interviewing Howard Baughman
November 22, 2004
Chelsea: What war did you fight in?
Howard: I fought in the Korean War.
Chelsea: The Korean War, what year was that?
Howard: Uh, I went over there in 1951 and I came back in 1952.
Chelsea: What branch of the military were you in?
Howard: I was with the First Marine Division.
Chelsea: What was your duty?
Howard: I was basically an infantryman, but on the way over on aboard ship they were looking for radio operators, and having passed a little radio exam in boot camp, uh, I was pulled out of my draft and put into a radio school to learn the Morris Code.
Chelsea: Where were you stationed?
Howard: Uh, in Korea I wasn’t, there wasn’t any particular place I was stationed, uh, when we landed over there on November 6 of 1951, we landed above the 38th parallel in the mountain, and uh, went from the beach to division headquarters by truck later on that night and the next morning we were assigned to our different outfits.
Chelsea: So, you, did you, you fought in the war right?
Howard: As a radio operator, yes, I did.
Chelsea: Were you planning on entering the war or were you drafted?
Howard: No, I got out of high school when I was 18 and I decided that, the Korean war started in 1950, and I decided that I would join the Marine Corp, so I joined, I was not drafted.
Chelsea: Did you have to go to a boot camp?
Howard: Yes, I went to Marine Corp boot camp, San Diego, California.
Chelsea: Were you injured in the war?
Howard: No, fortunately, I mean, Fortunately I was not.
Chelsea: Did you receive any awards?
Howard: The only awards I received was the National Defense Ribbon and the Korean, Korean War ribbon with two oak leaf clusters.
Chelsea: What kind of artillery was issued to you?
Howard: Well it wasn’t really artillery, it was an M1 rifle, which was actually 30/6 caliber, was the weapon that I was issued when I went into boot camp and I carried that same weapon all the way through the Korean War.
Chelsea: What was it like when you were over there in Korea?
Howard: Well, when we landed there in 1951, on the East coast it was in the winter time, there was no snow, but it was extremely cold and uh as the winter went on it started snowing real bad and the weather got real bitterly cold, as much as 35 degrees below zero. Uh, in March of the following year of 1952, we were moved from the East coast of Korea to the west coast by convoy, to uh, plug up a hole above Seoul that the North Koreans were breaking through, and they brought the First Marine Division over there to plug up that hole to keep them from recapturing Seoul.
Chelsea: What, like what kind of, well I guess since it was cold, you wore heavy clothing and stuff right?
Howard: Oh yeah, we wore heavy parkas and we wore what they called a thermal boot so we called the Mickey Mouse boot, cause they look like boots that Mickey Mouse wears, and they would keep your feet warm in just about any kind of weather. On the west coast, when we got over there, in the summer time it was, it got up as much as 95 degrees.
Chelsea: Wow. Were you all ready for that, for the 95 degrees?
Howard: oh yeah, we had uh, we just went from heavy clothes to lighter clothes.
Chelsea: What did you do after the war?
Howard: I came back from Korea in 1952 and uh I was stationed in Camp Pendleton at Oceanside, California, until I was discharged on May 1, on 1954. I came home and I worked for Mott Core Drilling Company, drilling test holes for the Amistad Dam in early 1955 and on December 15, 1955, I went to work for the City of Del Rio Fire Department and I worked for them for 40 years until I retired in 1995.
Chelsea: What was your position in the Fire Department?
Howard: I spent 20 years as a fire fighter and I was promoted to Fire Chief on September 1, 1975, until the day I was, until the day I retired.
Chelsea: How did you meet Meemaw (my grandmother)?
Howard: Well, we used to come over here to Del Rio, I was born and raised in Brackettville, and we used to come over here usually on the weekends and a friend of mine was going with my wife’s cousin and I met her through her cousins.
Chelsea: Did you know her before the war?
Howard: Yes, Yes, I knew in uh, I met her in 1950.
Chelsea: And you went to school in Brackettville, right?
Chelsea: Did you play football at Bracket, or...?
Howard: Yes, I played football in 1949 and 1950.
Chelsea: How old were you when you entered the war? Oh, you said you were 18.
Howard: I was 18, yes, when I joined the Marine Corp
Chelsea: Were you able to vote then, did you vote for president?
Howard: At that particular time, no, we did not, that I ever recall, ever have the opportunity to vote in any election. Now when we returned home from Korea, and I came home and was discharged then naturally we had to buy, at that time, what they call a poll tax and after you bought the poll tax you were eligible to vote.
Chelsea: What were the living conditions like in Korea, other than it was cold?
Howard: Well, we lived in tents, and uh we had a, what they called a mummy bag was a sleeping bag that was a, keep you comfortable at 10 below zero, that’s the way we survived the cold at night, during the day time we just kept busy and course when I was working in the message center tent, well it was warm. We had what they called a pop-bellied stove that was heated buy a mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline and it kept the tent fairly warm.
Chelsea: How did they feed yall, like where did you eat?
Howard: We had a, we had a mess tent, what we called a mess tent. We would go into the mess tent to get our food, but then we would have to go outside and eat out in the open, we’d just sit on anything that we could find to eat on. And when it was extremely cold, it was real difficult, because, say we got fried eggs in the morning for breakfast, before we could get out to where find a place to sit, our eggs would be frozen, so it was pretty difficult to eat under those conditions. But they had boiling water to clean our mess kits so we wouldn’t get dysentery and stuff like that.
Chelsea: Did you have any friends that went to the war with you?
Howard: I had a buddy that joined the Marine Corp with me but he, he was, we went through boot camp together and after that we got separated and he went to the Subic Bay in the Philippines and I went to Korea.
Chelsea: Were you also born in Brackettville?
Chelsea: When did, when did, oh I’m sorry were you going to say something?
Chelsea: Oh, uh, when did you marry Meemaw?
Howard: I married her on, uh, June 6, 1953.
Chelsea: Did yall keep in touch during the war?
Howard: Oh yeah, we kept in touch by letters.
Chelsea: Where was she living at the time?
Howard: She was here in Del Rio.
Chelsea: Did you take any pictures, where you allowed to?
Howard: Over in Korea?
Chelsea: (Nodded ‘yes’).
Howard: Yes, we took pictures when we could get a hold of a camera.
Chelsea: Where would you, did you have chances to like buy cameras?
Howard: No, no, they were just cameras that one our friends may have had, that we were able to use.
Chelsea: When you were in the war, did you go to like towns or any cities?
Howard: Well, it’s been so many years ago I can’t recall many of the little old towns that we went through. The only town that I recall that we went through was Seoul, Korea and then when we left Korea we left out of the port of Inchon.
Chelsea: Did you see many natives?
Howard: Oh yeah, they were all over the place. They were, that was probably the start of, it was probably the first war that was fought by this country where the, the enemy and the friendly people look so much alike you could not tell the difference between the North Koreans and the South Koreans. It was the same way in Vietnam and not it’s the same way in Iraq.
Chelsea: But the people you ran into, were they friendly?
Howard: Yes they were friendly, but you had to really be careful. We had to guard the compounds and that because a lot of time they would try to infiltrate in there and they would bring in booby-traps and hand grenades and they would explode them and try to kill as many people as they could.
Chelsea: Did they, did the people that were nice, did they try to help you guys in any way?
Howard: Well they were more leery of us, we tried to help them more than they tried to help us because they were kind of leery of us, they didn’t know what to expect out of us but we uh, we were real friendly with the children. The children were starving and, in fact one day I seen a little Korean boy about 6 years old steal a piece of steak out of a friend of mines mess kit while he was standing there eating. And, uh, he had been warned not to turn his back on account of that little kid was standing there watching him. He would not listen and soon as he turned his back to talk to one of his friend’s, and when he did the little boy run up there and grabbed his steak and took off. Kind of made him mad but we all kinda quieted him down, because he was a newly arrival over there in Korea, he didn’t know what was going on and we tried to warn him of that and he wouldn’t listen. Well, he got his steak stolen and we had to quiet him down after that cause he was a little bit upset about that little boy getting it, and we told him that little fella need that steak probably worse than he did.
Chelsea: So it was pretty much like poverty over there?
Howard: Oh yeah, and they were, we seen little kids sliding’ across a frozen river on pieces of tin, wearing, they were bear footed and wearing short pants.
Chelsea: Oh my gosh.
Howard: And we were bundled up and about to freeze to death (Chuckle).
Chelsea: Was the fighting, was it harsh?
Howard: Well, in the beginning, in the beginning, yes it was. But after I had arrived over there it had kind of settled down, and about the only fighting there was, was combat patrols and just about in the spring they would have what they called an offensive, but it was more of a stand off for the last couple of years of that war. They had a, oh a, a line that we were on one side of it, an imaginary line, we were on one side of it and they were on the other, it was all mountainous, we could see them, they could see us. But, they were so far away, that every once in a while they would probably try to hit us with artillery fire and we would fire back at them, but it was more of a stand off until the armistice came other than the uh probes and patrols.
Chelsea: Did you ever come across any harsh fighting?
Howard: No, I never did while I was over there, but when I first got over there and got put in a radio outfit, we had to cut timber for our power generators, and things like that. So we were up in this big valley cutting timber one day and we run across a big pile of bloody bandages that, where they had, had a fire fight in that valley just a day or two before, and there was all kinds of ammunition laying around, there were uh machine gun ammunition, there were bazooka shells, there were rocket shells, there was even a number of enemy hand grenades that hadn’t been uh, that had been abandoned, we run across those. But the funny part of that particular mission was we came across this little building that looked like an out-house, and uh we decided we’d go in there to see if there was anything in there, so we had uh, bayonets on our rifles, we just opened the door and walked in to see what was in there and uh Loa and behold up on the wall there was a sign that said “Bobby Burk and Jack Varga, Del Rio, Texas, 1951" and of course me being from Brackettville, I didn’t know the two guys but I met them after I came home and I got to Know them real well, and it just goes to show you it is a small world.
Chelsea: When you first went into the first department, who was the fire chief?
Howard: The fire chief at that time was Fire Chief W. E. Zorn.
Chelsea: When you first started, did you fight in many, were you in many fire fighting..?
Howard: Well, we had a lot of what we called silent alarms, which were grass fires and car fires and stuff like that, and in the beginning when I first started in 1955, we didn’t have all that many runs, we run out of that old fire station down on Garfield Street, it’s called a firehouse now, and uh, we would sometimes, we’d sit in the station for a week or 2 at a time without even moving but, uh, whenever we would have a major fire we had to give, go 100%. Sometimes we would run out at 9o’clock at night and not get back ‘til 9 or 10 o’clock the next mornin’ an, uh, so it was, it was pretty rugged then, we didn’t have a whole lot of building fires but I guess some of the bigger ones we had were the, were lumber yards and stuff like that where there was a lot of uh, fuel in there to burn, but we didn’t have too many of those.
Chelsea: Were there any big fires that you recall, bad fires?
Howard: Well, we had Mills Feed and Supply which was a big feed house that had a lot of hay, cotton seed hulls, and stuff like that and those, those fires we could extinguish them but they would flare back up maybe a day or two later, in the heat that was down underneath all the, and they would smolder for sometimes for 7 or 8 days. Cotton fires were the same thing. They used to ship a lot of cotton through Del Rio on railcars, boxcars and we got calls from the railroad on these cotton fires, and we would have to open up the car and empty the cotton, take the cotton out and at one time we had a car that had around 270 bales of cotton and every one of them was on firs and course you can’t just extinguish cotton, bale of cotton with just plain water, so they would smolder for a week or so before we would have to go down there every day and kind of put water on them. But we could not completely extinguish them until they burned themselves out.
Chelsea: Being part of the fire department, did y’all do other things like, were there any bad floods?
Howard: We had a number of floods during my career but not near as bad as a flood, as the one they had, I don’t recall what year it was.
Chelsea: in ‘98.
Howard: ‘98 yes, I was not involved in that and I guess that I was probably fortunate that I wasn’t. It was one of the worst floods that we’ve ever had in Del Rio. It could have wound up being a lot worse than it actually was according to the number of lives that were lost.
Chelsea: Did the flood affect you in any, did it do any damage to any of your belongings?
Howard: No, livin’ out here in Los Campos, no we were up on the hill and we got a lot of rain, we got something like 22 inches in a 24 hour period. It did a lot of, you know, washin’ the ground out, but it didn’t affect, didn’t flood out the house or it never, the water didn’t ever get too deep.
Chelsea: Do you remember any big building fires, I mean like you said there weren’t many but, in your career do you remember any big building fires? Howard: Well, like I say we had the Mill’s Feed and Supply and we had , uh, Carlton’s Furniture Store burn. We had a big storage warehouse on the railroad tracks and one end of it was called the Milam Milk Depot where they sold milk, but the other end of it was a building, it was probably over a hundred year, one hundred feet long, and it was open all underneath. Them old railroad houses was, the floors in them was made out of 2 by 10's and each of those 2 by 10's was probably separated by a half inch gap and they were 2 or 3 foot off the ground and the air could get in through that cracks and it just burnt, that completely burned down that warehouse and there was not a thing we could do about it, even though we were pouring hundreds of gallons of water on it. It just kept burnin’ because of the oxygen it was getting from underneath. And, uh, let’s see, we had, we had, we used to have to run into Mexico, and I think they still do, to fight fires over there in Acuna. Whenever we would have a major fire in Acuna a lot of times we wouldn’t have just one building, they would be multiple buildings and sometimes it would take up half a city block. The only thing that could actually burn over there was the contents of the buildings because everything else was made out of concrete and steel and thy would just rebuild them when everything got over with. They had a shell left so they would fix them up again, but we used to go over there all the time to help Acuna put out their fires and I think they still do.
Chelsea: Did you have to fight in any, where there any natural disasters, any other natural disasters that happened?
Howard: Well, other than the flood, the last major flood we had, there was a tornado that hit in the Buena Vista area and went up through what they call the Indian Reservation and we were involved in that. We knew that the tornado was eminent because we kept in touch with the Weather Bureau and we knew that things were just right so we had all stations manned, all three fire stations manned, we had an ambulance at each one of the fire stations, we had all fire fighters off duty back at the station, and we were right on it when tornado touched down. We was in the Indian Reservation are with in just a couple of three minutes after the tornado hit and went through. It was a severe tornado. It covered a path of a couple of hundred yards wide, and it stayed on the ground for about 10 or 12 miles. It destroyed, completely destroyed it seemed like seven or eight homes and severely damaged a 102 homes.
Chelsea: I think I remember that tornado, I said I think I remember that tornado...
Howard: Yes, you was a little girl, cause I came out in the Los Campos area, where we live and checking the damages. Course it went through the very back end of Los Campos area and course that’s where you live, and, but livin’ in a semi-underground home you, y’all were pretty safe. But, some of the houses around you were severely damaged.
Chelsea: Where was Meemaw? Was she here at the house?
Howard: Yeah, she was here, she was here at the house when it happened. I had just came home from work, at the fire station, and uh it was severely dark out towards Laughlin and when I got home, I decided I would go down o the barn and I climbed up on the water tank, I got that big water tank and I could see the clouds down toward town, they were funny looking clouds. While I was watching them they started rotating and I thought to myself, ‘Well that’s a tornado’ ya know. So I came back into the house and told my wife, and I thought ‘Well I better go back out and see which was that thing is headed. So I came back in and I noticed it looked, at first like it was coming right towards us and then I noticed it was kind of going off to the right, and so I came back in, I knew that it was going toward, towards your house so I, my wife called over there to tell your mother that there was a tornado coming and she said, ‘Yes mother, I know. Its over us right now.”
Chelsea: That’s pretty scary, I remember it was pretty scary. Well, thank you for letting me interview you.
Howard: Well you are quite welcome, dear.
Chelsea: I love you.
Howard: I love you, too.