Ara Arakelian and Lisa Forsberg
DescriptionAra Arakelian (79) is interviewed by his daughter Lisa Forsberg (29). Ara shares his experiences as a child and as a soldier in the Korean War where he won a bronze medal of valor.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Ara Arakelian
- Lisa Forsberg
Recording LocationMobileBooth West
- anecdotes (humorous but true stories)
- Armenian language
- cohorts (groups of friends)
- emergency plane landing
- family heroes
- family naming and nicknames
- Family Traditions
- flame throwers
- flying planes
- Influential People
- killing enemy soldiers
- Mediterranean food
- memories of growing up
- military aircraft
- military machinery
- military missions
- mortar fire
- personal experiences
- political beliefs and practices
- religious beliefs and practices
- Spanish language
- telephone industry
- towing a banner by airplane
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00:04 My name is ARA PRK lien and I'm 79 and a half years old.
00:12 Today's date is June 22nd year 2009 this location as Wenatchee Washington and my relationship to my partner is a timer father takeover. Okay. My name is Lisa forsberg. My age is 29 today's date is June 22nd 2009. We are in Wenatchee Washington and my relationship to partner is I am his daughter.
00:48 So I guess we can get started. Yes. So you have eight wonderful children including myself. What is the best part about having a large family?
01:01 It's exciting.
01:03 New things crop up all the time and if you need help, we're right here. No matter what you need. We can help you out somehow and stay.
01:15 What advice would you give me about raising children?
01:20 Well, you got to be firm with them and you always got to be honest.
01:25 And if they need corrective action you. Be right in there.
01:31 What is your your best memory of your childhood?
01:38 Most of mine is related to going to school. I didn't really like school for the first I shouldn't say 15 years.
01:51 It wasn't really like that. But at the first seven years of grade school and I didn't care for it all because the Nazi party was starting to get going. You know, I never trying to start World War II and they did in Europe and
02:11 That had an effect on me because I went to a Catholic school and one of the big providers in that school for money having to be this construction company and they were Nazis.
02:26 I need March up and down the Avenue every Saturday. They had their own theater promoting Adolf Hitler.
02:36 What all is nonsense and and in trying to get us to go along with it? And I wouldn't go along with it. They had one of their boys in my class. And by the time I straighten it kid out. I was almost ready to leave school. I was old enough to know that I could beat the kid up and he was always trying to recruit us into the Nazi party and soon as the war started. They went underground didn't even talk about that party anymore. But once I got you about the 7th grade and everything was straightening out and things are going to get along pretty good and we got a new teacher in there.
03:19 Then I left.
03:21 No, I've heard talk that you only spoke Armenian until you wear certain ages. We had Puerto Ricans live in our neighborhood and we had Italian this is if you could speak Spanish who knew what the Italians were saying and then we had them it was like a United Nations real and
03:49 We had we call him belgic. They call themselves belgic. They were from Belgium and they had the most wonderful bad ground and they spoke three or four languages and my mother spoke three or four languages. And so did my father and they both had relatives in Cuba Havana Cuba, not Cuba, but coolbot.
04:13 If they wanted to pronounce Cuba to put a q in there, that's what my father would always say and so I really spoke Spanish and Armenian and then when we got in the grade school, it was a real surprise that all of us that they were speaking a different language English nickel and we are fortunate the girl that caught
04:43 Kindergarten the lady to talk kindergarten was part Armenian and part Spanish. All you left out and her husband was Armenian. So did we look at Holy Smoke? She spoke all the languages.
04:58 And we got to cut this other language stuff out. We got to learn how to speak English and us guys are look at each other's no like
05:10 Crazy, you must have thought well, she spoke everything fluently and my mother spoke a little bit Spanish, but she was educated in France and she spoke French was at the language of the day. It was International Language and possible for language Isn't So at home. It didn't make much difference what they said. We knew what they were saying.
05:34 An but we got out of that. We got into English deep into it.
05:39 I don't speak very much Spanish now. I can barely make it through a Mexican restaurant.
05:47 So what do you like best about your Armenian heritage?
05:58 So no matter where you at its Middle East or Far East food, you know people around the Mediterranean all eat the same stuff you had the same names attached.
06:13 What has been your favorite job that you've ever had?
06:18 Favorite job. Well, mostly it was working for the military and a civilian capacity. It was like being in the military, but you could do what you wanted to do and they let you go pretty much and I was a field service representative field service engineer for three different companies.
06:42 And the most interesting one was Chicago aerial they made Optical gun sights and Ariel reconocen cameras, and they were really interesting. Oh, so interesting the technology was way ahead of anyone else. They made the world's finest aerial Recon camera and they made the world's finest gun sight for aircraft.
07:07 And I got a chance to go out in the field with it. I was scheduled to go to.
07:17 But it never happened.
07:21 And we taught him everything right here in the United States and I didn't have to fly with the camera. It got so good that the camera never malfunction and they normally
07:34 Had a guy flying a backseat of a jet fighter that was designed primarily not for fighting but for taking pictures.
07:43 And so it always seemed to work out.
07:48 So I never went.
07:51 I just worked for him and then I ended up working for.
07:58 How it was.
08:00 Louis Allis company, but they were part of another conglomerate and
08:07 We own the shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. They make ships and we made the sonar power supplies for it and degaussing equipment and I had to go around and teach the Navy.
08:22 Electricians electronics and that was really interesting. Your sister came along when it is one of those occasions to see what was happening married, or she did get Juiced enjoy listening to these people.
08:40 Those are interesting times and then I ain't that job I had up here in.
08:46 It was a CIA function on that radio station up there in Brewster Washington and they ran a satellite radio station that transmit and receive signals all the way across via satellites.
09:04 Asia and Europe and every place else
09:09 And the telephone company didn't like that. He said we are monopolizing but we owned all the patents on it. We do what we felt like for 17 years, right? And so well that ended too because they finally got Congress to say. Well you got to diversify you got it put it on the stock market. So other people can go ahead and once we did that then the telephone company bought at all because they are the only ones they had enough money to do it and they became monopolistic like they all right now and in a CIA got out of it, I don't know what's happening up there now civilians run it while they're bringing in all these TV stations around here.
09:56 Sure. Sure.
10:00 You are 79 years old and still working hard. Do you have any interest in fully retiring? Yes. Yes.
10:15 What if I get a job with the military? I tried that?
10:19 In work cuz the end up asking you how old you are and then you got to qualify for joining the military at whatever rank they got for you. And this was a flying rank. So that had to be at least a lieutenant in the Air Force.
10:41 And it always ask you how many hours you got that with your ratings on a low, that's great. That's great. Now we don't have that. We're not supposed to ask you what your address but you're going to have to talk to a recruiter and he's going to sign the rank and he will ask you to your age cuz he's a legally entitled to unless your mother has to sign for rent around.
11:10 That's the way it when they find out how old I am if she knows big model airplanes that they fly around into enemy territory.
11:25 No pilot in it. It's just a camera in the front or the guy that's driving this plane by remote control radio control. He can see where he's going and he's got a GPS in front of a global positioning unit and he can tell where he's at and people that recognize it sitting along with him helping them along know what the target area is and they introduced the latitude and longitude for the Target the within three feet. So it's pretty accurate and he can do anything you want to use whatever means bombs guns.
12:07 I've always thought of you as a very self-sacrificing person person in regards to your family. What do you feel you have sacrificed the most in your life? Well if things I wanted to have fun with I sacrifice to cut back on my Fisher and I almost don't do any fishery except for work. Yes, I catch fish with a livelihood. So I do that but I don't personally go out to fish anymore. Last time I did that. I think when Rose was get married, she wanted a trout and salmon smoked.
12:47 So we caught a few hundred of those us boys all got together.
12:52 Her fan marks family or prospective husbands family. And so we had a big Feast on taking care of your kids cuz I took you all out fishing taught you all how to shoot
13:12 That was it was fun. It was a lot of effort and I was an instructor so I thought well I might as well use my instructor capabilities for my own kids, and I've been teaching everybody else's kid.
13:28 Tell me what your experience has been with having to make an emergency landing while flying an airplane.
13:39 Has there been more than once just one time?
13:45 I was Banner Towing.
13:49 Advertising purposes behind airplane had a banner Tow and is a Fourth of July and I was just finishing up with his Banner tow for Jack White Ford. He was selling Ford car drag Whitewater and I support what a nice day. You know, it's really about 105 outside and I was flying back to this airport Call Sylvania Airport.
14:15 And all of a sudden the RPMs drop down the engine that was a rattling coming out and I looked down and I saw this abandoned Road brand new black cop on it. And I says well, I guess that's where I'm going cuz it was a banner on there. I want to Andrew and starts losing power and it's less than idle speed and you look down straight down. That's where you're going and no choices left and here I got this beautiful Road. It's better in the runway. I took off of
14:50 And it turned out that's what it was if they had just finished the black cop in his road and the owner of the road and a subdivision near empty decided to put that road in 3 days before the 4th of July to give it enough time to harden.
15:08 Come the 5th of July. So I went down or dropped a banner and then there was a big explosion and I was about 50 feet off the ground when the connecting rod at the engine went through the case. It jammed in there. And that was so disheartening. I know the engine was ruined man, all the oil dumped out of the crankcase of the engine and hit the hot exhaust and it came out like I was smoked red writing with white smoke but I landed luck would have it again. I couldn't get to the end of the runway there because I ran out of power had about a hundred yards to go. I've got out and here were friends there had lived in that subdivision and wide your land here and after they have any choices. I told him the story and then it turned out a flying farmer friend.
16:04 On the farm right hundred yards away at the end of the road. So he says I might as well Dragon into my barn here until we find out if if Al the guy don't want to plan and get another engine for it cuz it was ruined.
16:19 And help his look what happened to all that turn out great. Great and you able to fly it back out of the barn red? All right, they hung a new engine in their two days later after they got it took about 3 hours. It's really easy to do an aircraft engine.
16:41 So that was that.
16:46 Tell me about the picture of yourself that is in a issue of a National Geographic we decide it was the year 1957 for National Geographic one day.
17:14 Your mother knew Disgaea 2 he worked for the Milwaukee Journal newspaper for a while. And then they decide on a better job with National Geographic and they asked him if he could do a wintertime under the water dive thing and my Dive Club was doing at all the time. We do will do fruit ice cut a big hole and like I was to Faith to Faith flicks and trap it opened up about the size of a door and it will slip down there and take a rope with us. So we get back to the hole and we were at a lake where you could speargun carp carp fish considered trash.
18:00 So we went down to do that. And in the process, I was helping this guy was doing the picture taken and the reporting even get a suit on everybody else was under water already waiting for us to come down.
18:15 And they took my picture and one one of the other guys and we were the only ones that got in there didn't even mention to go into the water. I just went down and they were they shot a car, but they were coming back right away.
18:36 This guy's wife was doing a picture taken. She had her suit on but what she did was just stick her head down below the water. Just laying on the ice and I just barely got down there when they were coming back. So and that was it. We got our pictures in there.
18:57 And that was all over with it. It took about an hour mostly getting ready and there wasn't much to it.
19:08 It was history though. I remember looking almost did nothing but help him get into his suit and he had a beard and a mustache. It's bad enough with a mustache trying to get that a face mask around the seal good enough, but with a beard and season where it was leaking bad there, but he was under too long when they got this fish in it. So that was all over with.
19:41 And I was telling your husband about Korea. Yes. Yes. Tell me about your what was your most memorable experience in the Korean War.
19:54 It was they set me up as a
19:58 Shotgun Rider I was riding shotgun on water wagon everyday this Battalion. I was at a shoebox. I was in men there were about three thousand of us from this Airborne unit the 187th Airborne regimental combat team.
20:17 And someone had to ride shotgun on it's because they would get ambushed along the way, you know, these North Korean to be waiting for you somewhere start shooting at you when you got in range, if you didn't shoot back and these guys nobody volunteered for that. It happened a couple times and a they were lucky because it was another US unit there to back him up along the way but the distance to travel to get clean water was about 20 miles on a dirt trail that you could barely get 20 miles an hour out. Okay, and it was a 600-gallon trailer.
20:58 And so they volunteered me for this because they knew I'd get after these guys and we could never figure this out, but we leave and they wouldn't shoot at us on the way back that have this bridge 0 then with 120 mm mortar.
21:17 I got things about this round at the rocket about this long and it got a short-barrel. I just drop it in like this let her go will a 0 that thing in for the curve in a row just we're we're we're turning cuz you had to almost slow up to walking speed there to make that curve and I said we did in the number of times and they drop one short of us and we got to pick up speed here. And one of the other duties was that this driver was going to teach me how to drive. I was the only guy out of 3000 guys in the service.
21:58 That didn't have a driver's license.
22:01 Oh, wow, the school I went to didn't have driver's ed or anything like that. If you want to learn how to drive your father had to teach you something and my father didn't have a car. So any I would learn how to drive and riding shotgun on us so we wouldn't get hit and I know I could never figure this out.
22:23 How they knew when we were coming all the time.
22:27 And this one on for 2 weeks and I finally said one time I've heard the rocket take off and you got to be really close to here at take off like a Fourth of July rocket to know it goes up and then it explodes on the way down when it hits the ground. They got it set like that.
22:46 So on the way back one day we were a little behind schedule and as we did the turn in the curve the guy thought he had our speed down right and we're going a little too fast and it landed a hundred yards behind us. Then I heard the next one take off and I look towards the sound and it goes like that are mostly and you're looked and you could hear it going up nice is always a lot more thing. And I said we got to speed up. I don't care if this trailer tips and we sped up and we went between his big Bowlers there about side is room here by the size of a car.
23:31 And we hid in there and the round went off some 50 yards further on and we weren't going as fast as we thought we were and I knew we better hide in there and dressed as that happened. I looked out there and I could see a reflection of a mirror.
23:50 And this enemy forward Observer was looking at us with the sun shining in his face. And he was a real Dandy had a red scarf on and he was just looking at us for we got to get this guy and just as we were going to start shooting he runs back into this hot there's a grass Hut there and he comes out with a burp gun. When do submachine guns and start shooting at us.
24:19 NE we were about 200 yards away in a rounds are all falling in front of us. You know that it's shot small pistol rounds and it couldn't reach us you'd have to aim almost up like this 45u00b0 almost to get us if we expected to get the bullets to get there. Well, we had guns excited in for 300 yards and he was only about 200 yards away. So we cut him down to the right size and I put the after I shot that guy down. Then I shot some more and every guy that ran out of that building.
24:57 And after about a dozen at at then they ran out trying to rescue this first guy that got shot and they got shot and we kept doing that and a driver. All he had was a grease gun little gun look like a mechanic's grease gun, but it was made by General Motors a shot 45 caliber bullets, and he didn't have too many rounds with him. He had probably but
25:23 Oh, I'd say at 60 rounds and plus he had an M1 rifle and you shot that all out and I had over 400 route to loose ammo with me.
25:34 And I had the four clips of 30 rounds each and two more clips of 15 rounds eat and I finished off everyone that stay there and the bodies were filed. And finally they were running out of back of this building. Is it grass shackling and we had mind that all in front of that so we couldn't even walk through that and they couldn't either but they claim to be the workers for the rice paddy on front of us. We had a rice paddy separating us from the enemy.
26:09 And we didn't know it at the time but the enemy was those guys running the rice Patty and they were shooting mortars at us from that little secluded area and we had built it actually offense of mines in front of them that was supposed to keep the anime from crossing over to our site not thinking that these people were actually the anime
26:36 And so then I could see these guys running away with the mortar tube had a rope around it and they're running over the fence.
26:44 So I took care of those guys and pretty soon there was nobody running anymore and I want to go over by these bodies and look but I was I went about a hundred yards and Isis now here is where they got that little hidden fence made out of red rope dark red. You have to look for it and we're not supposed to go pass that side or if I got a good idea. I was I had a satchel back there with dynamite in it. And it was one of these like it travel bag to take with Jeff canvas one with a zipper is full of dynamite sticks of dynamite. I said, I'll put it in his Jeep.
27:29 Animal Jam de the stick I had right there a branch where I keep the engine running and put it into gear and let this thing run back there all the way across and if it blew up on the Minefield great if it didn't I shoot at it to make it blow up.
27:49 If you're shy to Dynamite it exploded. Okay, but I didn't do that.
27:56 I thought wait a minute. I got a better idea. I'll go back and get the Bazooka.
28:01 At which was a rocket launcher had was a 3in bazooka and I just shoot into it over there. And so we packed up we decide to go on ahead 30 rounds of live ammo left. That's all and nobody was shooting at us anymore. And that whole battle took about 20 minutes a half hour and I was we had travelled we got in the Jeep and we were traveling back. We went didn't go more than 200 yards towards our troops when a guy jumps out there any waves us down an american guy could turn out to be a a battery Commander for archery battery that was parked right there watching us and I said, why don't you guys join us and he says well we got nothing to join your way except these Bazookas and and they couldn't reach their bazooka was like a a good 300-yard.
28:58 Rocket, I'll go back and Isis. I'm going to come back with a flamethrower and burn that whole place down and he said well, I'm going to award you.
29:13 A Bronze Star
29:17 Exceptional Valor with a special V device which you did and it read though. He gave it to my company commander and it read to awarded one bronze star with a V device for exceptional Valor while engaging hostile forces in combat up and Beyond the Call of Duty and then when I went back this company Commander the new one that I didn't hardly know. So what was that all about over there? And Isis will where were you and this is why was back there but too much and so I told me he says I don't want you to go back there anymore if you did or not more than you should I do?
30:04 Isis why didn't finish that thing up yet. I says I'm going to sit that place on fire.
30:09 And he's no no no, no, no, no. No, you got to go up front. Now. They need you over there. They didn't get me down here and I can't get it. Hit me up where the shooting is across the rice paddy, cuz their radios went out and I was a radio repairman besides being a second lieutenant.
30:30 And that was the excitement. Wow that is and then when I stop to think about it, I needed a shot of whiskey and my Battalion Commander, are you hurt all of this? And so I told a story to him and he will play a low-key here. Now if nothing happens, he says I got good pictures from Hollywood coming in Great Run stuff. Don't start anything. You can't finish this is you finished up. All right here and it turned out that that battery Commander.
31:18 I left and you Lord is Howitzer cannon down, you know level with the Earth and he wiped out whole building out. He fired about four rounds in that thing and they left and that poor guy lost Commander about 4 hours before I got there. He was coming back from somewhere and they dropped around right on on the truck killed a man that was driving it and destroyed the vehicle.
31:49 Yeah, he's as you did me a favor.
31:54 And that was it and then I thought you know, I'm never going to get hit I'll do anything they want I went up there and shot some more.
32:04 Oh my
32:06 Tell me about the the letter that your mom got while you were I was not I didn't know how to get start. I'd sit there and I said what am I going to tell Mom?
32:24 Dear Mama, I'm alright that don't sound good. I am not. All right, and I'm all wore out here and have to get a shot of alcohol about every other day from the Battalion Commander. He's got a whole Foot Locker full of Canadian Canadian Club, whiskey keeping us going here giving us courage liquid courage.
32:49 Ne how
32:55 2 days later, I'm up front and my buddy John is with me. John would always cover me good. He was a good shooter. He had been to Korea before and he saved my life phone number times when they don't do that at that guy's going to shoot at us and sure enough. The guy was grabbing his weapon and I was going to pick it up.
33:16 And I had my weapon slung over my shoulder and had a 45 pistol. I thought I could draw it quick enough and you shot that guy down.
33:26 They were supposed to give up but they had their rifles slung with the barrels down in a fast way to get it up with your swing it up like this and let your hands trigger finger slide over and start shooting with one hand while you their weapons didn't autoload. Like ours they had a burp gun, but most of it Shooters just had a bolt action rifle are Shooters had autoloading rifles.
33:53 And full auto
33:57 And Airborne units had the full auto M2 carbines besides a a Garand rifle for long range shooting and we had a Browning automatic rifle. So we're well-equipped considering.
34:13 But at any rate I had to write my so.
34:17 Next thing I know is John saying hey, there was a guy poking around up there when I went up there before without you and Lisa now, we're riding together up to her. He says we see this guy again. We shoot them down as all right and see if we go up there and we see these guys going around Hills.
34:38 What the heck are you doing? I don't even see the one guy. I don't have a gun three others do have a rifle and they look like anime, so I should let shoot at those guys with rifles. And so we did then this other guy comes out.
34:52 He's dressed like us but you don't have any weapon with him.
34:57 That's cuz I don't know who he is Isis. We got to get going before it gets dark. Maybe I can't repair that stuff, but then they don't want you to move around at night. We might have to stay up there all night.
35:09 I'm sick and tired of eating out at 10 cans all the time. We got to get a hot cooked meal later somewhere. So we got up there and the next thing we know is we get back in time to I left him a good radio and we didn't do any shooting across the anime.
35:30 And we got back and this guy is saying hey are the mailman wants to talk to you before I didn't ask him cuz I got no connection with our mailman and ice is why I don't have any either so I go over there and he has the Red Cross is looking for you you and John how old Ryan Red Cross is looking for both of us for some reason.
36:03 And so we go over there and he's telling us that Mama wrote a letter got this letter.
36:10 Premier trapland saying what a nice guy was
36:14 And he didn't have much time to write but Ma when she got this letter there was a big Cross of Christ on it and it said chaplain's office. The first thing my thought is already dyed and here we're getting it. Ain't no sorry to hear that your son died and she sat there ball in 4 hours till sister Rosemary came home from high school and I can barely tell the story is dead now.
36:48 Yeah, and so rowing races. Well, I better read it. She looks in there and says he isn't dead He's Alive and he's honorable mention here and he's doing great and everything is fine.
37:03 So any says I showed this letter.
37:07 At the Battalion Commander. Do you want man we call them if we like them he was the old man and uses the old man says you got to write a letter a day and I got to see it and I don't even have writing Implement. So, you know, I don't have a pencil.
37:25 He is I give him a pencil tell him to come over here. So I went over there and he said you and Ron both coming here. So he gave us the whiskey bottle. He calls it the truth serum. I want to know what you guys are doing and why you haven't written home John was from somewhere in Ohio.
37:47 That's what we told me sad story but we got no right on even other than the paper that we get the batteries in. You know cardboard. He says I don't care what you write or not. You should just going for free. He's just cut it down to size like that. And so I made a big postcard out of some clean cardboard and I had a grease pencil you gave me a grease pencil dark black, but it writes really easy on something. So I did about three letters light and I was supposed to rain everyday. I'm still doing. All right. That's it.
38:26 And Philip turned out real good cuz the Milwaukee Journal newspaper found out that I I was in combat and they send care packages to us. We got three care care packages eat summer sausage in there and and cheese and stuff from all around Wisconsin where they make all is good summer sausage.
38:54 And boy, that was a good deal. Why last?
39:02 So I did right finally, I stretched it out to every month every week every month.
39:11 And the funny part is it all these letters were going for free.
39:16 Yeah, if you were in a combat area, it didn't cost anything. They had a special stamp in a combat area the mailman stamp everything as long as you didn't photograph secret material or anything like that. So that's what that was.
39:38 So one thing that I wanted to thank you for that. I think it's been a big part of my life is always I have lots of memories of you always telling me that I was beautiful and pretty and and I wanted to thank you for that because I think it's very important for a girl's self-image. Yes and growing up that way. Well that's part of the responsibility of parents, you know, and it's fun telling me to get more kisses that way and and I actually enjoyed it. I didn't do as much as I'd like to and I enjoyed partying with you ladies and taking it out to go to concerts and Rose and I would go to concerts or low.
40:30 You know what? I hear that around here and with TV you see some of that on TV, but them.
40:38 Yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed that. I enjoyed it with the boys too. Cuz they liked all the stuff I was doing right and they want to learn how to shoot and I haven't been instructor. I was an instructor with the military and then as a civilian instructor for the military and I shot National mattress and your uncle fuzzy. So was I
41:03 Interesting name Richard Fitzpatrick
41:08 And he was a chief warrant officer. He was a national match shooter for the last 10 years. He was in the Navy. That's all they did was a target shooting and one National mattress. He had so many guns that he want anyone to sell me one. I ended up buying one but not from him. I didn't have the money then.
41:31 But yeah, it's been fun being your father and I want you to do same thing to your kids and you should have fun with them cuz I know they all might even venture to do that and you don't have to suffer all your life away and learn to do something that you can take care of yourself. You know, he even if you got a husband helping you it always pays to know how to do something that you could get paid for. Absolutely Friends and Influence People. Absolutely. Yes.
42:10 Thank you. I love you. I love you, too. Thanks.