Ten years ago on Veteran’s Day 2000, I had the honor to meet General Raymond Davis USMC, who served gallantly during the Korean War at Yudam-ni and the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Back then, I was covering a Korean War commemorative event at Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul which commemorated the “northern campaigns” — MacArthur’s ill-fated drive to the Yalu which cost the 1st Marines and the 2nd Infantry Division (which I describe in my novel War Remains) heavy casualties in November 1950 and turned the tide of the war. Or, as MacArthur would later say, an entirely different war.
On that cold November Saturday ten years ago, I had the chance to sit down with Gen. Davis for a quick interview. While he sipped a Coke, he described in great detail how he brought his men over the frozen, treacherous hills around the village of Yudam-ni near the Chosin Reservoir with the Chinese all around them. For his actions that night, bringing his men to safety, he was awarded America’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor.
As we talked, I couldn’t take my eyes off that medal around his neck. For anyone who has ever served in America’s military knows how awe-inspiring it is to be in the presence of someone wearing this medal.
One of the things General Davis talked about during the interview was how he hoped to return to North Korea to search the remains of Marines still buried around the Chosin Reservoir. He had already made one trip to North Korea and hoped to return again. Sadly, General Davis died a few years later.
On this Veteran’s Day, I am taking time out to remember all our veterans, but specifically those who fought in the Korean War 60 years ago. One of the reasons why I wrote my novel was to remember all those who served during the conflict and to honor them for their service.