CSM Jose “Pepe” Figueroa-Casos (Ret.)
CSM Jose “Pepe” Figueroa-Casos (Ret.) passed away on January 5, 2006 at his home in Marina , California . Pepe served with the 65th in Puerto Rico . During the Korean War, he served with the 65th as Operations Sergeant, 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry RCT. He was promoted to Command Sergeant Major (CSM) while on duty with an Army Transportation Battalion in Germany . Submitted by his friend, SFC Carlos Ruiz (Ret.)
REUNITING 2 VETS AFTER 50 YEARS!
Amongst the photographs published in the December 2000 issue of this newsletter, CSM Jose “Pepe” Figueroa Casos recognized a friend he hadn’t seen since Korea …SFC Carlos Ruiz. This past summer the two were finally reunited. Ruiz was the 65th Inf. Regt. Photographer and Figueroa was the Operations Sgt. for HQ Co, 2nd Bn, 65th Inf. They served in Korea from Sept ’50 – Fall ’51.
When the two men reunited in Greensboro , NC this past June, they embraced and “smiled from ear to ear”, according to Carlos. Their wives, Liza and Maggie, had been neighbors in Cayey while the two men were off at war – they were overwhelmed with joy. They had not seen each other in 50 years. Before shipping off to Korea in Aug. 1950, they all recalled the happy days and gatherings in Cayey. Both men sat down to look at old photographs from Carlos’ collection and reminisce. They remembered Operation Portrex where the 65th Regt, commanded by Col. Harris, scored a victory over the 3rd Inf Division (ironically, the 65th Regt was attached to the 3rd just a few months later in Korea). Both men were there and agreed the experience was vital to the 65th’s success in the ebb and flow of the Korean War in ’50 and ’51.
One day aboard the USS Lynx in Panama , a soldier fell to his death when the men rushed to the dockside of the ship to listen to a band play. Pepe says this was the first 65th casualty. Carlos was surprised; he had always thought the first casualties were the 2 men killed when their jeep hit a landmine on the 1st day in Korea . During the 65th’s move north in the Fall of ’50, they recalled the landings at Wonsan , circling in the LSTs, and how there was no North Korean opposition until they went inland. The photos revealed the 65th’s first action against Chinese forces, covering the Marine’s withdrawal to the port of Hungnam – the snapshot of the last evacuated 65th troops on Christmas Eve ’50 – the bitter cold and lack of winter clothing; the 16″ guns of the Missouri blasting away far off in the last days.
They recognized so many faces in the pictures and recalled how proud they were in those days, despite the hardships of war. Pepe retired from the Army as a Command Sgt. Major after a distinguished 30-year career. He also served in Germany . He now lives with his wife in Monterrey , CA . After the war, Carlos served as the NCO-in-charge of the Antilles Lab at Ft. Brooke , P.R., then the Pentagon for 10 yrs, returning to Korea for a tour in 1963. He retired from the Army after 20 years of service and now lives with his wife in Falls Church , VA. Both men are veterans of WWII.
Written by Paul Clark, proud grandson of SFC Carlos Ruiz.