May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, 2008.

My father was one of a handful of troops sent into the Pusan Perimeter to stop the North Korean invasion. The conquest of Pusan would have decided the war in favor of the North Korea. On July 28th, 1950, his unit was surrounded and wiped out by North Korean forces. Amateur historian Ed Evanhoe wrote:

Meanwhile, "B" and "D" Companies, 29th Infantry were under attack by superior enemy forces at Anui. They tried to withdraw to high ground
across the Nam River but only 2 officers and 16 men made it before North
Korean troops slammed the exit door. The remainder of the two units
engaged in street fighting until around midnight and then, those who could,
slipped into the hills and tried to walk to safety. Approximately half of
the two companies were either killed or missing in this battle.


By August, the South Korean forces and the U.S. Eighth Army under General Walton Walker had been driven back into a small area in the southeast corner of the Korean peninsula around the city of Pusan. As the North Koreans advanced, they rounded up and killed civil servants. On August 20, MacArthur sent a message warning Kim Il Sung that he would be held responsible for further atrocities committed against UN troops.

By September, only the area around Pusan ? about 10 percent of the Korean peninsula ? was still in coalition hands. With the aid of massive American supplies, air support, and additional reinforcements, the UN forces managed to stabilize a line along the Nakdong River. This desperate holding action became known in the United States as the Pusan Perimeter.
Escalation of the Korean war

In the face of fierce North Korean attacks, the allied defense became a desperate battle called the Battle of Pusan Perimeter by Americans.

This is the instruction of Lieutenant General Walton Walker to 25th Division staff, July 29, 1950:

General [Douglas] MacArthur was over here two days ago; he is thoroughly conversant with the situation. He knows where we are and what we have to fight with. He knows our needs and where the enemy is hitting the hardest. General MacArthur is doing everything possible to send reinforcements. A Marine unit and two regiments are expected in the next few days to reinforce us. Additional units are being sent over as quickly as possible. We are fighting a battle against time. There will be no more retreating, withdrawal, or readjustment of the lines or any other term you choose. There is no line behind us to which we can retreat. Every unit must counterattack to keep the enemy in a state of confusion and off balance. There will be no Dunkirk, there will be no Bataan. A retreat to Pusan would be one of the greatest butcheries in history. We must fight until the end. Capture by these people is worse than death itself. We will fight as a team. If some of us must die, we will die fighting together. Any man who gives ground may be responsible for the death of thousands of his comrades.

I want you to put this out to all the men in the Division. I want everybody to understand we are going to hold this line. We are going to win.

Later in my father's life, he quietly bore scars from the war, PTSD. He lost sight of the value of his sacrifice for the South Korean people. He didn't get to see the thriving Korean community in Los Angeles, he didn't quite grasp that there were generations of happy, thriving families that owed their good fortune to the United States and other foreign powers intervened with UN approval (hard for me to imagine a similar collaboration today).

I miss him a great deal.

Posted by Dennis at May 26, 2008 5:05 PM

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