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"It's a fact that when you feel like you're going to die, you can live your whole life through. I found that to be true." (Video Interview, 41:28)

   Raymond L. Ayon
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Raymond Ayon, Pusan, Korea [December 1950]
War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Air Force
Service Location: Japan; Korea
Rank: Airman First Class
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Fascinated with his older brothers' letters home from World War II, 16-year-old Raymond Ayon dropped out of high school in 1945. He signed up for the Merchant Marines--but after a year they learned he was too young. Ayon went back to school, graduated, and enlisted in the Air Force in 1948. His first assignment was with a fighter bomber squadron in Japan, but the Air Force decided to make a medical corpsman out of him. Shortly after the United States went to war in Korea in 1950, Ayon was in the thick of things, loading casualties onto transport planes bound for Japan. He spent time with a MASH unit, claiming it was hardly like what was depicted in the famed TV show. Ayon is sensitive to those who would diminish his service just because he wasn't an infantry soldier.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (55 min.)
»Photo Album  (12 photos)
»View List (4 items)
 Official Documents
»View List (6 items)
More like this
»Hispanics in Service
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Fascinated with World War II stories, films, and letters home from his brothers serving; going into the Merchant Marines at 16, in 1945; he was a mess boy, cook's helper, and dishwasher for a year, sailing to Japan and from San Francisco through the Panama Canal to Baltimore; missed seeing the canal because he was below decks working; big storm in the Atlantic; in Baltimore Harbor, another ship breaking anchor and damaging his ship badly enough to require repairs in dry dock. (06:08) Joining the Air Force out of high school over the objections of his sweetheart; shipping out to Japan, assigned to the 36th Fighter Bomber Squadron; not qualifying for mechanics school; sent to medical laboratory school to become a corpsman; only Air Force man among all-Army class; partnering with a WAC to practice taking blood. (04:45) A couple of days after the war broke out in Korea, on a transport to Suwon, Korea; loading casualties, including pine boxes which were caskets; an emotional memory for him. (02:47)
Originally told Korea was a brief police action, watching it escalate into something bigger and longer; attached to a MASH unit; in country for four seasons; using napalm instead of firewood to fuel tent stove during the winter; almost killed by a casket in the back of a truck he was driving; his MASH unit staffed by an international crew; touring a leprosarium; caring for enemy POWs. (08:47) TV show MASH not like the real deal; irked when people ask only about combat situations; resenting veterans who wear decorations they didn't earn; refusing to join a veterans service organization; during a big push to get North Koreans out of South Korea, truck driver was intoxicated, and Ayon was almost killed when the truck went off the road and down a hill; vision in one of his eyes permanently damaged. (07:58) 
 Memoirs (4 items)
Untitled memoir The Merchant Marine 1945 The Korean War Memorial and Memoirs of Service in the Forgotten War
Untitled memoir of veteran's service in Korea  
 Official Documents (6 items)
Honorable discharge certificate with a photo of the veteran, sleeve patches, and other decorations A certificate of discharge from the Air Force Certificate of appointment to corporal
Certificate of service in the U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Seaman's Certificate of Identification DD-214

Home » Raymond L. Ayon
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  October 26, 2011
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