David Arrellano

David Arrellano [image courtesy of Ruben Moreno]
David Arrellano
[image courtesy of Ruben Moreno]

interview by Annie M. Lopez

I was born in Tucson and raised in Barrio Pascua. My parents came from Guadalajara and we were a family of seven. My childhood was nice - I would go out with the boys, jump into the irrigation ditch and go swimming. Around the house I would help clean and I would chop wood.

I went to Richey and to Davis Elementary Schools, then to Roskruge and to Tucson High. I dropped out the last year and went to work for Haskell Linen Supply.

My friend Phillip Hale and I used to go to church together - he was President of an organization. He joined the Reserves and asked me if I wanted to join; I said no, then I said okay and joined in 1947.

When we went to Pendleton I was with a bunch of guys from Tucson that went on the train. I was then twenty years old. In the summer camps I received my training - I think I went to three of them. I was assigned to the heavy-duty machine gun, and I learned how to strip it down in 46 seconds, strip it down blindfolded and put it back together again. I was assigned to the First Battalion. When we arrived in Korea I was assigned to the bazooka. To man a bazooka I was promoted from Private to Corporal. Then they made me an ammo carrier because they didn't know I was a Corporal. Finally they made me a gunner. Ignacio Cruz was always with me and taught me to be careful. He was very experienced.

I went overseas on the U.S.S.Noble. At Kobe, Japan, we combat-loaded the ship then we took off for Inchon, where we landed on the wrong beach and had to come back and make a second landing farther south.

From Inchon we traveled to Seoul, then we were put on stand-by on a ship for two or three weeks, just waiting for us to land in Wonsan. From there we went almost up to the Manchurian border, where it was very cold - 44 degrees below zero. I was in combat all the time we were there until we were pulled out to rest.

Our worst casualties were in Wonsan, where I was wounded. I was riding shotgun and we were ambushed; the truck rolled over on me and l was rushed to the hospital ship HOPE. It took me about three months to heal and then it took me two weeks to find my outfit, which was still up north.

Harold Don, Ignacio Cruz, Tuti Carrasco and Oscar Paredes were guys I was in contact with. I was talking with Carrasco the night he got killed and he had told me "David, when we get home I'm going to take you to eat some good tacos at El Zarape" - then he got killed. I heard that he had stood up to do something and a sniper got him.

I never was hit by bullets, but I had a strange experience. When we were on top of a hill l found this big rock and dug my foxhole near it. I said "here's where I'll stay tonight". The Captain came over and said "you find another spot; I'll take this one", so I did. The next thing I knew a bomb hit just where he was.

In a picture I have with a wound on my face, I had an infection but I never said anything because I wanted to come home. When I came home I got sicker and sicker and I was taken to the V.A. Hospital, where they refused to give me assistance. Then they took me to Pima County Hospital, where they operated on me. This was the same day President Truman signed the bill to make us veterans. I was then transferred to the V.A. Hospital and that time I got a special room - anything I needed they gave me. I was in the hospital for about a year.

Right after they discharged me I got GI training as an electric motor technician. Sam Carpio had been in the hospital with me and he also trained as an electric motor technician and we both got jobs at the Electric Motor Company. When three of us left that job we started Arizona Electric Company. Sam was with me too. We stayed open about six months and after that all three of us went to work for Westinghouse. This was during the Christmas holidays. We worked at Duval Mines, and eventually I went to work for Vincent Carter Electric and stayed there for 16 years. Sammy stayed with Westinghouse.

Now that I'm retired I travel. Next month I'm going to Reno, then Chicago, Colorado and Prescott- for pleasure and to get away from the heat.

What I hated most about the war was the killing. The Bible says "Thou shalt not kill" but in talking to a Chaplain on the hospital ship he said "war is war". I never fired a shot - I had a 45 at my side, but never fired it. The only time I fired a bazooka at a tank I missed.

Post Script, Rudy M. Lucero

Along with the interview David granted me he loaned me a scrap book that he kept. In it are newspaper clippings and get-well cards from all over the United States - some anonymous, which usually contained money.

There is no doubt that David's story, which was printed in newspapers throughout the country, touched peoples' heart strings. He received get-well wishes by the hundreds and the few that he kept are indicative of the wide-spread publicity he received. They include:

* Miss Frances Myers, Gastonia, North Carolina
* Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wheeler, Martha, Oklahoma
* Mrs. Cora Conter, Pascosy, Alabama
* Edna Turner, aged 17, Colony, Kansas
* Mr. and Mrs. James P. Cardin, Decatur, Alabama

Included in the cards and letters were newspaper clippings from all over. The one included here is not identified as to its place of origin, but it tells David's story - "A Tragic Oversight" - in a concise form and to the point.

As it turned out, Arellano's ailment was finally diagnosed as Granuloma, a non-malignant tumorous growth, which nonetheless took a lot of hospitalization to cure.

Thanks to action taken by the American Legion and the newspapers a wrong was righted and Truman's "Police Action" became a war.

Mothers who lost sons in Korea could become "Gold Star Mothers" and each Korean veteran was eligible for $300.00 mustering out pay.

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