By Kim Steele
Killeen Daily Herald
Antonio Torres didn't need much prompting Saturday to share what he could of his top-secret military tour during the Korean War.
As other Korean War veterans around the table listened in, Torres, 77, of Kempner, described his duties as a member of the Army Security Agency (ASA), an elite group of soldiers performing intelligence operations during the war. Torres and his teammates were hidden in the mountains of North Korea.
"There were 16 of us in the group, and our job was to know what the enemy was doing all the time," said Torres. "We were very important. Intelligence information hadn't been getting to Gen. (Douglas) MacArthur, but when we got behind enemy lines, we gave it to him."
Torres said the ASA was composed of soldiers with high scores on Army intelligence tests, and he was incorporated into the agency after his test results came in. Torres, who served in Korea for 18 months, said that of the 500 ASA members, he was the only Mexican in the unit.
"I'm very proud of what I did in Korea," said Torres. "Me and my group, we saved a lot of lives during the Korean War. We also were responsible for killing a lot of people because we reported the movement of their troops."
Torres was one member of local Korean War Veterans Chapter 222 waiting for the start of the Korean War Veterans Association Texas Department Convention Banquet at Shilo Inn in Killeen. Veterans from across the state gathered to see new KWVA officers inducted and to hear speeches, as well as reminisce with other veterans.
Michael Giccatti, 86, of Killeen, got a chance to talk about his experience as an infantryman on the front line in Korea. Giccatti fought in Korea for a little more than a year. He also served as an infantryman in World War II, where he earned his combat infantry badge.
"I didn't have a choice about fighting in Korea," said Giccatti. "They told us what to do, and we had to protect ourselves. I just tried not to get shot at while I was there. I think we did the right thing by being in Korea, because the South Koreans were nice people and they were persecuted pretty bad."
On the other side of the table, Gerald Cutler of Killeen listened carefully with his good ear to his war buddies' stories. Cutler, 80, lost his hearing in the other ear during 31 years as an artillery gunner, including a 1½-year stint in Korea.
Cutler said he manned a large gun that was towed behind a truck, and he was stationed on the eastern front in a mountainous area called the Punchbowl. Cutler said his gun damaged some of the enemy's equipment, while their guns inflicted damage on U.S. equipment.
"When they said for me to go home, I was glad to get out of the area," said Cutler. "I got shot at, and I was scared something else would come out of the sky at me. When you're 20 years old, you're looking forward to the next day of life. You're not thinking about ending up in a hospital."
Contact Kim Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org.