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KOREAN WAR COMBAT VETERANS

I submitted the following letter to several local papers in my area to be published on Veterans Day 2014. Since I believe the earlier experiences during the Korean war and my involvement in it was used by God to draw me closer to Himself and to eventually be able to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, I have posted it here to help readers possibly know me a little better, and to help all Korean war veterans and all veterans of all wars come to grips with their own involvement in being required to hunt down and kill others made in the image and likeness of God. Know deep down in your heart what the Word we read here has to say about it. ( Psalm 103:12. ) As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. We have all been washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, once we have accepted His sacrifice for all of mankind and in fact all of creation.

Leith Cunningham

 

To the editor:

I would like to submit this piece I have written to be published the week of Veterans Day, November 11, 2014. After remaining silent for a half century on my military war experiences, I feel it a duty and an obligation to let others know what actually happens during war time where it is all happening. A sensitive soul may at times find my terminology and comments to descriptive for their taste, and that’s alright. But I hope you’ll print it anyway. My philosophy is, if many of us had to experience it firsthand as kids whether we liked it or not, no one should mind to much to see it in print. Especially so, since they have the option to quit reading at any time.

Warm Regards
Leith Cunningham

TO ALL VETERANS OF THE KOREAN WAR

KOREA-

THE FORGOTTEN WAR

Not by me!

I remember it like it was yesterday. I arrived on Korean soil soon after the war had begun in June of 1950. I was in a United States Army Longshoreman Outfit. We received and unloaded ships at Pusan, Korea. As they brought in war materials, weapons, tanks, trucks, and supplies of every nature to fight the brutal, invading, North Korean enemy. We worked crews of South Korean dock workers that worked for fifty cents for a twelve hour shift. All of them ragged, dirty, and with a smell that would gag a maggot off a gut wagon. A complete culture shock to the mind of the eighteen year old farm boy that I was at the time. They were a backward, humble and subdued people, after being under Japanese domination, intimidation, manipulation and harsh rule for over thirty five years, then being set free after WW2. All I ever seen the dock workers eat was fish heads and rice that they carried to work in little tin containers. It always made me wonder where the rest of the fish had gone. I never seen a dog or cat all the while I was in Korea, it was part of their food source, they ate them to stay alive. I believe it is part of their culture heritage as well.

The area was filled to overflowing with displaced people driven ahead of the well trained, well equipped invaders, to escape a certain death from the North Korean enemy. Where they left men, women, children and little babies laying dead and mangled in ditches along the way as they came. War orphans in Pusan begging on the streets and fighting each other for scraps of food we had scraped from our mess kits into garbage cans. I will never forget the little 3 or 4 year old girl that I picked up and held, showed her a few minutes of kindness before I put her down and had to leave, and how she ran after me with outstretched arms, crying daddy, daddy. Mothers with little babies strapped to their backs, naked from the waist up, with milk oozing out from their bulging breasts, making trails down across their individual, dirty and crusty bellies. To used up and spent with hopelessness and exhaustion, to even brush away the flies. Wandering aimlessly about with the familiar thousand yard stare in their eyes, looking for but finding no relief in any direction. What has bothered me most down through the years, is at the time I had little or no empathy or sympathy for them. My carnal mind and heart had mostly been seared over and shut tight from overload or any kind feelings for them, another consequence of war it seems. Open air markets on the streets without refrigeration, with flies so thick you would have to keep your mouth closed in fear of inhaling them. It was almost as if I had died and gone straight to hell. It stunk so bad, there was parts of Pusan you had to hold your breath and move quickly through to keep from puking. This just skims the surface in describing Pusan, Korea during the summer, autumn, and fall of 1950.

It soon became worse!

Everything about the enemy at the time was superior to our forces there. Battle hardened troops, greatly outnumbering us, well trained and with better Russian tanks, planes and other weapons to use against us. Our first troops to face them were no match at all. Soft U.S. Army troops that had been pulling occupation duty in Japan were quickly sent to slow their advance to keep from having ourselves forced out of Korea altogether. The slaughter of these soft under trained, unprepared troops, facing a superior numbered fighting force began immediately. It appeared we might be pushed out of Korea at the time. Fearing if that happened, we might never be able to get our dead comrades out of Korea later on. They began digging up the battlefield cemeteries, wrapping the bodies in a poncho or shelter half, with a wire around the ankles, one around the waist and if there was enough left of the person, a wire around the neck with their dog tags attached to it. They came rolling into Pusan loaded into boxcars stacked with dead bodies like cord wood. With blood and body fluids oozing out along the tracks in the hot autumn sun. We handled multiple hundreds and even thousands of these dead and mangled bodies of young men and boys still in their teens, not yet able to vote or to have a legal drink of alcohol. The stench and smell of rotting flesh and death never left our nostrils. The Korean War Memorial in Washington DC has the inscription, “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE” on it. How well I know first hand that to be true. We live free in our country because many others have paid the ultimate price to make that a reality.

The Communist Chinese Army entered the war in overwhelming force and numbers during November of 1950. Our country took soldiers already in Korea to try to stem the tide and beat them back. Again, soft and without any recent training for going into combat. Yet, I relished the fact that I was one among many others, chosen to go into a combat infantry outfit. I had developed a purple passion hatred for the enemy, especially so for the North Koreans. Reports came in by way of The Stars and Stripes news paper, that for effect they had killed some of our soldiers execution style, tying their hands behind their backs with barbed wire and shooting them in the back of the head. My mind set at the time was, the only good Korean, is a dead one, the more we kill today, the less we’ll have to kill tomorrow. A testimony to the ignorance and gullibility of an eighteen year old mind that can be programmed and trained to accept the insanity of war, to kill and destroy others made in the image and likeness of God. For the first time in my Army life I volunteered for something I had been advised not to do. All of my past military friends and family members had advised against volunteering for anything. I volunteered as a machine gunner with the 2nd Indianhead Infantry Division. I wanted to shed a lot of North Korean and Chinese blood.

To late, I remembered our basic training drill instructor telling us that the average life of a machine gunner under attack is about three minutes. Along with that I had not planned in having to carry the thing thru knee deep snow covered mountains and rice paddies at 30, 40 and 50 below zero blizzard weather, without proper cold weather clothing or decent food. The kill or be killed insanity of war ended for me when I was evacuated off the frontlines on March 7,1951 my feet had been frozen and the war was over for me. I weighed barely over one hundred pounds, skin stretched over bone from the extreme cold without proper cold weather clothing and never getting enough to eat. Almost everything that could be taken and still remain alive had been sucked out of me, on the battlefields of Korea. I spent most all of the next year recovering in Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan. I come now to a point I would like to make. After losing home town friends in the Korean war and others I became acquainted with in the service, seeing some of them shot stone cold dead by my side or others having to suffer on in pain and agony. Losing arms, legs, eyes, jawbones and all sorts of other body parts and boggled minds. It causes me grief, pain and sorrow to hear it being reported, that we never won the war. But is that really true? Lets take a look at the evidence.

The North Korean and the Chinese war machine with all of their superior Russian weapons and overwhelming numbers, were pushed back to the basic place of their initial invasion, where they still remain today. The North Koreans continues to be an oppressive, military regime that rules through fear, intimidation and manipulation. Their people live still in abject poverty through out the country. Under the despotic rule of one, not all that much different than Hitler of WW2. Still hell bent upon invading South Korea and bringing them into the northern fold, in his quest to conquer, gain land mass, and control the minds and hearts of all of Korea. But there is one little problem, the DMZ. The demilitarized zone, where our military stands guard to make sure it never happens. It may be true that the war has never officially ended, but it should not take a mental wizard to figure out and come to a logical conclusion as to whom has really won the war. A night satellite photograph of North and South Korea for example, reveals a telltale message to the world. The whole of South Korea is being illuminated with the lights of industry, commerce and progress, by a nation that is producing and exporting world class products of every nature. While the north remains dark and void of the things that democracy has brought to the south. South Korea has become one of our greatest trading partners. They are a nation and a people to be admired and looked up to for their perseverance, determination, stick to it ness and dogged work ethic. Their athletes bring a measure of excellence to the Olympics at competition time.

I was in Seoul, Korea during 1950 and could see nothing but huge piles of rubble and devastation. Unfit for habitation, the people had all been driven out in front of the invading armies. Seoul changed hands four times during the war. As far as the eye could see the city had pretty much been leveled. I don’t remember seeing anything higher than a three story building. I was amazed in 1988 as the Olympics were being held there and we were all able to see maybe the most modern city in the world, that had risen from the ashes of destruction and devastation. The skyline covered with skyscrapers, super highways, bridges and commerce. A bustling, city on the move upward and onward. Another testament to a people given a free mind in which to achieve, build and go forward with. South Korea today is a nation with a population of fifty million people. A full twenty percent of the population live in the city of Seoul. A city with a population of roughly ten million people, that my friends is a couple million more than live in our own New York, City. Interestingly, Seoul's population density is almost twice that of

New York City, and 8 times higher than the density of Rome. I was in other Korean cities such as Pusan, Inchon, Wonju and others, where the same progress has since grown and now thrives as well. The spread of Communism around the world was stopped dead in its tracks in Korea. You can decide for yourself whom won the war, but for me the question has been settled. It gives me comfort and an inner peace on this Veterans Day, to know in the deepest recesses of my mind and heart that my friends and comrades did not die in vain or “die for a tie” in Korea. Time has shown that we decisively did win the war. The proof is there for all that have eyes to see with. The South Korean people have made it so.

In the 1994 version of its annual publication, Service and Casualties in Major Wars and Conflicts, the Pentagon put Korean War battle deaths at 33,652 and "other deaths" meaning deaths in the war zone from illness, accidents and other non-battle causes at 3,262. That yields a total of 36,914. Around eight thousand men were never recovered, whose bodies remain in Korean soil. One such young man, Sgt. David Feriend of Fife Lake, lost his life at the Chosin Reservoir battle, a kid that went to our school. These brave and courageous young men and women went and served in a country they had never heard of before and for a people they did not know. To keep a nation free and prevent them from falling into the grasp of oppressing communism. The grateful, thankful nation of South Korea, has rapidly through the pages of time, risen from the ashes of destruction to that of unparallel growth and development, as a testimony and a memorial to those lost lives. Thus gaining the attention of the whole world as a people and a nation to be recognized as such. South Korea has shown itself to be ever grateful and thankful for American service men and women whom have served their nation. They put out free publications to veterans to prove where their heart is in this. Among other things as I understand it at this point in time, they will bring any veteran of the Korean war that would like to return for a visit to Korea, by paying for all food and lodging and half of the plane fare, or travel expense. On this Veterans Day of remembrance, let us acknowledge and pay tribute to, “the many who gave some, and the some that gave all.” Remembering as we do, that it is God whom is in control of all things, and all of the time.

 

Leith Cunningham E-mail:
leithcunningham2@hotmail.com

P.S. Korean war losses-Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, South Korea - (217,000 military, 1,000,000 civilian) North Korea - (406,000 military, 600,000 civilian) China - (600,000 military) Doing the math here will help a reasonable mind be able to determine whom won the war, and the reason why the enemy had been driven to the peace table.