St. Croix, USVI – United States (Territory)

Veteran Stories

[ Chatter ]

>> Your name.

>> My name is Clint Denny, Woodrow F. Clint Denny Junior. You want date of birth?

>> Okay.

>> Five May 1936.

>> And when did you volunteer?

>> I volunteered for the Army in 1954, and I was drafted in 1955.

>> Mm.

>> I was sent back to school. I left school in ’54 after 12th grade for going into the army, and our recruiter was a local person that knows everybody, so he sent me back.

>> Why did you volunteer?

>> I had a problem with teacher. That’s what we used to do. If you have a problem with the teacher or the school, you go to the Army. That’s what they used to do. That was a popular thing.

>> But you didn’t end up going to war, thank goodness, right? So can you tell us a little bit about where you were stationed?

>> Yes, I was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. I’d been there for 2 years. They wouldn’t allow me to go overseas.

>> Why not?

>> Because of my educational background. They needed people in my field because during the Korean War, I don’t think they were ready to fight a war in Korea, so they grabbed what they had. So they had a lot of vacant positions that have to be filled. The military didn’t have the time to send anyone to school because those schools are 8 and 10 and 12 weeks. In the meantime, those companies are in limbo. So if you have a background that could suit their purpose, they hold you.

>> So what were you trained in?

>> Administration, bookkeeping, typing, shorthand, that kind of thing.

>> But you must have known some people who went to Korea in the States, right?

>> No, after … No, you see, they split us up. I don’t see you today, I don’t see you for the next 3 years. I don’t know where they went. I really don’t know.

>> Did you know he served in Korea?

>> That he served in Korea?

>> Mm-hmm.

>> I didn’t. Did you? No. That’s the wrong person. Uncle Sam held us back.

>> I didn’t serve in Korea. I served during the Korean War, but I spent all my time in Germany.

>> Oh, boy, we would have been close. I wanted to go to Germany, and I wanted to go. I was infantry, and I wanted to go. So what they did, they held me back in the States and changed my occupational specialty number to administration. I tried many times, and I never got out.


>> I finished my obligation in there, and then I came out.

I went to the National Guard. There was no break in service, and I retired in 19 [INAUDIBLE] 35 years, that was it.

>> 1955, you went to states like Kansas. That’s a lot of …

>> Hmm?

>> That’s during a time when America was still growing, and we were experiencing a lot of, let’s just say, challenges.

>> And we still haven’t solved the Korean War crisis yet.

>> Yeah. What do you feel about that?

[ Chatter ]

>> What do you feel about that? It’s probably one of the longest wars.

>> Well, we are at war with Korea mentally.

>> Mm.

>> Yeah, we are because there’s no peace treaty. We still have Kim Korea to worry about. You know that.

>> What do you feel about the current peace process right now?

>> No. I don’t like it. I don’t like it. It’s leading to problems.

>> Mm.

>> It will lead to a lot of problems. I think as a nation, we’re asking for too much from the enemy, and when we do ask, there’s nobody to monitor anything. I can tell you, yes, I want to see it, but that don’t mean they’re doing it. Look what happened to Iran. They’ve been breaking these treaties all the time.

>> How about bringing back the remains?

>> Oh, well, I know that started already. They brought in about 56 bodies here this week, and we’re not even sure that they’re all our people. We’re not even sure about that, but they brought in some of them. That’s a long time, man. That’s a long time, man.

>> Eight thousand.

>> Well, I wouldn’t even bother with that. It’s a waste of time. You lost your life. You lost your life. It’s so long.

>> But I’ve met some families, and they’re still waiting.

>> Yeah, I know. I know. They’re still waiting for proof. Are they getting the right proof?

>> Not even about proof, maybe just hope.

>> Maybe some come back. You thinking they’ll get the right hope? Or you think they’re just getting stuff to make them feel good? That’s too long, man, too long.

>> It’s a long time to live with the anxiety.

>> It is. It is. It is too long.

>> But they don’t have closure, you know?

>> And as a matter of fact, they still have bodies from a year or two or five, 25, that they haven’t identified, and this is 2017, so, man, it’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of time.

>> Okay, my name is Leonardo Ayala. I was born February 14, 1935, 1 more year older than he. Yes, [INAUDIBLE].

>> When did you volunteer?

>> I volunteer in … I think that was in January 1953, and they call me in March 1953.

>> Oh. That was right before the armistice was signed.

>> Huh?

>> That was before the armistice was signed in Korea.

>> Yeah, they were still in the war. Yeah, they were still in the war.

>> Mm-hmm. I … Wait. Why … Okay, so knowing that the war was still taking place, why would you volunteer?

>> That’s economics-wise because more work. I live in …

>> But …

>> I live in the island of Vieques. Vieques was small island and was a very, very poor island, and there wasn’t work to do. You would go to school, go away from school, and you can’t go to college because you don’t have the money to go to college, you don’t … You have … You find works and work around, so you have to go someplace. You either go to the state or either go to the army.

>> But that’s still different.

>> There was no choice.

>> But you’re still risking your life.

>> Well, yeah, but you have to survive. You’re looking for survival. That’s a positive.

>> Well, God must have blessed you so much because instead of sending you to war, he sent you to …

>> They sent me to Germany.

>> I know.

>> And I spend my whole time in Germany.

>> For how many years?

>> Almost 3 year. It was about 20 months, something like that. Almost 3 years I spent in Germany.

>> What was your service? What did you do in Germany?

>> I did infantry training.

>> Oh.

>> When they sent me to Germany, they check my MOS to Supply Specialist. They assign me to a supply company.

>> Actually, that’s very interesting. I like this interview a lot because most people think, “Okay, it’s war, so everybody goes to Korea,” but no.

>> No.

>> There were people serving in Germany, so right after World War II.

>> Yeah.

>> Not right after but soon after. There were people in other parts of the world, and they don’t realize that it takes a united effort to defend part of the army. So I’ve never … I haven’t really asked … I haven’t really heard from people who served during the Korean War in Germany, so can you tell us more about what it felt like being in Germany when you knew that a lot of people were fighting in Korea?

>> Well, in that year, in 1954 when I went to Germany, Germany was still under occupation. It was still in occupation for United States. So that’s what … We went as a occupation force. They still … United States was running Germany.

>> How many … How large was the unit or the people who were based there?

>> Well, I was assigned to the … I don’t know because they had so many bases in Germany, but this base that I was assigned was a supply company. All the part that the … All the vehicle, all the tank, all the … They need it there in Germany. They ship from the United States to Germany. I was stationed in [FOREIGN LANGUAGE], Germany. And so if they need a part anywhere in Asia or in Europe, instead of sending the part to the United States, they send the parts that are already in Germany. It was closer. It was a big, big, big, big supply, i think that supply is bigger than this down here, big supply. And then they had all kind of part in that supply.

>> Hmm.

>> So they don’t have to send something to the United States. If they need something for a tank or a truck or an airplane or something like that, they got them here.

>> Another question I always ask is, during the Korean War was when the army, military, was first integrated, right? Before it was segregated, and I ask many people what their experience in the military was like because even if the law said, “Okay, well, let’s” … “Puerto Ricans, they fought in a segregated unit.”

>> Yeah.

>> There was an all-Black army as well. So you were … Were you part of an integrated unit in Germany?

>> Yeah.

>> Did you face racism and …

>> No.

>> No?

>> No.

>> No?

>> No.

>> Really?

>> Really. When I was stationed in [FOREIGN LANGUAGE], no racism toward me.

>> Really? That’s …

>> I know that in United States, there was some kind of racism, racism, but none there. I talk about myself. I never was feeling that.

>> So other people in your unit, even if they were white Americans, they didn’t treat you badly?

>> No, mm-mm.

>> Wow.

>> Not in Germany.

>> That is actually a very encouraging thing to hear.

>> Yeah. Even when I … When my dad come to … When I wanted to enlist, I told them I don’t want to enlist. Even they … My company commander insists, [INAUDIBLE]. I said, “No. I don’t.” [INAUDIBLE] But I … Not in Germany.

>> So you left the service after 2 years?

>> Yeah.

>> And you came back to Saint Croix?

>> No, I was living in Puerto Rico at that time. I was drafted in Puerto Rico.

>> You were drafted in Puerto Rico?

>> Yeah.

>> What does that mean?

>> Well, they took me to the army, I was living in Puerto Rico. They take me to the army. I was living in Puerto Rico.

>> So you served in the army in Puerto Rico?

>> No, no, no, no, no, no. I took my training in Puerto Rico. They had training in Puerto Rico, and then when you take the training, they will ship you to the different place in the war. So when I completed my training, they shipped me to Germany. They ship some others to Korea.

>> Yes, but after, you could’ve come back home.

>> No, but my home wasn’t here. My home was Puerto Rico.

>> Oh.

>> Yeah, my home was Puerto Rico.

>> When did you come to Saint …

>> I was born in Puerto Rico. I was raised in Puerto Rico.

>> Oh, but you weren’t part of the 65th Infantry?

>> No, no, no, no, no. I was in the …

>> But you know about the Borinqueneers?

>> Yeah, I know about the Borinqueneers, yes. The Borinqueneers, yes, but I was not part of the Borinqueneers.

>> So when did you come to Saint Croix?

>> I come to Saint Croix … Let me tell you. My father moved here in 1952, and I came here in the same year, 1952. Then after that, 1953, I went to the army. When I came home from the army, I went back to school because when I went to army, I was only … I was in grade … was not high school. I had another 10 grades, so when I come home from the army, I went to fit in my high school. When I did my high school, I went to the state. I went to New York to live. And I stayed in New York until 1964, and that’s when I came to live here in Virgin Islands in 1964.

>> Wow. Do you still have family in Puerto Rico or here?

>> Yeah.

>> Both?

>> Yeah, yeah, both. And in the states, my daughters live in … I got two daughters and a son. My two daughters live in Jacksonville, Florida, and my son lives in New York.

>> Oh. Where in New York?

>> In the Bronx, New York.

>> Yeah. And you go visit them, huh?

>> Oh, yeah. I was there last year. And this year, I went to Jacksonville, Florida, to visit my daughters.

>> So between New York City, Saint Croix and Puerto Rico …

>> Puerto Rico, yeah.

>> … you like where best?

>> Well, I never complain about Saint Croix. I got no complaint about the state of what I was living in. Whenever I go, [INAUDIBLE] I don’t feel no homesick or anything like that.

>> My name is Richard Augustus Schrader, Mr. Schrader. I went in the service in 1951, October. Basic training into Rogero, about 16 weeks, and then subsequently, some of my friends went to Korea. I went to Germany. I did a tour in Germany. I returned home in, what was it, ’53, around that time. Two years later, extended for 1 year, serving Losey Field 296 Infantry. 296, I believe, was in Losey Field, Puerto Rico. Volunteered to go to Korea. They sent me to Oklahoma. At Oklahoma, volunteered to go to Korea. They sent me back to Germany.

>> Well, why did you volunteer to go to Korea?

>> Well, the thing is that when we got back in … It was around 1953, and we met … Those that went to Germany met in Fort Dix. I think it was Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then later on, we caught the ship in New York, and there came the Korean troops. My buddy that trained with me, in basic training, and talking about war, and I’m young. I said, “Wow. Sounds good.” So I decided to extend it for 1 year and Puerto Rico. “I’ll check it out,” but then other thing too, I guess I was fortunate, boy, but a gentleman my first … was my captain commander in Germany in my first tour. And later on when I went, I think it was around ’54 or so, I then met him in Oklahoma, but he probably was a National Guard type when he came in and probably didn’t renew his category. Now he was a first sergeant. I ascended, and I went to. I right away recognized American, I said, “What are you doing? Why?” “I’m going to Korea.” “Okay.” A couple weeks later, I find myself and others back to Germany. I guess he was looking out for me. Right.

>> Well, because, you know, a lot of Americans died in Korea.

>> I do. Yes. Yes.

>> So God was looking out for you too. Well, let’s talk about some people you knew that did go to Korea.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> What did you … From what you heard in the news or what you read about, why do you even think the war was taking place in Korea?

>> Number one, I was quite young when I went in the army. I won’t say my years but quite young. And my brother served in World War II. So when he came home, even before he came home, my friends, myself, I grew up in a sugarcane estate. And we were practicing … I was young. Marching, stick my broomstick over my shoulder, up and down the estate. And so, Danny came home later on in the ’40s, and that was my motivation. These guys coming home. I remember distinctly when the war was over, my brother was serving in the Hawaiian island, and he came home that evening around 10, and one of these military trucks came into the estates and back up to our house, and here jumped a guy with his duffel bag and his uniform, and I remember wearing his cap and wearing his boots and things that I saw. So I was really conditioning and ready and really wanted to go join the service.

>> Joining the service, but what do you think was going on in Korea?

>> I already know there was … In Korea, I already knew there was a war in Korea. And my brother had served in the army, and I wanted to serve.

>> Even though you could maybe die?

>> That wasn’t in my mind. When you’re a young man and 16, that type doesn’t cross your mind, at least it didn’t mine.

>> Well, then you’re very, very fortunate, and God blessed you because I’ve met with many veterans who, at age 16, 17, 18, like you, they didn’t think they couldn’t possibility die in a war, but they saw a lot of their friends die.

>> Yes. Well, I served with a gentleman in Korea. A buddy of mine, same squad, Bumbebaho, Clarence, and he went to Korea. He made it through, but he was the first Virgin Islander to die in the war in Vietnam.

>> He went to Vietnam again after Korea?

>> Huh?

>> He went to Vietnam again after Korea?

>> After Korea, yes. He went to Korea. He was a real solider, gung ho. Bumbebaho. Yup.

>> And he came back and he shared some stories about the war?

>> I didn’t met him when he returned from the war. He lived in Saint Thomas, and then for a while, but I think he had moved and lived in the states and married and lived in the states. So I never saw him from the time when he first came back from Korea. Probably on the ship, yes. I saw him. But then later on, he reupped and went to the states, and later on went to Vietnam some years later, and then he died.

>> Were you born in Virgin Islands?

>> I was born right here in Saint Croix.

>> Mm. Tell us a little bit about, yeah, Saint Croix and being a Crucian, right?

>> Yes. Yes.

>> A Crucian. So you were born in 1930s.

>> Born in 1935.

>> 1935. I believe that the US granted citizenship to Virgin Islanders in 1927. So that was shortly after you were granted citizenship, yet you still wanted to salute the flag of a …

>> By the time I volunteered for the service we were citizens. Oh, sure. Citizenship came some time … I’ll have to check on that, but I know we were US citizens because the reason why I say this is that in the ’40s, when my brother and all those went to the war, there was a result of making an act by Congress and making the draft applicable to the Virgin Islands so that they can go. So this was in around ’43 or something like that. We were a citizen some years before. Yeah.

>> How do you feel about that? Meaning, what do you feel being part of the US territory?

>> Mm-hmm.

>> Do you feel like sometimes you’re second-class citizens?

>> Ah, yes. The way we’re treated. Number one, we can’t vote for president and things like that, so but all in all, I think we’re much better off being a citizen of United States than being a citizen of Denmark.

>> Really?

>> That’s my feeling.

>> Wow.

>> I suppose there’s a lot of improvement. Like I said, Virgin Islanders was actually serving the military World War I. Okay? A guy by the name of Ludwig Carrigan, he was in World War I because what people was migrating and going after their transfer from the Virgin Islands. And people, and even before people had went to the states and lived, you see? So he was experienced with the Virgin Islands, but he was in New York at the time, And he was in World War I. Here on the island after the transfer in 1917, the United States navy got young people to get into the service, make it possible for them to volunteer for the service to form the first Black naval band right here in Saint Croix. I’m talking about after the transfer. Right? I knew people that joined, I think, it was 1919, 1918. One of them comes to my mind because he was my friend, August McKay, and he died. He was 97 year old. Matter of fact, I wrote a story of him in one of my book. Another guy is Peter Tolung from here, and many more that was about … I had to be close, about 20, and also from Saint Thomas. You ever heard about Alton Adams? Do some research on him. He was the band leader. Matter of fact, his picture is in the museum in Washington D.C. I saw it.

>> You mentioned you wrote a book?

>> Books.

>> Wow.

>> Yeah.

>> What kind of books? I would love to read them.

>> Well, I first … Poetry is my first love. I’m a retired prison warden, and I started writing poetry 1 year before my retirement in 1984, and then, it turns into short stories, interviewing folks.

Paying Tribute

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Memorial Site

The United States Virgin Islands, a US territory in the Caribbean, participated in the Korean War from June 1950 to July 1953. Most of the Virgin Islanders that fought in the Korean War were volunteers in the US military.

In total, the U.S. Virgin Islands sent 750 young men to Korea and suffered 78 casualties.

There is a memorial on St. Croix located at the Verne I. Richards Veteran Memorial Park that honors the Virgin Islanders who served in the five military branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.