interview by Annie M. Lopez
I was born in Tucson and raised in Barrio Libre around the Santa Cruz Church. As a kid, I chopped wood for the stove and later worked selling newspapers and shining shoes. I attended Ochoa Elementary, then Safford Junior High and then Tucson High School.
In summer, all we did was play baseball and go swimming. Then we heard about the Marine Reserves. Some of my friends who played ball who also joined, were George Mendoza, Robert Quiroz, Eddie Rillos, Ray and Oscar Salcido and Bradford Daily. We went to summer camp for ten days a year and were supplied with a Marine clothing issue. I remember Tom Price wore his fatigues in high school. I was still in the Reserves, a Corporal by then, and I was working at Tucson Blueprint. I attended three summer camps.
I went to work at a floor covering company with Jessie Ybarra after I graduated from high school in 1949. Then a neighbor asked me if I could drive a motor scooter. I said no, so he brought one over and showed me how to drive it. Then in December 1949, I started working for Tucson Blueprint.
My M.O. was 0-3-11 Infantry Co. (FMF). We were still young. I was working and someone brought in the newspaper and the headlines read... E- Co. activated. I didn't think too much of it until Pendleton. We got off the trucks, when they said, "You're going to church services." Then, we went to confession.
I got to Pendleton on August 1, left there and got to Japan the 5th of September. I was in Able Co., 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. The first Battalion was delegated to combat load the ship in Japan for the landing at Inchon. We landed at Inchon the 15th of September. The Navy brought us to the beach. We landed on Red Beach, but by then, it had been secured. The first casualty was at YongDungPo. There we got hit by tanks on both flanks and from the rear.
There's where I got hit. Just a minor wound... a ricochet off one of the trees. Then we went to get ready to cross the Han River. There were some freights between Inchon and YongDungPo. Soza was the name of the town. Their aim was so bad... the fire was going over our heads.
I was evacuated before crossing the Han River. They took me back for three or four days. I got an abscess in my tooth from the backblast of 75mm recoilless rifle. I didn't feel the pain until we were crossing the Han River. I rejoined my Co. at the 32nd parallel, I think.
At that point, I found out that we had some Tucson casualties; Emilio Ramirez, Raymond Hubbard and Corbett Robertson were killed in action. Tony Pitts and Chapo Navarro were wounded. We pulled back after Seoul; back to Inchon for about a week. It was like R & R. Then we went on board a ship, an LST.
On November 10th, we had a birthday cake and turkey dinner for the Marine Corps birthday. Then we got aboard a train for Kojo. We were lucky, because we were on top of a hill looking down on the town... Baker Co. wasn't so lucky. They were below in the rice fields. For two or three days, we didn't have anything to eat. We got there ahead of the supplies.
Then we went back up to Wonsan. We took supplies to Majon-ni. We were like a convoy. From Majon-ni we went back to Wonsan. Then we took the train up to Hungnam, on trucks we went inland to ChinHung-ni to guard that area. Hill 1081... it was our job to secure it. We had to go out and patrol that area. When we took Hill 1081, we came upon the Chinese in their foxholes, sleeping in their blankets.
It was very cold. Henry Valdenegro found Niggie laying in the snow... we put him in a sleeping bag so that he would not freeze. Then we came down to ChinHung-ni, got something to eat and continued to the east.
We went aboard the USS Randall, a big transport ship. We were pretty crowded. We were one of the last ones to get aboard ship. From there we went to Pusan and Masan for regrouping and R & R.
When we got to Hoengsong... that's when I got to come home. I was in the second draft coming home. This was March, 1951. We came through San Francisco and Treasure Island. Richard Lopez and Charlie Labor were on board ship with me. They were not from E-Co., but also from Tucson. We came from San Francisco by train. Just the three of us, no fanfare.
When I got home early in the morning, I told Mom I was on leave for a few days. Mom said, "Let's go." I said, "Where?" "Church" she said. We went to 6:00 am Mass.
I was released from duty in March, 1952. When I got back, it was on a Friday. Monday I was back to work at Tucson Blueprint. I stayed in the Reserves for 31 years. I retired April, 1979. By then, I had a little rank. I was 1st Sergeant. I have been involved with the Marines in some way or another since I was 17. 1 am still a member of the Marine Corps League and the Chosin Few. I am presently National Judge Advocate of the Marine Corps League. I am also a member of the Korean Veteran's Association.
What stands out in my mind about the Marines is that at my first summer camp, I pulled mess duty with Dick Oxnam and Gilbert Urias. Both of them retired as Colonels.