Since the Museum opened up we’ve had the pleasure of one visitor mention he was at Ramey (Borinquen Field) in 1939, that is until today.
A visitor casually walked into the Museum and as usual was welcomed by one of our volunteers. Before we were able to greet him properly he said, “I was here in 39”, let me take a look around. Well …we couldn’t wait for him to finish looking around and boy did he take a look around. As far as the Museum volunteers was concerned there was no way he was leaving the premises without asking him a million questions and hearing his story.
His name is Agustin Martinez, originally from San Sebastian. His godfather was part of the crew laying the cast iron pipes for the base to be. Agustins godfather was able to get him a job in 1939 as a “plumber’s helper” and was entered into the base payroll at the age of 14!!!. “My real job was water and food bearer”. In between these tasks he was also assigned as a messenger boy. “This was all on foot; I did not have a bicycle”. Agustin remembers the pipe trenches being dug out the old fashion way, with picks, shovels and a lot of sweat equity. Heavy equipment was at a premium and priority was given to the runway and hangar construction.
He watched as the hangars grew out of nothing and was present when the first B-18 Bolos arrived at Borinquen Field. He also saw the 155mm Coastal Defense Guns as they paraded down “Hangar Road” every 4th of July. “There was so much activity I wondered why Punta Borinquen did not break off the corner of the Island”.
When he turned 18 he was drafted into the Army. He grabbed the tail end of WWII but was in the thick of it in Korea. He was part of the 65th Infantry Regiment, an all P.R. regiment of the time. Never being in any weather colder than 60° he could not believe how anyone could survive, let alone fight in sub zero temperatures, but he did. Agustine retired in 1965 after 20 years of service.
But his story does not end here.
In 1966 he moved to Aguadilla and worked at the MATS transient hangar at Ramey AFB. Of all things he was involved in the closing of Ramey in 1973. He was part of the team who actually took inventory and physically put padlocks around the Base. “There were houses fully furnished and emptied out warehouses packed with cars, jeeps and all sorts of trucks”. “They were all inventoried and padlocked”.
Agustine was so thrilled that anyone would keep the history of Ramey alive, let alone in a Museum, that he immediately joined the RAFBHA and put some “dinero” into the donation jar. Augustine’s daughter was so excited by her father’s accounts of the Museum that she visited the facilities the following Saturday. They are now planning a full family visit so “grandpa” can tell the kids what he did at the tender age of 14.
Now 86 Agustine wants to be involved in all the “reconnaissance” we do around the base for “Museum documentation purposes”. I believe if we were to forget to take him along we would be FUBARed in an orderly military fashion by Mr. Agustine.
By the way Augustine’s wheels is a 1971 GMC “Caballero”, Google that one.