8/30 Honolulu, Hawaii (12)

>> My name is Jose Jimenez. No. Frank R. Chang, and I was in the First Marine Division, and at that time, back in the 1950s, right after World War II, I joined the Marine Corps, and it was rare at that time because there were no Chinese in the Marines, very few. They were just starting to let them in, and I was one of probably the first half dozen to a dozen, at best, in the Marine Corps. Okay? What else do you want to know?

>> Did you get to … Why not the Army? Why the Marine Corps?

>> Oh, there was a lot of good movies put out on the Marines in those days, so that’s what got me in there, and it was very romantic and brave and heroic, and they were going to save the world, and I was a young guy, and didn’t know any better, and so I joined the Marine Corps when the war, Korean War, broke out. That was December of 1950, I don’t know, 1951, ’52.

>> Knowing that the war was ongoing, and knowing that you could die …

>> Oh, when you’re young, you don’t worry about dying. You think you’re going to live forever.

>> What do you remember?

>> What do I remember?

>> Where did you get trained before …

>> What do I remember?

>> Where were you trained? Which camp?

>> I trained in Camp Pendleton, California. Down there towards San Diego, between San Diego and Los Angeles. I was probably one of the first half dozen orientals that joined the Marine Corps at that time because it was right after World War II, and prior to that, and during World War II, they did not have … bring in the Chinese or orientals in the Marines, and especially during the Korean War you would be mistaken for an enemy because at that time, they were stripping our wounded and dead and wearing our uniforms because they were poorly equipped. The Chinese that came into the war in Korea were not equipped very well. They were recruited fresh from China, and they were only in Chinese uniforms, and it was winter when I went over there, so they were stripping our dead and wounded of their clothing and wearing it, so it was quite something that I was able to go over there because, being oriental, that’s the first thing you aimed and pulled the trigger on because we were fighting North Koreans and Chinese at that time.

>> Did you face discrimination among other …

>> Well, they always thought I was the enemy, and having joined the Marines, I was probably, like I said, probably one of the first half dozen, not even a dozen that joined the Marines and were able to be part of the Marine Corps, and many times I was pushed out of the foods lines, what we called the chow lines, because I looked like a Korean or a Chinese, not Chinese but mostly Korean because we had a lot of Koreans working for us.

>> Oh.

>> So if I’d get in the chow line, they’d kick me out.

>> Because they thought you were one of the houseboys or interpretors.

>> Yeah, they thought I was one of the houseboys or one of the what we call … I hate to say it, but that’s … We used to call them chiggy bearers, and these were the Koreans that we recruited to work for us.

>> What bearers?

>> We used to call them chiggy.

>> Chiggy?

>> Yeah, C-H-I-G-G-Y, chiggy.

>> What does that mean?

>> I don’t even know what it means, it’s just a name, but these were Koreans that we hired and they carried all our ammunition, all our food on their backs up these mountains, and this was when I was young and wild, and I called them the chiggy bearer, but I soon learned that these were not just chiggy bearers and slaves. They were people, and one of … A little old Korean man taught me a lesson that I will never forget.

>> Share that.

>> Well, we just got through battle, a battle, and we took a hill. We took the position, and as we were digging in, as we call it in the Marine Corps, we were digging out foxholes and building fortification, this little Korean chiggy bearer, as we used to call them, this little Korean guy, after carrying a big, heavy box of food or ammunition up those mountains to us, after they drop off all the supplies, before they go back down the mountain, they’d spread out through the area, and that day, after the battle, I was cutting a huge log for something, and being a young person and a Marine, I looked down on this little old guy, but he pushed me aside, and he grabbed the ax that I was using, and I’ve been working on this log for maybe an hour or 2 hours or 3 hours but forever, and I hadn’t gotten very far, but he grabbed the ax from me, and he proceeded to chop it up in about a minute and a half. He was like an automatic machine, and as I leaned against a tree or wherever I was leaning against, I thought to myself, “I’m ashamed of myself. I’m very ashamed of myself because I looked down on this little Korean man. He carried my ammunition and my food up this mountain, and I’ve been working on this log for 10 years and didn’t get very far, and he comes up here and he shows me in a way how to chop a log up,” and he had it chopped and piled up in less than a minute and a half. He was like a machine, and that’s when I learned, as a young person, never look down on anybody else, no matter what, and even though I came over to this country to help him, he showed me something, and I was ashamed of myself, and that was a lesson in life. I never forgot that.

>> Humility, huh?

>> Never look down on another human being, no matter what.

>> Let’s talk …

>> That’s my story.

>> Yeah. Let’s talk about Punchbowl because Punchbowl is a very famous battle.

>> Well, by the time I got to Punchbowl, the hills had been taken.

>> When was that? What month and year?

>> I don’t remember the month. I’ll tell you the year: The year was about … I think I was … I don’t even remember. I think I was over there in ’51, ’50 or ’51. We were there. I was there, and I spent a Christmas there. Christmas Eve, I was walking by myself, and the guns … And we had big guns in the Punchbowl area, and they would fire off every so often, and it was one of the most … How could I say it? Incredible sounds that I hear to this day, the big guns firing. Christmas Eve in Korea, a cloudless moon. It was a beautiful sight, really, in your memory, and the guns would fire off every 5 to 10 minutes, and the echo reverberated through the Punchbowl area because it had, what, three sides of the mountains all around you, and I hear those sounds today, periodically, so that’s kind of a memory of Korea.

>> Many died in that battle.

>> Many, many, many.

Many, many, many, and they … not ours but on the other side, the enemy, they laid where they died.

>> North Koreans or Chinese?

>> Pardon?

>> North Koreans or Chinese?

>> Probably a mixture because you couldn’t tell. They all looked alike. I looked alike. I looked like them, and in fact, I’m probably … Like I say, I’m probably one of the first half dozen, other than my comrades here in the group because they were … I guess I’d say they were probably in the northern part or the western part of the … I don’t know. I was young at that time, but in the Marine Corps, in our sector, I was probably one of the first half dozen that was in combat. Yeah. Because in the Marines, they didn’t have Chinese, and they didn’t have orientals, and in fact, when I went over as a replacement, there was one other guy that came in from Tarrytown, New York. His name is Al Hui. That’s that guy right there. That’s Al Hui, and …

>> His last name was Huey?

>> H-U-I, Hui.

>> Oh, and where … Which state was he from?

>> Huh?

>> Which state was he from?

>> No, no, I’m sorry.

>> What’s his hometown?

>> There were two. That’s Al Hui there. He was from Tarrytown, New York, and this is Herbie. That’s the other oriental guy that I met over there.

>> Where was he from?

>> He was from Wisconsin some place, which is from unusual, and I was from the San Francisco, Bay Area, so there were three of us. We got all separated in different parts of the First Marine Division, but Al and I landed together, ended up together at the replacement depot where the new guys came in, and they called Al and myself into the commanding officer’s tent, and commanding officer is siting at a table there, and we were standing at attention in front of him, and he said, “You two guys” … I remember, he pointed at … “You two guys are not going to go up on line and join an outfit.” He said, “You won’t last more than a week,” because we were fighting the Koreans and the Chinese at that time, and it was wintertime, and they were stripping our dead of their clothes and wearing them, so the first time orientals in the Marine Corps, there was no such thing. There were, like I say at that time, there were maybe six, half a dozen at best of …

>> In the entire Marine Corps or just your division?

>> Hmm?

>> In the entire …

>> In the entire Marine Corps, in the entire Marine Corps because the Marines were fighting in the islands during World War II, so they were fighting the Japanese, and they had no Marines, as far as I know, and I’m pretty darn sure because when we went over there, Al and I stayed together, and the commanding officer said, the replacement depot officer said, “You two guys are not going to go off the line. We’re keeping you back here. You won’t last more than a week,” and I looked at Al, and he looked up at me, and I said, “No, sir, we want to go up on line and join our company,” and I remember his exact words: He said, “You sure?” and I said, “Yes, sir. I want to join my company.” He said, “Okay. You won’t last more than a week, but if that’s what you want, you will join them,” and I joined Dog Company, and Al joined the Easy Company, which when we went up on the battle together, battle lines, we were always together, the two companies, alongside of each other.

>> Did he make it back too?

>> Hmm?

>> Did he make it back?

>> Al made it back because he was a machine gunner, and machine gunners are pretty good. And, well, we were both lucky.

>> And you saw combat?

>> Oh, yeah.

>> So you saw people actually die next to you?

>> I wasn’t with the company more than 2 weeks. I walk down the hill one morning. There was roughly 27 guys. Next morning, four of us was carrying a stretcher, and one of my guys that I went over there with, we carried him on that long, up a mountain, and by the time we got within about 25 feet of our line, he rolled off one last time and died. I carried him all night. We carried him all night up a mountain. So that was my beginning in Korea. Yes, we saw a lot of people die. We saw a lot of people never made it home. This is why, today … That’s why today, I still don’t forget. You never forget.

>> And you were how old?

>> I guess I was … No, I was 17. I joined when I was 17, April 5th. I was in Korea, I think November, November of that same year, after training …

>> In 1950? In 1950 or 1951?

>> 1950 … I don’t know. It was 1950 or ’51. I forget the year now. I haven’t looked at the records or anything.

>> Because the war broke out on June 25th, 1950, so maybe ’51?

>> Well, it might have been ’51. I forget now. My mother had to sign on a dotted line for me to get in because I was 17. Yeah.

>> How old are you now? Or how young are you now?

>> Eighty-four.

>> Well, you’re still considered young compared to some of the veterans, right? And you keep yourself very, very fit and healthy and young, and I guess …

>> Well, God has been good to me. He gave me good genes, and I guess I took care of my body.

>> Because you probably understood how precious it is.

>> I stayed fit. All my life I was pretty fit because I’ve been in the outdoors. I was at … No, actually, I have to take that back. See, I have to think because I never even thought … I was 18. I was 18 when I went over to Korea. I was 17 when I joined the Marine Corps, and in the Marines … I went in at 17, and I had my 18th birthday a month later. I had to get in so bad. That’s another story from way back.

>> When’s your birthday?

>> But I had to have my mother sign on a dotted line.

>> When’s your birthday?

>> Hmm? April 5th.

>> Your birthday is April 5th?

>> Yeah.

>> I went in March 7th, March 7th.

>> My birthday is in April too.

>> You’re another Aries, that’s why.

>> Oh, I’m a Taurus.

>> Oh, you’re a Taurus.

>> Yes.

>> Oh, well.

>> Even more stubborn, Tauruses.

>> Yeah.

>> Well, first of all, you …

>> Yeah, well …

>> Many followed … You’re a pioneer, in a way, because many … Now we know there’s many Asian-American …

>> Oh, nothing but orientals in there now, many, many.

>> My cousin was …

>> In fact, I have a grandson …

>> Yeah, my cousin was in the Marines for more than 20 years.

>> Yeah, my grandson was in there. Where is my grandson? There’s my grandson. He came back from Iraq.

>> That was another difficult war.

>> This shows him come back from Iraq, and I was carrying his pack.

>> Mm. You must have been so proud.

>> I was carrying his pack.

>> Now, you have some pictures here. Did you take any of them yourself, the pictures?

>> Oh, I probably did. These were in Korea. These were the only ones that survived in Korea. I had what we call a Pony 135-millimeter camera in those days, but the thing is I had several rolls of film, but the moisture, and we could not develop over there, so by the time I got them back, they were all moldy, so I never bothered to develop a lot of these pictures, and they were all …

>> But they’re still very well-kept.

>> Well, not all of them. They were mostly all ruined. I didn’t take a lot of these pictures. A lot of these pictures I … Some of these, I took. This was over there. This was over in Korea. These are the hills in Korea, and I think these were too, yeah, but very few of them survived. That’s when I graduated from what we called boot camp. This is a picture over here in Camp Pendleton that I was at, 18 years old, but the only pictures that really survived … This is a battle picture that survived.

>> Where was that?

>> I don’t know. One of the many hills. Right here, this is one of the many hills that we took, and here’s that Al, up in the battle line. He was in Easy Company, and I was in Dog Company, and we was always together.

>> Did you both keep in touch afterwards?

>> Pardon?

>> Did you keep in touch after the war?

>> Yes. We both made it through and came back, and we kept in touch, and he was a smoker, so he did himself in.

>> What do you think … Looking back, while at the time you were young and you wanted to seek adventure, so you joined, but looking back now, almost 70 years later, what do you think … What do you think your legacy was?

>> What do I think of what?

>> What do you think your legacy …

>> I have no legacy. My legacy is, I behaved myself, became a good Marine, did my part for something. I don’t know what, but the most important part is, God taught me many lessons.

>> And you’ve been back to Korea?

>> Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Most wonderful part because the Koreans over there had a program for these last … How many years now? God, 30 years, 40 years, and I’ve gone back and able to visit and see the growth and what was accomplished, and it kept me humble.

>> I hope you feel very proud.

>> Well, I just did my part, just like many, many guys, and especially the guys that never made it home. That’s what I’ll … And that’s what … That’s what I keep remembering. I made it home, and most of these guys that we had reunions later on that I was able to get ahold of, we owe for all those that never came back …

>> Well …

>> … that never came back. We were all young men at that time, and these reunion pictures that were taken, we grow old from young men. We grew old, and there I am old.

>> And I would like to say you lived to tell the stories, and honor the memories …

>> Well, it’s important …

>> And honor the memories of those who couldn’t come back.

>> Yeah.

>> So thank you, and I guess that’s what I’m just trying to do to honor your memories.

>> Well, not so much as mine but those that never made it home.

>> Yeah, but …

>> That’s the important …

>> You’re the one that’s tell theirs …

>> Well, I can …

>> … because who will remember them?

>> I can do my best to tell the story as best as I can, but it’s not just me. It was many, many of them, especially those that I went over with. They never saw a month. They never saw one month more.

>> I guess when you’re young … Well, not even when you’re young, but many people think it won’t happen to them, like you read in the paper about somebody crashing and dying in a car accident, but you never think it’s going to happen to you, but so many of fearlessly just joined, thinking it won’t happen to you, but it must have been very, very real when it did … you saw …

>> When you’re young, your mind is small, and you don’t experience a lot of things. You go over there as a young man. As a young man, I walked down the hill. I wasn’t over there a month. I walked down the hill one morning with, I would say … I have the number in my head 27. Twenty-seven of us walked down the hill one morning, and the next morning, to my knowledge, there was only four of us that walked back up. I carried a stretcher within one of my buddies at 18 years old up a hill all night long after a battle during the day. We walked down a hill 27 of us. Next morning, four of us walked back up carrying a stretcher.

>> So what do you think was … How are you the four that survived? What do you think was your, I don’t know, blessing, luck, fortune, skill, whatever it was?

>> God. There’s such a thing as a God.

>> Well, why do you think …

>> See, I was raised in an orphanage that was a Christian orphanage.

>> Okay, that’s what I thought.

>> So I believed in a God quite early as a young man.

>> Okay, so it was God, but why did God spare your life if, maybe out of the 27, all of them believed in him?

>> That’s what I asked. Through my many, many years to my old age, I talked to God constantly. I don’t quite follow him well enough, but he’s there. I know there is a God. I believe in a God.

>> Oh, I do too, but sometimes I ask, “Why me?”

>> That’s the question that we all had. That’s the question that all of us asked, not in public, but I can tell you this between you and me that I don’t talk to other veterans a lot. We don’t talk about it too much, but I know in our secret of our time together, sitting on a couch, sitting on a chair, sitting on a bench, sitting outside, looking around, we know there’s a God, and for those of us that really knows him, we thank him for allowing us to be back here to raise our families, raise children, have grandchildren, but never, never a week goes by that I don’t think of those I left behind that never came home.

>> Even after 70 years.

>> That never came home. Our debt is to our buddies that never came home, and when you see the craziness and the wildness in the youth that is growing up thinking that there’s forever, we do the best that we can for those one-on-one, maybe, and pastors in churches or whatever, they do it one on the congregation, and we try to tell a message that, “Hey, sober up. Mature. Do something for maybe one other. For as many as will listen to you.” See, I owe a debt, not to me but to those that never came home, never got old. I’m an old man now, not a young guy anymore. Not a young guy, 18 years old in Korea. I owe my buddies a debt to be a better person, to do something worthwhile. That’s the important part. That is the most important part.

>> And I’m sure you’ve fulfilled it.

>> I’m very fortunate. God loves me, and I’m still here. I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

>> And one more.