Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Books on the Korean War (page 1 of 2)

Hoengsong and “Massacre Valley” — February 12, 1951

I first learned about Hoengsong and “Massacre Valley” when I read Stanley Sandler’s Korean War history, No Victors, No Vanquished in 2000, but it wasn’t until May 2001, when I had the chance to sit down with Oscar Cortez, when I learned more about “Massacre Valley” and what happened to elements of the 2nd Infantry Division.

When I started to write my Korean War novel War Remains in the fall of 2009, I remembered that interview I had with Oscar on our way to another Korean War battlefield, Chipyong-ni when he described the battle he was in north of Hoengseong in February 1951. That’s when I knew how my novel would begin and end and one of the battles which would figure prominently in the book. I wanted readers to know about this battle and to remember the men who lost their lives there.

This is anotheMassacre Valley Nov 6 2010 012r view of the valley and the monument which was dedicated to the United States Second Infantry Division (which is still stationed in South Korea). That’s another irony of this so-called “forgotten war.” One of the divisions which fought in the war, is still here and ready to fight.

And let’s not forget that there are still over 7,900 American service members from that war still listed as MIAs.

Of course, for the family members still waiting for their loved ones to come from that war, it has never been a forgotten war for them.

Three of my Facebook friends and their families are waiting for their loved ones to come home. One of those friends lost an uncle in this very same battle.

Massacre Valley Nov 6 2010 003

It’s been almost four years since I published this novel about the Korean War. I am proud of it and the lives it has touched.

Talking Points

Next week I am scheduled to take part in this Internet radio program, Positively Pittsburgh Live to talk about War Remains with other MWSA (Military Writers Society of America) Korean War Book Award nominees.
It’s an hour-long show and I am looking forward to the chance to talk about my novel. It’s an honor to be nominated the first year this award is being offered.

I am supposed to come up with some “talking points.” Not really sure what kind of “talking points” I could come up with other than, how I’ve discovered this so-called “forgotten war” with the writing that I have done. To be sure, how I learned about the Korean War is not that much different than what Michael learns about the war as he tries to find out what happened to his grandfather, Bobby.

And it all goes back to February 2000, when I was standing in the Kyobo Centre in Seoul with that copy of Retrieving Bones in my hand. If it hadn’t been for that book, I probably would have never written about the Korean War commemorations from 2000-2003. Who knows, right? And if I had never covered any of those commemorative events, I would have never learned as much as I would about the war, and meet Korean War veterans like Raymond Davis, Philip Day (Task Force Smith) Ed Fernandez, Lou Jurado, and Oscar Cortez.

I guess I have some talking points after all.

War Remains Nominated for two MWSA Book Awards

My Korean War novel, War Remains has been nominated for two awards by MWSA, the Military Writers Society of America: Special Korean War Book Award for 2011 and the Military-Army Award for 2011.

Winners will be announced on October 1st at the MWSA National Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

I am honored and humbled to be among the list of nominees this year.

Glowing Praise for War Remains

Today I received advanced notice of a book review of War Remains for MWSA (Military Writer’s Society of America), which will appear in their monthly journal within the next 2-3 months.

All I can say is, wow.

War Remains by Jeffrey Miller is an excellent read.  Never having been a history buff due to teachers and professors who made it less than enjoyable for me, I am truly grateful for authors like Mr. Miller who can take me through the Korean War days in a way that attaches it to people and emotions and the reality of how it affected families.

When I think about the title War Remains I asked myself as I was reading it, just what the author had in mind.  The title can certainly have multiple meanings.  The obvious seems to be that many of our military were left behind in Korea and families were told they were MIA and unless their remains were to be found and identified, that would continue to be their classification.  From my research, it appears that we have MIA status for approximately 10,000 of our military.  One fifth of those are from Vietnam, and the other four-fifths from the Korean War. Have I ever once given thought about the family members that have been affected in this way? I’m ashamed to say that I don’t think so.  War Remains has touched me in a very special way.

This book led me to research what has been happening for these families.  Hence, to me, the title can also mean that this war remains in the hearts of the survivors.  Jeffrey Miller’s book will open the hearts and the eyes of those who have lived their lives unaffected by the Korean War.  I thank him for that gift.  It should also prove as a source of hope for families still waiting to have closure.

Mr. Miller begins his book with the discovery of a trunk in an attic.  This trunk then finds its way to the son of Sgt. First Class Robert (Bobby) Francis Washkowiak, Ronnie Washkowiak.  The trunk contains many letters from Bobby to his wife, Mary, and their infant son, Ronnie.  When Bobby heads off to war, it is his small beloved family that keeps him going through his time in Korea.  The book uses his many letters, which are then read by Ronnie, and his son, Michael to take us to the time and place when Bobby is writing the letters to his beloved wife.  In this way, we see the side of war from the Korean War happenings which the author does a superb job of writing, telling readers about what the GIs in Korea were facing and about the many battles and the fact that the Korean War is called a “forgotten war.”  Then we move back to present day, when Bobby’s family is always wondering what happened to their father, grandfather, and husband. Just how long should a young woman with a young son hold out hope for her loved one to return?  How long should one wait to accept that your husband has probably been killed?  Mr. Miller does a superb job of transitioning back and forth between time frames.

Mr. Miller has very successfully written a story that shines light onto what many American families have experienced.  It is a beautiful love story, shown through the many letters from Bobby to Mary.  It is a war story, in that we see the Korean War up close and personal, through Bobby and his GI buddies.  We see our military heroes returning to the States never knowing what happened to buddies that they had gotten close to during their service to our country.  It is not always easy reading when you encounter the Chinese in the rice paddies in the deep of night.  But it is encouraging to know that some families have received closure when DNA has been matched to the remains of their loved one. 

I highly recommend War Remains to readers…this book has touched me deeply and is sticking with me both in my mind and my heart days after completing it.  War Remains is a very impressive first novel for Jeffrey Miller.

Task Force Smith Memorial — Osan, South Korea

Ahead of the 61st anniversary of Task Force Smith on July 5th, I went to Osan today to visit the memorial dedicated to the US task force, which was sent from Japan to stop the North Korean juggernaut in the opening days of the Korean War.
The first time I visited the memorial was on July 5, 2000 for the 50th anniversary of Task Force Smith, which I wrote about for The Korea Times.

This was my first trip back.

This is one of the inscriptions on the monument:

As the vicious troops of the North Korean Army crossed the 38th Parallel, U.S. troops were ready to fight to preserve freedom of world. Determined to punish the aggressors, Lt. Colonel Smith’s special task force stood on Jukmi Pass. Supported by the 17th of the Republic of Korean Army, the first Korean and UN forces joint operation commenced. Blood formed a stream after over six hours of fierce struggle. Firing lines stretched as far as the Naktong River. While forlorn souls sleep on this hill, how can we forget our friendship with allied nations created in blood?

Approximately 181 Americans out of the 540 men in the task force were either killed, wounded or captured during the seven hours of battle against over 20,000 North Koreans and over 30 Russian T-34 tanks.

In Chapter 7 of War Remains, I write about the battle. In Chapter 9, I write about Bobby’s first time in battle, which is based on a short story about the aftermath of The Battle of Osan.

June 25, 1950

When news of the Korean War hit the streets across America in the summer of 1950, there wasn’t the rush to run down to your local recruitment station to sign up—not like the great patriotic appeal that had occurred just nine years earlier when Pearl Harbor had been attacked. 

Korea? Where’s that?

America had just gotten over a war and had settled into a peri­od of prosperity; now another war, this one in some far-off Asian country was about to threaten that prosperity and equilibrium.

And when people began to follow the news from another front, it wasn’t good. From the moment the first troops were sent to Korea from Japan, the once mighty military machine that had defeated Germany and Japan just five years before now found it­self literally on the run after being unable to halt the North Korean advance. 

First Osan, then Pyongtaek and Ch’onan fell. Names and places on a map that most Americans could not find but where American blood had been shed. The Inmin Gun juggernaut kept on advancing and rolling over everything in its way. It hadn’t even been called a war yet; Truman had called it a “police action” and the name stuck.

An excerpt from War Remains.

Today is the 61st anniversary of the start of the Korean War.

Remember, “Freedom is not Free.”


Buy My Book…

And remember a forgotten war.

This Saturday, marks the 61st anniversary of the start of the Korean War. One of the reasons why I wrote this novel was that I wanted to remember this forgotten war (a theme which runs through the book) as well as honor all those who fought in the conflict and those who did not come back home.

War Remains is more than just a story about the Korean War, though. It could be about any war and the longing that service members have for home and their loved ones. What makes this story significant is that it is about how one young man, Michael Washkowiak learns about the war and what his grandfather went through during the opening months of the war. 

I wonder how many of us have also come across war mementos from an uncle, older brother, father, or grandfather and wondered what they did and how they survived, or if they died on some foreign battlefield, perhaps some sense of closure.

That’s why I believe this story is a good one.

From now until June 30th, get 20% off the list price by entering the coupon code SUMMERBOOK11 when ordering through Lulu.

A mean little fighter

On display at the War Memorial Museum in Seoul is this simple, yet nasty-looking jet plane, which terrorized the skies over the Korean peninsula during the Korean War.

Yeah, it’s a MiG by golly.

Looks just as menacing here.

For the story about the air battles over the peninsula, I recommend Crimson Sky: The Air Battle for Korea by John R. Bruning.

For the story about one man from the US Second Infantry Division who battles his way through the bitter first winter of the Korean War, longing for home, his wife, and newborn son, there is of course War Remains.

On sale now at Lulu for only 19.76. And until the 31st, 25% off! Just add the code, CYBERMAY when checking out.

A Great Deal From Lulu!

From now until the end of the month, Lulu is offering a great deal on my novel War Remains and other books.

How great is the deal from the folks at Lulu? How does a 25% discount sound? Just enter the code, CYBERMAY when checking out.

And just in time for my birthday, I might also add.

Thanks Lulu!

Why did you write a Korean War novel?

It’s a question I am often asked.

It is usually asked by people who don’t know me too well, don’t know that I have been in Korea for as long as I have, or don’t know that from 2000-2003 I was covering Korean War commemoration events in Korea for the Korea Times.

Actually, the book I am working on now, at least a section of Waking up in the Land of the Morning Calm was going to be my debut book, albeit a non-fiction one when I thought about what kind of writing project I could do for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.

All I know is that I just wanted to do something for the 60th anniversary of the conflict and to honor all those who fought and participated in the war as well as their family members. In a way it was my way of saying “thanks” and honoring all veterans and their families.

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