7/30 St Croix, Us Virgin Islands (2)

>> 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.