Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Tag: Hoengsong (page 1 of 3)

Welcome Home, Sgt. Paul M. Gordon


Another service member from the Korean War will soon be coming home:


Sgt. Paul M. Gordon was a farm boy from Dry Ridge, a top-notch basketball player who dreamed of one day going to Alaska to pan for gold.

He graduated from Crittenden High School when he was 16 and joined the Army soon after, in January 1949.

Gordon was 20 and serving in the Korean War when he died in June 1951 in a prisoner of war camp.

For decades, his family wondered about his fate.

“None of us really knew what happened to him,” said nephew Tony Gayhart of Burlington.

Now they do, and on Tuesday, Gordon’s remains will be brought to the United States, and he will be buried Friday at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North in Williamstown.

You can read the rest of the story here.

These articles always choke me up because of their connection to my Korean War novel, War Remains. However, this one hits a little closer to home because he was with the 38th Infantry Regiment of the US Second Infantry Division, the same division and regiment that Bobby Washkowiak was with.

Welcome Home, Sgt. Gordon.

War Remains — The LaSalle County Link

A Korean War Novel

When I sat down and started to write my Korean War novel War Remains in the fall of 2009, I based parts of the novel on some of the interviews I had with US Second Infantry Division veterans who were at such places as the Pusan Perimeter, Kunu-ri, Chipyong-ni, and Hoengseong.

Then, there was the LaSalle, Illinois link. I never intended to write a war novel; instead, I wanted the novel to be just as much about the war as the war experienced on the home front. Bobby Washkowiak could have been any service member from any small town in America who ended up in the Korean War. And as it turned out, I was a lot closer than I had ever imagined.

One of my friends, Doug Mayes, who lost an uncle at the same battle near Hoengseong, South Korea in February 1951, passed this link along to me. Although it doesn’t say which town in LaSalle County, most likely the soldier who was killed in action was killed at the same battle and the one that I describe in my novel.

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. In this case, it hit very close to the heart and soul of this novel.

July 27, 1953

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

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War when the armistice was signed at Panmunjom.

For some families though, the war has never ended.

War Remains Cracks Amazon’s UK Top 20 Charts

Number 15 UK -- May 28 2013

Now I know how The Beatles felt when they cracked the US charts in the early 60s!

War Remains UK

War Remains US

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)



Ice Cream Headache: My Journey Back to 1968

icecreamCover2I’m a student and a teacher of history and when it comes to writing both become quite evident in what I write.

My first novel, War Remains, A Korean War Novel took me back to the opening months of the Korean War, the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, Kunu-ri, and the battle at Hoengseong. My interest in the Korean War was in part due to my coverage of Korean War commemorative events in Korea between 2000-2003 for the Korea Times, which also included meeting many veterans.

Although Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm is about my twenty-plus years living and working in Korea, the book is also a personal history of Korea and the changes which have occurred on the peninsula since I came to Korea in 1990. Besides the essays and articles about the Korean War, there is a special section about Panmunjom, including the article I wrote in 2001 about the 25th anniversary of the Panmunjom Ax Murder Incident.

There’s also a lot of history evident in Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst. Though most of the essays are about growing up in Oglesby, Illinois, a town of 4,200 back in the 1960s and 1970s, there are a number of historical references, including, but not limited to, the Vietnam War, the Apollo space program, and 1960s television. Many of the essays in this collection started out as blog posts which I later revised and expanded. I tell people that if you like Bill Bryson or Dave Barry, you’ll like this collection.

And that brings me to Ice Cream Headache when I travel back in time again, this time back to 1968. I’ve always been fascinated with this year. A lot has to do with my own sort of prepubescent coming of age when I first really became aware of the world around me. Although Johnny Fitzpatrick is the only one directly affected by the historical backdrop, everyone has their own stake in the historical backdrop of the novella.

In many ways the history that ended up in Ice Cream Headache is also me waxing nostalgic about the Illinois Valley. (For those of you not familiar with the Illinois Valley, it is a geographical area approximately 90 miles southwest of Chicago with three main towns located along the Illinois River: LaSalle, Peru, and Oglesby; to the east there’s Utica and Ottawa and to the west Spring Valley.) It’s been over six years since I last was home; the history I remember and write about is also my way of maintaining an umbilical cord to “home.”

Reading Ice Cream Headache, Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst, and War Remains, is reading me: who I am and where I’ve come from.

Come along for the ride.

Military Demarcation Line — Panmunjom


This year marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice on July 27, 1953 which ended the three-year conflict. For over 60 years, the two Koreas have remained technically at war with numerous incidents to remind the world of the fragile peace which has existed on the peninsula.

My first book, War Remains, A Korean War Novel was more than a novel about the war and one its battles; it was also about the aftermath of the conflict and the ongoing search for the remains of more than 7, 900 Americans still listed as missing in action. The book I am working on now is about the aftermath of the Korean War and the vestiges of the conflict which remain to this day.

Additionally, I am preparing for a new history class at SolBridge this coming spring. The class is similar to the one I have co-taught with Dr. John Endicott in the past about Asian politics, but this year we are going to spend half the class talking about the two Koreas before looking at other countries in the region.


In 2001, while writing for the Korea Times as a feature writer, I had the opportunity and the the honor to meet a group of Korean War veterans who came to Korea to visit the Chipyong-ni battlefield near Wonju and Hoengseong.

One of the veterans I met was Oscar Cortez, who was captured by the Chinese at Hoengseong on February 12, 1951 and spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp.

When I started to write War Remains in 2009, I remembered that meeting I had with Oscar and the article I wrote about his experiences during the war (which is an essay in Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm, 2011). Based on that article, and a few others I wrote, became the basis for the story of Bobby Washkowiak.

In 2012, while doing some research on the Korean War, Doug Mayes happened across my book and read it. It turned out that he was searching for information about the Battle of Hoengseong because his Uncle Jimmy fought in the battle and like Oscar, was also captured by the enemy. Like a number of readers who have come across my book while searching for information about the battle and the search for MIAs, Doug’s uncle was also listed as missing in action (his family was contacted for a DNA sample and hopefully his uncle will soon be coming home.

Today, Doug sent me a message telling me that he had just gotten off the phone with with a Korean War veteran who had been with his uncle on the march to the camp:

Jeff, I just got off the phone with a Korean War POW who was with my uncle when he died. The chain of events which led me to this man was started by your book and research. Thank you so much, Doug

Not the kind of closure that Doug and his family wants, but it was an honor to have helped them fill in some of the blanks.

Until They Are Home

— JPAC Motto

It makes it all worthwhile

Sometimes you connect with a reader which makes all the difference in the world:

Dear Mr. Miller,
Last year, while looking for information about the Hoengsong Valley Massacre, I came across your website, went from one end of it to the other and then bought your book, War Remains.
My father, Sgt. Luther Rominger was killed there on 13 February 1951.  He was a member of the 2nd Infantry Division, 15th Field Artillery Battalion.  I have a subscription to and would like to add your pictures and a link to your website to his page.
I thank you for posting those pictures.  Some how it makes everything more real to me.  I was about 18 months old when he died and all I have are pictures and other people’s memories of him.

Again, Thank you and my God’s blessings be on you and your family.

Margaret Rominger Black

Some people say the nicest things

Bumped into a colleague today who had just finished reading War Remains.

He bought two copies of it from me last week, one for himself and one for his father in Australia.

Anyway, he told me how much he liked it and asked me if it was based on a true story. I told him that it wasn’t but that I had met a lot of veterans and imagined what it would be like for a family still waiting for their loved one to come home from the war.

“It was very moving,” he said. “You really captured the home front well. I could really identify with the family. I know my father is going to love this book when he gets it.”

I’m sure he will.

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