June 25, 2000
marked the 50th Anniversary of Korean War.


They shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn
At the going down of the Sun,
And in the morning,
We will remember them.

From Captain David Weltman, Veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam

"This quote is the Theme of

It comes from the First World War days.. It is generally recited out loud whenever War Veterans' meet at Funerals and at other dedicated occasions. We end it with Amen."

From: "The Grey Co"

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Sacrifices not forgotten

The Orange County Register

It's called the "Forgotten War," but thousands remember the heroism and horrors of the war in Korea, which ended with an armistice - rather than a peace treaty - 50 years ago, on July 27, 1953.

Tensions persist. North Korea threatens to build nuclear weapons. Shooting broke out in the demilitarized zone last week.

About 37,000 U.S. veterans of the war - almost the number of U.S. troops in Korea today - live in Orange County. Now in their 70s, they received little recognition for their sacrifices, which were overshadowed by World War II and Vietnam. More than 55,000 Korean immigrants live here, including an estimated 5,000 veterans. They shy from sharing their memories.

"You don't want to agitate your pain and suffering," said Julian Lee, 73, of Westminster. "Anything that triggers the memory of pain and suffering and fear, you don't want to face it."
Once asked, survivors pour out their memories through smiles and tears. Here are their stories.

Korean War Numbers

United States: 28,000 killed, 8,100 missing in action
South Korea: 225,000 killed
North Korea: 294,000 killed
China: 184,000 killed

Killed in combat: 245,000
South Koreans executed during communist occupation: 129,000
Abducted by North Korea: 85,000 Prisoners
North: returned 12,763 to U.S., South Korea and 11 U.N. members.
South: returned 74,000 to North Korea and China. An additional 22,300 refused repatriation.

' Pale and baby-faced, like an angel, a wounded angel'
Julian Lee of Westminster was born to a land-owning Korean family near the China-Korea border. He fled to Seoul before the war and later served as a South Korean army liaison officer with foreign military services. He moved to the United States as a student in 1955. He taught Asian studies at several universities in California, and now at 73 he owns an art gallery. His political passion is to stop war.

I awakened at daybreak and heard a loud noise. I looked through a hole in the gate. I didn't dare open it. A tank was passing and it had a big red star, and at that moment my heart sank. I was a young man from North Korea. They would hear my accent. If they caught me, I would be shot.

I would hide in a basement all day and go onto a roof at night. I remember counting all the stars and recalling the old mythology.

There was no food anywhere. Not even in the markets. My sister would take her jewels and walk 20 or 30 miles to trade them for food. Women were allowed to move around, but men couldn't. My sister was so strong. My father had told her to take care of me because I was the only son. That's why I survived.

One day, the North Koreans came and took me to a school and put me in a classroom with hundreds of others. They cut our hair and were going to take us to the North for "re-education." My sister came to the school to visit me, and she brought chocolate and cigarettes and some money.

I gave some to a guard who had to accompany me when I went to the bathroom. I went every half-hour and I said bad things about South Korea, so the guard let me go alone. And then, right before sunset, I made an escape. I wrapped my hands in cloth and slid down an embankment to a river and ran. I heard the guns going rat-a-tat-tat, and I ran all the way to my sister's and we hugged and cried.

Three days later, the Americans came, like they were there to rescue us. I remember seeing one Marine who was shot in the leg, and people came out on the street to help and they put him on a litter. His helmet had blown off. He looked like he was fresh out of high school, so young and pale and baby- faced, like an angel, a wounded angel. That's why we have a fondness for Americans.

A 'direct hit' on an ambulance still rattles one Navy veteran
Donald Young grew up in Southern California and joined the Navy because he didn't want to sleep on the ground. He served in Japan and Korea as a military journalist in 1953-54. After the war, he worked for supermarkets and the Internal Revenue Service. He lives in San Clemente with his wife, Joan Marie. He's 71, a father of five grown children - Mark, Gary, Brian, Joyce and Karen.

In February 1953, I went to Korea as kind of a lark, sent to look for places where civilian and Navy journalists could go. In Taegu, I met up with Chief Carpenter C.G. Edsall, an officer who worked with me in Port Hueneme. He took me to an airfield where the Seabees were grading this enormous piece of property. It was around noontime, clear.

We sat there and watched as bombs fell on the field, and the Seabees kept working and working. I thought those guys were nuts. We'd see a pop and there'd be a hole in the ground and they'd keep going.

There were two Navy medical corpsmen standing near an ambulance with a white cross, and I recognized one of them from boot camp. I asked for an interview and he agreed, and I went to get my tape recorder, which weighed about 30 pounds. There was an explosion, and the ambulance had taken a direct hit. One of the corpsmen died on the spot, blown to pieces.

Carpenter Edsall was telling me to get out of there, but the corpsman I knew was saying, "Get your recorder! Get your recorder!" His voice was all gravelly, like he was in real pain. He wanted to say goodbye to his folks, and I recorded it. He thought he was going to die.

I found him later at the naval hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, all covered in bandages, a quadruple amputee. The nurses said they had to tie him to the bed because he wanted to roll out and die.

All these years, that guy has been on my mind. I don't know his name. But here he was, somebody I knew from boot camp, my age, blown up in front of me. I think it's worse to lose all your limbs than to be killed. I feel guilty. I know he took what would've been meant for me if he hadn't been there. Maybe he was paying attention to me instead of watching out for bombs.

'Scariest time was at dusk, when the shadows got long'
Jesus Rodriguez grew up in Los Angeles and enlisted in the Army at 17 because he didn't like school. He was awarded a Silver Star for heroism during a 1951 battle in Korea. Later, he managed a construction parts warehouse. The father of two and grandfather of four is 71 and lives in La Habra with his wife, Julia.

On July 24, 1950, a month after the war started, the A Company of the 1st Battalion of the 29th Regimental Combat Team got sent to Korea. We were told we were going to put down an uprising, like it was a bunch of people with spears. It was supposed to be a police action. We took a whipping.

You lose your innocence fast. Those people we were fighting were savages. They'd catch our guys and, while they were still alive, cut off their ears or tongue or other body parts. When I heard about that, I made up my mind not to be captured.

We'd dig foxholes around the tops of humongous mountains. I filled my pockets with grenades and wore four bandoleers of bullets. I looked like Pancho Villa.

The scariest time was at dusk, when the shadows got long like the Dracula ovies and you'd see them crawling around like ants, positioning for an attack. They outnumbered us at least 10 to 1. They had bugles and whistles and gongs. They'd shoot their flares. They'd holler, and it'd chill you to the bone.

It was February '51, near a place called Anyang-Ni where I got the Silver Star medal. My platoon left me alone on a mountain. I saw our interpreter go over to the other side. The field phone rang, and the officer in charge told me to hold at all costs.

Early in the morning, maybe 2 a.m., I could see them in the moonlight, coming at me. Our interpreter was showing them the way. He was the first one I shot. Got him in the thigh.

korean war

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    korean war

    korea war nurse

    Michigan soldier told the real tales

    May 24, 2003


    U.S. Army Cpl. Bill Ahnen's last letter to his family pulses with excitement. The 22-year-old soldier survived Korea, was in Japan and was coming home to Pontiac.

    Today be the day," he wrote, with joking slang. "I've been waiting for it for 20 long months! . . . I feel good all over, I've been jumping around all afternoon."

    It was March 13, 1953. Four months and two weeks later, Korean War hostilities ended.

    Ahnen returned safely to Pontiac. He never did marry the girl he exchanged letters with during the war after falling for her during basic training in Arkansas.

    He became an automotive engineer and helped design the first Ford Taurus. He married twice, was an avid hunter and lived a full life in Dearborn, Brighton and finally in tiny Glenn near Holland along the Lake Michigan shore.

    He rarely talked about what's known as America's forgotten war, which ended 50 years ago on July 27 with an armistice but not closure.

    Ahnen died in May 2002 at 71, but his war is not forgotten. His letters to his parents and sisterfrom overseas are an enduring chronicle that his mother handed back to him in a duffel bag many years later.

    All 348 of them.

    That's more than one every two days. Now, Ahnen's wife, Pearl, plans to publish a book of the letters to commemorate a war that killed nearly 34,000 Americans, injured 103,000 and left survivors to cope with social indifference when they came home.

    "Bill always felt the Korean War didn't get the mention other wars did," Pearl Ahnen said during a May 16 interview at her Glenn home. She and her husband began working on the book 10 years before he died. She's still seeking a publisher.

    Bill Ahnen's letters are a meticulous diary of one young man's observations of daily life in a harsh environment, from basic training to Japan and Korea. They are an earthy, intensely personal view of a war perhaps best known to many through the sanitized lens of the fictional comedy, "M*A*S*H" first a movie and later a popular TV show.

    Ahnen's letters also are a testament to deep family roots in an era of social certainty. In some, he shares personal advice with his parents, Nicholas and Martha Ahnen, and his younger sister, Carol.

    Andrew Carroll, author of the 2002 book "War Letters," an anthology of American war correspondence since the Civil War, said Ahnen's letters are a rare, comprehensive take on the Korean War. Carroll said many disillusioned Korean War veterans threw away their letters. Others kept only a few.

    Unlike in World War I and World War II, letters from Korea were not censored by the military, Carroll said. The result was unusually graphic accounts of battles and candid observations by soldiers.

    "To have the collection that's this extensive is quite unique," Carroll said. "It's extremely important for history's sake. You see the evolution of a soldier, the perceptions and the insights of one individual over time."

    In an April 22, 1952, letter from camp in Korea, Ahnen wrote of walking a half-mile to take a shower: "Once I get into the shower I hate to get out. The water feels sooogood. I've often wondered what it would be like to take a bath in a tub and sleep in a soft bed with clean white sheets and blankets. And eat out of a plate instead of a mess kit. I'm used to it now, though. . . . The Army sure changes a person. It makes me realize what I left behind." That same letter described a very "M*A*S*H"-like episode.

    "I worked last night so I was permitted to sleep in a little during the day. At one o'clock I was nominated for detail. We were assigned to find some white sand to beautify the area around the Captain's tent. I guess they wanted it to look like Palm Beach. I got the front seat in the truck and we then proceeded on our journey to collect white grains of sand. . . ."

    They never found the white sand.

    Carroll said even letters from those not in combat exhibit the sacrifice of troops who are away from family for long times. Ahnen was a member of a fire direction team that guided artillery units to aim shells at enemy targets, based on scouting reports.

    Although he wasn't in direct combat -- he was 5 miles from enemy lines -- his letters reflect an ever-present danger.

    On April 9, 1952, he wrote: "Late this afternoon we had an accident in the battery. It was a young boy, a Korean. One of the K.P.s," or kitchen police, those on mess hall duty. "After he finished his work and picked up some left-over food to take home, he walked out in the field and stepped on a mine.

    "The first time I saw him they already had him back at the medics. My stomach's still not feeling right after I saw him, poor kid. The back of his head was blown off and his face was gone. The rest of him was covered up with a blanket. I saw that Korean kid take his last breath. I'll never forget that. He died half an hour after the mine hit him. . . ."One intriguing theme to the correspondence is Ahnen's relationship with Anita, a 19-year-old woman he met at basic training at Camp Chaffee, Ark. She worked at a movie theater in nearby Paris, Ark., where they met and began a courtship that continued overseas via mail.

    Ahnen kept their relationship from his parents for a while. In a March 22, 1952, letter to his sister, Carol, he wrote: "My Arkansas gal is getting pretty serious. She wants to marry me, loves me, and all that stuff. It looks pretty serious now, but I'm wondering what it will be like when I get back to the States. By then she may have forgotten me, but then again I may take that trip to Arkansas and go ahead with our plans." Later, in July 1952, he wrote to his parents and sister about Anita's fears that Chinese soldiers would come in his tent:

    "Guess she loves me. She wants to marry me. But maybe you all are right I shouldn't be serious. I'm still young. Anyway, that's what Daddy keeps telling me."

    Pearl Ahnen said she first learned of Anita when she and Bill, as a married couple of 16 years, revisited his boot camp in 1987. She said he described Anita as "a sweet kid, 19, not too tall, with long dark hair and bright eyes."

    Pearl Ahnen would not disclose how the budding loversresolved their relationship. That will be revealed in her book.

    "That story is awesome," she teased.

    To discuss or donate wartime letters, e-mail author Andrew Carroll at or visit the Web site,

    Background information and flag graphic courtesy of the Official Website of the United States' Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War,


    Marine 2nd Lt. Tim Walker, left, and 2nd Lt. Harry Gardner walk through the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

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