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Interview with Peter Anthony Acosta [5/16/2009]

Alexis Green:

Interview with Peter Anthony Acosta. Okay. It's May 16, 2009, at 2222 Grand Canal Boulevard, Stockton, California. We're interviewing Peter Acosta, and I am Alexis Green, and we are working with U.S. Congressman Jerry McNerney's Office?

Cynthia A. Green:

And the camera man is?

Alexis Green:

And the camera man is Cindy Green. What branch of service were you in?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

United States Army.

Alexis Green:

And what was your rank?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

E-4.

Alexis Green:

And where did you serve?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

I served -- my combat duty was in Vietnam, An Khe.

Alexis Green:

Were you drafted or did you enlist?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

I drafted.

Alexis Green:

Where were you living at the time?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

414 East Fourth Street -- no, I was living in Sacramento, California.

Alexis Green:

When did you join?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

December 15, 1965.

Alexis Green:

Why did you pick the service branch you joined?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

It picked me.

Alexis Green:

Do you recall your first day in the service?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Say that again?

Alexis Green:

Do you recall your first day in the service?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes.

Alexis Green:

Was it in -- (Technical difficulty/no sound.)

Alexis Green:

Tell me about your boot camp training experiences.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Well, they -- my experience was in a -- they trained us like officers. And midway through the point they said most majority was -- we're going to go to Vietnam. So the ones that did have orders, we trained from 5:00 in the morning or when we got up in the morning until 9:00 o'clock at night. And most of that night was night classes or books and -- you know, things -- other lectures and things like that about the enemy and -- I -- I think my experience was -- I think it was a (guidon). He's the one that carries the flag. He got sick, and I had the opportunity to do it for him for about a week. That -- that started to change my life in boot camp right there. And upon graduating, then I know I completed something more than I expected. You know, I -- I was -- you would say, you didn't know what -- you knew -- at that time we didn't know what we were going to get -- get into, but we were willing to go and die for our country.

Alexis Green:

Do you remember your instructors?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes.

Alexis Green:

How did you get through it?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Mostly by being -- obedience and -- me myself, listening and -- listen to my instructors.

Alexis Green:

Which war did you serve in?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Vietnam War.

Alexis Green:

Where exactly did you go?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

I went to An Khe (?North Highlands?) Vietnam, 1st Cavalry Division, went in the outfit with Garry Owens.

Alexis Green:

Do you remember arriving and what it was like?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes. We arrived, and we just about landed. I think they bombed the field. We had to -- stayed and circled the field and then we -- when we did land, we kind of swerved and bumped and went this way and then he made a big old turn and stopped right at the end of the __. And we're going in there and I remember a gentleman yelling out the door, he says, "You'll be sorry." And then the sign says, "Welcome -- oh, Welcome -- the sign said, "I know I'm going to heaven because I spent my time in hell." And -- we __.

Alexis Green:

What was your job assignment?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

My job?

Alexis Green:

Yeah.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

It was mostly delivering ammo, 105 Howitzers or whatever infantry, you know. There was other job -- mostly -- and then the part of it was going with the infantry, carry on __, you know. We all picked everybody to go or what -- usually come pick five or six of us a day. And then we travel by helicopter to different places, mostly to Cambodia and -- where our troops were, and then also to no man's land. And sometimes I didn't even know where I was at.

Alexis Green:

Did you see combat?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes. I -- I took a hill. I defended the hill and I met Charlie two or three times out in the open, face to face. And I remember when I took the mountain, I remembered we had infiltrated and -- infantry red or whatever it is in the spotlight and -- you know, phones hooked -- you could hear them. And I remember they were coming, and I opened fire on them. And then I got a call back and he says, "Who's doing the shooting?" And I says, "I was" and I gave him my name. And he says, "Good shooting. You got all of them." And at the same -- he says, "And now --" He says, "Now, I want you to take a look and see what's out there." I looked out there, and I could see bodies. And he says -- and then he says, "Okay." He says, "I want you to get the grenades and throw grenades." And we threw the grenades, and when I was getting the grenades, I could look and I -- I know I seen three -- two pillars that were empty. They were full loaded, so that's how much ammo I used. The pill box -- the pill box, I don't know how many rounds are in there. And when I looked again -- he told me to go look again, and I looked, and every -- they all disappeared, vanished. He says, "We dropped them. We buried them." That was our way of burying them. And I came down, and when I got even with where -- where we got them at and the people from the village, they were cussing us out. And we went our way. And they're from the home village. And I was -- I think I was just there a week. And I became a big shot at the home base. And the other times -- there's more -- every day was something different. I wasn't a hero, but -- or he wanted to be a hero. It just happened accidentally sometimes, just happened. There's more -- there's a lot more, I -- I could go, but I have to -- I can't -- that one -- that one was -- there's other ones that I like to tell about maybe later on. Any more questions?

Alexis Green:

Were there many casualties in your unit?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Many what?

Alexis Green:

Were there many casualties in your unit?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

They stated that -- I seen a couple, maybe another 30 or 40. But they said that I was the only one that came home.  So far. I don't know. I don't have the records. But they said that -- they said that -- what they call it, they got overrun or they got chopped up or butchered or whatever. But I -- I stated that they had to have what? 98.9 percent of their infantry gone, and that's probably 30 or 40 people that survived. So I have to take it -- they said -- I asked the helicopter pilots, ground crew that I met here in the United States, and they said no one did come back from the helicopters.

Alexis Green:

Tell me about a couple of your most memorable --

Peter Anthony Acosta:

I gotta state this. There was a hundred helicopters __+.

Alexis Green:

Tell me about the most memorable__.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

My what?

Alexis Green:

Most memorable experience?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

The worse or the better? I could say my better.

Alexis Green:

Whichever one --

Peter Anthony Acosta:

It would have to be the last operation, is the big one. I don't -- to be a big shot would be getting all those people off -- my first week there. Was my -- tried to be __+. I can pat on my shoulder. How they know, I find out real quick, but you know, some of the various things -- how you say I would say, gift of life of some of the soldiers, I want to mention one -- a couple boys that were in my squad are -- it was their squad. They were -- they were -- fought -- there at the same time __+. And I was there. I spent about three or four months. They wouldn't -- they wouldn't hardly talk to me or nothing, you know. I -- you know, like that. And -- anyhow, we had -- we had to go out and -- we had to go out and -- with the infantry and they told them that chances are they wouldn't make it back. We weren't going to make it back. And my name was on the list. And I was going to get ready to go, and those three guys, they -- they says, "Well, if you want --" they says -- they says, "We came together and we're going to die together." One of them had KP. I had KP. Maybe I don't seem like that or -- like that -- it wasn't my call or nothing. I did what I had to do. So me and him exchanged. I went to KP and they went -- I wasn't going to argue with him. He says you -- he says you -- he says you were a big shot two weeks ago -- last week it was. That's right. It was right after. It was about the second week. And he says, "You're --" and then -- he says -- Well I says, okay. You know, and it was the sergeant's call and I stayed back and did KP while they went out and they didn't come back. They were both -- all three of them were killed. And that was my second week there or third week, somewhere that -- in between. So I learned, as I deep down look into these faces, into their little blue eyes, I figured that they were only 17, 18, 19 years old now. I was 20. It was their outfit, and I ended up taking it over for them, a promotion. There's a couple more, but I -- I'm a little bit choked up, as I -- went along. It didn't get worse -- I mean, it didn't get better, it got worse. And I know, from this day on, we're in '66 to all the way to '73, we didn't -- they didn't move and the United States didn't move a inch, and the soldiers were doing the same jobs that I was doing back then. The jungle just kept on growing.

Alexis Green:

Were you a prisoner of war?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

No.

Alexis Green:

Tell me about your experiences in captivity and when freed.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

What?

Alexis Green:

I'm sorry. You don't have to answer that one. Sorry. I read it before I really read it. Were you awarded any medals or citations?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

I got the Vietnamese Campaign Medal, defense medal and then another Vietnamese medal, and then I got the honorable -- the honorable medal. And I got a sharpshooter, I think -- I believe, or one of them -- one of those rifle medals. And -- I got about four or five. But I feel like I came home naked because I didn't receive the Purple Heart or infantry badge. I mean, there's -- I -- some of those guys, as I started out, I -- I started -- just do your job and get out, you know. But as you get involved in it, it carries on for the rest of your life. It scars you and scares you, you know, what other countries are -- how they do. That's why -- that's why we have congress. They decide. We just do our jobs. Where we come from, how we do it, it's just -- it's -- good parents.

Alexis Green:

How did you get your medals or citations?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

What?

Alexis Green:

How did you get your medals or citations?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

How did I get them? I received them by mail after -- after -- about ten years ago, I just got them about ten, twelve years ago. I sent in for them.

Alexis Green:

How did you stay in touch with your family?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Say again?

Alexis Green:

How did you stay in touch with your family?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

By mail.

Alexis Green:

What was the food like?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

What did it feel like?

Alexis Green:

What was the food like?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

I didn't hear that last word.

Alexis Green:

What was the food like?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Oh, the -- the sergeant, the CO said that I had to have -- in order to get through this war, I had to have a stomach like cast iron. So he said -- he marched me down to have a cup of coffee, and he said -- and he __+ -- be like hard nails in your stomach, you need to __+ your nails. Make sure you get some food in your stomach and -- cast-iron -- and so it won't bother you. You have to have a cast-iron stomach to endure what you're going to go through. So -- and I think there was one guy -- I was leaving and he's an officer, and I think he bought everybody a steak. He ordered from the United States. And other times there was eggs there, there were fresh eggs that we ate. But we had to eat them quick because we couldn't store them. Powder -- powder eggs, powder milk, whatever -- I was always -- I was underweight. I think I came home I was hundred and -- 119 pounds.

Alexis Green:

Did you have plenty of supplies?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes.

Alexis Green:

Did you feel pressure or stress?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Oh yes. Yes.

Alexis Green:

Was there something special you did for good luck?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Say my prayers.

Alexis Green:

How did people entertain themselves?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Like I said, we had music or something like that. They had a -- USO was there. One time they blew up our EM club, and so out -- out in -- built a little place so we could have. And we put on a show ourselves. I sang. I did a couple of skits and then we sang some more and we got the audience to sing. We sing -- we're -- My Country 'Tis of Thee and Going to the Chapel and -- they were there and -- we -- it was just -- I did -- like we did that Who's on first? What's on second? I don't know on third. We did that. And we dressed up as girls one time -- well, almost like girls anyhow. We just roll up our sleeves and got some mops and put them over our -- all over our legs and then we sang the song and -- and we sang the infantry -- 1st Cavalry Division song, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and things like that.

Alexis Green:

Were there entertainers?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Were there what?

Alexis Green:

Were there entertainers?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes. They did have entertainers come by there once in a while. But they stopped us from having entertainment because some of the guys, they got kind of rowdy or they -- they wouldn't sit still, you know. And we had so much room and -- it was very small, you know, like a room like, you know, almost. So it's kind of hard to get a entertainer to skate around or whatever, but we did have a couple come in there. Maybe some of the bigger -- bigger places they did, but mostly we listened to the radio, jukebox.

Alexis Green:

What did you do when you __? What did you do when __?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

When I went on leave? Stayed home and celebrate, yes. Try and catch my -- I tried to tell myself I -- that I'm the same person that I was when I left.

Alexis Green:

Where did you travel while in the service?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Where did I travel? I went to Fort Benning, Georgia Boot. We went to Oklahoma, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Artillery, and I went to Vietnam. And then from Vietnam, when I got hit or mortared, rocket, whatever, I -- they said I went to China Beach. It's Cam Ranh Bay or whatever it is out there or -- Da Nang, yeah. And from there I got lost and they -- I -- I believe I went to Hawaii where they -- or somewhere they might have did my face. And then I ended up in the Philippines. And that's where they found me. Red Cross came -- a guy came up to me and told me who I was. What -- they had me down there -- they had me listed as a six foot one officer, an Anglo-Saxon and -- the reason why they recognized who I was because of my right-hand finger is missing, the middle one, and that's how they knew I was Peter Acosta. And it was 45 days later. I -- I saw myself in Da Nang China Beach. That's where I came to. When I come to, they were -- they were taking shrapnel out of my face and I my eyes. I remember them digging into my eyeballs, and that freaks me a little bit. And I remember the lady telling me, she says, "This soldier's alive." And when they were picking on my face, she says, "Go get the doctor." And the next thing I knew, I -- I was -- I got up. I seen the -- I pulled in the -- pull them out and I stood up and I got up and walked out the door and I was walking out the door. I remember he says, "He's standing up. He's walking out the door. He's alive." And I walked all over the place for about -- I don't know. I was looking for -- I don't know what I was looking for. I was just going, going, and I knew -- I guess I was looking for a bathroom because I probably had to go to the bathroom. But I knew, when I was walking, that -- I must have had no clothes on because everybody was looking at me. And then, when they looked at my face and everything like that, they just turned away and -- Oh. So I know -- so when I went to the bathroom and I looked in the mirror, I could see my skin was all black, holes in it. And my arms, my legs, it had -- they were all black and everything. And the guy -- and one doctor __ one guy, he was -- he says, "In order to get that, you had -- had to be three or four days." He says, "You're turning black." But anyhow, I went to -- and then I traveled and they found me in the Philippines, and then from the Philippines I went to Japan. And Japan they put me in a little -- it's in the listing. I was in Japan, the (?G-Ward?), and that's where they kept the -- they said the fatigued players or whatever, you know. But I think it was a mental institution, you know, because they locked -- they locked us in at night. And then I -- and then I came back to California from Korea, and I discharged. I tried to stay in the service, tried to do that, but everybody kept on making fun of me saying that it looked like they got me from the bottom of the barrel because I was -- you know -- I was still a good soldier, but you know, I wasn't quite right, you know. I wanted to become a good soldier. I wanted to go back. I had -- I had to make a choice, and so I decided maybe I'll try to find myself back to the job. Even that didn't even work out right, you know, because you could tell -- difference, you know. When I came home, a lot of foremens, a lot of __ good jobs. And they said this is something -- a Vietnam soldier, and they used the F word. And -- so this is how they are, you know. And it's because I lost some of my sights, my hearing, and I kept on having flashbacks which I could not understand.

Alexis Green:

Do you recall any particularly -- (Technical difficulty.)

Cynthia A. Green:

Rolling again. Thank you for letting me interrupt. Go ahead.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes. I was in the Philippines, and there was three of us in there, this -- and we had a whole big room to ourselves. And every so often soldiers would come in and take the bed space and -- you know, Korean soldiers or Australians or something -- American soldiers. They wouldn't stay there long. We stayed there for about a month. And about a 45 -- I think a month, a little better than a month. There's where I got the -- my (hygienes) back because I did forget -- my memory was lost. You know, I didn't know I was in the Army. I didn't know the president. But __+ I met this one Marine. He was there and we were good friends and we used to go around or -- to eat chow or whatever. Well, we went to go eat chow where the cafeteria is, you know, and there was three of us and we're in our nightgowns, you know, with the little blue uniform and cross there. You know, we were going there, and we load up. When we got there, they said, "Money." We didn't know what money was, and so they came and got -- I was -- that was one of the jokes. But the second joke we had, you know, after that, we had -- we had orders that we were going to leave and go get our -- three different ways. And the Marine asked me, he says, he says, "Do you got a uniform?" And I says, "No, I ain't got nothing." He says, "You can have mine." I said, "Okay." You know, so he gave me his uniform. And he went his way and I went my way. And I was going to -- I was -- I was going to Korea, you know, going to Korea -- no. I was going to the -- another hospital, you know. I was going to another hospital. I kept -- he gave me his -- his uniform, and I went to another hospital, to Japan. And I stood there -- and I got better and I got -- and I kept this uniform. And then when it was time for me to leave the hospital to go back to active duty, I weared his uniform. I went to the Army camp in Korea with a Marine uniform. Came to fall out, and I fell out in the Marine uniform. Everybody said -- and they looked at me and sergeant says, "Get that Marine -- get that guy out of that Marine outfit and get him some Army clothes." And I -- I didn't think that I -- I said "Marines? What are you talking about?" You know, I said -- oh, so I changed and then they told me and I -- oh -- you know. But until this day I'll always remember that. But he was in the same condition I was when we first met, you know. And I -- I -- how much he had for the Marines, I guess I could fit in, you know, because I -- I did. So that was one of the -- there's plenty of other things that I -- I could tell you that really -- I -- come to my mind and -- that's important, but I don't know. What's important? The stories? The ways you put it? I'll tell you when I left my outfit, on that Big One, Big Operation, the troop around -- there's the first conflict where I took a hill, and I turned it around and I went ten days in the hospital. It was in Vietnam. But anyhow, I was going there and I turned around and I looked and I -- there was 48 -- about 40 or 50 of us, you know, there when I first started. And when I turned around, there was only about ten. And they -- the sergeant says, "Well, we're not going to have roll call. Just wait out there and the helicopters will come by and pick you guys up. You got special assignments." And we were going all over dropping rounds to Marines, Army, whatever -- whoever was out of ammunition or __+ And plus -- don't get me wrong. We had the privilege of -- not me, but the officers did -- they threw the enemy out the door. See, this is where you get in -- where you get mixed up as to whose duty -- but one time one Vietnamese, he broke loose, and I was -- not -- I was still kind of groggy because I took a mortar shell to try to take that hill, you know. I got too close. I even got buried on my way out. But anyhow, it's the last story, but he was -- we had ammo on the aircraft, and he was coming right across me. I unbuckled my belt around and I tackled him and picked him up and threw him right out the door, no hesitation. I think about that. I says that's the way war is. That's the way it gotta be, it's done, and that's the way it is, you know. So -- simple. There's a lot of things, maybe I -- maybe I might run across some later, you know, wherever, you know, but that's -- I -- I think about -- it happened so fast that I -- did I really do it? But I know I did really do it. You know, I really did it. And they ask me -- sometimes they ask me, You want to throw some more out or you want to watch them or what -- or go up with them, you know. I says, No, I -- I stayed on the ground and -- and they dropped him right over their village where he was born at is where I -- stop the enemy, we had to -- we had to. It was the price of war.

Alexis Green:

What were some of the pranks that you or the others would pull?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

The pains?

Alexis Green:

Pranks.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Pranks? Boot camp. One of the ones we got the top -- actually was a platoon leader, and they tied him up to the post and everybody took a shot. Another time was they used to ring our fire bell at 12:00 o'clock at night. Or once in a while they'd get drunk and we'd be in Vietnam and sort of get drunk or something like that. "Here they come down the road. Here they come. Here comes Charlie down the road." And you'll be in your -- in your -- in your bunker, you know. Oh. Oh. Especially if you're new, you know. But you go right out the gate and there they are. I often wondered, when they came up the hill, I'd sit there and I say __+ if they know we're here, waiting. And they still come.

Alexis Green:

Do you have photographs?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

No.

Alexis Green:

What are the people -- you don't need to answer that one -- in the photograph.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Well, I got one photograph, one or two photograph when I was in boot camp. That's all I got. The other ones I don't know whatever happened to them. I had them -- I sent it to my ex-girlfriend, and I never got it back. So --

Alexis Green:

What did you think of the -- of officers or fellow soldiers?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Well, they were brave men all of them. I says, as long as they put that uniform on and wear that uniform proudly and __+ Even though -- even though some messed up, they're still good men, especially if they went through combat. Somewhere along the line goofed -- you know, they goofed up themselves. You should understand, even I try to understand what I'm going through. I still have problems. And 40 years ago and I -- slowly getting -- I'm just barely finding all this out in the last ten years. If they're coronary ends, heart repair, replacement in my heart, the whole heart, Full Metal Jacket. They said it was a tumor, and they took it, they took a little piece out and said unidentified specimen and tumor, unidentified, but anyhow they took it out. You know, I use -- I used to have a kink in my back here, kink up here, it's all gone. The sight's -- my eyesights and -- my hearing and things like that, well, I been living with it for the last 40 years. Now it's starting to show, you know, little by -- more, you know. But I -- I -- it -- I got to fool the people that I came back okay. I -- now I know I didn't. You know, I -- I -- so I came back a better person but I didn't come back -- I try. I try. I kept on doing exercise and exercise, boot camp exercise, you know, try to keep myself in fitness and keep going, you know, from works, you know. So I got -- we could get on to the next question.

Alexis Green:

Did you keep a personal diary?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

No, I didn't. But there was officers and them kept a personal diary and I did keep a -- no, I didn't. No, I didn't. I wish I would have. I wish I did -- I would have, but I think writing it down and seeing it every day or something like that -- because when you got home, when you came back, you were tired, you know. And I would imagine -- I had things that I did and -- my -- I couldn't remember all of it, you know, but when you lose your memory and like that and then -- when you go in the service and you keep all those things, you got to send it -- like the way I went, they got everything and just gave me what -- what I needed to know. All my pictures and personal -- really things that I got -- I had a bow and arrow and -- bow and arrow set that I got from the Indian tribes up there because they were -- there were parts there, they were like jungle people. And there was -- I put the -- the arrow inside the denim of a sneak or whatever it is and -- just __+ And they hit I got one of them, but that's even gone. They confiscated all the things that I had and -- well, like some of the shoes I had on, I don't know what happened. I would say confiscated, lost. But it was just like this. When I was in the war, I mean the -- when I was in the hospital, I think when I left China Beach and they found me in -- in the Philippines, I don't think there's no record. That's 45 days that they kept that I got to heal. So I got to wondering how -- they looked at and, Oh, who's this guy? What's wrong with him? You know, the __+ you know, miracles. I shouldn't be here. You know, most guys lose a arm or leg, don't even come back -- don't even find them. I don't know. You know, I -- I just -- just how my experience what happened to me. And this is the closest -- it took in forty-some years to get all of it. And just like I said, some is just coming too quick for me like -- I remember -- I know that first week, you know, that officer took my name down and he says, "Good shooting. You got all of them." I thought I only had __. When I looked back and I looked back and I thought -- I remember seeing those -- in some __ those little canisters pull out they were empty and there were grenades there too. I said, I know I was -- and I remember pulling the __+ that was it there. Was a whole box, you know, grenades in the box. And there must have been about 20 of us up there, or 15 or something like that. I don't know. But there was three of us in the -- in one of those little boxes up there, you know. And once you get going, I know -- going out in that jungle too, you know, when I got back, I counted 15 clips that I had to refill. That's the first thing you do when you get back, clean our weapons and fill our ammo back. 15 clips. And I remember when I was just going to hunt up in Sacramento up there, outgrow and, you know, and Willits in there. I had a single shot. The geese and ducks out there, you know. And I had to reload sometimes. And that's where I got that -- reload __ clip had 20, so I -- and then come __ and I could see the their faces, their eyes, their disappointment. I seen some of them still trying to swing their rifles around to get us. We got them. And I give credit to -- they didn't back down either. They kept on coming, kept on coming. I stood behind a tree -- not a tree, a big bush. I thought it was a tree. I was empty. The tree was all bare and I was just standing there. And they kept on telling me, "Get behind a tree. Get some cover. Who do you think you are?" You know, I -- I didn't notice it. Bullets -- I could -- you know, and the tree was completely empty. All the tree -- all I could see -- I got caught out in the open in the paddock there. I seen -- and it was lucky that there was -- you know, there was a old abandoned paddy field, you know, and there was all kinds of -- I could see all the twigs just (disappeared), falling -- you know, bullets all around me, go -- run -- and they said I was running for cover. And then as soon as I got the cover, they found out where we were, comes two mortar rounds landed right in front of me. The water swept them. I could see the fields going slowly. I had two and a half seconds to get out of there. I was with three other guys and they -- "Jump!" And we jumped down and it blew up at the same time when we were jumping. That's how I got buried and sent to the hospital there for ten days. My legs, they turned like -- like a elephant, elephantiasis, real big like that, real swollen or -- rocks -- big boulder fell right on it. And I was -- squeeze my -- water coming all over me. I ran out of air. Sometimes they got buried, and they got buried five or six days. You can't last that long. You run out of air. And so I -- I'm out of there like that. And then I -- then when I got out of there, big shot called me up there. And I was still {Indicating with a noise}. You know, and the war was still going on. So I made up -- and he said, "You don't get up, you're in deep shit, sir -- soldier." So I rushed up there, got up, and he said, "Do you know how to get back?" "No." And he said, "Can you take the wounded back?" And I said -- and I was -- just stood there. And he pulled me out of -- he just -- he showed me how to get back and draw a map. And he says, "You get the path __+ you have to __ leave a trail." And I said, "How do I leave a trail?" He says, "You keep on checking and make sure you leave a message for the other guy out there, right or left or go up or down," he says, "but you make sure and you look back." And I says, "Yeah." And he says, "No bus --" he says -- "No truck's going to come for you and no helicopters are going to come here, and the Greyhound bus AAA -- Greyhound bus ain't going to come after you." He says, "So you get down and get going." And he says, "Take these four people with you." So I managed what I could and I took the other three that I had, and two of them -- one of them -- one of them was okay, and the other two were hurt. And we left and I kept on checking them out, checking them out. Took a hill, killed all the men. We took about 20 women. They -- age were about maybe -- they were from 10 to 15 years old. __+ We lost a little bit -- I think it was more offensive. And tell you -- and it was right in the middle of a monsoon, right in the -- it was raining. It was raining, raining, raining. And when it was all over, that's when the rain stopped. I think for me it was more -- it was better because I -- if it wasn't for the water, I wouldn't be able to push that rock out. I was glad that there was a lot of water and I could see the water coming down to -- the river when I got further down. And I could still hear the boom boom up there. They were still fighting up there where -- before I went out of sight. And we didn't have to go very -- we went like ten miles. And he told me, he says, "When you get to the end just before it gets dusk, step out 20 yards, 30 yards and just -- right in front of you." I get exactly there and I was right there, right there on the perimeter of our compound. I -- just amazes me how I got there, but we follow orders and you get through. If I -- if I -- if I left something out or something like that is because this is the most -- there's a couple more things I -- I got -- you know, there's -- every day was a -- like adventure for me, you know. I'm glad I -- I served for __. I'm very proud. And -- and I didn't think I was just going to go in there and come out, but look what __. I went with history. I -- I know that I'm -- I did good. And I did. Die for your country? Yes.

Alexis Green:

Do you recall the day your service ended?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Ended?

Alexis Green:

Um-hmm.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes.

Alexis Green:

Where were you?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

__+ and then I transferred to Fort Oak, California, and I discharged from Fort Oak, California.

Alexis Green:

What did you do in the days and weeks afterward?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Tried to find myself.

Alexis Green:

Did you work or go back to school?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

I went to work. I went work. Basically I went to school too.

Alexis Green:

Was your education supported by the GI bill?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes.

Alexis Green:

Did you make any close friendships while in the service?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes.

Alexis Green:

Did you continue any of those relationships?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Not from our company, but other people -- mostly as -- guys I went to school with here in Stockton. You know, those guys that I met over Vietnam, they're probably -- I probably would never see again because they're -- most of them are out of state. I don't even know who they are, forgot their names. There's a couple of them I remember their names but not anymore. But I don't even know if they're alive or dead.

Alexis Green:

Did you join a veterans organization?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Yes.

Alexis Green:

What did you go on to do as a career after the war?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Oh, I did training. I built horse trailers for famous people in California. And printing, I did printing, custodial work. And that was it. And then I -- I had a laundromat myself. I was in business for myself, a laundromat for about eight years.

Alexis Green:

Did your military experience influence your thinking about the war or any of the military in general?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

No. No. I would say probably no more -- I'm so used to it, you know, I -- I get mad at myself, but you know, I -- I keep on thinking -- and there's a lot of the guys that are worse off than I am, and you know -- even though somehow I struggle and got past, you know, they can't because they're -- they have no leg or no arm. I -- I seen the guys up Palo Alto that are just flat on their backs, you know.

Alexis Green:

Within the veterans organization, what kinds of -- wait. Yeah -- what kinds of activities does your postwar association have?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Well, the organization I belong to they have -- oh, they have everything I need. They want confirmed facts, and I don't have confirmed facts unless I can find them, you know. They're there. There's -- this happened, you know, all this happened. This is -- you know, you can't take whoever it is, John, Joe and Jerry and so on down the line, and you can't take whatever -- whatever conflict -- you know. I have -- this one should be a -- you know, for me, it's just like a -- like a little boy's dream, you know. I think since the sixth, seventh, eighth grade, ninth grade, since I was a little kid, what do you think of? 1st Cavalry Division, Custer, you know, F Troop, you know, those other ones, like the other cowboy movies, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, you know, Fort Apache, you know. That's why I -- I like to say I walked in there like Henry Fonda and came out like John Wayne. And that's -- that's __+. And I -- you know, it don't matter. And, well, it's the way it is. It's the way it's supposed to be. I don't know. You know, I -- I'm just here being part of it. And I know it's a -- like I said, it's a little boy's dream. And I did it, you know, and -- it gets me mad to see some of these -- oh, you know, he didn't do that, you know. They're trying to speak for me, you know. How did the other guys die and I lived? You know, it's -- I -- like I said, you know, there's -- I turned around and there was only about 10 or 15 of us and I -- I didn't count anybody. And there was other times that they -- they said, well, we need five guys for infantry or four guys infantry and there was only four guys standing or -- we need one guy from the first squad. I -- I was the only one. I -- so there was no -- oh, I'm volunteering. I -- I automatically went. It was my -- and I didn't -- you know, I'm not -- I just went. I seen guys that went before me, and most of them were just waiting, you know. __+ and get out of there. I -- when I turned around and I saw what happened -- I even lost my second squad. They put -- tell you the truth, they put me in charge of the first squad and the second squad, and the second squad was all black guys. I got to -- that's I -- I got to sing a song with the __. And they died -- they got blown up too. They got all their trucks blown up, that's -- when I came back, they were gone. I did not even notice that until I remembered that I took over the second squad, and that was __. I took over their squad because they died. I didn't know that. My mind -- my mind was kind of foggy still from the first -- from the first accident, from the first, from the first mortar rounds. And I just learned that about not more than eight years ago. Same thing as -- like I told you, you got them all. That was just recently there that that come to mind, that the -- you know, the black __, you know, and then -- that's what triggers it off and that happens. I said I had a drinking problem. Now I know why I drink, you know.

Alexis Green:

Do you attend reunions?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Did I what?

Alexis Green:

Do you attend reunions?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

I didn't hear a word you said.

Alexis Green:

Sorry. Do you attend reunions?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Oh, do I turn in any meetings?

Alexis Green:

Yes.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

I march in the parade. I march in the parade every year almost every time I get a chance to. That's about it. I -- I got other things to do, you know, but -- that's when I -- there's -- I go to Palo Alto, and there's something that -- one of the -- when the wall was here, when the wall came, I helped watch that, you know. That was two nights, you know, that day and then the next morning I stood from 10:00 o'clock at night to -- till 6:00 in the morning. So --

Alexis Green:

How did your service and experience -- experiences affect your life?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

My past experience?

Alexis Green:

Yeah, your service and experiences affect your life now?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Well, I tell you what. It's like this. I can't -- my thinking, it slowed my thinking down, my eyesights, my ear -- I can't -- I'm baffled, you know. I get away with it, you know. I have hearing aids, you know. I -- it just -- it just effects me. It just -- the way -- sometimes I don't even want to go inside basically, you know, where they try to -- especially, mash here, you know, wake or handling each other, you know, because -- or how they handle the conflicts of today, you know. This war, it's the same thing. It's the same thing. One was politics. I don't know what this one's about. Who's gonna get the oil? Or whatever, you know, or -- you know, who's right or who's wrong? Who we chasing? A dead man or a live man? You know, I mean, there's so much to go, you know. 9/11 is -- that was a long time ago, 10 years ago, you know. Vietnam was 20, 30 years ago, you know, because it will be another one, another one, another one -- I don't know. You know, it's -- I'm here in the United States, and I -- I think that -- it's some of the things I see what they do over there, kind of conflicts what I -- what happened over in Vietnam. Because after Vietnam War, I kept on -- an eye watch on -- you know, what was going on, you know. And you know, that's -- that's it. It -- any -- anything not -- they say, Well, we're not calling it a war, government or whatever, security or whatever, whatever -- you when you get two people -- two countries trying to shoot at each other, disagreeing and everything, then you got trouble and you got a war. You know, it don't matter -- the actions and the things are the same if it was real. You know, what's the difference, real or not being -- one's called real and one's called war or peace time or cold war or whatever. It -- the feelings, the interruptions are the same, you know. So -- whatever it is is going to -- I pay my tax dollars. Strike that on there. But you know, it's -- it's -- it's a -- big conflicts, you know. It's a much bigger world than I ever imagined. And I know the United States, how big they are with the Army and Navy and Marines. You know, I know -- the Air Force, how big they are together. I seen them all in action. So I'm proud to __. Good people.

Alexis Green:

Is there anything you'd like to add that we have not covered in this interview?

Peter Anthony Acosta:

No. That's about it. I think -- if I think of something, I'll -- well, I know there is, you know. I think __ is -- I like the way that -- I hope they build that -- that hospital right away. That's what I'd like to add. I'd like to see that, and I'd like to be part of that. In my -- it was fine going across the Bay Area and everything, but as you get going there, you get older and everything, it's a trip. And it's a trip and sometimes I can't even make it and they -- and around the Bay Area, you know, there's more -- there's more troops here, you know, than -- that could support going in. It's about time that we have something for our -- for our __. The reason why I say that is, I came -- we wouldn't get treated the same as if we were over there and we're over here. We'll have people that work in this valley over here or whatever, and they get to know us. Over there we're like strangers because we don't live around that area I guess. I don't know. I've been asked, "Where did you come from?"

Cynthia A. Green:

I think we can state the interview is over and you can --

Alexis Green:

Thank you so much for participating in this project.

Peter Anthony Acosta:

Okay.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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