Monday, June 24, 2013

LEST WE FORGET


On June 25, 1950, Communist North Korea invaded the Republic of [South] Korea.

From my Introduction to Part I of Unjust Blame?: The Korean War, Chinese Intervention, and Douglas MacArthur—available on Amazon in a few months—here is how military historian T.R. Fehrenbach described what happened early that morning.

It was Sunday morning in Seoul now, and the embassy bars were closing. Only a few dreamingor drunken—young people still lingered in the KMAG Officers’ Open Mess. It was almost dawn, and even the private parties were dying. Any young officer who had not made out by now never would.

And the storm that had hovered over the high peaks of Bukhan Mountain north of the city broke. The rain sheeted down, true monsoon, and it was good to sleep by. People woke, smiled in the dawn's freshness, and returned to sleep. Workers, passing out of the city through Namdai Mun, the South Gate, laughed and sang as they crossed the bridge over the Han [River]. Below them the gray shapes of massive junks and the thin shadows of motor launches lay quietly on the rain-speckled dark water.

White-clad farmers smiled as they scooped up chamber pots outside the surrounding villages’ doors, and filled their reeking honey buckets. Life was hard, but again the people would be able to buy rice.

The million and a half people of Seoul did not expect the future to be good. They expected to survive.

And miles to the north, beyond the roads the Americans had named Long Russia and Short Russia ended, beyond the religious missions on the parallel at Kaesong, where the Methodist missionaries, reassured by [United States] Ambassador Muccio, still slept, far to the east of Seoul in a town called H’wachon, Senior Colonel Lee Hak Ku looked once again at his watch.

He looked up, met the eyes of the booted and blue-breeched officers standing about him in the Operations Post. They were all young, and hard, and most of their adult lives had been spent at war, with the Chinese, with the Soviets. They had fought Japanese; they had fought Nationalists. Now they would fight the running dogs of the American Imperialists, or whoever else got in their way.

All around, men in mustard-colored cotton uniforms were moving in the wet, predawn murkiness. Covers were coming off stubby howitzer muzzles; diesel tank engines shuddered into raucous life. The monsoon was turning into drizzle now along the dark hills that framed the demarcation zone [between North and South Korea].

The varihued green paddies glistened with water, but the roads were hard and firm. The big long-gunned tanks began to move.

Back along the valley, where two divisions awaited the order to slash southward, officers raised their right arms. Section chiefs filled their lungs for shouting. The heavy guns had been trained and loaded long before.

Then men shouted, and dark cannon spat flame into the lowering sky. From the cold Eastern Sea to the foggy sandbanks of the Yellow Sea to the west, along every corridor that led to the South, night ended in a continuous flare of light and noise.

The low-slung, sleek tanks attached to the 7th Division spurted forward, throwing mud from their tracks.  Designed for the bogs of Russia, they rolled easily over the hard-packed earth.  Behind them poured hordes of shrieking small men in brown shirts.

"Manzai!" Senior Colonel Lee Hak Ku said, and, eyes gleaming, his staff repeated it.

It was 4:00 a.m., Sunday, 25 June 1950. The world, whether it would ever admit it or not, was at war.


It still is!