Korea Vet: Frustrating, Nasty, Exciting and Worthwhile

June 25th, 2009 at 1:02 pm | 2 Comments |

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Unlike Brad Schaeffer’s father–Marine Lieutenant Jack Schaeffer–I didn’t suffer the emotional trauma and depression he apparently did from the Korean war, ambulance which started 59 years ago today.

While I was also an infantry lieutenant (in the Canadian army – the Princess Patricias), medicine I wasn’t wounded, buy viagra and the Canadian brigade didn’t experience the savage fighting that Schaeffer likely endured.

I served in Korea during the last year of the war when the battle lines were static and our role consisted mostly of fighting and reconnaissance patrols, of preparing to be attacked, and of being shelled and mortared 24 hours a day. Often it was boring, always it was frustrating, occasionally it was exciting and periodically it was terrifying.

I think it’s fair to say that we of the Commonwealth Division (whose fighting core were British, Canadian, and Australian soldiers, supported by New Zealand artillery, with other Commonwealth troops in lesser roles) would have relished being let off the leash to attack the enemy. But the politics of ceasefire negotiations at Panmunjon prevented fighting back – or winning the war. That added to frustrations and a feeling of what’s the point.

Compared to the 34,000 Americans killed in that war, Canada’s 512 dead is small potatoes. But our three battalions lost not an inch of ground, and won every battle fought against the Chinese.

The crowning moment for Canada was in April 1951, in the last great Chinese assault across the 38th parallel. The Princess Pats battalion alone was all that prevented the Chinese from sweeping down the Kapyong valley and re-capturing Seoul. With orders to neither retreat nor to surrender, the Canadian battalion was overrun, but held, and broke the Chinese attack, inflicting huge casualties. The Pats became the first Canadians to be awarded the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation which members of the second battalion of the Patricias wear it to this day.

On a particularly lethal and vulnerable position known as “The Hook,” the fact that the 1st Marine Division of Brad Schaeffer’s father was on our left flank was a great comfort to our guys. Not all units fighting in Korea were equally reliable. Not all could boast they never retreated. The 1st Marines were our favorite, most dependable allies.

As a single, underage naval officer who had caught the tail end of World War II, I served in Korea as a platoon commander, then as battalion intelligence officer, and finally with the U.S. Air Force in a “Mosquito Squadron,” flying in old Harvard planes to mark enemy targets with colored smoke for strike aircraft to bomb.

I think it’s fair to say most Canadian soldiers left Korea frustrated and wondering – as Brad’s dad apparently did – if the war was worthwhile; “was the sacrifice worth it?”

The South Korean government has a policy of inviting – cost-free – any who fought in that war to visit and see the country they defended from communism. Regardless of their frustrations as young soldiers, virtually every returning veteran sees for himself that if the war ended in stalemate, the peace was certainly won.

More than that, Koreans recognize that their allies in that war saved their country. Returning vets mostly feel that what they did was not only worthwhile but that their sacrifices are still appreciated.

Brad Schaeffer acknowledges he has “no idea how (President) Obama should handle” the machinations of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. He is not alone in this. With a nutbar like Kim Jong Il, there is no predicting his actions. But what has repeatedly been proved is that giving food aid in return for nuclear concessions (or any concessions) doesn’t work. Kim’s promises are empty. He hops from one blackmail threat to the next.

China has some leverage, but unless the U.S. is prepared to act more than Obama seems willing to, there’s not much incentive for China to intervene. Obama is being “tested” and enemies and allies alike watch what he may do with interest and some trepidation.

Arguably the most satisfying development would be Kim Jong Il deciding to die, or being helped towards this end. In the meantime, the U.S. should persuade allies to provide no aid of any sort to North Korea (which goes to the military and the system anyway). Let North Koreans starve. Maybe the generals, whose power will increase when Kim is no more, will be more cooperative. But not yet.

As for the likelihood of North Korea attacking the South now that it has revoked the 1953 ceasefire armistice and is technically at war again – forget it. It’s all bluff. And if it isn’t bluff, well, next time we should ensure that there’s no North Korea left to negotiate with.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • barker13

    Thank you for your allied service, Mr. Worthington.Yes, obviously simply based upon humanitarian concerns, we did the right thing by saving the South Koreans from the North Koreans.I mean… (*SHUDDER*)… consider the scale of human tragedy which marks the governance of “peacetime” North Korea; one wouldn’t wish that upon anyone.The U.S., Japan, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, India and other regional powers should secretly negotiate with China towards the goal of China taking the lead in dealing with the Kim regime – and by “dealing” I mean “making harmless.”The present regime and any conceivable independent successor regime is an ongoing unacceptable threat to world peace. China knows this. When push comes to shove China doesn’t want this lunatic regime lashing out at perceived enemies militarily nor imploding domestically any more than we do.The ultimate goal is of course a reunited democratic capitalist Korea, but the trick is creating a unified state that looks somewhat like South Korea without the Chinese objecting (on obvious grounds) to an expansion of “Western” (i.e. American) power and influence in the region via what they’d view as the enlargement and strengthening of a key U.S. ally in the region.We – and obviously South Korea – would have to make some key compromises and concessions to Chinese concerns for this elimination of the North Korean threat to take place. I’m guessing just as a starter the South would have to agree to Chinese “peacekeeping/fraternal assistance” forces having at the very least an equal authority with South Korean forces which would have to flood into the North immediately following regime change there.Frankly, the Chinese would have to be given the high ground of command and control since only they would be able to deal with North Korean military leaders and the military in general post-Kim.Let’s say the Kim regime is somehow toppled by China (with the cooperation of the West) in 2010. I’m guessing the Chinese would want to see unification set for no earlier than 2020 – a good ten years. And after that, the Chinese would no doubt insist that the new unified Korea keep the Korea/China border demilitarized – at a bare minimum!Anyway… (*SHRUG*)BILL

  • Jeffryw

    Mr. Worthington I salute you sir and thank you for your service. God bless you.