Interview of Luis de Anda on the Korean Conflict

Bonnie: This is Bonnie Vasquez and I will be interviewing Luis de Anda, whoís a veteran of the Korean Conflict.

Bonnie: Where were you when the Korean War started?
Luis: When the Korean War started in 1950, I was stationed at Hanida Air Force Base in Tokyo, Japan. Hanida Air Force Base is now known as the Tokyo International Airport.

Bonnie: What were you doing at that time?
Luis: I was in the Air Force and I was a weather observer, I observed the weather.

Bonnie: And how old were you when you served in Korea?
Luis: Well when the Korean War started I was 19 years old. And after the events happened, after I found out, we found out we were in a conflict with Korea, we stayed a couple of months. We were at our duty stations, doing the work we do at the base for about two months and then they sent us out to another base, and from that base we flew to Korea, which was about two months after the war started. And on the flight to Korea we went in a C119 called a boxcar, and Iím sorry it was a C47, a C47 aircraft. And we went, and I had never been to Korea, we were flying down and Iím looking out the window, not knowing what to expect in there, and then I heard the airplane engines change for a landing, it was going down for a landing, and Iím looking out the window, I see water and then I see sand. And I didnít know what was going on there and I thought the plane was going to crash, it was crash landing. Actually, we landed at Pusan. Pusan, Korea which is the farthest south, southern city of Korea and it was about the only, that was the only territory that Korea had. The North Koreans had invaded Korea and that was the only perimeter they had, the Koreans and the Americans had just that area there, Pusan, Korea. We landed there, it was a temporary airfield. They pulled steel matting on the sand there, and thatís where the airplanes landed, on steel matting. I was there for about a month, a month and a half, and thatís one of the saddest things Iíve ever seen. We were backed up against the sea, looking north, the roadís north, and I was there for about a month and a half, and all that time there was a steady line of people coming from Northern Korea, everything was Korea at that time, but they were coming from the north trying to get away from the north Koreans and they were all coming down the south to Pusan, which was the only place that was left free there. Those people didnít have a home, didnít have a job, they didnít have anything, so what the Americans did was give them any type of work, helping put up tents and so on at the base. And what they did for pay, they gave each person that worked there, they gave them a cup of rice, and that was their payment for their work.

Bonnie: How close were you to the fighting or the boundary between North and South Korea?
Luis: Well that was the only part left in there, so it wasnít very far north, but I was not in the fighting. I could hear a gunshot and so on, but I was never in the fighting, and I was there for about a month and a half, maybe two months and then I went back to Japan and we were there and they put us into C119 aircrafts. This time they loaded us up, and they took us out and we were in the so called ďInchon InvasionĒ, thatís when the Americans troops launched an attack on the North Koreans and we were part of that. The Navy got through the base, they went by sea and we went by air, and we landed at Seoull Airport which is in central Korea. We landed there and there was gunfire, there were things going every place. From there we had a convoy, a group of army vehicles. We got in there and we had a bunch of jeeps and so on and we traveled for about, I donít know, it seemed about six hours in there and there were gunfire and stuff like that all around, and we finally stopped some place in there which was Suwon, Korea. There was a ramp, a concrete ramp there and we built an air base there, we had P51 aircraft that flew out of there, dodging bomb craters and so on, we had landing and takeoffs in there. And thatís where I spent most of the rest of the period there in Suwon Airbase in Korea.

Before I go any farther, I forgot one part at the start of this Korean Conflict, I was stationed in Japan and I was in the weather service, and when the Koreans bombed, started the war, they bombed Seoull Air Force Base, Seoull Air Base, and one plane they shot down was the air weather service aircraft, which was my, our airplane since I was a weather man then.

Ok while in Suwon, I spent the winter there, I actually about spent ten or twelve months in Korea, but I spent the winter in Suwon, and that was the coldest winter I have ever had. The weather was very cold and all we had was one blanket, sleeping in a cot in there, and that was the coldest winter I have ever spent, and thatís the opinion of just about every person in the station in Korea.

Bonnie: Is there anything else youíd like to add?
Luis: Yes I would. The Korean War was not only soldiers fighting in the front in there, being in the air force, we had a large part in the war also even though we were not actually fighting in the war, we supported our troops. Shortly after I left Suwon, I went back to Japan, and I was in the southernmost part of Japan then in Kyushu, Japan and from there we had airplanes that went and took supplies and everything where we had the fighting forces in Korea, and also we had fighter planes going out every morning and all during the day and so on, and theyíre making flights out there, bombing and strafing and so on. One of the things we had in the base where I was at, we had an old C47 aircraft, and we called it ďThe Old Lamplighter.Ē This airplane went out at night and they put a nozzle on the side of the airplane and it used to fly out every night or every few nights a week. And they would go out in the airplane and throw flares out of the airplane, where it would light up the area for the fighting troops on the ground and that was the ďOld Lamplighter.Ē It was one of the planes that got to be known in the war. Also during the Korean Conflict, one of the things that happened was that that was the first time they introduced the jet aircraft into the war, we never had jets before that, and we had an airplane called supposedly the F80 aircraft, it was a jet aircraft, it used to fly out and it was supposedly the best airplane in the place, but then the Koreans or the Chinese came in and they had the Mig15 (M I G 15), and heir plane flew circles over our airplanes, and they used to have quite a few dogfights in there. The Mig15 ruled the skies Ďtil the American forces got the F86 jet aircraft in there and those were the first airplanes that shot each other to the ground, there had never been any jet aircraft fights and so on, and that was also part of the Korean War.

Bonnie: Did you think the Korean Conflict was a war?
Luis: Well everybody that was in Korea considered it a war. Even though we read in the newspapers, we were back in Japan, we could see a newspaper, we read in the papers where it was a conflict, the people there thought it was a war. And one of the things that made it more a war was when the Chinese decided to get into the act and invaded and helped the North Koreans, and then it was really a war. And General MacArthur, who was the commander in chief of the forces in the Far East, decided to win the war. He made plans to have the American forces bomb China, because the Chinese were coming across and we couldnít do anything, they were just coming in and we couldnít do anything to them because the war supposedly ended in the Yellow River, which is the border between Korea and China, and he decided to bomb Korea and he had words with President Truman. President Truman did not want a war with China and he thought we could do it without bombing China, but they had a disagreement and General MacArthur was relieved of his duties and sent back home because of his contradicting opinions with President Truman. But yes, every G.I. in Korea and Japan thought it was a war.

Bonnie: How did the Conflict end?
Luis: Well supposedly we won the war because the North Koreans and South Koreans decided to divide the land. They drew a line; I believe it was the 37th parallel; they drew a line in middle of Korea dividing the North and South. Now they have a country called North and South Korea, itís two different ruling governments there, but thatís the way it ended. And supposedly itís been that way ever since, with a barb wire fence between the two countries, and itís a divided one country, Korea.

Bonnie: Thank you for sharing your experience with me.