Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Tag: US Second Infantry Division (page 1 of 2)

Full-Circle

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

Return to Massacre Valley: Command Post for 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment — Hoenseong, South Korea

After shooting some footage in Hoengseong near the site of the Netherlands’ Battalion, for the next part of the documentary, we entered Massacre Valley and went to the location where the command post for the 3rd Battalion of the 38th Infantry Regiment was located in and around the village of Saemal.

I describe Saemal in War Remains and how Bobby and the others of Support Force 21 felt that once they reached this village where the rest of the regiment was bivouacked, their ordeal would be over. However, by then the enemy had already positioned themselves in the high ground and for Bobby and the others, their ordeal was far from being over.

Although I visited Massacre Valley in 2010, just prior to War Remains being published, this time back was very special for me. So many people have been touched with my story of Bobby not to mention learning about the battle that was once fought here. What I have done and what Park Jongwoo is doing with his documentary is making people aware of what actually happened here in February 1951.

Why did I choose the 38th Infantry Regiment to be one of the main military units in my novel? What I wanted to do was to show how this regiment had been in some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict, from the breakout along the Pusan Perimeter to Kunu-ri and then finally Hoengseong. By choosing this regiment, it allowed me to write about three major events in the first nine months of the conflict with special attention to Hoengseong because many people might not be aware of this battle.

In the photo, Producer/Director Park Jongwoo and I talk about the battle and the location of the 38th Infantry Regiment near the village of Saemal.

Saemal Village and Massacre Valley — Hoengseong, South Korea

At the beginning of War Remains, I talk about Support Force 21, the 3rd Battalion of the 38th Infantry Regiment, US Second Infantry Division, and the small village of Saemal. This past weekend, during my return to Massacre Valley, the producer/director of the Korean War documentary, Park Jong-woo, his crew and I went to the spot where the 3rd Battalion was most likely bivouacked on the morning of February 12, 1951.

After having to withdraw from Changbong-ni at around 3:00 in the morning, this is where Support Force 21 arrived later that morning as well as ROK soldiers from the 21st, 10th, and 16th Infantry Regiments. They all thought that they had made it to safety, but their ordeal was far from over.

In this photo, I am explaining to Park Jongwoo what I will talk about in this segment of the documentary. We are standing on the old road to Chipyong-ni, which would be the site of a fierce battle a few days later, next to a rice paddy where the 3rd Battalion was bivouacked.

U.S. Second Infantry Division Monument, “Massacre Valley” — Hoengsong, South Korea

Not long before I finished writing my Korean War novel War Remains in the fall of 2010, traveled to Hoengsong, north of Wonju to visit “Massacre Valley” where part of my novel takes place. I knew there was a monument dedicated to the U.S. Second Infantry Division when I was researching my novel, and back in 2000 when I was writing for the Korea Times and covering Korean War commemorative events, I had the chance and honor to meet Wilbur Webster who was one of the veterans that pushed for this monument. 

The back of the monument.

Close up of the inscription.

Another angle of “Massacre Valley” and the monument.

War Remains, A Korean War Novel. Dedicated to the men and women of the Second Infantry Division and to all those loved ones who have not come home from this “forgotten war.”

War Remains Search Suspended

I was sorry to read this news today:

The United States has suspended plans to send a team to North Korea to search for U.S. war remains because of Pyongyang’s decision to launch a rocket next month marking the centenary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birth, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

United Nations resolutions bar North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests, and the United States said Pyongyang’s plan to send a satellite into space aboard a rocket would violate its agreement last month to stop long-range missile launches.

Read the rest of the story here.

There are still over 7,900 service members still listed as missing in action from the Korean War and many of these remains are in North Korea: in the area around Unsan and Kunu-ri where the 1st Cavalry Division and Second Infantry Division were hit hard in October and November of 1950 and in the area around the Chosin Reservoir where the 1st and 3rd Marines were hit hard by Communist forces.

1st Lieutenant Lee. R. Hartell (Hartell House)

My fourth book, Waking up in the Land of the Morning Calm is now finished and I am editing and proofreading it now.

I plan to publish it next month.

Although the book is finished, I am still doing some writing, specifically the “stories behind the story” for some of the articles included in this collection.

And I am still “discovering” a forgotten war.

Today, while writing the back story for a series of articles I had written on the 2000 commemoration ceremony for the Northern Campaigns during the Korean War, specifically the fierce fighting around the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, I recalled the interview I had with Medal of Honor recipient and USMC retired General Raymond Davis.  The interview took place in the Hartell House on the Yongsan Garrison.

I had forgotten the name of the house, so when I did a Google search, I was surprised to learn that the house was named after Lieutenant Lee R. Hartell, a forward observer with the 15th Artillery Battalion, Second Infantry Division, who had been mortally wounded on August 27, 1950 during fierce fighting along the Pusan Perimeter. For his actions and bravery, he was posthumously awarded the MOH.

The citation for his MOH:

1st. Lt. Hartell, a member of Battery A, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an armed enemy of the United Nations. During the darkness of early morning, the enemy launched a ruthless attack against friendly positions on a rugged mountainous ridge. 1st Lt. Hartell, attached to Company B, 9th Infantry Regiment, as forward observer, quickly moved his radio to an exposed vantage on the ridge line to adjust defensive fires. Realizing the tactical advantage of illuminating the area of approach, he called for flares and then directed crippling fire into the onrushing assailants.

At this juncture a large force of hostile troops swarmed up the slope in banzai charge and came within 10 yards of 1st Lt. Hartell’s position. 1st Lt. Hartell sustained a severe hand wound in the ensuing encounter but grasped the microphone with his other hand and maintained his magnificent stand until the front and left flank of the company were protected by a close-in wall of withering fire, causing the fanatical foe to disperse and fall back momentarily. After the numerically superior enemy overran an outpost and was closing on his position, 1st Lt. Hartell, in a final radio call, urged the friendly elements to fire both batteries continuously. Although mortally wounded, 1st Lt. Hartell’s intrepid actions contributed significantly to stemming the onslaught and enabled his company to maintain the strategic strongpoint. His consummate valor and unwavering devotion to duty reflect lasting glory on himself and uphold the noble traditions of the military service.

This bit of historical irony might have been lost on me that bitterly cold November day in 2000 when I interviewed Davis in a house named after another MOH recipient, but not anymore.

Picture of the Day: US Second Infantry Division Monument in “Massacre Valley” — Hoengsong, South Korea

Located north of Hoengsong, South Korea is a monument dedicated to the United States Second Infantry Division which suffered hundreds of casualties here in “Massacre Valley” on February 12-13, 1951.

This is hallowed ground where so many young men lost their lives in the cold and snow sixty years ago.

I wanted to remember and honor those men, and all the men of the Second Infantry Division who were thrust into harms way, when I sat down and started War Remains in September 2009.

Picture of the Day: Hoengsong Memorial — Hoengsong County, South Korea

Finding the Hoengsong Memorial dedicated to the US Second Infantry Division is not difficult when traveling north from Hoengsong through “Massacre Valley” though this is the only sign that you will see.

In Korea, the Korean War is always referred to as “6-25” but what the heck is that cow doing on the sign?

Hoengsong County is famous for beef.

Picture of the Day: Changbong-ni — Hoengsong County, South Korea

North of Hoengsong and “Massacre Valley” is the village of Changbong-ni, which I describe in War Remains.

On February 11, 1951 a task force, Support Force 21, comprised of elements of the 38th Infantry Regiment, US Second Infantry Division and artillery units were attached to ROK (Republic of Korea) units for support and coordination. This area was where these units were located when the Chinese attacked.

Surprisingly, 60 years later the area was not that developed–aside from a couple modern buildings and a new highway.

This is the area I describe in the Prologue and later again in the novel. This is the area where Bobby and the other men waited for the “rain of hot metal and death.”

In the distance is Oum-san, the mountain that Bobby describes and hopes that the “mountain spirits” will be kind.

War Remains — Now available as an Ebook at Amazon

More than fifty years after his paternal grandfather Robert “Bobby” Washkowiak was reported missing in action, body never recovered during the Korean War, Michael Washkowiak makes a startling discovery of what really happened to his grandfather on one of the battlefields of that forgotten war.

Old letters and photographs found in a footlocker that had been forgotten in an attic for years take Michael back in time to the opening months of the Korean War and how his grandfather fought to stay alive in some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict—from the Pusan Perimeter and Kunu-ri up to his disappearance.

Unknown to Michael, an ongoing search for the remains of over 8,000 service members still listed as missing in action from the conflict has recovered the remains of a service member found near the town of Hoengsong, South Korea where his grandfather had been reported missing on February 12, 1951.

Could the remains be those of his grandfather?

My novel War Remains is now available as an Ebook through Amazon’s Kindle store. If you don’t have a Kindle device, don’t worry. You can still read the novel on your computer.

Look for the paperback and hardback editions of the novel soon.

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