Raymond DiVacky was born in 1928 and grew up in a military family, constantly moving around. As a young person, he got involved with the Army Transportation Service and started working as an oiler aboard ship. He eventually enlisted in the Army Air Force and was sent to Europe after intensive air traffic control training. He volunteered for service in Korea when the war first broke out but did not go until 1951 when he was sent over as a replacement. He shares how he was nervous when they first arrived, but how he did not have a terrible experience there. He left Korea in Spring 1953 and is proud of his military service.
A Nontraditional Educational Path
Raymond DiVacky explains why he never graduated high school. He shares what he did with the Army Transportation Service before trying to go back to school. While he thought he took the GED, he found out after the war that it wasn’t recognized when he tried to apply for college due to peculiar circumstances, so he had to take it again.
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A Difficult Job
Raymond DiVacky remembers his basic training and responsibilities in Texas. He had infantry training but became one of the first enlisted men placed in the air traffic control system. He describes he almost quit this very intense, difficult training.
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First Impressions of Korea
Raymond DiVacky explains how he “really had no thoughts.” He remembers just going along with what everyone else was doing in this torn-up area. He recalls being somewhat nervous despite having been many places around the world.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
And could you spell your last name for the audience?
R: Sure, it’s D-I-capital V as in victory-A-C-K-Y.
I: And that has ethnic origins of what?
I: Uh huh. Moravian.
I: Former Czechoslovakia.
R: Formerly, yeah.
I: Where were you born and when you born?
R: I was born in 1928.
October 10th, 1928, in San Francisco, California.
I: Ahh. Tell me about your family, when you were growing up.
R: Well, that’s a mixture. I was part of a military family. My father and his father were military people and so that’s the environment I was raised in.
I: Mmm. How about school? When did you?
R: Well, school was many different, many different places, because we were constantly moving.
I: Because your father was military?
R: I went to school, where, I can think of, Chicago, in Karen, Missouri, was in Tacoma, over here, and Lubbock, Texas,
many different places, so.
I: When did you graduate high school?
R: I actually never graduated from high school. At a, let’s see, I, well actually, I have to back further. We were here in Tacoma and I got involved with the army transportation service
as a young person. I was 15 ½, almost 16 years old.
I: Uh huh.
R: And I went to work as a oiler, aboard ship. We were working the, the water ways through, up through Canada, to the Aleutian Islands.
I: Mmm hmm.
R: And we were hauling ammunition at that time. And,
I got through with that service and came back and decided, well, I’ll go back to school and maybe, you know, finish, get an education. And I got back and, and my English teacher was originally a student with me when I was there before. Now she’s teaching.
R: And, and I felt kind of out of out of place. I decided to go take a general education
development test, which I did. And, supposedly I was issued a graduation certificate from the school. Going on to this story, later on I found out that, after I was back from Korea, I decided to go to college, so I had to go in and show them my GED
or what experience, you know, what experience I had. And, come to find out, that the GED was not recognized because it, the person who had given it took off with the money [laughs] and everything else, so I really didn’t get one.
I: I see.
R: So, I had to go back and retake it.
R: And, I took it at, at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and
and I made a very good grade on it. And I said, of course, I’ve already been in school here for two years, so [laughs], so. And that’s how that came about.
I: I see. So, your father was in military, right?
I: So, during the, during the Great Depression.
I: How’s that actually affect, did that actually affect military personnel? Did they get the salary from the government,
right? So, they were not really affected, was it?
R: Yeah, no they weren’t really affected. At that time, the military really was looked down upon by the populous then.
I: Oh, why?
R: And, I, you know, after, after every war, the soldiers seem to lose, you know, respect,
I: Uh huh.
R: and that had happened after the first World War. They were just, you know, looked
down upon. They were, they weren’t, it’s a lot different than, since the second War, the second war was a lot different than the-
I: That’s not good.
I: So, tell me, when did you join the military?
I: Mmm hmm. What, Army?
R: No, I went into the Air F-, Air, at that time, it was the-
I: Army Air Force.
R: Army Air Corps.
I: Air Corps, right.
R: And, shortly after that, they changed it to the Air Force.
I: Did you volunteer, or?
R: Yes, I was an enlistee.
I: And, where did you get the basic training?
R: Well, I got part of it at Camp Beale, California. And they, the last part of it at Shepherd Field, Texas.
I: Where was your MOS?
R: I don’t remember the numbers, I was trained,
you know, we had infantry training, but when I was at Shepherd Field, they put me into what was called the air traffic control system.
I: Mmm hmm.
R: I was being trained, actually we were one of the first enlisted peop-, personnel being trained to work in towers and flight control centers. And, which was, it was very difficult.
You had a lot of regulations that you had to be aware of, you know, for the safety of the aircraft and the personnel flying those. And, it was, I forget how long, it was a good eight weeks, I think, of very intensive study. And . . . the interesting part about that, of course, was, when
we went into this, we were told by the commanding officer there at that time of the school, that, you’re the first enlisted men going into this school, it’s a big honor, you know. Normally it would be pilots who had suffered combat wariness, so they would put them into traffic control. And so, he, this is big. But if you remember, any time
during this education, if you feel that you are not qualified for this, you, you have to come and you tell me that you don’t want it. Okay. Well, it comes up to about a week before we’re going to graduate from this thing, they was two of us that decided, no, I don’t think I want to stay in this, this, the, the, the pressure’s too great. And, so we showed up at the office,
and marched in there and told the colonel that we didn’t believe that we needed to do it. And he went up to through ceiling, chewed us out but good and said you will graduate, period. Well, that set the future events up real quick like. I was being sent to Europe at that time, and . . . went to
Italy, and when we were there in the, actually I call it replacement clamp, camp. They came in there and asked that we have a need for mechanics and I raised my hand.
R: I want in it. And, so they ended up sending me to school for maintaining generators and
things of that nature.
I: Mmm hmm.
R: And that’s h-, that’s the end of that story. [laughs]
I: So, finally you achieved your goal?
R: I got my, got, got outta that and
R: got into something else. [laughs]
I: How was Italy at the time, Italy?
R: Italy? At that time it’s, the war had gone through there. And so, we saw a lot of starvation.
I can remember seeing, you know, children walking around with big fat potbellies on ’em. And, and bad conditions, you know, buildings torn down, destroyed. And, that, that, that was fairly good. I worked from Napoli up through Rome and up to Pisa. And,
our biggest problem we had in Pisa, was with the guerillas, coming in to steal vehicles, or gas, and things of that nature. And, I was involved at that time working, setting up brain stations, which were the, the electronic set up for the airport, s-, you know, when the pilot was coming in, he would get an A and an N s-signal. And, so, we were setting those up, and we were isolated away
from the air-, you know, the main airport itself, ’cause we were out maybe five miles away. And, so were kinda subject to
I: I see.
R: a little harassment, so.
I: [laughs] When did you leave for Korea, then?
R: Well, when the war broke out, at that time I was at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. And, n fact, I volunteered for service in Korea at,
when that war first broke out and the first sergeant knocked that down in a hurry, says you don’t want that, so I didn’t go at that point. And it wasn’t until 1951 that, then I was sent over as a replacement, as part of the replacement crews.
I: So, when did you leave for Korea?
R: In, it was in probably March or April of ’51.
I: And where did you leave from?
R: Camp Stoneman, California.
I: Mmm hmm. And where did you arrive in Korea?
R: We arrived in Inchon. No, excuse me, no, no, we arrived in Pusan. I, I remember they had the very high tides there at that time and we first came in there was nothing but mud. [laughs] And we had to come off of the ship.
I: Did you know anything about Korea before you left?
R: I didn’t know a thing. The first thing I remember is the Harbor being full of mud. [laughs] That’s the first thing I remember, so.
I: Mmm. And? What else?
R: I was just going along with the rest of the troops. Whatever we were told to, I did. And that’s, and I really had no thoughts, you know, other than that the,
everything seemed to be torn up quite a bit, and, and my thoughts weren’t much beyond that other than-
I: Were you nervous?
R: Somewhat, wondering, yeah, what, what was going to hold for us at that time.
I: You were in Italy, and now you are in Korea.
R: Yeah, well actually, I was in Italy for a while then-
R: I was in-, no, Italy.
Went from Italy to France, France back to Italy, Italy to Germany
I: Mmm hmm.
R: for some [inaudible] right, and then I was gonna go back home. Then I was sent back down to Austria, to Lenz, Austria. And then from there, I finally got [laughs] back home.
Europe, you’re seeing a country that
I’d say is very civilized. I remember to Munich, for example, I was there with pretty destroyed. But, then when it came into Korea, it was the same thing, it’s desolation. I can remember when we came out of the replacement camp, going up to our
unit assignment, that, you know, we were driving through areas that had minefield marks on them, and markers on them to warn people. And, and, things were pretty desolate. And then from there, we went by truck to our assignment, which in my case was the 11thEngineer Combat Battalion.
R: And I don’t know where, were, all I remember about that area, there was no towns, [laughs] there was, you know, no villages or anything of any recognition. The only thing I remember about the place, it was a big reservoir there. And we were camped next to that reservoir.
R: I’m not s-, no, I don’t think it was Hwachon, no, no.
I: Big reservoir?
I: So, around a 38 parallel, right?
R: Yeah, I was in Chorwon area.
R: In Chorwon
I: Chorwon, okay, yeah. So, what did you do? Tell me about a typical day of your routine.
R: My routine? Well, I was there as a heavy equipment mechanic and . . .
I didn’t stay, I really didn’t do much work as a heavy equipment mechanic. I ended up being a, under a recovery vehicle. I was a wrecker operator.
R: And, I spent my days driving to areas picking up disabled vehicles and, and basically that was it.
I: Mmm hmm. How much were you paid at the time?
R: How much was I paid?
R: Well, let’s see, at the time I was a sergeant first class and I don’t remember what the hell we were being paid. [laughs]
R: Oh, I’m sure it was more than that, but it-
I: What did you do with that money?
R: I sent my money home, so.
I: To whom?
R: To my wife.
I: When did you leave Korea?
R: In ’53, in
probably the spring. Around the spring of ’53.
I: When you left Korea, what were you thinking about the future of Korea? Have you, had you ever thought about it, or-
I -if you did
R: I really hadn’t thought about it. I was kinda glad to be leaving. I can’t say that I had bad experiences there but
I was glad to be going back home, let’s put it there.
I: What was the most difficult thing you remember during your experience in Korea?
R: I can’t say there was anything that I hated. I went one time with, as an aide, put it that way, or as a helper, with the,
with the, at that time it was the trip-, the triple A artillery and it was a recovery outfit up on, what was that, mount, it was a hill number. It was called Papasan. The mountain, which we never took at that point. And, while we wee up there, we came under fire and, and
I decided I didn’t like that too well, so I got out of there. That’s about the only time I can really.
R: Couple of other times I was up on a mission to help out picking up equipment and they had the search light details out at that time, to provide the twilight light during the night. And North Koreans, or the Chinese, one of the two, were kinda tracking, tracking the search lights. And, they’d set up
and, and pretty soon, they’d move ’em somewhere else, and about that time, they’d send a round out with a air burst. And, I, I didn’t appreciate that. And then there was one other time that, and to this day I still don’t know, it’s, it’s a foggy memory, but I remember we were up on a, working on a bridge that had been hit with a mortar and it had damaged one of the
dozers. And, I had picked up the dozer and I, and a jeep showed up with a captain and a lieutenant and they talked to, to my commanding officer, and he told me to follow him, follow the jeep, and so I followed the jeep. And we, up into the, what at that time, called the helmet zone. And then we were into the blackout zone and it was dark. And I remember going across this
real, kind of an arched bridge, and what I can remember this guard being on there and I drove across, and we got across and, and there was a bridge truck [laughs] driver, and I don’t know how he got there, but he had got up there and got kinda stuck in the road. So, that was fine, I got there and was hooking up. And, all of the sudden the, the sky just lit up. And I mean
not from the search light, but from, from out going fire and I remember, a whole bunch of infantry moving out, and I’m sitting there saying where in the hell am I gonna go? [laughs] And, it passed me and I got ahold of the truck and pulled him back and I headed back. And, after that, I don’t remember to this day
how I got back to the unit.
R: But, that’s lost somewhere. That was my scariest moment. [laughs]
I: [laughs] Wow. But you returned in one piece?
R: I cam back in one piece, yeah.
I: Why you think the Korean War regarded as forgotten?
R: . . .
R: Well, I think, I th-, I don’t really know why people forgot it. I mean, the people that were there, we still remember it.
I: Did you want to forget about it?
R: No, I’ve never, no I’ve never wanted to forget about it. It’s a memory, like all of the other memories that you have of, of
things, thats. There is lessons to be learned from it, so.
I: What is the lesson that we need to learn
R: Let’s not have any wars. So.
I: But America is always in the war somewhere, with somebody else.
R: Yeah, it seems to be that way. We’re a willing nation, we like to help out others. We see injustice and we like to get justice.
I: So, we never lis-, learn from it. [laughs]
I: We have to be there, anywhere, any time.
I: Huh? Have you been back to Korea?
R: No, I haven’t. I wanted to go back when they had the-
I: Revisit program.
R: -the revisit program and, we couldn’t, we couldn’t make it at the time, so.
I: So, you know what happened to Korea
R: Oh, yes, I’ve seen the pictures and the, it’s amazing the transformation, is, is, it’s wonderful, so.
I: What do you, I mean, tell me the detail. What kind of transformation do you think that we made it?
R: Well, I, I can remember the, the, the way the towns looked like, and now when you look at it, you see town high rises, and highways, and a very active people and
I: Do you know we’re eighth largest economy in the world?
R: No, I didn’t know that.
I: It’s small country.
R: I know you’ve come a long ways.
I: Do you know that we are the largest shipping industry in the world?
R: No, I didn’t know that.
I: Do you know that we are the largest market share of computer chips?
R: Okay, I’m not, I didn’t know that, I thought that was in China, so.
I: We were able to do it because you fought for us.
I: Isn’t that amazing?
R: Yes, it is.
I: It is, yes.
R: It’s truly amazing.
R: Yeah. I, I, I’m amazed at how much the country has developed and, in fact, after I left service, I went to work
for the postal service. I was working as a automotive engineer at that time. And we were having contracts made to, to buy vehicles, and we had a group that was looking into Korea.
I: So, I think we need to let our young generations happened know about what happened, what all, what good came out of your service. How can we do that?
R: Well, I think you’re doing it right know.
I: Thank you very much.
[End of Recorded Material]