Memoirs of a Mexican soldier in the Korean War

June 25, 2020 marked the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War

Memoirs of a Mexican soldier in the Korean War
José Villareal fought in the Korean War - Photo: File photo]/EL UNIVERSAL
English 08/08/2020 16:21 Mexico City Alejandra Contreras Actualizada 16:29
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José Villareal was one of the 100,000 Mexican soldiers who fought in the Korean War. In his manuscript Memoirs of a Mexican in Korea, he tells his experiences during that armed conflict.

“Before I can no longer see, before my hand trembles, and before my memory makes me doubt, I wanted to write down these experiences for the benefit of those who, without wishing it, have to go through a similar experience, may it be known… I don’t wish they do,” he wrote on June 23, 1979, in his book.

Villareal, who was born in Los Angeles, California, left for Mexico with his parents and siblings; nevertheless, after a while, he decided to return to his home town.

“The adventure spirit was in me and I left for Los Angeles by myself. They told me that if I had been born there, I was obliged to enroll for military service. I didn’t think much about it back then. I enrolled and then they sent me to Seattle, where I received basic training: learning how to fire mortars, with M1, with machine guns, with bazookas,” the veteran told EL UNIVERSAL.

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After that, he and his colleagues were taken to the coasts of South Korea.

“They sent us on a ship. I was happy because I thought they would take my father and mother from Mexico to say goodbye to me. I looked for them everywhere that day but I never found them.

“I saw the relatives saying goodbye to their sons and a lady saw and yelled at me: ‘Where’s your family?’ and I told them they didn’t bring them. She told ‘May I give you my blessing?’ and I said ‘Please do so; thank you very much.’

‘She gave me her blessing and said ‘God will help you; he is with you; take care’… When we arrived, South Koreans welcomed us and thanked us for helping them but since the very moment I arrived, I knew for sure they were going to kill me,” said José.

The Korean War took place between June 25, 1950 and July 27, 1953. It killed over 3 million civilians and almost 15% of the North Korean population. It was one of the bloodiest war conflicts in history and one of the first chapters of the Cold War.

June 25, 2020 marked the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.

José went through difficult times in his military service in which he was able to share his stories with other soldiers. In his manuscript, he collected stories about some soldiers who also fought at World War II.

Among them, there is one telling the story of a soldier that was arrested by the Japanese. When he was released, he could only think about vengeance and so he joined the army once again for the Korean War. Other stories tell the experiences of Latin Americans and others that include times when José was punished for the troop’s bad behavior.

“Soldiers at the barracks looked in awe outside them; there were Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, as well as Cubans; all of them with anger in their faces. They asserted my punishment was unfair,” adds José in his book.

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According to EFE, there were at least 180,000 soldiers of Hispanic origin; 100,000 were Mexicans.

At the end of the conflict, and due to being one of the survivors, José returned to the U.S. where he was decorated for his actions. Upon his arrival in 1953, he stayed in Los Angeles after being discharged from the military. In 1960, he came back to Mexico where he met his wife and started a family.

In the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, he received recognition from the Korean embassy that addressed his manuscript.

About the pandemic, he says: “With this that’s happening, I haven’t gone out in months so as not to get infected It would be sad to be killed bu this [the virus]. Here, I read the newspaper and solve puzzles because I was lucky enough to marry my wife and having children who are very proud of me.”

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