Arnold "Güero" N. Garcia
I was born in, Tucson, Arizona on the 8th of May, 1929 and grew up around the Drachman School neighborhood (20th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue). My father was born in Hermosillo, Mexico, in 1901. He worked as a broiler maker for the Southern Pacific. My mother was born in. Baviacora, Mexico. I was the youngest of six children from this marriage.
In 1947, I talked my friend Ralph "Spider" Yanez into joining the Marines with me. He wasn't too crazy about it but he was such a good friend that he went along with me. And you know what? He made a career of the Corps. After boot camp, we both wound up in Hawaii. At Hawaii, I became a military police and Spider was made a clerk. He was then shipped out to Guam.
After putting our time in, we arrived at Camp Pendleton to await our release to the reserves. I guess I would have ended up in Tucson's "E" Company had it not been for the Korean War.
I checked the bulletin board soon after and found my name on the list scheduled to ship for Korea with the 5th Marine Brigade. I went to my first sergeant to tell him I had just arrived from overseas and that I was to be discharged soon so he said he'd check into it since he was in the same situation. He did and came back with the good news that we were both off the list. We helped load up the 5th Brigade and saw them ship out. Well, guess what? Soon after, my name turned up on the list again. This time, there was no getting out of it. They had extended my enlistment another year and the whole 1st Marine Division was going to Korea.
Within a month's time, we were on board the USS Randall, headed for Kobe, Japan. At Kobe, I remember running into a bunch of Tucson Marines from "Easy" Company on dungaree liberty. "Bertie" (Bert Rincon) was among them. What a small guy he was ... tiny! I kidded them, "What are you guys doing with this kid? Are you trying to teach him bad habits?"
I made the Inchon Landing with the 5th Marines. When we got to the Han River, we were told to sit there until the 7th Marines caught up. So, we waited on the spot for four or five days until the 7th Marines came up. Then we became the MP's for that regiment. Our squad consisted of one tech sergeant, two staff sergeants, two buck sergeants, three corporals and four PFC's (private first class). Because we were so top heavy on sergeants, us four lowly PFC's wound up doing all the work. I got tired of it so I would volunteer for any detail that would get me away from the squad. This was mostly outpost or check-point duty. Sometimes I'd be out in the middle of nowhere, all by myself, but I got to see a lot of Tucson guys coming through my check-point that way. The idea was to be on the look out for enemy stragglers which was kind of ridiculous because if I was to meet up with a bunch of them, what was I suppose to do? Maybe if they didn't find me when they came to check on me, they would know there was some enemy activity there.
One time I was dropped off at an outpost with a box of C-rations, a five-gallon water can and some ammo. I was told not to worry; it would be just a couple of days or at the most, a week. I was there a whole month! But, you know, I really made the best of that situation. I got some Korean civilians to dig out what was a shell hole and make it a little more comfortable. Then, with all that traffic all coming through, I usually managed to scrounge more rations off of them. Then I traded some rations to the civilians for a small wood stove. I made myself really comfortable there.
One day, I heard this guy on a road grader holler at me. ""Güero!" "Güero!" (nickname for light complected). It was Raul Babasa! I was real happy to see him, but I couldn't stop the convoy to talk to him. Later in the day, a couple of M.P.'s informed me he had been killed when the grader rolled over on him. I couldn't believe it! I had just seen him! Well, hell!
Finally, the day came when they went after me to get me off that road block. We loaded a jeep with all that chow and stuff I had accumulated. It's funny, when I think back on it, but when I came out of the tent where I made my report, they had two M.P.'s guarding the jeep. They bragged about having hot chow in this area but it was mostly corn beef and hash twice a day. I had better eats in the jeep!'
You know, I had been volunteering for so many details that when they told me I was on the list for R&R, I imagined something like what the army had. Wow! Japan for a month! I wound up back in Masan, at division headquarters, guarding prisoners.
Replacements started coming in. Then the first draft went home. I figured, it won't be long now. More marines went home but they were front-line troops, They did me no favors, bringing me to the rear area.
Going back some, after the Marines took Seoul, we wound up in Uijongbu with the 7th Marines. From there we boarded the "Mayfield" which took us to Wonsan. From there, on to the Chosin Reservoir. You know, I've got to give the 7th Regiment a lot of credit. For an outfit that was made up of mostly reserves and fresh out of boots, (untested marines) they made a fantastic showing out there.
The 7th was the first regiment to make contact with the Chinese volunteers going up toward the Yalu. The 7th mauled the hell out of them. Then the Chinese disappeared. The M.P.'s job was to interrogate the civilians to find out where the Chinese went to. The next time we saw them, they were all over the place at Yudam-ni.
The army unit that took over from the 5th Marines on the east side of the reservoir really got clobbered. Most of their officers were killed or wounded, and the few combatants that were left, had no idea what to do. When they tried to run the convoy out of there, they were ambushed and the wounded were machine-gunned in the back of the trucks where they were being carried. The few that survived came across the ice on the reservoir. All their equipment, tanks, trucks and artillery was lost. There were some heroic efforts by Lt. Col. Beall,, who went out on the ice to see what was going on. When he found more than his jeep could carry, he organized a task force of trucks, jeeps and sleds to bring back the survivors.
My M.P. unit was so busy at this time. Well, like evervbodv else. I had been standing check-point watch for eighteen hours and when I got relieved, I went to visit my two M.P. buddies who had been wounded. Took them C-rations and whatever I could scrounge for them, then headed for a warming tent to try and rest.
On my way, I saw some tanks coming in from Koto-ri. Our M.P. commander, who was a lieutenant, talked to them and found out their situation. They were part of a convoy sent from Koto-ri to open the MSL (main supply line) so that we could get out, Lt. Col. Drysdale of the British Royal Marines was in charge. They had been fighting their way through and some of the convoy had been cut off. The Lieutenant asked me to take a rifle tearn out there and guide the Royal Marines fighting their way through the hills, since I knew the area well. We did what we were ordered. Unknown to me, I had been recommended for a Bronze Star for this action.
Three months later, we were guarding a bridge when we were hit by the Chinese. Army artillery was called in to cover the hills around us but instead of sighting in, they fired-for-effect and the rounds landed on us. We were right in the middle of caring for the dead and wounded when a runner came by to take me back to the C.P. (command post). When we got to the rear area, the sergeant told me to put on some clean clothes and join the troops forming in the area. I didn't know what to make of it. I thought I was being court martialed but I couldn't figure out for what incident.
I saw the band take out their beat-up, banged-up instruments, check them out and tune them. A group of us were marched in and stood at attention. Then, General O.P. Smith, trailing a bunch of officers, came up to present us with our appropriate medal for valor. The Bronze Star that I had been recommended for was cut down to a letter-of-commendation with combat "V" for valor!
I almost laughed. It stuck me as silly to be pulled off from bringing down dead and dying Marines just to have them pin a next-to-nothing medal on me. Of course I didn't complain when we were told we could take it easy, shower and have some hot chow.
I took off for the mess tent, which was put up on a recent battlefield that had been bull-dozed over to bury the dead enemy. There was an arm sticking out. Someone had hung a sign on the hand that read, "This man asked for seconds." Somebody's morbid sense of humor.
I forgot to mention that Gene Suarez was at the ceremony taking pictures. He was a combat photographer for the Marines. He used to look me up whenever we were in the area. We knew each other in Tucson when I played baseball. Because I was always volunteering for outpost duty when we were in a rest area, I had no problem getting, permission from my sergeant to go visit other units to look for other Tucsonans. One time, I wound up at the motor pool where I ran into Vicente "Vice" Suarez and had quite a party at his tent with a bunch of other guys from Tucson. They shared food and poggey-bait from home and broke out canned beer that they had squirreled away for a special occasion. It was great meeting those guys like that and exchanging news from the other guys out there and from home! I kept in touch with a lot of Tucsonans because it was easy for me to catch rides with my M.P. armband on.
When I came home, I apprenticed as an electrician and that became my livelihood. I also joined the reserve company but quit when this officer, with no war-time experience, got on my case for being too rough on the new members. He tried to tell me that this was the reserves, not the real Corps. I reminded him that if it hadn't been for the reserves, the Marines would not have had the personnel to fight the Korean War, and that the better disciplined and the better trained they were, the better chance they had of surving real combat.
You know, having been in the Marines was one hell of an experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything!" I'm very, very proud to have served, to have contributed, whatever little I could. Call that patriotism if you will. I'm not embarrassed by it. The shame is, that our country seems to have lost it.