My Korean War

April 5th, 2013

My Korean War

~ “Take me to where the action is” – Freddy Cannon

I was in Korea in the summer of 1962.  AFKN (American Forces Korea Network, the radio station) was playing the latest Freddy Cannon hit “Palisades Park“.  That was before the real Palisades Park became the densest “Little Korea” community in America.  Such is the power of war, military occupation, rock & roll and the passage of time.

Anyway: “Action”; “Sunset strip”; “Drivin’ drums”; sounds like a war to me.

I moved to South Korea when it was poor.  Not one house in a hundred outside of Seoul had running water.  The main North – South road (the one on which one might escape to Pusan) was still mostly a two lane dirt and gravel highway with enough hairpin turns and dilapidated bridges to cause any military commander to pause.  I drove the entire distance (both ways) with my father to check out this road.  No U.S. military commander in South Korea at the time had ever done this.

My father was of course concerned.  His USOM/K Department (Department of Public Works) had something to do with water and highways.  It was personal too.  The theory was that in case of a North Korean attack all the American civilians in Seoul would drive to South Post, park near the golf course, then move south toward the railroad tracks and then wait on the north shore of the Han River for some unknown military watercraft that would come along to take “everyone” (or almost everyone) across.

We could see the golf course and the railroad tracks from our house.  In case of war we would not have far to walk.  We used to watch the trains moving tanks down from the DMZ (into Seoul) whenever there was a South Korean military coup or attempted takeover.  The government was pretty much one dictatorship after another.  When we arrived (in Korea) in 1960 the government was still spearheaded by the murderous despot Syngman Rhee.  I still have coins that show his head.  It was a given that he was just an out of control U.S. puppet.

Then the “students” took control in a student led revolution.  Syngman Rhee was out; he left Korea for an idyllic (protected and pampered) life in Hawaii.  It wasn’t long before the military put the student’s ideas about a real democracy to rest.  Tanks began to roll as Colonels and other officers took (or tried to take) the role of President, CEO of Korea, Inc., or just “head of the new Junta”.  The U.S. then pretty much was the force defending the DMZ (the Armistice Line set up in 1953 to temporarily stop the fighting).

In the early 1960’s Korea was legally a country at war.  It still is.  There might be something that might be said about the notion of “legal” wars; agreements of armistice without any interest in treaties of peace; of governments and UN organizations that think such open ended agreements might really (or even “should”) last.  The U.S. has had its chance.  To quote Ban Ki-moon UN “Head” from South Korea, “The situation has gone to far”.  Sixty (60) years without a treaty or direct negotiations between the two principal antagonists is silly, unless you benefit from such a status quo.

If the river craft ever came, or a pontoon bridge was somehow erected, the military (meaning the USA / UN Command) told everyone (meaning the civilians) that the road south would be “clear sailing”.  You will be in Pusan (or the perimeter) in less than a days time.  You will be safe.  From Pusan (Busan) you will be flown out to Japan; from Japan to America, maybe back to Palisades Park as the case my be.  My father was not military.  That’s why WE took the trip, to question authority, to investigate the claims.

My biggest memory of life in Korea is (My) playing a lot of Risk!  The board game was fairly new then.  Don’t let the graphics fool you; it’s a lot about life when the military takes over; when ones entire country seems like an armed camp; when the entire globe is portrayed as a battle field with “your armies” scattered everywhere from the Middle East, to Northern Europe, to Japan and Afghanistan including in Venezuela and countless places elsewhere.   Build up your forces, then with or without warning, “over the border”, Afghanistan to China, you don’t stand a chance.

It’s very easy to get used to the life of the Officer’s Club in Korea.  The Club itself had a nightly buffet, on Sunday there was an ice skulpture.  Live entertainment was offered, Korean groups that danced and sank or tried to sing in English but didn’t really know the American words or known how to really say them.  There were tennis courts (and good ones).  There was the golf course that I mentioned, and played on.  There were bars for the Officers and houses for wives and children and a huge, very inexpensive, PX (Post Exchange) on Main Post and a modern Commissary that was like (or better than) the best Safeway Store in Washington D.C.

The Korean War (then) had become mostly a game.  The United States had nuclear weapons (at Osan) ready for the planes stationed at Osan (Air Base).  If North Korea attacked, everyone knew we would just “nuke em”, like MacArthur had advocated; drop enough nuclear ordinance to bomb em’ back to the dark ages.  That would stop them.  Everyone knew the North Koreans knew.  That is why there would NEVER be war.  Never.  Not with “us” having nukes.

Nobody worried (then) too much about Japan.  It was a great place (of course) for R&R (Rest and Relaxation).  The American (military) golf courses in Japan were better, and more of them.  The Japanese girls were better at carrying a tune.  The PX at Tachikawa was perhaps the biggest in Asia.  Besides the reel to reel tape recorders and a huge selection of Japanese transistor radios and sake sets the PX had specialty items like refurbished Pachinko machines that were offered for about $5.  To own one was as close (then) to Gangnam Style as anyone could get.

Other than that (the above) there wasn’t much to Japan other than the Tokio Tower and Godzilla movies, Shinto temples and the scenery.  Nobody worried about the radiation from U.S. nuke activity in North Korea blowing over to (over) Japan.  Nobody worried in 45′, nobody was worried “now”.  There was no Japanese industry worth mentioning to fail from fallout, no informed population that would clamor for shelter and shelters.

Additional fallout (from Korea) falling on Anchorage, Portland or Seattle would not be noticeable.  This was the era of Tsar One, when 100 megaton atmospheric tests were deemed (if not pleasant) “acceptable”.   Radiation falling all over America (then) did not seem an issue; at least not like “now”.  [Note:  43 days after the Test Ban treaty championed by President Kennedy went into effect JFK was assassinated.]

The United States is clearly living in the past.  At least two million Americans alive today have lived in Korea, not counting another 1.5 million Korean Americans, of which many were born in Korea.  The plan for winning a new hot war in Korea calls for about 650,000 more Americans being assigned to live in Korea, in combat roles.

The U.S. would have to all but evacuate Afghanistan, leave Germany, call up every reserve.  The draft would return immediately.  The energy supply and transportation grid would crumble under the demand for munitions, new chemical uniforms, boats and planes to get everyone there and to supply the brothels (there) to keep all the male and female and same-sex troops happy.  Things at VA hospitals would be a disaster.

The U.S. has very limited nuclear options because of the radiation (clouds) that would swarm Japan and hit in two to five days the U.S. west coast.  Chemical weapons are out because North Korea would then have the “right” to use them.  Other alternatives for winning the war are slim to none; estimates are “incomings” hitting Seoul at 10,000 – 100,000 rounds per minute without North Korea even crossing the DMZ and without the NK going nuclear.  One to 5 million pieces of ordinance could be unleashed by North Korea in just the first hour.

The idea of “deterrence” applies only when there is a fear of the potential destruction.  North Korea has “no fear” because they have so little to lose.  Most of what North Korea has is buried deep underground.  The city lights and factories and discos are in South Korea, on the surface, easy targets just begging to be hit by artillery and rockets; like shooting fish in a barrel.  The U.S. policy in Korea is based on an outdated (1960’s) bravado.  It is like believing a pontoon bridge across the Han River will save you.  No, it would never happen; not then, not now.  North Korea is the only country on earth really ready, with shelters, with nerve; with buried food supplies, ready for a nuclear war, or nuclear winter.

The modern nuclear weapon is about “pulse”, not megatons.  It is EMP that matters more than “blast” and “heat”.   An orbiting payload is like a drone that nobody sees.  EMP can easily take just about everything not wired and shielded out.  Look at the roads, U.S. versus North Korea:


Road in U.S.                                       Road in North Korea

What is the difference?  In the U.S. the poles follow the road, they are open and visible and vulnerable because the electrical lines and communication lines are not buried.  Look at the roads in North Korea.  There are no lines in sight, the lines are probably buried like they would be in America if there were really “Homeland Security”.  Either EMP or commandos or terrorists, open lines along roads are so easy to “take down” or “take out”.

I’ve written until I’m blue in the face about the sadistic carnage against the civilians of North Korea during the (1950’s) Korean War.  The strategy was to burn all the cities with napalm and to drown all the villages by bombing the dams.  30% of North Korean civilians thus died.  When that was not enough, we threatened to Nuke them.  We killed 25,000 Koreans (held as slave labor hostages) in our atomic attack on Hiroshima, calling the victims “Japanese”.

You can live in fear long enough.  After awhile it just doesn’t matter.  The price of annual war games and saber-rattling is finally too much.  UN sanctions don’t really matter.  The entire massacre in North Korea was done under the rule, the ratification, the wave of THIS flag:

Has not the United Nations punished North Korea enough?  Nobody at the UN ever spoke up to help them when the B 29’s dropped all the napalm and destroyed all the dams.  It was the people the UN was after, not the leadership, not the government.  There are North Koreans alive today that lived it.

So, Kim Jong Un is probably right.  There’s a new world out there, somewhere.  It’s not his responsibility to define it, create it or make it happen.  The only thing that IS CLEAR tonight is that Mr. Kim (on behalf of his people) refuses to live in the old “same old – same old” world any longer.  He is demanding of the world and the United States to “move on”.  Mr. Hagel, Mr. Kerry, Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid the world is in your hands tonight.  Do what’s right.  Offer North Korea written promises and a TREATY.  Let the Hermit Kingdom live in a world of their own if they have to.  Use your power to protect them, not to try and (once more) destroy them.

You have just under five days (after having wasted the past 60 years) to make a decision and to make all amends.  Do it now.  Do it openly.  This chance for peace will NOT come again.

2012.04.06 – 04:56

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