There are hopes that the Korean War could officially end soon if the initiatives by President Trump materialize. The Korean War that began in 1950 never officially ended. For more than 60 years, the forces of North and South Korea have been combat ready along a demilitarized zone at the 38th Parallel.
The First Calvary occupied the left flank south of the DMZ; and the 7th Infantry Division was to its right. I held the grade of Captain at the time and had two captains assigned to me. One of them was in charge of furnishing uniform items to the troops and the other was responsible for providing fuel products for the division.
It is hard to believe that it has been more than fifty years since I spent 13 months assigned to the First Calvary Division just south of the demilitarized zone north of Seoul. I was president of the menu board and oversaw the distribution of food for the Division in addition to supervising the two captains.
Although we could see into North Korea from the Quonset hut where I slept and we were constantly aware of the armed enemy nearby, our more immediate problem was theft by the friendly natives.
Prior to the military coup and take-over from the civilian government, in 1960, the Korean People were unemployed and sat around in the yards of houses with mostly thatched roofs. A joke among Americans was that Genghis Khan conquered Korea hundreds of years before. He reportedly left and told them to wait for his return and they were still waiting.
There were many orphanages in Korea and the government had no money for them. The first time an orphanage asked me for food, I said no. Then they invited me to visit the orphanage and the hungry kids sang to me and broke my heart. I returned to my supply point and designated a Sergeant to make sure they got any left over food we had.
There was also an expert thieves element in Korea. When I arrived in country, there was a battle going on between the division and the port. The port unloaded tankers and put diesel fuel for heating in 55-gallon drums and loaded them on a train. The number of drums they billed us for was always more than we received. We were assured by the Korean railroad that the train never stopped between Inchon and the division supply point at Munsan.
I instructed my captain to get a helicopter and follow the train out of sight. The train never stopped, but slowed down as it went through the only wooded area along the route. Dozens of men swarmed out of the woods and onto the train and rolled off barrels of diesel fuel and disappeared with them into the woods. After we confronted the railroad, the theft ended.
The division was equipped with mostly mechanical office machines. After an inventory, I ordered a large number of electric typewriters and calculators. They were stored in a locked room inside a locked warehouse. The compound was fenced and guarded with armed guards and the only way out was through the main gate. The train engine brought in the car loaded with office machines. Our troops misloaded the car and secured the warehouse on Friday. On Saturday, the engine returned and took away the empty car. The guards on the gate checked the car to insure there was nothing in it.
On Monday morning the warehouse and room were locked, but all the office machines were missing. There were no breaks in the perimeter and the only vehicle that passed through the gate other than the empty train was the guard jeep.
My boss was a lieutenant colonel who stretched the rules when he thought it necessary. He called in the local town mayor and gave him 24 hours to return the office machines, or his town would be placed off limits for all our US Army troops.
The mayor protested that he couldn’t do it, but in a few hours he appeared at our gate and asked to see the commander. The office machines had been split between railroad executives and the Korean Army. One of our troops who had the keys let his girl-friend have them and the train crew had access and carried the office machines out in the train engine that we never checked before then.
I was back in Korea a decade later and everyone was working. The roads were fixed and the housing was improved. They are now a thriving nation. North Korea would be wise to adopt the free enterprise system and join their brothers and sisters to the south.