This interview was conducted by Jennifer Macias on March 20, 2003 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2003 class.
Trinidad Lopez Macias is my paternal grandfather who was born in San Antonio on May 27, 1928. He grew up and lived here with his parents Juanita and Francisco, his brother Jesse and sister Kathy. Trinidad attended Will Rogers Elementary and graduated from
Edison High School in July of ’49. On October 6 1950, he joined the U.S. Army where he learned about working with communication radios and telegraphs. My grandfather was also in the Korean War where he was stationed on the front line and watched many die. After serving his time in the Army, Trinidad was discharged in 1953. That same year he married my grandmother, Angelica Patino, a girl he had known all his life and was once neighbors with. Trinidad and Angelica married on January 18, 1953. Together, they have 11 children, one of whom died when he was an infant. Trinidad worked many jobs over the years to support his large family, including engineering and construction jobs. Today, he is a retired citizen who is enjoying his home life as a proud father, grandfather, and great-grandfather to a growing family. Altogether, Trinidad has 11 children, 22 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Because my grandfather came from a generation of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade meals, and plenty of garlic in everything, he is not into the fast foods of today with hamburgers and fried chicken. In knowing that, none of us in his family have a doubt in our minds that he will out-lived all of us.
I know you were a child when the Great Depression was going on, but do you remember anything from that time period?
It was called the relief. They would give you a little bag of flour, sugar, coffee, and all that. That was when the depression was. That was like food stamps today.
That was instead of food stamps?
Yeah, instead of food stamps they would give you a little bags. But they didn’t give you enough, they just gave a little bit to everybody. Just like you see on T.V. where they go overseas to the poor people and give sacks of this and sacks of that.
Like the reserves?
Yeah. Because there was no work, no money. It was bad. I’m in heaven right now.
So, can you tell me what home life was like as a child? Like going to school, what your daily routine was?
It was bad. I used to walk from where San Pedro is all the way to West Avenue. It was kinda bad.
And that was just going to school?
That was just going to school.
And when you’d get home, what would you do? Homework and chores?
Homework. You see I dropped out at ninth and Mrs. Moore was the principal at Edison. When I dropped out she looked for me. I went with my daddy to Arizona to pick cotton. It was in ’49. When I came back she said, “You’re gonna graduate.” So, I graduated. I think it was in ’49.
Yeah, you told me in July of 1949.
Yeah, in summer or something like that. She issued me books from 9, 10, 11, and 12. So I studied and studied
and I graduated. I was 21 years old. Then when I drafted, I think I was 22 when I was drafted.
Drafted? Oh, you were drafted? You didn’t voluntarily go?
No, I didn’t want to cause I had already seem my brother when he went, he was drafted too, and the way they treated him there. So I went to, what is that place called?
No, after that. I went to boot camp in California. And I graduated. First I went through all the training. After that, they assign you to a certain job. First they said I was gonna be a tank driver, then they changed that. Then they finally I was in the wire section where they took all the bayonets, all the bombs and booby traps. Another words, I was clearing grounds for my other people behind me so they don’t step on them and get killed. After that, I was going to the last one, they put them in rows, and I was just getting to the end to finish my training and when I stepped on it, it exploded and got me all black. I went straight to my sergeant and said, “I don’t like this job no more.” (laughs) I was scared. So I got out. They put me on radio section.
I was the radio operator. I was in between two squat teams. Machine guns. It was too hard on my ears. So they put me on the dot and dashes, what do you call that?
Yeah, that telegraph. But since my ears were already hurting me, I said I don’t like this. So they sent me to school for message sender. Send messages and receive messages. I had my own driver, my own jeep, and my own office.
Yes, it was. I never had it so good. I stayed there until they sent us to Korea. That’s were everything stopped.
So when you were drafted in, you said it was October 6, 1950. That’s when you enlisted. The Korean War had already started.
Did you ever think you were gonna go to Korea?
No, never think that they were gonna put me there. Never. And when they took us over there to Korea, first we rode on bus, then it was train. Then they put us on these Army trucks. I don’t even remember the place that we landed on. We landed there and you couldn’t see your hands in front of your face cause it was that dark. We finally got to this place where there was only tents. And I used to see these helicopters. I said, “What the hell is this?” I went over there and asked one of these guys, “Hey, what are these planes coming and going?” He said, “You don’t know?” I said, “I just got here, I don’t know what’s going on.” He said “I’m gonna tell you what it is. You’re here on the fighting zone. And these planes bring people. They’re dead. And go get more.”
So, you didn’t know you were on the front line until you got there?
No. So, me and another guy, we got our little tents…and that’s where we sleep. Then it got so hard that I couldn’t keep my message sender job. They said, “No, we need you on the line.” So they put me on the wire section. They put me in charge of 10 other guys. So they put us in a fox hole. It was 11 guys in that fox hole. We had that little wire for the phones all around us, except the fox hole gate. And every morning go out and fix the wires they busted with the bombs, they shoot at them. So I stayed in wire section. And I volunteered to the real front line over there.
Oh you volunteered to go?
Yeah, the reason I did that was because in the front line, you were getting nine points, and you step back and get eight points, and another back 7, 5, 4, 3 way back there. So I said, “I’ll take my chance. I wanna get the hell out of here.” Nine points a month, so I stayed there nine months and I completed my 36-point rotation. And I moved out of there. But when I was in the wire section, the snow was two feet deep and the wires was underneath it. You could find them on the trees and you would follow them and they go underneath and you had to be pulling it until you find the break. My sergeant always put me in the front. Pole climbing.
So, you would climb up the poles to fix the wires?
Were you ever shot at?
Yes, (laughs) Most of the time we were down. This was the funny thing, we were up on one of the poles, and they were bombing us and we didn’t know. And the sergeant came out of the hole, “Get off of there you stupid [blah, blah, blah].”
We didn’t know. Once while I was there, they started shooting at us. Over there, there are rocks as big as this wall and they fall and break them. That’s where we got in, until it finally cleared. Then one day we were in our fox hole and they gave us the word not to go out cause they were bombing us. All of a sudden, a company was about 500 yards away in front of us and they gave the word to go out, and you could see them on the hill where they were walking and the last guy, (makes plane sounds), all of them things started coming. Boom, Boom. One time we were eating, and all of a sudden they said, “Fox hole!” cause they were bombing.
When you were pulling wires in the snow, they’d break them and put a hand grenade. I always had a feeling, I don’t know why. It took us three and a half hours to climb that hill. We were sitting down on top and were looking down…you know what it was?
Hand to hand combat. And we were on top watching (laughs).
So, did you know a lot of men that died?
No, I only lost my first sergeant and a 17-year-old guy.
Yep. His mother wanted him to bring back a souvenir. And he died. He stayed cause he liked it. Sergeant told him “Go out there to no man’s land and take all them things cause we’re gonna go over there tonight.” And I told him, “Tell him no.” He said, “I gotta go.” So he went. The last little thing, and he missed it, and blew him out.
And when I called the switch guard, he said, “You know what happened?”
“Mangmam got killed.”
“How did it happen?”
They said a boobie trap he was working on, the last one, he got it.
(By this time in the interview, we had been talking for over an hour. At this point, things started coming to a close as he made some finishing statements.)
But, that’s how it goes. You got the good things and you got the bad things. You just gotta forget about it and keep on going. I never did think that I was going to get killed. The only thing was my daddy and mommy, cause I wasn’t married then.
So, when you came out, did you learn or gain anything from that. Like were you changed?
I learned one thing, that I don’t let nobody step on me. That’s what I learned.
From this interview I learned how to ask questions and actually listen to answers. From doing this project, I now have a new respect for those who do this for a living. It is not as easy as I once had thought. I learned a lot about my grandfather that I did not know before. I never knew he was drafted and that he did not know he was going to the front line. I also found that he is a lot stronger than I thought, given all he had gone through in his life. I had previously looked at the Korean War as not
that big of a deal in history. After listening to my grandfather tell his stories, I now have more respect for the Korean War and wish others knew about it as much as they know about the World Wars and such. The benefits about interviews are that you get to see the facial expressions and observe in their eyes just what they might have gone through or remember. You can also almost see yourself in the particular topic as the interviewee is telling the story and almost or sometimes bring chills. The drawbacks I feel
would possibly be that sometimes you don’t know you’re not ready to hear a particular response. Sometimes responses can shock you so much that it shakes you and totally changes your whole perspective on the given subject. Overall, I think this is a very efficient and effective way of learning about history.
- Budlong, Richard Jr. The Korean War Project. Jan. 15, 1994. This is an online source of photographs from the war, actual stories from the men who were there, a list of those lost, and a link where people can attempt to find MIA or KIA soldiers.
- The Institute for Learning Technologies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
- Knox, Donald. The Korean War-An Oral History 1950-1953. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers. San Diego, New York, London. 1985. This book gives accounts of the war as told in the words by people who interviewed the soldiers who fought during the Korean War.
- Stokesbury, James L. A Short History of the Korean War. William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York. 1988. This book gives the brief events of what happened in Korea. It gives an overview without going into extreme depth or details of the war.
- MacDonald, Callum A. Korea: The War Before Vietnam. The Free Press-A division of Macmillan, Inc. New York. 1986. This book explains the events that led up to Vietnam and Korea. MacDolland might led you to believe that Vietnam did not really start in Vietnam, rather it all began in Korea and ended in Vietnam.