies dead, out at least to be sent to his family, and I couldn’t do it. 




GH: I think that is all I could say about Korea.


I: You know many… I did interview with a lot Chosin battle, choosing few and many of them said: “I don’t want to go back to Korea because it’s too much for me, I cannot digest it”. 


GH: I would like to go to Korea. I am not scared about going to Korea because I know things are different now. 




I: So, you get to recover from that?


GH: Mhm.


I: OK?


GH: I hope so.


I: And?


GH: I have to do it pretty soon.


I: Yes. I hope to see you there. Ok?


GH: Would be nice to see you around there too.


I: Yes. Yes. I was in Florida to interview with a Medal of Honor recipient. 


GH: Mhm.


I: Hector Cafferata.


GH: Si. (Yeah).


I: Yeah? And he got the Medal of Honor from Korean Government too, 




GH: Mhm


I: So, my mission was to sending back to Korea. 


GH: Mhm.


I: And finally, he said Yes. In the beginning I called him, and he said: “I don’t want to talk to you, who are you?”


GH: Mhm.


I: And I called him again and “If you hang up again, I’ll be in your house”, I called him from Yale University to Florida.  


GH: I have some medals and some certificates from South Korea at home.




I: So…


GH: Including the big one.


I: Medal?


GH: Yeah.


I: Yeah. I really hope that you go back to Korea and see what happened. Because you 

gave us opportunity to rebuild or economy…


GH: Mhm.


I: Now we are strong.


GH: Mhm.


I: So, that is why we are doing, we want to preserve your memories. 


GH: Mhm.


I: Forever. And this is the best way to do it.


GH: Mhm.


I: If we build a museum it will cost a lot of money. 




I: And there will no places for your pictures and so on. We don’t have any limitations on that. It’s all on the internet. 


GH: You know that Joseph’s father was with me at the same time in Korea.


I: So, I have to talk with him in Fort Worth in Dallas. Yes. I am so lucky to meet you I was going around at the hospital with Joseph…


GH: Mhm.


I: And he introduced me to you


GH: Mhm.




I: It’s my great honor to meet you, and I want to thank you on behalf of Korean nation. 


GH: OK. Thank you. It’s been nice to meet you too. 


I: Sincerely, thank you for your fights and be healthy and mean there let’s see in Korea. OK?


GH: You know the… I think the last group that came to Puerto Rico. I think was November of December last year. They gather 




GH: six or seven Puerto Rican veterans from Korea. And they gave us dinner in one of the hotels, El Doraldo, and they gave us a small envelop with two hundred dollars bills. 


I: Hmm.


GH: I still have that money in the jacket at home.


I: You haven’t spent it?


GH: No.




I: Come on. That’s the money is for. Yeah, It’s not about money… you know, we… this is why we are doing it, we want to preserve your memories, honorable service and sacrifice, your wound, and that result in the success of the Korean people right now. So…


GH: Hmm.


I: You did beautiful thing… beautiful thing came out of your service. OK? I want you to know that. 


GH: Thank you.


I: Korean people always 




I: thankful about it.


GH: Hmm.


I: Thank you so much.


GH: OK, Thank you.


[End of Recorded Material]