“We Know What Freedom Is”: A Cuban Immigrant Flying For America In Vietnam

Raul Dominguez


Raul Dominguez was born in Havana, Cuba on December 15, 1945. His father owned a furniture store and did interior decorating. His mother was a housewife. When the communist revolution took over Cuba on January 1, 1959, Raul’s family lost their furniture store and their wealth. At the age of 15, in 1960, Raul fled Cuba for the Canary Islands where his father was born. The next year, he journeyed to Madrid and from there to New York City, eventually settling in Miami. When he first arrived in America, he did not speak English, but he worked in his sister’s Cuban restaurant and learned enough to get by. When he was nineteen, his parents saved enough money for him to get his private pilot’s license. In November, 1965, he enlisted in the Army and wanted to become a pilot. He reflects on his basic training experience and some of the racism he experienced. He had to fight to get into flight school but eventually earned the opportunity. Even though he already knew how to fly a plane, he found helicopters to be a challenge. When he deployed to Vietnam in August 1967, he was assigned to D Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, in the 1st Infantry Division. He recalls flying different types of missions, noting that every extraction was “hot.” At night, he dropped flares to assist sharpshooters with night scopes. He became eligible for citizenship in 1967 and received his citizenship in 1970, describing it as “one of the proudest moments in my life.” In this interview, Raul describes how the communists took over businesses, land, and eventually took over the small business owner’s shops and changed the money so the saved wealth in old currency was useless. He reflects on surviving the Tet Offensive and being mortared every day. He discusses orders aircrews received to shoot military-aged males who were in free-fire zones, and his crew’s reaction to those orders. At the end of the interview, he reflects on what service and his deployment to Vietnam mean to him.


conflicts Vietnam War Cold War
topics Leadership Teamwork Courage Wartime Decisions War in the Air Camaraderie Returning from War
interviewer David Siry
date 12 August 2022


name Raul Dominguez
service Aviation
unit D Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division
specialty Eastern Airlines DC 9
service dates 1965 1971