Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: 1951

It’s not a "forgotten war"

If we never forget.

Once Upon A War – Jeffrey Miller Looks Back

Once Upon A War – Jeffrey Miller Looks Back

South to Massacre Valley — Hoengsong County, South Korea

Leaving Changbong-ni (where the beginning of War Remains takes place), this is the main highway leading to Massacre Valley in the south and beyond that, Hoengsong.

Honored

Today I was honored with the comments left by the son of a Korean War veteran who discovered my post about the US Second Infantry Division monument at Hoengsong and the battle that was fought there in February 1951.

His father served with the 38th Infantry Regiment and fought in the battle that I described in my novel.

He wanted to know the exact location of the monument because he is planning to visit Korea on the 60th anniversary of some of the battles his father fought in during the war.

I am honored because that was one of my original intentions all along, when I first started writing War Remains, was that I wanted to honor all Korean War veterans and their loved ones and especially, those who served with the US Second Infantry Division and the 38th Infantry Regiment.

Netherlands’ UN Participation Monument — Hoengsong, South Korea

Located in Hoengsong, South Korea is the Netherlands’ UN Participation Monument to commemorate the contributions of Netherlands during the Korean War. The Netherlands battalion played a key role in the defense of Hoengsong in February 1951 which allowed elements of the US Second Infantry Division and ROK units to withdraw to safety after having gotten through “Massacre Valley.”

 

During the Korean War 120 men from the Netherlands lost their lives including the commander of the battalion at Hoengsong.

This monument, and others like it in South Korea were the brain child of Lee Kap-chong who wanted to do something to remember the countries who came to South Korea’s aid during the Korean War.

Each of the monuments, which are located in and around the areas where military units from these countries fought, has a unique design to symbolize both the country and the war effort.

 

In War Remains, there is a mention of this battalion which defended Hoengsong and allowed the 38th Infantry Regiment to withdraw to safety.

A war was once fought here

“Massacre Valley” — Hoengsong, South Korea

Earlier this month, I went to Hoengsong north of Wonju to visit “Massacre Valley” a Korean War battlefield that was the sight of a major battle from February 11-13, 1951 and one that figured prominently in my novel.

This a monument/memorial dedicated to the US Second Infantry Division

The inscription on the back of the monument/memorial

There’s an interesting sidebar to my trip to Hoengsong to visit this monument. I had no idea where it was located; I had come across a photo of it in the Korean War book, Wonju: The Gettysburg of the Korean War. I kind of figured that the monument/memorial would be located somewhere in “Massacre Valley” but I wasn’t sure where. While riding in a car, heading north through the valley, I just happened to glance to my left when I saw the monument/memorial on a small bluff overlooking a stream bed.

Genesis of a novel


One day, in September 2009, I was thinking about these articles I had written for the Korea Times back in 2000 and 2001 when I was covering various commemorative events for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Korean War was when I first started thinking about writing War Remains.

In particular, I thought about three articles I had written in May 2001 when some Second Infantry Division Korean War veterans came back to Korea to commemorate the Battle of Chipyong-ni. (The Battle of Chipyong-ni would become a turning point in the Korean War, especially for the US Second Infantry Division which had been severely defeated just two-and-a-half months earlier at Kunu-ri.) I accompanied the veterans to the Chipyong-ni battlefield as well as to the War Memorial Museum and a Repatriation Ceremony at Yongsan, headquarters of the Eighth Army.

With the 60th anniversary of the Korean War approaching, I wanted to something more than what I had done from 2000-2003 when I covered many of the commemorative events for the Times. Back then, it was easy for me to write as many articles as I did because I lived in Seoul, lived close to the Times’ office, and had many contacts. This time though, it wouldn’t be as easy—especially living in Daejeon.

At first, I thought about compiling all those articles I wrote on the Korean War commemoration events and put them into a book. I also planned to introduce each of these articles with a short essay, “the story behind the story” as it were.

However, maybe there was another way, I thought. “Wait a minute, maybe I could take these articles, glean what I could from them, and write a novel instead?”

And that’s when I came up with the idea for what would become War Remains. One of the articles I had written about the Chipyong-ni visit became the genesis for the novel. In addition, my interview with Oscar Cortez (on the bus to Chipyong-ni with veterans and their spouses), who was captured by the Chinese at Hoengsong on February 12, 1951 and spent the rest of the war in a Chinese POW camp, also served as an inspiration for the novel.

I knew right from the start what I wanted to write, how the novel would begin and how it would end.

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