Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Korean War (page 1 of 19)

All Along the DMZ — Part I

I just finished Barry Lancet’s heart-pounding geopolitical thriller, The Spy Across the Table, and I really enjoyed the scenes which took place in and around the DMZ on the Korean peninsula. Having been there several times, both as a tourist and a feature writer for The Korea Times, I appreciate those authors writing about events on the Korean peninsula who try to incorporate the DMZ into their stories. It is an amazing, surreal place, “freedom’s final frontier” as one military PSA on USFK used to refer to it back in the 1990s. Inspired by Lancet’s book, and President Trump’s last minute unscheduled trip to the DMZ, which was scrubbed due to fog, it prompted me to share my experiences and accounts of the times I visited the DMZ.

Panmunjom006My first trip to Panmunjom and the Joint Security Area (JSA) was on New Year’s Eve, 1996 as part of a USO tour. Interestingly, the day before I went up there, the bodies of the North Korean commandos who were killed during the submarine incursion in September of that year were repatriated to the North.

What was interesting about going on a tour was that after we listened to a presentation about the history of Panmunjom and the JSA, we had to sign a waiver which said that USFK (United States Forces Korea) was not responsible for our deaths should anything happen while we there. It wasn’t to heighten the tension either. In 1984, an East German tourist on a tour on the northern side of the JSA defected which resulted in a firefight in the JSA. One South Korean soldier was killed. Panmunjom007

Once you leave the confines of Camp Bonifas and head north to the JSA, that’s when things get intense with the concertina wire, minefields, and anti-tank barriers. The day I went to the DMZ it was cold and dreary which added a bit of atmosphere to the tour. Here you can see the Bridge of No Return where POWs were repatriated at the end of the Korean War. It was also across this same bridge, twenty-eight years earlier, where the crew of the USS Pueblo was repatriated in December 1968. It was also where the 1976 Panmunjom ax murder incident occurred where two US officers, Capt. Arthur Bonifas and Lt. Mark Barrett were killed by North Korean soldiers. I was in technical training school at Lowry AFB, Colorado when this happened. Years later, when I read about the murders and the military operation to chop down the poplar tree which had blocked the blue guardhouse as well as interviewing former JSA soldiers who were stationed there at the time for an article in the Korea Times, would I realize how close we were to another war breaking out on the peninsula.

Panmunjom004One of the highlights of the tour is the chance to walk into one of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) buildings on conference row where military and armistice related talks between both sides have taken place over the years. It’s also where you can “cross” into North Korea so you can go back home and tell everyone that you have been to North Korea. If you’re lucky while you are there, you might get to see an NPA (North Korean People’s Army) soldier peering in to see who is on tour that day.

Although the tour might seem straight out of some dystopian Disneyland with everyone going home at the end of the day, there’s a reason why Bill Clinton called this place the “scariest place on earth.” It was along the DMZ in the mid-1960s where North Korea provoked numerous border incidents which have sometimes been referred to as the second Korean War (in response to the South’s dispatch of two divisions to Vietnam as well as driving a wedge between the United States and South Korea). And from those events, it would morph into other incidents which have reminded everyone of the fragile peace which has existed on the peninsula since the end of the Korean War.

It remains a scary place to this day. Freedom’s Final Frontier.Panmunjom002

Yes, You can Judge a Book by its Cover

WR_newcoverYou know the old adage, “you can judge a book by its cover?”

It’s true.

It’s especially true if you are an indie author and you’re trying to fight for a piece of the action in a market that is getting smaller and smaller. If you want your book to get noticed you are going to need a design that speaks volumes (excuse the pun) that’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes (and sometimes smaller).

Book cover design. Can’t say enough about it. There are plenty of freelance designers who can take your ideas and come up with a good design. Sadly, there are some not so good designers who might even use the design for your book for another project. This has happened to two of my writing friends. I hear 99 Designs is a good place to get started. Their rates are compatible and you can choose from several designs.detail of a statue at the Korean War Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I’m fortunate that I have my own designer, Anna Takahashi Gargani who works her visual magic time and time again.

Recently, she redid the cover design for my first book, War Remains. I think she did a pretty good job. This was the original design. For starters, it’s a lot stronger and the font and color she uses is both bold and soft. She also was able to bring out more definition from the original photograph.

It’s a sweet design for a very good book and story.

 

“Silent Night, Holy Night” — A Korean War Christmas

koreachristmas2MacArthur said the boys would be home by Christmas.

They weren’t.

KOREA — Christmas Eve, 1950

They clanked their cans together and took a drink of the icy cold beer. It was the first beer either tasted since the regiment withdrew to Chunju. They were about to take a second drink when they suddenly stopped. It had gotten eerily quiet outside and that’s when they both thought they heard what sounded like some far-off singing.

“Did you hear that?” Bobby asked. “What do you reckon that is?”

What Bobby and Harold thought was singing started low, almost like a whisper and had grown louder and nearer. They recognized the song immediately. One by one, the men in the platoon walked out of their tents to find the source of the mellifluous melody, which turned out to be a dozen young Korean boys and girls aged around ten or eleven huddled together with a middle-aged Korean man around a fire burning inside an empty fuel drum. Bobby, Harold and the rest of the men who came out of their tents to investigate, gathered around these tiny carolers and listened to them sing.

Silent night, holy night,

All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon virgin, Mother and Child

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

It was the first time that most of the men had close contact with any Koreans, especially children. They came across thousands of refugees fleeing burning villages along the Pusan Perimeter last summer and passed thousands on the road to Pyongyang. Seeing all those refugees always put a different perspective on the war for the men, but this was different.

Flames from the fire burning inside the fuel drum danced in the cold night air and illuminated the dirty, rosy-cheeked faces of the children. The girls were bundled up in thick woolen jackets over traditional Korean hanboks while the boys wore similar jackets over baggy trousers. They sang slowly and eloquently, enunciating each word clearly and carefully.

The men stood silent, transfixed by the carolers and their sweet, angelic voices. A few of the men with children of their own back home thought about them and how much they missed them, especially at this time of the year. Those without children thought about parents, brothers, sisters, and other loved ones at home. Almost all of the men were a little misty-eyed, even First Sergeant Marshall, who was never known for showing any kind of emotion in front of the men, looked a little choked up.

After the children finished singing, they all bowed. Bobby and a few other men ran into their tents and returned with candy and chocolate they received in Christmas packages from home and passed them out to the children. The children bowed again and then moved toward another cluster of tents.

The men watched the children leave and then stood around the fire, warming their hands over the flickering flames.

“Don’t you men have anything better to do?” Sergeant Marshall inquired.

A few of the men dispersed and returned to their tents; others continued to warm themselves around the fire.

“That was really nice, wasn’t it, Sergeant?” Floyd Brown, the radioman from Second Platoon said. Brown was another one of the company’s replacements having only been in country for a week. He was the platoon’s third radioman since Kunu-ri. “Sounded like little angels.”

Bobby and Harold also thought so as they gathered around the fire. Marshall, who stood across from Bobby and Harold, stared at the fire quietly. That’s when Bobby noticed Harold was still holding the can of beer. He motioned to Harold to offer Sergeant Marshall one of the last two cans of beer they had in their tent.

“Sarge, would you like a beer?” Harold asked. “You know, it’s Christmas Eve and all.”

“Reyna, where the hell did you get the beer?”

Harold looked at Marshall sheepishly.

“You didn’t swipe them from the jeep that was parked outside the CP this afternoon by any chance, did you?” Marshall asked.

“Let’s just say that I requisitioned them for awhile, until our beer ration comes in,” Harold said grinning.

“Sure Reyna, I’ll have a beer with you and Washkowiak.”

The three men sat in the tent around a small stove fashioned out of a fuel drum. Although the tent was drafty, at least they were out of the raw, bone-chilling cold that would undoubtedly drop even farther during the night. Harold opened another can of beer and handed it to Marshall. Outside they heard the singing of the children serenading another group of soldiers a few tents down from their tent.

Read the rest of it here.

Former US Congressman Visits SolBridge

Donald Manzullo 2014 003

A former US congressman visited SolBridge the other day to address the students; a former congressman from Illinois I might add.

Donald Manzullo, from Illinois’ 16th Congressional District. Just up the road a bit from the LaSalle-Peru area. He’s currently the President and the CEO of the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEIA)

We had the chance to talk a little but after his lecture, but he had a train to catch. Fortunately, I talked to one of his aides and sent him some of the photos I took. I mentioned my Korean War novel, War Remains. I hope the former congressman checks it out.

Welcome Home, Cpl. William F. Day

daywilliamjpg-3222261_p9These news stories always choke me up.

Another soldier has finally returned home from a “forgotten war.”

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Cpl. William F. Day, 25, of Hayward, Calif., will be buried April 7, in La Center, Ky. In late November 1950, Day was assigned to Company C, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT). The 31st RCT was deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, when it was engaged by overwhelming numbers of Chinese forces. On Nov. 29, 1950, remnants of the 31st RCT, known historically as Task Force Faith, began a fighting withdrawal to more defensible positions near Hagaru-ri, south of the reservoir. On Dec. 2, 1950, Day was reported as missing in action.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Of course, whenever I read one of these stories, I always think about my Korean War novel, War Remains. I am so proud of that book. Although it never became a best seller, I am proud of the story I tried to tell and for those family members who are still waiting for one of their loved ones to come home from the war, the book offered some hope that one day they would finally have their loved one home with them. There are still 7,888 service members listed as missing in action. One day, they will all be home.

Welcome home, Corporal Day.

Buy this Book!

detail of a statue at the Korean War Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice which technically ended the Korean War, though the US and ROK service members and South Korean civilians who lost their lives since the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953 would beg to differ.

There are still over 7,900 US service members still listed as missing in action from this so-called police action and forgotten war. For all their loved ones, the Korean War has never been a forgotten one.

There is no reason not to buy this book.

There are 7,989 reasons why you should.

War Remains, A Korean War Novel (Kindle)

War Remains, A Korean War Novel (paperback)

Welcome Home, Pfc James Constant

bilde

It’s only fitting that a soldier listed as missing in action from the Korean War for nearly sixty years will finally return home this Memorial Day weekend.

It has been a long, convoluted trip but finally, 63 years after he was killed in action during the Korean War, an American soldier returns to the Indiana soil.

Pfc. James L. Constant, Beech Grove, was 19 when he died while defending an area near Changnyong, in what is now South Korea.

His funeral is Saturday at 1 p.m. at Beech Grove High School, 5335 Hornet Drive, with visitation from 11 a.m. Burial will be in New Crown Cemetery. The public is welcome.

Constant was killed Sept. 8, 1950. His body was recovered almost immediately. But it wasn’t recognizable. The remains were buried in a cemetery in Miryang, South Korea. Later, they were transferred to the United Nations Cemetery in Tanggok. Then they were moved yet again, to the U.S. Army’s Central Identification Unit in Kokura, Japan, for laboratory analysis.

After the lab failed to make positive identification, Constant’s remains were transferred to Hawaii, where they were interred with many other unidentified Korean War casualties in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl.

Following advances in lab analysis techniques, such as the advent of DNA testing, another attempt at identification was made in 2012. The attempt succeeded. Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC, determined the remains were Constant’s.

Remains of hundreds of deceased soldiers are recovered each year, from Korea, Vietnam, even Europe, left from World War II. Between 80 and 100 are identified each year.

Constant is survived by his two sisters, Betty Kelley and Margaret Rigdon, and by many nieces and nephews. They declined to comment for this story. He was preceded in death by his parents, William Thomas and Jessie “Lula” Constant, five brothers and two sisters.

One more American has made the final trip home from a forgotten war.

Families with loved ones still missing from the Korean War who have read War Remains have told me that my story about Bobby Washkowiak could have been the story about their father, brother, or uncle who never came home from the conflict. That is such an honor for me when someone tells me how much my story has resonated in their lives and how it has helped them.

Welcome Home, Pfc Constant.

War Remains Cracks Amazon’s Top Ten

Number 6 -- May 22 2013And I am in some great company.

I know it’s only for a while (by now the book has probably slipped out of the Top Ten) but it was a good feeling while it lasted. I hope this exposure at the top of the charts will make more people interested in downloading a copy and that’s why it is still available for only .99 cents. Just doing what I can to create a little “buzz” for this book.

War Remains, a Korean War Novel

Welcome Home, Lt. Col. Don Faith

Don Faith

Of all the men listed as missing in action from the Chosin Reservoir in November-December 1950, perhaps none are more famous than Lt. Col. Don Faith who commanded the ill-fated Task Force Faith. His remains were positively identified last October and next week, April 17, he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

In late 1950, Faith’s 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, which was attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team, was advancing along the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir, in North Korea. From Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 1950, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces encircled and attempted to overrun the U.S. position. During this series of attacks, Faith’s commander went missing, and Faith assumed command of the 31st RCT. As the battle continued, the 31st RCT, which came to be known as “Task Force Faith,” was forced to withdraw south along Route 5 to a more defensible position. During the withdrawal, Faith continuously rallied his troops, and personally led an assault on a CPVF position.

Records compiled after the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, to include eyewitness reports from survivors of the battle, indicated that Faith was seriously injured by shrapnel on Dec. 1, 1950, and subsequently died from those injuries on Dec. 2, 1950. His body was not recovered by U.S. forces at that time. Faith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor­­ – the United States’ highest military honor – for personal acts of exceptional valor during the battle.

 In 2004, a joint U.S. and Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea team surveyed the area where Faith was last seen. His remains were located and returned to the U.S. for identificationTo identify Faith’s remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence, compiled by DPMO and JPAC researchers, and forensic identification tools, such as dental comparison. They also used mitochondrial DNA – which matched Faith’s brother

Today, more than 7,900 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously turned over by North Korean officials or recovered from North Korea by American teams.

Until They are Home.

Welcome Home, Corporal James Rexford Hare

2013_02_20_HarePOW-thumb-300xauto-29484It could be a page right out of the Korean War novel, War Remains.

Another soldier, Corporal James Rexford Hare, has come home from a forgotten war. And this time, it’s a soldier who was captured during the battle at Hoengseong.

Hare was in the 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, which was part of the American forces supporting Republic of South Korea forces near the South Korean town of Hoengsong, when Chinese forces launched a massive counter attack, according to a news release from the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in Washington.

According to the release, “During the attacks, U.S. and Korean forces were forced to retreat south. Over the next few days units of the 2nd ID were attacked again, suffering more than 200 casualties, including more than 100 servicemen being captured by enemy forces.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Thanks to advances in DNA testing, more and more remains are being identified and quicker than in the past. Although there are still more than 7,900 missing Americans from the Korean War, with each set of remains identified and another service member coming home brings hope to those families waiting for their loved one to come home.

Until They Are Home

War Remains (Ebook)

War Remains (Paperback)

 

 

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