Cartoonist Yun Tae-ho will run a serial cartoon on the Incheon Landing in the Hankyoreh starting from tomorrow.
The United States considered creating a no man’s land with radioactive nuclear waste halfway across the Korean Peninsula in the early 1950s in an attempt to deter communist aggression, according to a declassified intelligence document.
The memorandum titled “Radiological Warfare” and created on April 20, 1951 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), confirms allegations that the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) reviewed the option of placing radiological agents on a strip of land across the peninsula.
Cryptome, a whistleblower site dedicated to exposing confidential information, posted the sensitive document on its website on Aug. 5.
U.S. media outlets, including the New York Times, alleged in early 1951 that Albert Gore Sr., a state legislator, urged President Harry S. Truman to use radioactive materials to create a belt of territory across Korea that would be unable to support life in the midst of the 1950-53 Korean War.
That Al Gore’s dad proposed this, we already knew—I remember Bruce Cumings writing about it in 2005.
Anyway, here be the document in question.
One of the lesser-told stories of the Korean War:
Eighth Army Commander Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson presented the Exceptional Public Service Award to the family of Kim Jae-hyun during a ceremony June 26, at the Combined Forces Command headquarters here.
A 28-year-old train engineer and father of two, Kim attempted to rescue the 24th Infantry Division commanding general and some of his Soldiers in the enemy-held city of Daejon on July 19, 1950. Kim knew that 24th ID Commander Maj. Gen. William Dean was one of the few American military commanders familiar with Korea’s mountainous terrain.
During the Korean War, trains were a prime target because they were the only mode of ground transportation in some areas on the peninsula. Train engineers like Kim often put themselves at great risk during missions to move troops, supplies and refugees.
In spite of the long odds, Kim volunteered to drive his train behind enemy lines into Daejon with 30 U.S. Special Forces troops on board in an attempt to rescue the stranded Soldiers.
Under intense enemy fire, the rescue team broke through enemy lines and reached Daejon Station. Kim and 27 of the 30 American commandos were killed. Unable to rendezvous with Dean and his 24th ID Soldiers, the bullet-riddled train returned with the three surviving members of the rescue team on board.
I learned about Kim and the battle at Secheon Tunnel while working on a book a couple of years ago. You can visit a small track-side monument dedicated to Kim, outside of Daejeon, and if you’re really ambitious, you can visit the old, disused railway tunnel where Kim’s train was attacked—see also here. What makes it more interesting is the, ahem, slightly differing account of what appears to be the same battle in Appleman’s book—which I believe is the official US Army history of the war—here:
Enemy sniper fire built up sporadically on the road below the pass. From his vantage point Beauchamp saw a locomotive pulling a few cars halted by enemy small arms fire at the tunnel. This locomotive had departed Iwon-ni at 1620, so the time of this incident must have been approximately 1630. Still expecting the 1st Infantry to cover the withdrawal route, Beauchamp decided that the best thing he could do would be to hurry up its arrival. He drove eastward to the command post of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, and from there telephoned the 21st Infantry regimental command post in Okch’on. It chanced that General Menoher was there. He instructed Beauchamp to come on in to Okch’on and give a detailed report.  But again, none of these happenings were known in Taejon.
The locomotive had been sent to Taejon as the result of General Dean’s telephone request to the 24th Division a little earlier. In midafternoon, Captain Hatfield tried to send a rolling supply point of ten boxcars of ammunition out of the Taejon railroad yard to Yongdong. Returning to the rail yard at the northeast side of Taejon, Hatfield discovered that the Korean crew had uncoupled the locomotive from the supply train and fled south in it. It was then that Dean had telephoned the division to dispatch a locomotive immediately to Taejon to pull out this train. The nearest rail yard was at Iwon-ni, fifteen miles southeast of Taejon. Only armed guards had kept the Korean train crews there on the job. Enemy fire on the locomotive from Iwon-ni punctured the water tender.
Though under sniper fire at the railroad yards, Hatfield awaited the arrival of the locomotive. When it pulled into the yards more enemy fire hit it. The engineer said the locomotive was so damaged that it could not pull the train out. To Hatfield’s dismay, the Korean engineer threw the locomotive in reverse and backed speedily southward out of the yard. At the tunnel southeast of Taejon enemy fire again swept over the locomotive and grenades struck it, killing the engineer. The fireman, although wounded, took the train on into Okch’on. Some American soldiers rode the train out of Taejon. According to 24th Division records, the time was 1645. Informed of this untoward incident, Dean again telephoned the division, and at 1700 he received a telephone call that it was sending another locomotive, this time under guard. Dean informed Hatfield of this and the latter waited at the rail yard. Hatfield was killed by enemy soldiers there while waiting for the locomotive that never arrived. The next morning at 0830 a U.S. Air Force strike destroyed the train load of ammunition and supplies still standing in the Taejon rail yard.
In the early morning hours of June 25, 1950, North Korean forces crossed the DMZ to invade South Korea, marking the start of the Korean War.
To read more about the start of the war, click here.
An Indian who served as an officer with a medical unit dispatched to Korea during the Korean War has donated his photos and other materials to the Korean Embassy in New Delhi.
The Northern Limit Line is interesting in that neither ROK nor UN forces seized the islands that define the line. They were seized by bands of North Korean anti-Communist guerrillas known as ‘Donkeys’ to the Americans. These “Dong-il” (Reunification) bands were largely composed of pre-war inhabitants of Hwanghae (Yellow Sea) Province who had fought a delaying action against the Communists in the hard winter of 1951, and withdrawn to the islands, where they refused to join the ROK forces and maintained a two year maritime guerrilla campaign in hopes that their homeland would be retaken by the UNC. To free up guerrilla manpower for operations within Hwanghae Province, the islands were garrisoned by units of the ROK Marine Corps, who remain there to this day.
So the ROK has as much right to hold those islands as the North Koreans do to occupy land below the 38th Parallel. North Korean holdings include present day Haeju, which lies just three kilometers beyond PyeongYeong island (referred to as PY-Do), which is within the NLL and where the Spirit Tablets of the North Korean anti-communist guerrilla bands are located.
Never heard that before, so I took a look around, and found a good piece on the Donkey Unit in the Seoul Shinmun (along with the photo above). Sadly, since they didn’t joint the ROK Army and took their orders directly from the Americans, they’ve become something of a “forgotten unit” in a “forgotten war.”
Also very worth reading is Andy Salmon’s piece for the BBC on the history of the NLL.
And in today’s Hankyoreh, we have not one but two stories about the pain inflicted by the Evil Empire on poor Koreans during the Korean War:
- Bereaved families continue 2,017-day sit-in on Wolmi Island
- U.S.’s Yongsan bombing of 1950 caused 1,587 civilian deaths
And yes, in the signs held up by two of the sit-in strikers in the first story, they call the bombing of Wolmi-do just prior to the launch of the Incheon Landing a “civilian massacre” and call on the United States to publicly apologize and compensate the victims.
OK, two questions:
- Have the French, Belgians, Dutch, et. al., either at the governmental level or at the individual/group level, ever asked for compensation from the British or Americans for losses inflicted by British or US action during World War II? I’m actually asking.
- Why the hell is Incheon spending 28 billion won to build an Incheon Landing memorial park when they already have a) a massive Incheon Landing memorial complex near Songdo* and b) the statue of Gen. MacArthur at Freedom Park?
* The Incheon Landing Memorial in Incheon truly is worth visiting. It’s an imposing place designed by late architectural great Kim Swoo-geun. The funny thing is, here’s this massive monument to anti-communism, and the first thing my wife — a native of formerly communist Mongolia — says is, “Hey, it looks like monuments back home!”
Over at Big Hollywood, Brad Schaeffer is putting together a list of five films for those looking to remember and honor those who fought the Korean War.
So far, he’s got three up — “Tae Guk Ki,” “M*A*S*H” and “The Manchurian Candidate.” Interestingly, “Tae Guk Ki” will be the only one made in the last four decades. I imagine “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” will be added shortly… and if not, it should be.
These photos will appear in an upcoming book on Korean War battle sites and memorials, to be released soon.
Rather nice of him.
Speaking of the war, the Hani ran a story on their front page yesterday about a meeting between two former partisans and a former counter-insurgency commander in Hamyang. Really, one of those pieces only the Hani could write, and if you can get over stuff like, “송씨는 남북의 긴장관계를 두고 “한국은 친일세력이 득세해서 화해가 잘 안돼. 친일을 해서 돈 번 사람들이 반성해야지 나라가 발전하지”라고 목청을 높였다,” it’s really quite interesting.
Problem is, it’s being unveiled in front of the 8th Army Headquarters at Yongsan Garrison… where nobody can see it.
I mean, sure, in theory, the garrison will move and the land will revert to Seoul City, but I’m convinced that several decades from now, my grandchildren will be saying the same thing.
I suppose Walker Hill — named for the general — might have been a more logical spot, but then again, Walker Hill got the Hilltop Bar (now Pizza Hill), an early work by Korean architectural great Kim Swoo-geun (see also here).
All this begs the question, of course: “So, Uncle Marmot, just how many statues of American generals are there in Korea?” Well, as far as I know, two. Everybody knows the MacArthur Statue in Incheon, of course. Fewer know about the statue of Gen. John B. Coulter, erected at what is now Noksapyeong Station in Itaewon in 1959 and moved to Seoul Grand Park in Gwangjin-gu in 1977 to make way for the building of the Namsan 3rd Tunnel. Coulter is probably best known for serving as UN Assistant Secretary-General as head of the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA), which contributed much to South Korea’s post-war reconstruction.
That’s just statues. There are, of course, numerous monuments dedicated to American generals, officers and enlisted men scattered throughout Korea, including this rather solemn one in Yeoju: a memorial to IX Corps commander Gen. Bryant Moore, who died of a heart attack after his helicopter crashed in February 1951:
During the Korean War, under General Matthew Ridgway, he led the IX Corps in Operations Thunderbolt, Killer and Ripper. It was during these operations that General Moore’s helicopter crashed. He died a few hours later from an apparent heart attack after having gotten help for the surviving pilot and crew, on February 24, 1951. The account of his service to America was entered into the United States Congressional Record by Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith. Moore was promoted to the rank of four-star general posthumously.
It’s not all No Gun Ri this summer — also to be released in June is John Lee’s “71: Into the Fire,” which tells the tale of the student soldiers who fought in the desperate battles along the Nakdong Perimeter in August 1950.
If you live in California — and I’m not really sure why you would — you might be able to catch a showing of it at Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center on May 27.
Just what you were looking for to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.
And yes, your Uncle Marmot has the trailer — Canadian accents and all — for your viewing enjoyment:
Remember, children, as director Lee Sang-woo said in 2006, it’s not anti-American, it’s just anti-war!
The press release calls it a film that “conveys the cruel realities of war, as was seen through the perspective of the minjung, through an actual incident.” Great! I just hope the Yanks are wearing top hats, smoking cigars and clutching bags of money while they mow down little kids. Anything less would be a bitter disappointment.
PS: I guess it’s kind of fitting that “Kill Them All” features so prominently on the poster. After all, it was supposedly said by Edward Daily, who it turned out wasn’t even at No Gun Ri.
UPDATE: I suppose the poster could be referring to a quote by 7th Cav vet Joe Jackman in the BBC. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
UPDATE 2: In the comments, GI Korea writes:
What is so detestable about this movie is that we have known for years that it was coming out and this director intentionally picked the 60th anniversary of the war to release it. During the 50th anniversary of the war veterans from the Korean War were slimed by the lies of the originally AP No Gun Ri story and now 10 years later they are being slimed again by the lies of this No Gun Ri movie.
Well, if it’s any consolation, veterans can at least take comfort in the fact that in large part thanks to their blood and tears, South Korea became a nation wealthy and free enough to allow a film director to take a big cinematic dump on their sacrifices.
UPDATE 3: GI Korea posts on the subject — be absolutely sure to read it. Ironically, he also notes the Korean government is subsidizing travel to Korea this year — the 60th anniversary of the Korean War — for Korean War vets. Maybe they can catch Lee’s film while they’re in town.
BTW, if I might quote myself from a 2006 post on this film:
I’m not arguing that topics such as Nogeun-ri or U.S. misdeeds should not be explored by filmmakers. As artists in a democratic society, Korean filmmakers have a duty to explore all aspects of Korea’s past and present. But as Lee clearly points out and as anyone who watched “Dongmakgol” could tell, the films do more than just examine painful incidents pertaining to U.S. history in Korea—they seek to deny any positive role the United States may have played in post-Liberation Korea by constructing fantasy worlds of happy villagers playing in the fields until they were brutally interrupted by the evil Americans and their warlike ways and exploitive capitalism. Even relatively even-handed “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War” does little more than depict North and South as moral equivalents (with U.S. and UN contributions ignored completely)—there was no “good side” or “bad side,” and the question is never addressed whether the men chewed up on screen died for anything at all. With “Dongmakgol” drawing over 8 million viewers (5 million in its first four weeks), its historical viewpoint obviously resonates with a large segment of the general population. And it goes without saying that it does not bode well for the future of the alliance when the peoples involved no longer share a common memory of even the “foundation myth” of the alliance itself.
Or so reports SBS, citing Al Jazeera.
SBS says that according to a document obtained from the US National Archive by the Arab broadcaster, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered a subordinate unit to conduct large-scale field tests in North Korea to learn the effects of a certain pathogen in 1951.
Here’s what the al-Jazeera text (the video is different) says:
A third crucial document – marked “Top Secret” – showed that in September 1951, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff issued orders to begin “large scale field tests… to determine the effectiveness of specific BW [bacteriological warfare] agents under operational conditions.”
If these “field tests” were indeed undertaken, then they may have drawn again on the expertise of the Japanese biological warfare team.
Read the rest on your own. Feel free to watch the video, too, although I sort of droned out after learning from filmmaker Tim Tate that the US “unilaterally divided Korea” in 1946:
Anyway, the documents are posted on the al-Jazeera report. I’m not a military man, but the secret document supposedly ordering field tests in North Korea doesn’t appear to be doing that at all. What I’m seeing, rather, is a list of opinions by a group called the Joint Advanced Study Committee, which I’m guessing was an inter-service study team operating under the Joint Chiefs. Maybe GI Korea or USFK readers can help me out here.
Modesto Cartagena, a winner of the Distinguished Service Cross for “Extraordinary heroism” in the Korean War, passed away at his home in Puerto Rico:
The Puerto Rican soldiers surmounted not only the communist enemy but also prejudicial attitudes.
According to the Denver Post, Brig. Gen. William Harris, the regiment’s commander during the early stages of the Korean War, wrote after the war that he was reluctant to take the post because the Puerto Rican troops were disparaged in the military as a “rum and Coca-Cola outfit.” But, he continued, he came to view them as “the best damn soldiers in that war.”
(HT to reader)