Martiriano "Marty" Ramirez
I was born the 22nd of August, 1929, in Tucson, Arizona. My neighborhood was Sunset Villa, around 36th Street and 9th Avenue.
As a kid, I had the regular household chores like chopping wood for the stove and bringing in water since we didn't have indoor plumbing. You know, it's hard for kids to understand that. They are so used to modem conveniences. Kids nowadays have to be involved in all kinds of sports and body-building programs. Our body building came from our chores. I had to have a supply of wood by the stove and the household water in buckets before I was given permission to go anywhere.
Another thing I remember is the respect you were taught for anyone older than you were. It was like a responsibility. You had to be available to run errands or help anyone who needed help. Nowadays you tell a kid to do something for you and he wants to know how much you're going to pay him.
My father, Adolfo Ramirez, was born here in Los Reales by the Santa Cruz River, north of the San Xavier Mission. My father worked quite a bit for the State making roads and paths in the Catalina Mountains. He also operated farm equipment like a combine and contracted with farmers to pick their crops. He was only fifty-seven years old when he died in 1952, on the sixteenth of September, like a patriotic Mexican. I had just gotten married. I was named Martiriano after one of his brothers. That name goes back to my great-grandfather. I'm the fourth one down the line and I named one of my boys Martiriano, too.
My mother was also Tucson born. She was married at the Santa Cruz Church. She had two boys and three girls. She was born in 1890 and died in 1984. Her maiden name was Mercedes Federico.
I started school at Mission View, just across the street from where we lived. I quit school in the eighth grade at Wakefield Junior High to go to work when my father got sick.
I went to work for Standard Oil Company, wrestling oil drums and tidying the place up. It wasn't big money, but it helped until my father could get back on his feet. I never did go back to school.
I was eighteen when I joined "Easy" Company of the Marine Reserves in 1948. I attended three summer camps. When we were activated, I wound up in "Able" Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. "Bert" Rincon, Eddie Lopez, Eddie Rios, "Pruney" Trujillo, Oscar Rendon and Robert Lopez were also in my outfit.
After they organized us in Camp Pendleton, we sailed out of San Diego for Kobe, Japan. From Japan, we sailed for Korea, where we landed at Inchon.
Our first real battle came about at Yongdungpo. We had dug in on a dike by the Hun River. We had fox holes on either side of the dike, facing the town and facing the river. It was still dark when we were attacked by the North Koreans, assisted by three tanks. We had one tank stop right in front of us. I had my BAR dug in next to a light machine gun. The lieutenant had told us not to fire or expose ourselves until we knew exactly what was going on, but the machine gunner next to me got itchy when he saw this Korean on top of the tank and he opened up. The tank fired pointblank at the machine gunner, then everyone cut loose. Our bazooka man knocked out the lead tank and the one behind it started to leave when it was also disabled. We were hit by two waves of North Koreans.
We had captured a North Korean officer earlier and he somehow got loose and ran towards his comrades, yelling not to attack, that we were too strong for them. (Our interpreter told us this.) We were only a platoon. When the attack was over, they had left 275 dead and a bunch of weapons behind. We lost one machine gunner.
During a lull in the fight, our captain sent Mickey Rios to see what the North Koreans were up to behind some buildings. He went down there and saw an officer shouting orders. So Mickey drew a bead on him and got him. When Mickey got back, the captain asked what was that jabbering about. Mickey replied, "Some officer just talked himself to death."
Emilio Ramirez was hit before we got to the dike. He crawled under a house and bled to death. We found him the next day.
We dug in on some hills and as we were getting ready to head back to Inchon, a .50 caliber machine gun cut loose on us. Tommy, our corpsman, who was supposed to leave earlier but he preferred to stay with our company, was killed. So was Reilly, Proctor and a few others.
From Inchon, we boarded ship and made the Wonsan Landing. Then, we headed south to Kojo. This was where we lost a lot more men. We made the big mistake of relaxing. The R.O.K.'s had already been through the area, so we thought we had it easy. Captain Barrows would not let us ease up. He made us dig foxholes and set up a perimeter. All the time, we were thinking, "What for? There's no one here!" Boy, were we mistaken!
They hit us that night. They caught the guys below us flat footed. Some were bayoneted in their sleeping bags. They almost wiped out the C.R (Command Post). A sergeant, a lieutenant and Horn were killed there. P.F.C. Lohra was wounded on the temple and I had shrapnel all down my side. When daylight came, we walked down to the beach where we were supposed to be picked up. As I walked, I made a squishing sound from the blood collecting in my shoe. Lohra had had his head bandaged and was doing all right until they laid him down on the stretcher. His wound hemorrhaged and he died right there.
I did my recuperating on board the hospital ship in October and November. On the 26th or 27th, they released me and told me I could go back to my outfit. When I got to Hamhung, I presented myself to an officer and he sent me to "Item" Company, 1t Battalion, 5th Marines. I got to Hamhung in time for Thanksgiving dinner. They were serving it in an old bombed-out building. By the time I sat down to eat it, it was frozen over.
When I got to Hagaru-ri, I was sent to this big hill by the air strip. It was very steep and they had hung a rope on it to help yourself up. We had two machine guns up there, overlooking a valley towards Koto-ri. When the Chinese hit us, they just kept coming. We couldn't kill them fast enough. Finally, this major told us to get the hell out of there.
As we ran by the air strip, an officer asked this guy and me what outfit we were with. When we told him, he says, "There's room for two more in that C-45. Get on it!" So we did and wound up in the naval hospital in Yokohama. It wasn't until we were boarding the C-45 that I realized the other guy was Tony Leon, another Tucsonan.
From Yokohama, I was sent to Camp Otsu. I was there for seven or eight months. I ran into "Black Bucket" and Anthony Pitts there. Then, one day, the word came that they wanted combat-experienced drill instructors in San Diego. So fifteen of us applied. Next day at formation, I was the first one called. Six of us got to go.
We arrived in San Francisco on the fifth of March. We got the royal treatment. The fifth through the eleventh was declared Marine Week. We were given a card which entitled us to a free drink or a meal anywhere we went in San Francisco. The problem was that I wasn't old enough to drink. I got to go home on a 30-day leave.
Back in San Diego, I was assigned as the junior D.I. under Sgt. Kilpatrick, training Platoon Number Twenty-Five. Of course, the junior D.I. got to do all the work. One day, I was taking the platoon to a movie when we met another one coming toward us. I heard someone holler my name. I stopped my platoon and so did the other D.I. He pulled the culprit out of ranks and proceeded to eat him up good. "Don't you know you're not supposed to talk in ranks, much less shout?" It was "Buntie" Gauna from Tucson's "Easy" Company. I asked his D.I. if I could talk to him. I took him aside and stood him at attention while I talked to him. We made arrangements to see each other later. We had a good visit in my squad bay.
Our next platoon was Number Twenty-Seven. We whipped this one into the Honor Platoon but I had had enough of "D.I.ing". The getting up at 3:30 in the morning and checking the recruits every minute of the day, and even getting up in the middle of the night to do so, was getting old. Then, too, I couldn't be chicken - - - - to the "boots" like the rest of the D.I.'s.
So I talked to the adjutant for another assignment. He was most understanding. He sent me to I.D. Section, and made me a corporal, to boot. It was like dying and going to heaven. I had my own office, my own bedroom and recruits to keep it clean for me. I also had a BAM to do my paperwork. It was a racket! I would go to Tucson just about every weekend. I had the job for almost a year until my C.O. came and offered me sergeant stripes. I asked, "What do I have to do?" "Reenlist," he said. "You are due for release from active duty next month." Can you imagine! I passed all that up to go home and get married. I married Alice Coronado on the 19th of April, 1952, and started my family of two boys and one girl.
I got a job at Marana Air Force Base as a painter. Later, I switched to sheetmetal work. Before I was there five years, I made supervisor and transferred to Fort Huachuca, where I put in another ten years.
My last job was with ASARCO Mines, from where I retired in 1992.
Martiariano "Marty" Ramirez received the Purple Heart forty-four years after being wounded.