Korean War Legacy Project

Ralph A Gastelum


Ralph Alfonso Gastelum accompanied Edwin Richard Hanson in this interview were both soldiers in the 3rd Squad, 2nd Battalion,1st Marine Heavy Machine Gun Platoon. Ralph was born April 15, 1931 in Tuscon, Arizona where he joined the Marine Corps Reserves and graduated from both Tuscon High School and the University of Arizona. Both he and Edwin forged their bond as friends at Camp Pendleton, California, and within 2 weeks  of basics, they boarded the USS President Jackson and sailed to Japan. Soon after, both would make textbook history with their amphibious arrival at Inchon landing on September 15, 1950.  Both Ed and Ralph versions of their experiences were unique in their own way as they told riveting stories of their own experiences from Inchon, Wonsan Landing, Chosin Reservoir, and Hamheung Evacuation. Many years later the two would discover that the night Ed threw hand grenades near their Regiments resting position, not knowing Ralph was trapped in a fox hole on the other side of Ed’s position. They would later learn those grenades saved Ralph’s life. Ralph describes the images of death, the effects of a hard winter on the soldier at Chosin and the lasting impression these experiences make in his mind. Both men agree never to forget this war, how proud they were to have served and the bonds that they made are forever.

Video Clips

My First Experience at Inchon Landing September 15, 1950

Ralph recalls being very anxious, had arrived just before nightfall and was circling out at sea for awhile. He remembers watching the beach being heavily shelled (Just like you see in the movies," he said.) which he thought was incredible before they went in. Once they landed they had little resistance but found a large foxhole they stayed in for the night (with no sleep) and something kept crawling around in the hole but he couldn't figure out what it was. The next morning he realized it was a frog, but being in a foreign land he wasn't sure what to expect.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,Incheon,Fear,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Physical destruction

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Death Results in PTSD Chosin Reservoir

Ralph describes the number of bodies on the battlefield as far as the eye could see both the enemy and their fallen comrades frozen the way they had fell. The bulldozer that was shoveling North Korean soldiers bodies and covering them up.The moaning and the groaning at night just got to them both and the bitterness they have. Their wives didn't talk at the time but when they sleep they tell them what they say and their reactions to it. Both Ed and Ralph live with this daily they just learn to cope with it.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Jangjin,Cold winters,Depression,Fear,Front lines,Home front,Impressions of Korea,Physical destruction

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