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Interview with Richard J. Rogala [9/29/2007]

Cornelius O'Shea:

This Veterans History Project interview is being conducted on Saturday, September 29th, in the year 2007 here at the Niles Public Library, and we're meeting in the Group Study Room off of the Reference Department on the 2nd Level. And I'm very pleased and privileged to be meeting today with the veteran Mr. Richard Rogala who is here with his wife and his father who is a - World War II veteran, and we look forward to interviewing Mr. Rogala, Sr. in the weeks to come. Mr. Rogala, Richard, was born in Chicago, lilinois, and he was born on the 13th of August, 1947. He has kindly consented to be interviewed for this project, and we're very grateful. Mr. Rogala, when did you enter the service?

Richard J. Rogala:

I was actually a Navy reservist, came in September, 1966 as a reservist and attended meetings down at Monroe Harbor in Chicago for a year then I then I received papers in September of 1967 to go to Treasure Isle, San Francisco, where I was in a transit warehouse for three weeks. And then, I received orders to report to the USS Pueblo on Friday, October 13th, 1967.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Was it, now, if I may ask you, you were a Reservist, how or why did you decide to become a Reservist?

Richard J. Rogala:

Well, it was the build-up of the Vietnam War, and rather than get drafted, I said, "Well, I'll serve my country in another way. I'll go in the Navy," because I preferred the Navy.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Well, your dad, who we mentioned in introducing this interview, he was a World War II veteran?

Richard J. Rogala:

Correct.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And he served in the?

Richard J. Rogala:

Air Force.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Air Force, but you didn't want to--

Richard J. Rogala:

The Air Force. I didn't really want anything to do with that.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Nor the Anny.

Richard J. Rogala:

Right.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, you chose the Navy?

Richard J. Rogala:

I chose the Navy. In fact, I got my draft papers a couple days after I got sworn into the Navy Reserve, and then a day after, a cancellation of it. So, I knew I was going to get drafted, because the people then were either getting married or going to college, and then they didn't have to go in the Service. But I elected to do it.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Could you swim?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes. Oh, yeah. When I was a little kid, we were at the lake all the time. So that's where the relation came. We use to go to lakes in Northern Illinois, or Southern Wisconsin, and I learned to swim at a young age. I wasn't afraid of the water.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

In fact, when we were going across the Pacific, I was in the Pacific Ocean once. But we didn't stay in long. But we did jump in.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Neat. Swimmers. It wasn't fear.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah. It didn't bother me.

Cornelius O'Shea:

What high school did you attend?

Richard J. Rogala:

I attended Holy Trinity High School in Chicago.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Is that down on Division or--

Richard J. Rogala:

Division, right off the expressway. It's still there after all these years. Most high schools in that area have gone away, but Holy Trinity is still there.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And you graduatedfrom high school in?

Richard J. Rogala:

May, 1965.

Cornelius O'Shea:

'65. So, did you have a draft number then, or was there, Selective Service, were you given a number in the draft?

Richard J. Rogala:

No draft number. We had the Selective Service then, and anyone turning 18 was called in for a physical. They were just taking anybody and everybody for Viet Nam! It was the premier build-up of the Vietnam War when they had built troop levels up to 750 to 800,000, an unbelievable amount. The build-up peaked, right around the time it was time for me to serve.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Your parents, they thought it was a good idea for you to go into the Reserves, or it waseverybody at home thought it was a good idea?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes, considering what my options were.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah?

Richard J. Rogala:

As a reservist, I was going to serve two years active duty.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

I knew I was going to go on active duty, but little did we know!

Cornelius O'Shea:

So you entered the Service then at Fort Sheridan, or it was a different process, or--

Richard J. Rogala:

Well, I went--

Cornelius O'Shea:

Or Great Lakes?

Richard J. Rogala:

Great Lakes was where I entered. I went to boot camp for two weeks. And then I was aboard a ship in Portage, Wisconsin, for two weeks of additional training. That was early in '67. And then I attended meetings in Chicago at Monroe Harbor, at the naval center for a year.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So was there-- did you have any difficulty making adjustments to military life? Or most of the guys were pretty nice or--

Richard J. Rogala:

You're flexible at age 19. You kind of take it as it comes. I look back now at all of this that happened and it is like how did I get through it!

Cornelius O'Shea:

So were there any memorable instructors, or nasty trainers, or--

Richard J. Rogala:

During boot camp our Navy company, scored real high, since our platoon leader had gone over the records of what was going to be on the test the night before. So, we all scored really high. This particular platoon leader would always score the highest, because of what he was doing. But that was something you just can't forget! We were doing this in the middle of the night cramming for the big test, so you pass.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And that was in Wisconsin?

Richard J. Rogala:

That was in Great Lakes, llllinois.

Cornelius O'Shea:

That was in Great Lakes.

Richard J. Rogala:

Right. Yeah.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, then within the Navy, did they direct you to a position, or a pharmacy, or medic, or navigation, or electronics, or something?

Richard J. Rogala:

On aboard ship?

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

We were an intelligence gathering ship. But I wasn't on there for that purpose. I was on there as part of the deck crew, which is ship maintenance, washing clothes, painting, serving food. I was very green.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, when you come out of the Navy boot camp, or whatever the proper term is, you don't know yet what you are going to be in the Navy?

Cornelius O'Shea:

Right. You have no idea. That's just basic training.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So when youfinish Great Lakes, then you--

Richard J. Rogala:

Well, I was still working then at a National Supermarket and went to the meetings for a year.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And then when you go into-- when you are called into the Navy proper, active duty, where are you sent then?

Richard J. Rogala:

We went to Treasure Isles, San Francisco. That's an in-transit warehouse for people going into the military. They send you there until you get your orders. They basically process you to get you ready to send you somewhere.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And were you still with the same group of guys from Great Lakes?

Richard J. Rogala:

No.

Cornelius O'Shea:

No?

Richard J. Rogala:

It was individuals from all over the country. In fact, I had a friend that was my same age that went. He and I signed up together, so he went there at the same time as me, but then he got orders to a different ship. But we did meet up in Japan once before this all happened, so--. Yeah.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So you were in San Francisco, and then you get assigned to--

Richard J. Rogala:

Right.

Cornelius O'Shea:

...to the Pueblo?

Richard J. Rogala:

Right. And it was ironic this happened, but it was on Friday, October the 13th, 1967.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Oh, right. Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

I am superstitious. I will be for the rest of my life. I was born on the 13th. I went aboard the ship on Friday, the 13th. On the 13th day we got captured. I received a Purple Heart Medal when I got back. The notice came on the 13th And my name, Richard Rogala, has 13 letters. So, I'm very superstitious about the number 13.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Yeah. Wow.

Richard J. Rogala:

So, I've got all these thirteens behind me, and twenty years ago I met my wife to be, Regina. And her birthday is the same day as mine, August 13th And so it just goes on and on. It was like what's going to happen next! But in the last several years, I've adopted a thought process that something good's going to happen someday, and it's going to happen on the 13th!

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, the Pueblo sailed out of San Francisco?

Richard J. Rogala:

I reported to the USS Pueblo in San Diego.

Cornelius O'Shea:

In San Diego.

Richard J. Rogala:

That's where it was at the time I boarded. It was commissioned in Bremerton, Washington.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So it was a new ship?

Richard J. Rogala:

No, it was an old-- it was built in Kewaunee, Wisconsin. And it was a cargo ship during World War II. They took it out of service, and then they refurbished it, and put it back into service. They jammed eighty-three people on a two hundred-foot ship. The racks where we slept, were one on top of another. And I was the fourth one on up towards the ceiling. And I had about one foot between the bed and the ceiling. So, I had to sleep flat. And then there was a pipe coming across on the end of the rack, so I had to kind of sleep to the side. But that was the sleeping quarters I had to go through when I was on the ship. It was pretty unique.

Cornelius O'Shea:

When you were in basic training, did you have to learn to sleep in a bunk?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes. So, I got some experience with going up a ladder. Then it prepared me for a much higher bunk on ship.

Cornelius O'Shea:

It was a good thing you weren't-- you didn't suffer from claustrophobia!

Richard J. Rogala:

It was such tight quarters. It was unbelievable how we got so many people aboard there.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And why did there have to be so many people on board the ship?

Richard J. Rogala:

Well, there were-- half of them were the intelligence people and half of them were maintenance people, but the-- half were communications technicians, and they were the ones that did the work collecting the intelligence information. So that's why I think there would have been so many. We also had two oceanographers aboard the ship that were not in the military, that were oceanographers. And they collected water samples, and that was kind of a cover for the ship of what its main purpose was.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So when you left, when you got your assignment to the Pueblo, you just figured, well, this was just another-- you didn't have any views one way or another?

Richard J. Rogala:

I knew I was heading to Japan with a stop in Hawaii. And I have fond memories of Hawaii, because many us turned legal age there. There it was twenty, not twenty-one, so we had some really great liberty. We stopped there for four days, and we had some wonderful days there in that a quarter of the crew was about the same age as me, we were just kids-- twenty years old. In fact, while I was in North Korea during 1968, I spent my twenty-first birthday there.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So to Japan.

Richard J. Rogala:

Right.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And you get shore leave in Japan or you get to go in--

Richard J. Rogala:

We arrived in Japan, like early December, and we stayed there 'til early January. We spent the holidays in Japan. We headed out on our mission January 5th of 1968 with a stop in Sasebo. It was 13 days later on January 23, 1968 that the trouble started.

Cornelius O'Shea:

When you left Japan, did you know that you were going to be going into international waters?

Richard J. Rogala:

I knew nothing. The communications technicians knew a fair amount, but I knew nothing. I had no idea where we were going.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And was that the case for most of the crew, or half of the crew, or--

Richard J. Rogala:

At least half of the crew or more.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. So, on ship--

Richard J. Rogala:

When this all started happening, it was like what the heck's going on. What is this all about? Little bits and pieces started coming out.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, on the-- your rank in the Navy was SK3. What does that denote?

Richard J. Rogala:

That ranking I didn't really get until after I was out. I was actually a seaman apprentice when this all happened. The lowest rank you could possibly be.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, your typical day on ship would have been getting up at a certain time or--

Richard J. Rogala:

Getting up at a certain time, standing watch when we were out to sea, I had two four hour watches which would be a typical day out at sea. When in port it was keeping the ship in tip-top condition.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Are you looking through binoculars or?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes, but it was pitch black. You couldn't see. Going out there when it was pitch black was just unbelievable. Your eyes wouldn't adjust. It was like walking in the dark, and you couldn't see, so you had your eyes covered, because we'd have to walk out to the area where we would be doing the watch in the front of the ship.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Did you have to report any funny sounds at night or anything?

Richard J. Rogala:

Anything we saw, we reported to the one that was steering the ship. There was communications if we saw anything at all. I wasn't on watch when this all started to happen on the 23rd.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So what is this thing that is going to happen? What happens-- what was that day like?

Richard J. Rogala:

Well, at first, it was a joke. We didn't know what was going on. We didn't think anybody was serious. There were torpedo boats that were taking pictures of us, and eyeing us.

Cornelius O'Shea:

These were North Korean?

Richard J. Rogala:

Then there were planes overhead, like three planes, and six torpedo boats. And they surrounded us, and we started heading out to sea, and then they started firing upon us.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Where were you when that happened?

Richard J. Rogala:

I was at general quarters and everybody was on the floor. I was at the front part of the ship laying on the floor, on the ground, and every time you heard a bullet go off, it was like, oh! You know, your heart kind of stopped for a second or two, because you didn't know where it was going. But one of the crew members got killed during that ordeal. Wayne Hodges got killed, and twelve got injured.

Cornelius O'Shea:

By bullets?

Richard J. Rogala:

Right. Wayne Hodges got killed. He was throwing classified material over the side of the ship.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Was it papers, or electronics, or--

Richard J. Rogala:

Papers, sledge hammers on the electronics, and stuff like that. So it's come out that, in the last few years, that Russia had something to do with this whole thing, because you wondered what the hell a place like North Korea would be taking us, and it's come out in years where some guy by the name of Walker was doing a study. And the study had something to do with-- they wanted some of our intelligence gathering information.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So the waters where they approached the ship and startedfiring, those were the waters between Japan and Korea?

Richard J. Rogala:

Well, we were off the coast of North Korea

Cornelius O'Shea:

Off the coast on the?

Richard J. Rogala:

We were off the coast, like fifteen miles, that's what our records show. Well, they claimed we were nine miles out from some island. International waters was twelve miles. So, if you're thirteen miles out, and you're taking information from the country, picking up signals, etc, it's legal. If you're ten miles, it's not legal. All countries have international waters of twelve miles. So that's where the argument came in, why they took us.

Cornelius O'Shea:

But even on the day that the torpedo boats came, you still didn't know that you were intelligence gathering, did you?

Richard J. Rogala:

No.

Cornelius O'Shea:

No?

Richard J. Rogala:

I didn't know that until when we were taken. That day, we started finding stuff out. It was like, what are we doing here! I didn't know where we were at. It was kind of like sssh-sssh, you know.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So you--the ship tries to evade them, right, go out to open sea?

Richard J. Rogala:

Right.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And they cut them off, or something, or?

Richard J. Rogala:

They started firing.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, was the Pueblo armed with guns, or anything, or--

Richard J. Rogala:

Two 50 caliber machine guns that were not even mounted, that we practiced on once. Mrs. Rogala: They were frozen.

Richard J. Rogala:

They were frozen. I mean, this was January. It was cold outside. There was no way that we were going to use them. I practiced on them once, though they weren't even mounted up on the ship. So, it wasn't going to happen. So, we were totally unprepared for the task at hand. And, basically, other ships in the past that had gone to China and Russia, off their coasts, and did the same things, they never were fired upon. They were escorted out further to sea, or told to move on, or something, but, never, nothing like this. There was no history to say anything like this would happen. We had another ship like the Pueblo that did this kind of mission, the USS Banner to other places. And nothing ever happened. So, it was supposed to be a non-risk mission. Not a whole lot was supposed to happen.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, the torpedo boats kind of had the ship corralled or something?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah, surrounded, yeah.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And then did they start talking to you, or sending

Richard J. Rogala:

They first-- They started talking to us, but we had no idea what they were jabbering. We tried to get the heck out of there, and when we tried, they started firing. And then they started getting closer and closer to us, so we just kept trying to run for a while. And, after a while, after all the injuries and everything, we decided just to stop and let them board us, because there were all those injuries already, and one guy was killed already. Well, we knew he wouldn't live very long. So, we let them board us, and they took over the ship, pulled us in to Wonsan Harbor. And they took us off the ship, and gangplanked down to the ground. They put us on a bus, and then we went to the train station. We boarded a train for an overnight trip. Mrs. Rogala: Blindfolded, off the ship.

Richard J. Rogala:

We were blindfolded, and we were in downtown Pyongyang at night. They had us have our hands up in the air. It is one of the famous pictures of all of us holding our hands up in downtown Pyongyang in the dark. Mrs. Rogala: You almost fell off the gangplank.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes, walking off the ship. There was a little gangplank. I thought I was falling. Somebody caught me since I was blindfolded. I didn't know what I was doing. But it was scary. Then they took us to someplace, and they said, "If you follow our laws and obey our rules, everything will be okay." Well, I misunderstood them. I thought they said, "Since you did not follow our laws, you're going to be done away with." So, it was kind of a scary thing. But then we were put on a train. And some guards were stuffing bread into our mouths. We didn't know if we should eat it, or what. Most of us were spitting it out, because we didn't know what the heck they were giving to us. So, then, they took us to some military complex. And we got there by blindfold, so we didn't know where we were exactly at. But we stayed there for about three months. And they moved us to another complex.

Cornelius O'Shea:

During those three months, were all the days similar to one another, or did they talk to you, or try to tell you what a great country--

Richard J. Rogala:

Oh, yes. We underwent modern brainwashing. We had literature to read. We had books to read. They talked to us about their country, how nice it would be to live there. And one of the unique things that they showed us, pictures of Americans that defected to North Korea. And I thought it was BS until about within the last year, I found out it wasn't, because CNN aired this documentary where this one guy that's been living there for forty-five years. He went across the line from North Korea across the DMZ to the South during the war on his own free will. So did three other people. They actually defected from the United States and went to North Korea, where, this one guy became a teacher over there teaching propaganda and anti-Americanism to all of them. He's still alive, and he says he will never leave. He says, "They have been good to me." Three others-- two have died that lived there, and one went back to. But it's amazing what you find out over time that really is intriguing, to say the least. They show these pictures, and they were Americans, and it was like, yeah, right, who the hell in their right mind would want to stay over there! We were over there, and it was--

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

You know, it was terrible.

Cornelius O'Shea:

You weren't getting any news from the outside world at that time?

Richard J. Rogala:

Nothing. We received after about five months letters from home. Letters were sent, and they gave us some of this mail. They also let us send out mail. They sent three copies out, sending them through different routes to make sure they would get to them. And I think they all did get to my parents. And in these letters, we all put a lot of BS stuff in there, like say hello to so and so that was dead three years ago. We were saying stuff that didn't make sense.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Your dad knew that when he got the letter.

Richard J. Rogala:

Exactly. "What the heck is he talking about!" Yeah. So, we were all sending little bits and pieces of stories made up.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And what was the government, what was the American government doing to get you out of there?

Richard J. Rogala:

Well, they were negotiating at the DMZ. They were trying to get us out during that whole time. But they never came in to try to get us out or anything. They just let us sit there. And it was like we never thought we would be there very long. So, at first, it was like, yeah, we'll be here a week or two, and then they're going to come and get us. How could a little country like North Korea do what they did? It was like-- it was just unbelievable what was happening, because if it was Russia or China, that's one thing, but when you have a little country like North Korea doing this kind of stuff it was like, yeah, we'll be out of here soon and--

Cornelius O'Shea:

And there were over two hundred American Navy personnel in captivity?

Richard J. Rogala:

Eighty-three.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Eighty-three on board the ship.

Richard J. Rogala:

Right. Eighty-three were on the ship. So, they had us all in-- the officers were all in their each individual room. Both of the places we stayed, I think, were military complexes, and they were in North Korea. But you could see out the window, and you see the peasants come out at six a.m. doing their exercise. And they live in shacks. You saw men and women outside, and the women would be carrying all the stuff, and the men would be walking at the side of them smiling. And the women were like-- it was like totally different than our environment. Mrs. Rogala: What about those outbuildings? The outbuildings where they would take the officers for questioning.

Richard J. Rogala:

There were the officers who were kept separate, and they endured the greatest beatings because they obviously knew the most. They did get our service records. I don't think we did-- I don't know if they totally got destroyed. I think they got partially destroyed, but I think they were able to capture information on who was who. So, as far as the crew members, we were all in rooms kind of together. Like for a while there, I was with three other people. And the other, most of the time, I was with seven other people in the same room. We each had our own rack, our own bed, it was like a twin bed with a very thin mattress. So, we kind of survived the whole eleven months we were there by talking to each other. When I was having a bad day saying, "This is never going to end. I'm never going to get out of here," the next guy said, "Nah, that ain't true. We will be out of here in no time." And then we tried to brainwash the guards, told them stuff about how wonderful America is, and some would listen, and some wouldn't. And, so, we had some guards that were very nice to us. Other guards, though, they beat the shit out of us.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Really.

Richard J. Rogala:

Stuff like that. Well, the worst of it was hell week. Towards the end of my eleven months there, Time and Newsweek published the front page article of some members of the crew in North Korea that they got a hold of. In the picture of a group of eight of us, several of them were giving them the finger. We had them convinced it was a Hawaiian good luck sign. It was an act of defiance. And, holy shit, we went through hell! I got my teeth knocked loose. We had to keep our head down to our neck. And I was accused of moving it to the left, so I got two fists to the mouth. My teeth, I remember wiggling them. I still have them, but I remember wiggling them. They reset themselves. Mrs. Rogala: You got hit in the head with a fist.

Richard J. Rogala:

I got punched twice in the face, also when I was over there, I was interrogated a couple of times. And they wanted info, and I was like, "I ain't telling you nothing! If I have to stay here the rest of my life, I'd rather die." So, I didn't tell them nothing. "So you're going to be shot at dawn." "Okay." And they did this to pretty much most of us. I said, "Okay." Well, those days never came. I'm here. It was like, "I don't want to live there. This place is a hole in the ground. America is America." America is the land of opportunity. So, I'm really, really pro- America now, in a lot of different ways. And I'm very opinionated about politics.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, after eleven months, negotiations succeeded in obtaining the release of the captured?

Richard J. Rogala:

The United States signed a letter of apology and then instantly repudiated it to earn our release. So, it came, after this hell week, about two weeks later. We thought, just before hell week, we were going. There were a couple of signs that we were going home before, because our treatment improved. This time, the treatment changed suddenly. And then they told us we'd be going home. We were issued new clothing. We got released on December 23rd. So, the timing was good -- so, the 24th, we were in San Diego with our families.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, did you get sent over the border then?

Richard J. Rogala:

The bus took us to the DMZ where we came off the bus, as each person's name was read, and accounted for. Then we went to a naval hospital via a helicopter. Mrs. Rogala: What was the bridge called?

Richard J. Rogala:

It was the Bridge of No Return. We came across-- that's what it is called today. Go one way or the other, but you never can go back! So they took us via helicopter to a military hospital, and then they took us across the street from the hospital to some EM club. And there I had the best meal that I could ever remember in my life. It was a ham and cheese, and some chicken noodle soup, and some coffee and orange juice. And, oh, my God, was it good! I'll never forget it. We were given medical treatment in hopes of getting home for the holiday to be with our families. So, December 24th, we arrived in San Diego and met Governor Reagan. And they had a parade from the airport to Balboa hospital, people lined the streets four or five deep for a twelve mile stretch! It felt really good to see so many smiling faces.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Did you have to undergo some kind of a debriefing, or did they ask you to explain or share your experiences, or what you should say?

Richard J. Rogala:

There was a Navy Court of Inquiry which convened a couple of months later in Coronado, California, where we all had to testify. I told them I didn't want to, that I knew nothing. I shouldn't have said that, because they didn't let me come home to Niles here until the end of March. And this was the end of December. A lot of the guys got to go home for a week or two, like in January or February, and then come back for the Court. Well, they wouldn't let me go, because I said I had nothing to say. So, then when they interrogated me. They asked me a few questions, and I was done. But, during this court, they made this big thing of like, oh, we gave up the ship. We were dishonorable and all this stuff. Bottom line none of that stuck. They said, hey, these guys were in captivity for eleven months. They went through hell, and you're going to forget it.

Richard J. Rogala:

And, we weren't "Ex-POWs" for a long time. We were "Detainees" for twenty-some years. The government wouldn't recognize us even though the Navy was at fault. We didn't get POW status until the early nineties. It took the government all that time to give us any kind of VA benefits. Yeah, I was getting benefits before that, but it was very minor. It wasn't anything related to POW status.

Cornelius O'Shea:

The-- I seem to remember a picture of the captain. His name was?

Richard J. Rogala:

Lloyd Bucher.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Lloyd?

Richard J. Rogala:

Bucher.

Cornelius O'Shea:

He seemed to be-- he always appeared kind of ashen in all the pictures. He must have gone through a hard time.

Richard J. Rogala:

The first month he was there, he was forty years old when this happened, after a month, I thought he was eighty. He definitely was worked over real well. And when we got back, the Captain stood behind us, in every way, shape, and form. Mrs. Rogala: Well, they were going to court-martial him, right?

Richard J. Rogala:

They were going to court-martial him, but they said he suffered enough. They wanted to nail him. They were talking about throwing the book at him and the other officers for not performing. Mrs. Rogala: For allowing the ship to get caught.

Richard J. Rogala:

Right. They said he suffered enough, so they forgave him like it was his fault.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Somebody was suggesting that the captain should have fought?

Richard J. Rogala:

Right.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And that would have been the end of his-- Mrs. Rogala: That would have been the end of everyone's life.

Richard J. Rogala:

You wouldn't be talking to me today.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So the captain probably made the right call, right?

Richard J. Rogala:

Oh, yes. I'm bitter towards President Johnson. He was the worst president we ever had, bar none. He was the one-- the chief executive at the time that did nothing to get us back. They should have went in right away, and got us out. We have enough military power, where in a day or two in, we could have been released. And the best president we ever had in the United States was Richard Nixon, bar none. I was invited to his inauguration, but I didn't go. But he was the one that I think convinced the Chinese to tell the North Koreans to let us go. I'm firmly convinced that's what happened. That's how we got released or we could have been there a much longer time. Mrs. Rogala: He had good rapport with China.

Richard J. Rogala:

He just got elected in November' 68, and then, within thirty days, we were sprung.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

So, I mean, the connections are all there.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Even before he was sworn in.

Richard J. Rogala:

Right.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Mrs. Rogala: I think they were afraid of him. He had good connections with China and they were like, oh, gosh, we can't mess with this guy.

Richard J. Rogala:

Even though Nixon got caught with Watergate he was a great president. But they all do it. They're all guilty (politics) in one way or another of doing stuff that maybe isn't lawful. Some are caught and others are not.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Did any of the crew suffer, like have a difficult time adjusting to life back home?

Richard J. Rogala:

Oh, yeah, big time. I have I still have issues. Any time the word North Korea comes up, I get chills. It's like what's this all about now. But, yes, I have post traumatic stress disorder that I'm being treated for. And several of the guys, though, have injuries which will be with them forever like Rosales' back being broken. He was hit on the back with a two by four. They picked on him because he was Mexican. Mrs. Rogala: And the blacks.

Richard J. Rogala:

And the two blacks. They went after them too because they knew they were a minority in America and they were going to make them feel like a first class citizen if they stayed.

Cornelius O'Shea:

This Mr. Rosales, the other gentlemen, proved to be good soldiers.

Richard J. Rogala:

Oh, yes. Mrs. Rogala: What about the nurse?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah. While we were there, they supposedly gave us medical treatment with a nurse. Everything was penicillin pills. Didn't matter what was wrong with you, that's what you got. Mrs. Rogala: What was her name?

Richard J. Rogala:

We called her Lotus Blossom.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Lotus Blossom.

Richard J. Rogala:

We had names for everyone.

Cornelius O'Shea:

I imagine.

Richard J. Rogala:

But every room had different names. But me and my other seven people in the room, all knew who was who. Who's the guard of the night? Oh, Teacher is, or Pighead. One guy's face looked something like a pig, Pighead. And it went on and on. We had all kinds of names. We got goofy names.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

We played games with them. We had no air conditioning except for opening the windows, so we had all these flies in the room. They gave us a little twig with a little piece of rubber on it, and they wanted us to kill the flies. This one officer, when he was on duty, would give you an extra hour of playing cards if our room was the one that had caught the most flies. We had a little cup, and we collected all the flies. We had a big stack, and he'd want to know how many we had. So we made up, we had 128, the next room 100. And he believed all this. That's how we kept ourselves going.

Richard J. Rogala:

But they antagonized us. We had to clean the floors. We cleaned the john. The john, there were urinals on the wall. Liquid would come right out the bottom, and then they'd have us clean the floors. And these rags would just stink! So, we had to, somehow, survive. We survived by being together. They could have really broke us down a lot more by keeping us separately like World War II, where they put everybody in a box for a period of a time, and you were in solitary confinement. I always had somebody to talk to, so that helped the whole situation. Mrs. Rogala: The officers were in solitary confinement.

Richard J. Rogala:

Right. And my age, being twenty-one years old. I could endure a lot at that kind of age. It was like we just couldn't believe what was happening, the whole thing was like an unbelievable event, the United States versus this little place. Knowing what's going on forty years later, they're no different. They're still the same. If you look for any information or read about it, they're the same people, except they got a new leader. They got the son running -- the father died.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

The hero of the past, Kim Il Sung, died. Now it's Kim Jong-Il. And he likes American things. So, I really think they should let the country reunite. And I think we would be better off. Look at Vietnam. That's one country. Well, why can't Korea be? These people are starving in the North. They're so backwards over there. And then South Korea is so prosperous with some of their companies. It would just be the right thing to do, human rights, etc. for them to unite. We should get the heck out of there. We still got thirty thousand plus troops there. What the hell are they doing there?

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. So, you're still in the Service until May of '69, right?

Richard J. Rogala:

Well, yes. We got released in December of '68. And then until the end of March, I was active. And then the separation papers came shortly after that for me.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, May of '69 then, did you come back home?

Richard J. Rogala:

I came back home March of '69 here to Niles.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Where did you live in Niles at that time?

Richard J. Rogala:

On Farnsworth Drive.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And that was a big event in Niles when you came home, right?

Richard J. Rogala:

Oh, yeah. That following weekend late March, 1969 was a big event. There was a Jewel on Oakton right near Prospect, they had a big picture in the window: "On Saturday, come and meet me." They had cake and stuff. And they offered me a scholarship. National Supermarkets, at the time, also offered me a scholarship so I got to go to college. I'm a college graduate, because, when I came back, people asked me what I wanted to do. And I go, "Yeah, I'm going to work." "You don't want to work in a supermarket, be on your feet. Why don't you go to college?" So, I had scholarships from two companies. I took the one from National. Also Niles had a big homecoming that Sunday at Notre Dame High School. They had like 450-500 people attend. And Mayor Blase was there along with Roman Pucinski and Adlai Stevenson. There might have been a couple of others. But it was a big get-together.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So that must have helped you to sort of accept the experience then a little bit, did it?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah. It was heartwarming.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So the people at home

Richard J. Rogala:

Uh-huh

Cornelius O'Shea:

...realized what you guys had gone through

Richard J. Rogala:

Uh-huh.

Cornelius O'Shea:

...and your performance shouldn't be questioned in any way, right?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah. There were a couple of people here in Niles, the Dachmans who started writing a book about me, and they were handling my affairs when I came back. I was in the Chicago Today for a week, and I was doing speaking engagements for like a year or two after until it dried up. I'd go different places and make speeches. And the title of my speech was Communism Versus Freedom: The Choice Is Yours. So, it was pretty neat. It was Niles, who were talking about giving me a car. Then they didn't, because then they would have to do it to everybody else at the time, but-- Mrs. Rogala: You got a key to the city.

Richard J. Rogala:

I got a key to the city.

Cornelius O'Shea:

You actually get a key?

Richard J. Rogala:

That's in that box. Yeah, it's a gold key with Mayor Blase's name on it. Yeah.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Now the other-- Your other six close friends, because it comes to mind now, there's been treatments in books and plays about people who undergo hostage situations and captivity. About they survive and form friendships. Did you stay in touch?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes, but not until 17 years had passed. Since then, we have had reunions every 2-3 years, and we go back and forth on emails to keep the lines of communications open.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Have there been any books written on the USS Pueblo?

Richard J. Rogala:

Several. Mrs. Rogala: Bucher's Story.

Richard J. Rogala:

You know what, I haven't read most of them. It's like-I don't want to relive this! Mrs. Rogala:Bucher's Story, that's the name of the book. (Mrs. Rogala)

Cornelius O'Shea:

Bucher, My Story.

Richard J. Rogala:

Bucher, My Story. It tells his story from the minute The Pueblo left San Diego until the time they carne back to San Diego. And actually it's how he was tortured, too. I mean, he was tortured the worst. He lost sight in one eye. It was a mess. But that's an excellent book. Some officers wrote them, too, but that's telling their side. By the way, it's going to be three years since the Captain passed away. Yeah. He died like at the age of seventy-six.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So did he continue in the Navy after that or was he--

Richard J. Rogala:

He stayed in for a while, but did not get a specific assignment. He went around the country talking about the Pueblo incident while in the Navy.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Did you meet your wife during this period at all or

Richard J. Rogala:

No.

Cornelius O'Shea:

No. The-- Was there an incident later, during President Ford's time, with the Mayaguez?

Richard J. Rogala:

Uh-huh, yeah, it was a few years after. The outcome was like what we thought was going to happen to us. I believe that was in 1973 or '74. They captured that ship, but within a couple days they were released. It was a couple of Cambodians which captured the crew. And there were like twenty of them. And they held them for a couple of days. And they released them. So, that's what I thought was going to happen to us

Cornelius O'Shea:

So the Pueblo-- you weren't the only ship that was engaged in gathering intelligence, or do you think you were?

Richard J. Rogala:

We were not. There were others.

Cornelius O'Shea:

There were others, but they chose to, do you think they chose to make something of the Pueblo to cause an incident, or was it--

Richard J. Rogala:

I think that's what they're saying now, that Russia was interested in some of our intelligence information, so they asked North Korea to try to take us.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Which would mean then that-- which would suggest then, that there was no question then. You weren't in too close.

Richard J. Rogala:

Right.

Cornelius O'Shea:

You were an able seaman on that ship, and you were positioned in the right place, and they chose to come out and make an issue of it.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes. This came out twenty-five years later; little dribs and drabs are starting to be put together on this whole thing

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

I'll know some more about it. Mrs. Rogala: Is it on the DVD we got about the interview of the Pueblo that guy brought back from North Korea?

Richard J. Rogala:

We got a copy of the tape. We had copies made. I have it.. It's a tape of-- an American who went to North Korea, and you're not allowed to bring cameras on the Pueblo, because it's a tourist attraction but he hid it very well - so he narrated it. They got bullet holes circled and other areas of interest.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So this is something you mentioned before the interview, the ship, the Pueblo, today is still in North Korean hands in some port.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes. It's in Pyongyang in the harbor. I want that damn thing back. I need to put this behind me and that's the only way we're going to. So I want to put the word out to as many people as possible that that's my wishes and let's do something about it now. Richardson was running for President.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Bill, the Democratfrom New Mexico.

Richard J. Rogala:

This was also in the article that he was there. He asked for the ship back, and they said, "Well, it's possible." There were a couple of times we were close to getting it back, and then it fell through. But I guess now we're close again, because before the end of the year, they're supposed to abandon all their nuclear stuff. It's supposed to happen by the end of the year. And if they do, we're going to-- so maybe something could happen. Maybe we need just a little push. Next year's an election year. Maybe we could use a little push. So I'd be willing to tell all that I want the ship back. And anybody that could help me should contact their congressman. We'd like to get hold of Hillary Clinton, only because she was born in Park Ridge. She was raised in Park Ridge, you know. That's a neighboring town. I've already contacted Obama and Durbin, but I don't get anywhere. You get their offices, and you tell them a little bit about it, and those people don't know enough. They're youngsters that are working in those offices, and they don't really pass it on. So, I got a letter from Senator Durbin that said they're going to pass it through to Navy officials. It has nothing to do with Navy officials. So how do I get to these kind of people to tell them? I'm looking for a way.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. You'd be willing to talk to a newspaper person, right, if they wanted to interview you or something?

Richard J. Rogala:

Uh-huh, yeah. For a lot of years I wasn't, but now I am, because I want the ship back. Forty years is too long.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Mrs. Rogala: During all this time, his brother, he's got a younger brother, was also in the Navy. Tell him that story, that they wouldn't allow him to go on a ship because of you.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah, he was going to get orders to the USS Enterprise, but they turned him back, because I was in North Korea. They wouldn't put him on a ship. They kept him in San Diego. Two people in the same family being in...

Cornelius O'Shea:

Harm's way.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So he just completed his service without incident or without any issues?

Richard J. Rogala:

Right, yeah. They just kept him stateside. Mrs. Rogala: His parents went through a lot having him as a POW. They couldn't handle another one, you know, something happening to the other one. So, they kept him stateside in San Diego, correct?

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Mrs. Rogala: Yeah. Matter of fact, he heard about the capture of the Pueblo first, before your parents did, right?

Richard J. Rogala:

He worked nights at a place in Park Ridge called Centel Phone Company. And he heard it on the news like at 3 0' clock in the morning. So, he called them, woke them up from their sleep. Mrs. Rogala: Before anyone else.

Richard J. Rogala:

Before the media or before anybody contacted them, or anything. That's how they found out.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Did your dad think you would be coming home sooner than you did or--

Richard J. Rogala:

I don't know. I think everybody kind of did. Mr. Rogala, Sr.: I don't remember now.

Richard J. Rogala:

It was a hard time for you, though. Mr. Rogala, Sr.: Yeah. Mrs. Rogala: And then all of Niles was behind them, hoping that he would come home soon. And his mom wrote letters to anybody and everybody she could think of to get the government to get these guys out. And like he said, it wasn't until Nixon was elected, and Nixon having those close ties to China, and now finding out that maybe China was involved, it was like we'd better get those guys out of there. Nixon is in here, so-- but his mom wrote lots and lots of letters all over the place to everybody and anybody that would read it.

Richard J. Rogala:

Correct. She wrote a letter to the president of National Tea. That's how I got that scholarship. Right.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So what school did you decide to go to?

Richard J. Rogala:

I'm a graduate of Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, 1973.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Broncos.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yep. Yep.

Cornelius O'Shea:

What did you major in, business, or?

Richard J. Rogala:

Food distribution, which was the supermarket business.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Had you worked in a Jewel before you--

Richard J. Rogala:

Uh-huh. I worked in the National, yeah. I worked at Harlem & Irving and Golf Mill Shopping Center. That's when I came back. They put me in that store for training, before I moved on to other things, and went to college after that.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, and then the veterans' associations, you belong to some of those or--

Richard J. Rogala:

Oh, yeah. I belong to Veterans of Foreign Wars in Elk Grove. I'm also a member of Disabled Veterans and Ex-POWs. I do go to meetings of Ex-POWs in Batavia.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, we don't have anything planned, but if there was an opportunity to speak at the Library, you'd be willing to, you wouldn't mind doing that either, possibly?

Richard J. Rogala:

It would be very informal.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

Like this.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

It would be questions and answers, and that kind of stuff. I could just give a synopsis, a little bit of what happened, and then questions from there.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

Usually, there are a lot of questions that do come up.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Usually at this stage of the interview, we ask the veteran if their-- how their experience in the military changed their lives. Do you think being in the--well, I would imagine it did, because you're still aware of this all the time.

Richard J. Rogala:

It changed my life a lot-- a lot of different aspects. Mrs. Rogala: You grew up very fast.

Richard J. Rogala:

You grow up real fast when you're twenty years old. Everything then in life is more serious.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

Going to college was important. I talked to people that I looked up to, and they said, "Hey, college is important. Study hard." "Change your life that way." And then just going through life every day with thoughts that come into the picture day in and day out of the incident-- I mean, I didn't eat rice for twenty years. Mrs. Rogala: He won't touch a turnip.

Richard J. Rogala:

Turnips I won't touch. We had turnips, rice, and bread. That was our diet for eleven months. I lost 40 pounds, from 170 to 130.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Wow, your parents must have--

Richard J. Rogala:

I lost a lot of weight, but I was starting to gain weight as I went into the military, so part of that was good to take off. There was one guy that lost 90 pounds, though. It changes your life and you just don't know when something is going to come up, though. I mean now--

Cornelius O'Shea:

To trigger something, yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

It just triggers all kinds of different incidents. In every given week, if you talk to me, you go out and there will be nothing, but then the week after, something with North Korea, and something to talk about. And as you get older, you-- Mrs. Rogala: He won't watch any type of war movies. They just-- they affect him too much. And, every now and then, he'll dream at night. And I will hear, you know, yelling, and I know it is related to that, because it only happens when something is on the news that upsets him, and then, that night, he'll-- he doesn't realize it, but I do, and it's like, Oh, God, you know.

Richard J. Rogala:

The start of the war that we're currently in, the Iraqi War, that turned out to be a real nightmare for me.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. With those prisoners. Yeah. Mrs. Rogala: What was her name, Jessica?

Richard J. Rogala:

That really drove me crazy. Everything was coming back to light. Somebody's in there, and she was captured, and then how they got her out. Everything would come to light. They would say, this is happening, this is happening. Oh, this is what happened to me. This is what happened to me. And then I was up half the night thinking about all this. Yeah. And then I started having this problem with breathing, and they can't find nothing wrong with me. I've had the VA do several tests. And they can't find nothing wrong with me. I have a breathing problem, and it all started right at that time with the Iraqi War. I went to the emergency room. "I can't breathe." Well, they did every test imaginable, and I still got that sensation, and nobody knows what it is. It could be connected. I don't know. It's pronounced. And I don't know. It's been on and off. I'm seeing a psychiatrist to go over that. When I think things are better, I stop.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

And it's really a need when there's a lot of stuff going on.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

When stuff comes up about North Korea, it's very intense.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Well, we're honored that you came in to give your memoir today.

Richard J. Rogala:

Thank you.

Cornelius O'Shea:

It can't be completely pleasant, some of the stuff you're thinking about. So, thank you. Mrs. Rogala: Therapeutically, It's good for him.

Richard J. Rogala:

When they go to the reunions, some of the guys won't talk about it at all, and they're the ones that are having the worst time.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Mrs. Rogala: Whereas there are some, about half or three quarters, will sit and talk about it. Oh, remember this, remember that. (Mrs. Rogala)

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Mrs. Rogala: Remember the nurse, whatever her name was. Remember that guy, and then I'll say to him, you never told me about that. He blocks or blocked a lot out. That was his way of coping with what happened, correct?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes. At the last reunion a year ago, we had this couple from Oregon that came. They were invited to our reunion. They are the people that are taking care of-(nobody in their family is doing it.) so they started doing it, Wayne Hodge's grave. It was all weeds and everything. They took an interest in starting to take care of it and put flowers there and made it look real nice. There's a connection there, somebody in the family, these are friends of somebody in the family. But, anyways, they wanted to come to our reunion, so we invited them. And the day we got there, after a couple of hours or so, they started shooting all these questions at us. There was like twelve of us sitting in a circle and we were answering all these questions. all these questions at us. There was like twelve of us sitting in a circle and we were answering all these questions.

Cornelius O'Shea:

This was last year?

Richard J. Rogala:

Pueblo, Colorado. Yeah, in Pueblo. At the reunion. So they had nothing to do with the Pueblo. They were friends.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Just happened to--, yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

And they took care of the grave. And they brought us pictures of what the grave looked like

Cornelius O'Shea:

He didn't get a medal for valor or anything, Mr. Hodges?

Richard J. Rogala:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Cornelius O'Shea:

He gave his life to protect us. Mrs. Rogala: And they kept him. He was released with the crew, in a casket.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah. But we have a USS Pueblo Veterans Association, a nonprofit organization. We, through the years, received monies from some of the politicians who came to our reunions, etc. In Pueblo, Colorado, if you go to the convention center downtown, there are plaques outside of there with all of our names on it. This was how many years, four years ago or something? It was six. Six years ago, they commemorated-- there was a statue, and then with names of all of us there. Mrs. Rogala: They had a huge rock.

Richard J. Rogala:

Big rock with our names on it. That's kind of neat. And when the ship comes back some day. We have land donated for us to put it. It's going to go there. Mrs. Rogala: They're going to dig, and put water in there, and put the ship in the water.

Richard J. Rogala:

The land's been given to us. It's been donated to us.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Wow. Was the ship named for Pueblo, Colorado? Oh, I get it.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes, we had several reunions there. The first one was like on Fourth of July. They had a ticker tape parade on the Fourth of July years ago. But we didn't have reunions for twenty years. Nobody wanted to relive this for a long time. Reunions came later on. And I didn't even want to associate when I was younger. Mrs. Rogala: There are still some guys that will not come to them, period.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes, they never came to a reunion, because they want no part of thinking about it again. It would be too traumatic.

Cornelius O'Shea:

There's another reunion you mentioned scheduled for this year. Mrs. Rogala: Next year.

Richard J. Rogala:

In September, 2008. In Burlington, Vermont.

Cornelius O'Shea:

In Burlington, Vermont. And you mentioned something interesting about a play being held...

Richard J. Rogala:

Right

Cornelius O'Shea:

...developed, or written and performed.

Richard J. Rogala:

Right. They're going to do the play for us in Vermont, and then they're going to do it in Washington, D.C. for the general public. And they're going to see how it goes, and they may take it around the country. It will be the second time ever. They had a play in 1971 in Washington, D.C. for a while on the Pueblo. And was a movie in the early seventies. I don't know if you remember the movie. Mrs. Rogala: Hal Holbrook. Hal Holbrook played Commander Bucher.

Richard J. Rogala:

Bucher, yeah.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Is it a good film? Mrs. Rogala: It's a one man biography. It's Bucher just sitting there, Hal Holbrook just sitting at a table as Bucher reminiscing about the whole thing. And then flashback pictures of the crew and like the signing, and the Bridge of No Return, they would flash pictures like that.

Richard J. Rogala:

I've got a DVD that has the movie on it. It has several of our recent reunions, and it has the North Korean tour of the Pueblo. McClintoch who works for a radio station put this together. Mrs. Rogala: He combined them all onto a DVD.

Richard J. Rogala:

So, I have the DVD. Mrs. Rogala: There's a lot of information still coming out. Some of the crew have passed away. How many are dead now, eight or ten?

Richard J. Rogala:

Eight Eight. Eight have passed away, out of the eighty-two, so there's still, like you said, they were all younger, so there's still quite a few left.

Cornelius O'Shea:

With this play coming out, and more and more information, and maybe documents become declassified in time, we get more of the real-- more people will know what the true story probably was? Mrs. Rogala: That's what we're guessing.

Richard J. Rogala:

If you have an e-mail address, I can send you some info on it.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Oh, sure.

Richard J. Rogala:

If you want to give me that.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

It was great returning to the U.S. at the San Diego Airport. Mrs. Rogala: When you got here, it was something else. You had a real, a lot of people involved.

Richard J. Rogala:

John Wayne. Mrs. Rogala: Oh, he's got pictures with Zsa Zsa Gabor and John Wayne. Mr. Rogala, Sr.: What's the lady's name? Mrs. Rogala: Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Richard J. Rogala:

Zsa Zsa Gabor. John Wayne. John Wayne. All sorts of pictures. Yeah, the song by the Tijuana Brass was our theme song. Mrs. Rogala: "The Lonely Bull."

Richard J. Rogala:

"The Lonely Bull," that was our theme song. They were at our reunion when we had the dance, when we came back to San Diego. John Wayne was there. The Tijuana Brass was there.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Wow.

Richard J. Rogala:

I received an autographed album that the Tijuana Brass. It was a great dinner-dance. Yeah. As you get older, you can't remember what you do yesterday, but you remember a lot of this stuff, because it's fond memories. Or it is excruciating, one or the other. Yeah, it's... Mrs. Rogala: And again, as he talks about it, he remembers more, and that's good therapy for him. Mr. Rogala, Sr.: Remember we went to the airport to pick you up. We were escorted by the police department.

Richard J. Rogala:

Oh. Skaja's provided the limousine, yeah, right here at O'Hare Airport. Mrs. Rogala: Well, you were the only one from this town so it was a big story.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Have you lived here a long time?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yes

Cornelius O'Shea:

I lived on the north side of Chicago, so I know a little bit about the northern suburbs. Where did you live?

Richard J. Rogala:

Belmont and Milwaukee A venue.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yes.

Richard J. Rogala:

I moved out here to Niles when I was like eighteen.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah. Mrs. Rogala: Just before you were drafted-- or just before you enlisted.

Richard J. Rogala:

A year or two before that, yeah. Mrs. Rogala: That's interesting.

Cornelius O'Shea:

The question comes to my mind; did religion help to get the men to survive in that period?

Richard J. Rogala:

For me, hell, yeah, oh, yeah.

Cornelius O'Shea:

They always say there are no atheists in foxholes.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah, definitely played a part.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah, it's when you're fired upon, you don't know where the bullets are going, that brings you right there, and then it went on from there. That's where it started. You thought you were going to die. But it was a personal thing. It wasn't anything--

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

...that we all did together. Mrs. Rogala: The threat of being shot in the morning really, for him, really turned him to God. He prayed a lot, because that's how they would control these guys is to threaten them with stuff like that, right?

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah. That came out. I brought that up in an interview at a reunion. The Pueblo Chieftain ran us front page every day for our reunion last year when we were down there. And in one of them, I happened to be in the picture, the guy asked me about life over there. It was kind of funny, because I said, "Yeah, I was going to be shot at dawn." And the others started laughing. "Yeah, you, like the rest of us." It was all of us. Mrs. Rogala: That's how they threatened them.

Richard J. Rogala:

They did it to all of us, like twice to me, and I don't know--

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah, the first time.

Richard J. Rogala:

They were going to shoot all of us at dawn, but nobody broke. That was the neat thing about it. Nobody really cracked. There were a couple of rumbles about stuff, but I don't think they were senous.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

One of the crew I heard did a little talking; he's never come to a reunion or anything. He passed away a few years ago, but I don't know if they kind of broke him down. He was a little-- one of the older people, so he probably had a rough time. Mrs. Rogala: That's why he never came to the reunion.

Richard J. Rogala:

That's why he wouldn't want to, yeah. There was one person, but, other than that, I don't think they really broke anyone down. They tried all kinds of methods. They tried once with, we called it the Gypsy Tea Room, they had food and drinks, like we were going to a banquet. And then they were saying, they started asking us about, "You think you might want to live here? We can give you a new car, any kind you want. Where do you want to live, you pick it." Then they have all of this foods and drinks in front of them. No, thanks. Mrs. Rogala: Then they look out the window and see the poverty.

Richard J. Rogala:

They paraded us all in, like two or three at a time. They gave us a little party for an hour or two.

Cornelius O'Shea:

The picture...

Richard J. Rogala:

They gave us a beer, too. We were drinking a beer, you know. They figured it would loosen us up. I think they tried everything, you know. It was like--

Cornelius O'Shea:

That famous picture where you were giving the Hawaiian good luck sign--

Richard J. Rogala:

Uh-huh.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Who took that picture? How did that picture get into Time or Newsweek? Did they--

Richard J. Rogala:

They took pictures of us to send back home to prove that we were okay.

Cornelius O'Shea:

So, did you all do that, or just one of you, or--

Richard J. Rogala:

There were a couple in each of the pictures. No, not all of us. A couple of the guys in each of the pictures.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Were they officers?

Richard J. Rogala:

No. Just various people. I wasn't one that did that. I didn't have enough gall to do that.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Yeah.

Richard J. Rogala:

No. It was printed in Time and Newsweek magazines. Mrs. Rogala: Right, but how did they get the picture? Whoever that picture was sent to, somebody gave it to-- Security members gave it to...

Richard J. Rogala:

They picked up on it. Obviously, it was a great story. It was a great front page story for those kind of magazines. Mrs. Rogala: But North Korea got hold of it.

Richard J. Rogala:

Through Britain or somewhere, through a third country, it came back to them. Oh, man, they weren't too happy! And, to this day, when they have a reunion, the guys all get together.

Cornelius O'Shea:

That's good! Mrs. Rogala: Pictures taken with that. It's like their symbol. Mr. Rogala, Sr.: They called us up, and they came and picked us up, and took us to Navy Pier, I believe, and they showed us you, you know, the picture that they had of you. Nobody had it yet. We just got it. And it was at Navy Pier.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Wow. Are you in that picture, the one that Time magazine printed? Are you in that particular group? No?

Richard J. Rogala:

No. They were some officers. I think there was a combination. I'm not sure who was in that, because there were several pictures that were like that. I wasn't in any--the one I was in, I don't know if it even had the finger in it or not. It would be in the scrapbooks. He's got two scrapbooks about this big, like this, that his mother did from the time he was captured until the time he was released. So it might be in one of those.

Cornelius O'Shea:

And next year at the reunion in Burlington, Vermont, you'll probably have, you probably get to salute again, right? Mrs. Rogala: Absolutely. Forty years later. They did it in Branson. They did it in Vegas. They did it in Pueblo.

Richard J. Rogala:

Yeah. We try to have a reunion like every couple of years now.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Well, we salute youfor coming in today, and--

Richard J. Rogala:

Nice to be here.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Is there anything you'd like to add at this point that we haven't covered, or that you think is important?

Richard J. Rogala:

Nothing I can think of now.

Cornelius O'Shea:

Thank you for a historical, engaging, fascinating interview. And to have your family here adds a dimension to it, so--

Richard J. Rogala:

Right.

Cornelius O'Shea:

I'm really privileged. This will be a great memoir, very informative. Thank you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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