Korean War Veteran

General Shin, Hyun-joon, ROK Commander and Commandant

By Lieutenant Colonel James F. Durand, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

Major General Shin meets with General Lemuel Shepherd, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, in his December 1952 visit to U.S. Marine Corps bases.




At 06:10 on September 27, 1950, Republic of Korea (ROK) Marines raised the flag in front of the Seoul Capitol. Three months earlier, the ROK Marine Corps faced skepticism from the other services and doubt within its own ranks. Created without American advisors or equipment, the nascent ROK Marine Corps was a product of the determined efforts of its founder and first Commandant, Colonel Shin, Hyun-joon. The Marines’ superb performance in the early battles of the Korean War is a testament to his leadership. 

In the wake of the failed amphibious assault at Yosu, Rear Admiral Son, Won-il tasked Shin with forming a ground combat unit within the ROK Navy. Shin had participated in the October 1948 military in which four navy cutters attempted to land ROK Army Soldiers to suppress the rebels who occupied the port city. After the operation, Shin submitted a combat report arguing for the creation of a specialized unit within the Navy responsible for amphibious operations. Admiral Son assigned Shin to lead the new unit on February 1, 1949.

Shin found few takers as he sought officers and noncommissioned officers for the new unit. Those with knowledge of the Imperial Japanese Navy knew ground combat units as backwater assignments relegated to garrison defense duties by war’s end. Kim, Seung-un rebuffed Shin’s first two requests to transfer to the unit before accepting an offer to serve as chief of staff. Navy commanders withheld sending their model sailors in response for a call for noncommissioned officers, instead sending “those who were brave with a strong sense of justice, but occasionally caused some trouble in their units.” Despite these challenges, Shin assembled 80 officers and noncommissioned officers to lead the new unit. Three hundred sailors from the Navy’s 13th Recruit Class began training as the 1st Marine Corps Class.

On April 15, 1949, the ROK Marine Corps was activated in a simple ceremony at the Deoksan Air Base in Chinhae. The Marines assembled before the dignitaries were a humble lot, wearing an assortment of discarded uniforms and helmets; Japanese leggings were worn over oversize American boots. Those issued weapons carried Arisaka Type-99 rifles; others carried wooden drill rifles.

A veteran of fighting in Manchuria, Colonel Shin was accustomed to material deficiencies. He demanded tough, physical training. Noncommissioned officers drilled the new Marines on Deoksan’s cement landing strip and marched them up the 1,800-foot Chonja Peak so often that the mountain quickly became a symbol of the new Corps.

In late August, the ROK Army Chief of Staff requested that Colonel Shin send Marines to Jinju to protect the town from guerillas who had operated in the nearby mountains since the Yosu rebellion. In exchange for dispatching a battalion-sized unit to Jinju, the Army agreed to leave its equipment to the Marines. Over the next four months, Marine patrols restored security to the region.

On December 28, Colonel Shin and 1,200 Marines landed at Jeju City where a protracted insurgency had shattered the peace of the tranquil island. The Marines were as aggressive in earning the trust of the people as they were ferreting out remaining guerillas, assisting farmers with spring planting, and arranging free medical care. Colonel Shin worked to establish the Corps’ ethos, establishing an NCO Training Unit to instill a fighting spirit in the new Marines. He pressed Navy Headquarters for more Marines and equipment.

Despite success in early operations, Navy Headquarters refused to expand the Corps. This led to a sense of despair among the Marines. On June 23, the Corps’ senior officers resigned en masse. Two days later, North Korean Army units attacked south to start the Korean War.

The Korean War transformed the Marine Corps. Resignations were withdrawn as the Marines prepared for war. Colonel Shin’s efforts to restore trust among the people of Jeju were reflected in over 3,000 islanders joining the Marine Corps; the 126 women who served would be the only women to earn the title “Marine” for nearly half a century. A battalion-sized unit landed at Kunsan on July 16. They fought the North Korean People’s Army’s 13th Regiment for four days, delaying the attack south. Marines under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kim, Seung-un earned the war’s first unit-wide promotion for their actions at Chindong-ni, and received international acclaim as the “Ghost-Catching Marines” following their amphibious landing at Tongyoung.

On September 3, the U.S. Far East Command approved the attachment of the ROK Marine Corps — organized into three infantry battalions, a reconnaissance company, and a headquarters element — to the 1st Marine Division. Initially assigned as the landing force reserve, the ROK Marines were tasked with clearing Incheon and the Kimpo Peninsula following the Incheon landing. ROKMC battalions were attached to the 1st and 5th Marine Regiments as they began their final assault on Seoul.

President Syngman Rhee awards Major General Shin the Order of Military Merit, Taeguk, on October 15, 1953 in a change-of-command ceremony for the commandant.

Colonel Shin invited Major General O.P. Smith, Commanding General of the U.S. 1st Marine Division, to review the Korean Marines following the liberation of the capital. The battle-tested Marines who paraded before the division commander were a sharp contrast to those assembled 18 months earlier. All wore complete uniforms, packs, and web equipment; their rifles, machine guns, and mortars were “spotless.” Writing in his log, the veteran of fierce fighting on Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa noted, “These Korean Marines were quite remarkable.”

After leading the ROK Marines in the defense of Wonsan, Colonel Shin turned over command of the newly established 1st ROK Marine Regiment and focused on training and equipping the rapidly expanding Corps. As Commandant, General Shin forged a relationship with the United States Marine Corps and instituted training and education practices modeled on the American system. The relationship between the two Corps would continue throughout the Korean War and Armistice, including deployments to Vietnam and Iraq. General Shin served as commandant throughout the war, remained in uniform until 1961, and served two assignments as an ambassador. He holds the distinction of being South Korea’s longest serving general officer and longest serving ambassador.

About The Author: 

Lieutenant Colonel Durand is a graduate of the 31st Marine Corps Course at the ROK Naval War College. He has worked with General Shin’s children to translate their father’s autobiography, “Memoirs of an Old Marine.” His article, General Shin Hyun-joon, “Father of the Marine Corps,” is available at http://icks.org/n/data/ijks/2017FW-6.pdf.

See this and other stories of our Veterans in KDVA’s “I Know a Korean War Veteran Campaign” webpage at https://kdva.vet/i-know-a-korean-war-veteran-campaign/.

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The Story of CWO George V. Lampman, USMC, Ret.

On Duty with the Marine Security Detachment at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on June 25, 1950

By Fred Lash, from an interview with George V. Lampman

In June of 1950, Sergeant George V. Lampman, USMC was a member of the Marine Security Guard (MSG) Detachment at the newly established U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.  The detachment numbered 20 Marines in all.

George was at the U.S. Embassy when, on June 25, 1950, North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea.

Backtracking a bit, these 20 Marines who would eventually serve in the first MSG detachment at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea were selected from approximately 70 Marines, mostly veterans of World War II.

They reported to Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia on November 10, 1948 and were trained for several weeks by State Department security officers in Washington, DC, then taken to a local clothing store to be fitted for civilian clothes (suits, overcoats, hats, shirts, etc.).

George should know—he is the only living member of that 20-Marine MSG detachment.  The reason they had to be outfitted with civilian attire is that they would not be able to wear Marine Corps uniforms where they would be going.  They were also ordered not to tell anyone where they were to be assigned.

The 20 Marines arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on January 9, 1949.  It is interesting to note that they arrived in Korea without uniforms, military identification cards, or dog tags.  On November 10th of that same year, the detachment held its first Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Seoul, with more than 300 guests.

Next came routine security duties and time passed rather quickly—until Sunday, June 25, 1950, when at 8:45 a.m., the MSG learned that North Korean forces had crossed the 38th Parallel at approximately 4:00 a.m.

The following is an account by CWO George V. Lampman, USMC (Retired) of the actions and events that occurred on the 25th, 26th, and 27th of June 1950.

On Sunday, June 25th, I was the Embassy Security Officer and had the midnight to 8:00 a.m. watch.  About 4:30 a.m., I started getting telephone calls from various people asking me what was going on in the north and what had I heard.  Even newspaper reporters were asking the same questions and I just told them that I did not know anything.  I and other two Marines who were on watch with me went back to our quarters.  However, we were not there long when our “room boy” came into our room, woke us up, and told me that I was wanted on the phone right away. I went down to the phone and spoke with Paul Dupre who relieved me and said, “George, get all the guys, bring any weapons you have, and get down here right away.  We are sending a Jeep to pick you up.”  As we were driving down a main street and some aircraft were flying extremely low over us. Gus said, “Look at those damn P-51s and how close to us they are flying.  It’s very dangerous.”  We had recently heard that the first class of the Korean Air Force had graduated from flight school, and we thought these new pilots were just showing off.  As we continued down the street, it became clear that these planes were not our P-51s but instead were Russian Yaks, flown by North Korean pilots.  We found out later that the Yak has the same silhouette as American P-51s.  The Yak started strafing us, and we had to do a lot of dodging and stopping quite often to get protection behind the stone pillars of government buildings.

Finally, we made it to the Embassy and our NCOIC (noncommissioned officer in charge) told us there were pre-prepared evacuation orders that we had never heard about.  At that point, we learned that we were among the lead people in these evacuation orders.  However, the orders were up-to-date and extremely precise, telling us exactly where to go, what to do, and when to do it.

After we received our instructions and knew what we had to do, we drove to all the quarters in the city occupied by embassy staff personnel, advising them of the evacuation plans.  The evacuation went quite smoothly, considering the circumstances.  The personnel were all driven in busses to the port of Incheon, southwest of Seoul where there was a fertilizer ship on which everyone boarded.  The Seventh Fleet escorted this ship to Japan.

After they were all evacuated, we still had work to do.  The Ambassador directed us to destroy all the communications equipment in the embassy.  All we did was to go from floor to floor, grabbing all the telephones and throwing them out of windows.  Now, it was Monday and we began wondering just how remaining personnel would be evacuated.

The embassy had inherited all the 24th Corps’ vehicles, and they were in our embassy motor pool.  We took a couple of M-1 rifles, a couple cases of armor piercing ammunition, and destroyed perhaps two hundred jeeps and other vehicles.  We devised a system to make this operation go more smoothly.  One guy would open the hood and another guy would then fire two or three rounds into the flywheel.  That way, the North Koreans would not be able to cannibalize them.  We did all of that in about three to four hours.

We then continued to destroy classified and sensitive material.  The Army Attaché’s office had tons of training manuals marked “Restricted,” and all that fell into the category of burning.  There was so much burning of various documents that the furnaces became overloaded, and we needed to erect a burning bin in the parking area made from chain link fencing.  With the use of lots of gasoline, we were able to get everything destroyed.

After that, I was given the task of getting the two code machines to the sidewalk in front of the embassy.  We got everyone back to safety, hooked up the code machines to Jeep batteries, and then put an electrical charge into them.  Within about 10 to 15 minutes, we had two football-size lumps of molten metal.

After finishing with the code machines, we drove to the airfield at Kimpo.  There were very few transport aircraft available for the evacuation since General MacArthur was using them to bring in the 24th Division.  Task Force Smith was at Osan, with a reinforced company of the 24th.

The last planes for evacuating embassy personnel and U.S. citizens had supposedly landed while we were still shaking the bushes to locate ambassadors of other countries who we could evacuate.  We found most of them; however, there were so many people they overloaded the planes.

After what we were led to believe was the last plane had departed, four or five of us got ready to drive our Jeeps to anywhere south of Seoul.  Just as we were departing Kimpo, someone let us know that there was to be one more plane coming in.  It was a C-54 that was being flown to Suwon from Inosuke in Japan.  When the pilot reached Suwon, he was informed that there were more people at Kimpo to evacuate, including several Marines, so he headed there.  Meanwhile, while we waited for this plane to land, more people arrived and wanted to board the plane.  The crew chief said the plane was grossly overloaded; however, everyone got aboard.  I never knew how many people a C-54 was supposed to carry, but there were approximately 110 aboard.

As we were taxiing down the runway, I heard the pilot tell the crew chief, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to get this SOB off the ground, so we better open the doors and throw anything out that’s not nailed down.”  The Marines assisted in tossing lots of stuff out the doors—life rafts, weapons, cargo boxes—and we were just barely able to lift off.

I was responsible for the Great Seal of the United States that was used at the embassy for passports.  Because of International Law, the Great Seal of the U.S. was not to go into another country.  My instructions from the embassy security officer were to throw the seal out the window of the aircraft after we were over the Straits of Tsushima.  I got the crew chief to open the navigator’s window, and I threw it out of the plane.

We landed at Inosuke, Japan, where the Air Force wives had set up a nice reception for us with refreshments.  A few days later, 19 of us (MSG detachment) were assigned to different posts at embassies throughout the Pacific area.  Later, after we retook Seoul in September, six of us would be recalled to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.  We would be together again until the Chinese Communists invaded South Korea later that same year—but that’s a different story.

About The Author:

Fred Lash works with Military Historical Tours Inc. They are the finest, custom-designed tour program for Veterans, Family Members, Historians, Educators or Students. For 30 years they have followed the vision of providing opportunities to visit battlefields of past conflicts.

See this and other stories of our Veterans in KDVA’s “I Know a Korean War Veteran Campaign” webpage at https://kdva.vet/i-know-a-korean-war-veteran-campaign/.

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I Don’t Hate Nobody Because Life Is So Short

The Remarkable Story of the Only Holocaust Survivor to be Awarded the Medal of Honor

By: Mr. Ned Forney, U.S. Marine Corps veteran, career educator, and grandson of a Korean War veteran

“When I became a citizen, it was one of the happiest days in my life . . . [the U.S.] is the best country in the world, and I’m part of it.” – Tibor Rubin

He survived more than a year in a Nazi concentration camp, was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Korea, endured thirty 30 months as a Chinese POW, and upon his release, became a U.S. citizen.

The Korean War

Arriving in America in 1948 after surviving the horrors of 14 months at Mauthausen concentration camp, Tibor “Ted” Rubin worked odd jobs, made friends, and repeatedly tried to enlist in the U.S. Army. But his English wasn’t good enough.

In 1950, however, he got his lucky break. With a little “unofficial” help from a few American buddies, he passed the English language test, was admitted into the Army, and was soon on his way to Korea.

As a member of I Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division, PFC Rubin fell under the wrath of his company First Sergeant, a man described by fellow Soldiers as an “extreme anti-Semite.” The ruthless Staff NCO, who made no qualms about verbally assaulting the 21-year-old PFC and giving him the company’s worst jobs, frequently “volunteered” him for dangerous and seemingly impossible missions.

“He would send me to the most difficult positions so that I would be killed,” Rubin recalled. “It scared the hell out of me. I couldn’t even hold my rifle, but I still went.”

They Looked Like Ants

On July 23, 1950, Rubin’s sadistic First Sergeant sent him on what many would later say was a suicide mission. With his company in retreat, Rubin, now a corporal, was ordered to stay behind and defend a vital hilltop. Alone and without support from other units, Rubin was hit by an overwhelming North Korean force.

“There were so many, they looked like ants,” Rubin recalled in an MOH (Medal of Honor) video. “I didn’t have too much time to get scared, so I went crazy. I was like a machine, a robot. I ran around to every foxhole on the hill and started throwing hand grenades and shooting my rifle to make as much noise as possible so the North Koreans would think they were fighting more than one person.”

According to his Medal of Honor citation, “He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal.”

But his First Sgt. was not impressed. Despite the fact that Rubin had been recommended for the Medal of Honor, the enraged Staff NCO refused to submit the paperwork and would repeatedly “misplace” every recommendation (Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and Silver Star) that Rubin was nominated for.

Nightmare at Death Valley

By October 1950, with the North Koreans retreating and the Americans advancing deep into enemy territory, the war appeared to be all but over. The Chinese, however, had other ideas.

Sneaking across the North Korean border during October and November, tens of thousands of Chinese unleashed a massive offensive against U.S. forces in North Korea. In what became known as the Battle of Unsan, two Chinese divisions attacked the 8th Cavalry Regiment.

Outnumbered and outgunned, Rubin and hundreds of American soldiers were surrounded, taken prisoner, and marched for weeks to the camp they would forever call “Death Valley.”


Over the next 30 months, Rubin and his fellow prisoners endured the barbaric conditions of the remote camp located in the remote mountains of North Korea. Suffering from extreme cold, deprivation, and physical and mental torture, men starved to death, succumbed to disease and exposure, and simply lost the will to live.

Rubin, however, never lost hope. He became a beacon of optimism and strength for all the men in the camp. Frequently risking his life to steal food and medicine, the seemingly fearless corporal raised the morale of the prisoners and saved the lives of 40 men.

“He’d go out of his way . . . to help us survive,” fellow inmate Leo Cormier said. “He saved a lot of GI’s lives. He gave [us] courage to go on living when a lot of guys didn’t make it. He saved my life when I could have laid in a ditch and died — I was nothing but flesh and bones.”

James Bourgeois remembers Rubin boiling snow and using the steaming water to clean his wounds and bandages. “At one time my wounds got so infected he put maggots in them to prevent gangrene from setting in. [He] not only saved my left arm — which I have full use of today — but also my life.”

Rubin’s nightmare of Chinese captivity came to an end in 1953 when the 23-year-old corporal and countless other emaciated, sick, and wounded Americans were repatriated during “Operation Little Switch,” an exchange of prisoners from April 20 to May 3, 1953.

His release and reunion with his family back home, however, was bittersweet. Recalling his buddies that perished, he told Soldiers Magazine, “Some of them gave up, and some of them prayed to be taken.”

When asked years later about his feelings toward those who had imprisoned him during the Holocaust and Korean War, he replied, “I don’t hate nobody because life is so short. If you feel hate for your fellow man, you’ll only hurt yourself.”

To read the full story of Tibor Rubin’s life and how he became the only Holocaust survivor to be awarded the Medal of Honor, visit: http://nedforney.com/index.php/2020/06/22/tibor-rubin-holocaust-korean-war-pow-medal-of-honor/

About The Author:

Ned Forney is a Marine veteran, career educator, and grandson of the late Colonel Edward H. Forney, USMC, the evacuation control officer at Hungnam in December 1950.  He is currently working on a non-fiction book about the Battle of Chosin (Changjin) Reservoir and Hungnam Evacuation, the largest U.S. military amphibious evacuation of civilians, under combat conditions, in American history.

See this and other stories of our Veterans in KDVA’s “I Know a Korean War Veteran Campaign” webpage at https://kdva.vet/i-know-a-korean-war-veteran-campaign/.


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The Sharp Family Story

By Ms. Nicole Ruiz, KDVA Research Intern

Photo Caption: Gen. (Ret.) Walter Sharp is holding a picture of his father, then-Lieutenant Earl “Bill” Sharp (who is on the right), with the 40th Infantry Division during the Korean War in 1952 to 1953.  Bill Sharp ended his 28-year military career, retiring as a Cavalry Colonel and inspiring his son to follow in his footsteps. General Sharp started his Army career at West Point and ended in 2011 as the 4-star commander of United Nations Command (UNC), Combined Forces Command (CFC), and U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

General (Retired) Walter “Skip” Sharp

President and Chairman, Korea Defense Veterans Association

Former Commander United Nations Command / Combined Forces Command / U.S. Forces Korea

Son of Korean War Veteran, Colonel (Retired) Earl “Bill” Sharp


Shortly after graduating from the University of West Virginia and receiving his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Earl “Bill” Sharp joined the 40th Infantry Division during the Korean War in 1952. In 1953, Lieutenant Sharp returned home to his wife and his new son, Walter “Skip” Sharp, who had been born while he was fighting in Korea. Then-Lieutenant Sharp would pursue a 28-year military career, retiring as a Cavalry Colonel and inspiring his son to follow in his footsteps. Skip Sharp entered West Point and graduated in 1974, launching what would become a 37-year military career and ultimately retiring as a 4-star General in 2011. When General Sharp was set to deploy for Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, his father emphasized the importance of taking care of his troops thru tough realistic training and trusting his subordinates. Still, his father did not fully breach the topic of his wartime experiences.

General Sharp was first stationed in Korea between 1996 and 1998. General Sharp received his promotion from Colonel to Brigadier General and his parents, who had attended every promotion since West Point, joined him for a short visit in Korea. The trip held special meaning for his father because it was the first time he set foot on Korean soil since the Korean War. General Sharp reflected, “He really was amazed and pleased to see how much Korea has progressed and said several times ‘The sacrifices of the Korean War were worth it’.” Unfortunately, Colonel Sharp passed away in 2006 before he could see his son earn his fourth star and return to Korea for his dream final job in the Army as the commander of United Nations Command (UNC), Combined Forces Command (CFC), and U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) from 2008 until his retirement in 2011.

This tour as the 4-star commander in Korea gave General Sharp the opportunity to visit the location where his father fought, an experience he wishes he could have shared with him. His Deputy CFC Commander, General Jung, Seong Jo, mobilized Korean historians to help identify the locations where his father served in the Heartbreak Ridge-to-Punchbowl area in late 1952 and early 1953. General Jung also arranged for General Sharp and his wife to visit the battlefield as well as receive a briefing from the unit stationed in that area. Even though his father could not join him to revisit the battlefield, being able to do so was still a special moment for General Sharp, especially because his father never talked about his experiences in any detail. General Sharp remembered, “There were times when he would talk about how cold it was, the coldest he was ever in his life.” Besides these little snippets of information, much of Co lonel Sharp’s service was shrouded in mystery.

It wasn’t until several years after his father passed away that General Sharp would learn more about his father’s experiences in Korea and Vietnam. When the family stumbled across a cedar chest containing photos and military records, General Sharp described finding such a chest as “pretty emotional.” Like many veterans from the Korean War, his father closely guarded his experiences and never really divulged any details. General Sharp reflected, “I wish I had a better understanding on how things went and how he was able to prepare, lead, and fight in a war at such a young age.” He went on to say, “When I retired, I vowed that I was going to continue to do everything I could … to strengthen the ROK-U.S. Alliance and honor those who had served in Korea.”

True to his word, General Sharp honored the legacy of his father and other Korean War veterans after his retirement by speaking on their behalf. He also played a crucial role in forming the Korean Defense Veterans Association (KDVA), becoming the first chairman and president of the organization. These organizations are important because they provide a platform for the importance of the ROK-U.S. Alliance and for veterans to share their experiences and others to learn from them


Photo Caption: This bayonet was presented to General Sharp by the 3rd ROK Corps during his visit to where his father fought in the Korean War.


Photo Caption: Pictures of General Sharp’s father, then-Lieutenant Earl “Bill” Sharp, with the 40th Infantry Division during the Korean War in 1952 to 1953.

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The Champoux Family Story

By Ms. Nicole Ruiz, KDVA Research Intern

Growing up, Korea was an important part of the Champoux family. It came in the form of traditional Korean masks hanging on the living room walls and his father occasionally talking about Korea, although rarely mentioning the war. One of eight siblings, General Champoux was the only one to follow his father’s footsteps into the Army. General Champoux was commissioned a Second Lieutenant by his father on October 21, 1977. Now with his son as a fellow Soldier, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Francis L. Champoux began to share more experiences, finally broaching the topic of his war experiences in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. One such story was when then-Captain Champoux was first assigned to the 65th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War. Upon being assigned to the unit, there were some initial difficulties in terms of connecting with his troops. However, he eventually earned their respect when he made it clear that he would share the dangers of combat with his men, even gaining the nickname “El Toro” (Spanish for “The Bull”). Colonel Champoux expressed great pride in his son’s decision to serve. Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of 65, before seeing his son become a general.

During a deployment to Iraq, General Champoux received the news he would be assigned to Korea. Following an emotional plane ride to his new duty station with his wife, he settled into his new role as the Eighth Army Commanding General. During his time in Korea, he was able to enlist the help of a Korean aide-to-camp and use the book Honor and Fidelity to find the exact location where his father fought. Over sixty years later, General Champoux made a sort of pilgrimage with some family and staff. He was able to follow his father onto the grounds near Cheorwon, where then-Captain Champoux was part of the Battle of Jackson Heights. Regarding the experience, General Champoux explained, “To get the chance to serve where he had served, where he had fought, was really, really precious to me. Even now, I’m so proud of that. I’m so grateful that I had that opportunity. Although I didn’t need to be any closer… I felt that much closer to him.” Reflecting on his initial assignment to Korea, General Champoux believes it was partially due to divine providence. His father had often called Korea the “Land of the Morning Calm” and after living there, General Champoux can attest that, “there is something about when you’re out in the field. [When the sun is rising above the mountainous terrain,] there is a sense of quiet and calm.” Although their experiences in Korea were vastly different, both General Champoux and his father are and will remain Soldiers for life.

There are some things only those who have experienced war will understand. To many, there is a comfort in believing in such a place as Valhalla, a place for only the souls of warriors. General Champoux pronounces, “There’ll be a time when I’ll sit around a fire with my dad at Valhalla and we’ll talk about our combat service and we’ll talk about our time in Korea… [but] I can wait. There’s a lot that I still want to live for.” General Champoux’s commitment to the ROK-U.S. Alliance remains strong through his volunteer efforts with KDVA as a Board member and his current position as Senior Vice President of Hanwha Defense International, a South Korean defense company in the Washington, DC area. He believes that strengthening the Alliance through various channels can further solidify the bonds forged during the Korean War.

Hanging on Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bernard Champoux’s office wall is a photo of the surviving members of the 65th Infantry Regiment “Borinqueneers,” the unit where his father, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Francis L. Champoux, was a company commander during the Korean War. A copy of Honor and Fidelity, originally presented by the author, Gilberto Villahermosa, to General Champoux’s mother, now sits in a place of honor in this library. These physical mementos serve as a reminder of the ties that bind. General Champoux never met the Soldiers with whom his father served, but their faces are still proudly displayed. Villanueva’s research helped bring General Champoux that much closer to his father.

Read more “I Know a Korean War Veteran” Campaign Stories.

“I Know A Korean War Veteran Campaign”

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General Paek Sun Yup

Submitted By: James Pierce 

My favorite Korean War veteran is General Paek Sun Yup, perhaps Korea’s greatest modern military leader.

I initially met General Paek probably in the 1970s, when I was first assigned to the American Embassy in Seoul. (I had been introduced to Korea a decade earlier, serving in 8th Army.) Over the years, with repeated assignments to Korea, I had the opportunity to meet General Paek a number of times. The last time I saw him was about 25 years ago at a reception held at the residence of the Korean Ambassador to the U.S. on Korean Armed Forces Day, October 1.

General Paek was the senior-ranking guest and, as such, was to give the featured remarks. I met up with him during the initial mix and mingle, reintroduced myself and, after mentioning that I had just re-read a history of the Korean War, asked General Paek if he could recall for me one particular event during the war that stood out most clearly in his memory. He paused and said, “Yes, there was such a moment, and I remember it very clearly.” He related how, on June 29, he had been directed to go to Suwon Airfield to meet a “high-ranking U.S. military officer.” The officer turned out to be General MacArthur, who flew in from Japan that day to assess the situation on the ground. After going up to the south bank of the Han River (Seoul had fallen by that time), MacArthur declared that he would direct U.S. ground troops to come to Korea and enter the war.

At that moment, General Paek related to me some 45 years later, “I knew Korea would be saved.” General Paek and I parted, said hello to other guests, and several minutes later, General Paek was called to the front of the room to deliver his remarks. He reached into his suit jacket pocket and took out a page of written remarks. Pausing a moment, he said, “I have these prepared remarks, but I’m not going to use them.” Putting them back into his pocket, he continued, “Instead, I’m going to tell you about June 29, 1950.” When he finished a few minutes later, the applause was thunderous.

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Captain Sung Gon Kim

Submitted By: MinShik Kim 

Freedom is not free.

April 19, 2020 is the 11th anniversary of my grandfather’s death.

He was laid to rest at Daejeon National Cemetery.

My grandfather, Captain Sung Gon Kim is a Korean War Veteran, and has served in the ROK Army during the Korean war as an infantry officer.

CPT Kim took part in the war for 2 years and 6 months, especially from January 1, 1951 to July 1, 1953.

When the war broke on June 25th, 1950, new recruits received initial entry training at Moseulpo in Jeju Island (1st training center, later, 2nd training center opened up in Nonsan).

My grandfather was assigned to the 1st training center to train soldiers. Most of the graduates were placed at the front line at that time.

Later, he fought bravely at 351 front line battle near Wolbi Mountain which is remembered as one of the most intense battles during the Korean War. He was wounded from that battle and honorably discharged.

He truly sacrificed himself to protect and defend our people and nation.

Thank you for your service and we will remember you.

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By: Ned Forney
U.S. Marine Corps veteran, career educator, and grandson of a Korean War veteran

For 19-year-old Pat Finn, a Minnesota Marine with Item Co, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the night seemed colder and darker than any of the others he’d experienced since landing in Korea. His battalion had just arrived at a desolate, frozen lake he would remember for the rest of his life: the Chosin Reservoir.

PFC Pat Finn, USMC, before leaving for Korea. (Photo courtesy of Pat Finn)

Home By Christmas

As the sun went down on November 27, 1950, and temperatures sank to 20 degrees below zero, U.S. Marines at Yudam-ni, a small village on the west side of the Chosin Reservoir, hunkered down for what they hoped would be a quiet, uneventful night.

“The war was all but over,” Finn recalled in his diary written weeks later from a hospital bed in Japan. “You’ll be home by Christmas,” he’d been told.

But his buddy, Eddie Reilly, wasn’t buying it. In his usual pessimistic tone, he told Finn, “Pat, I don’t like the look of all this, it sounds too good.”

For the next four hours, the two Marines scraped and dug into the frozen, rocky ground, Reilly constantly reminding his friend that if something went wrong a fighting hole would save them from flying bullets and shrapnel.

When the hole was finally finished, Finn and Reilly, both exhausted, squeezed into what they believed would be a safe haven for the night. Minutes later their lieutenant yelled, “Saddle up!”Their platoon was heading to higher ground.

They Just Kept Coming

Nothing, not even a foxhole, would save them from the horror that unfolded over the next eight hours. Finn, Reilly, and hundreds of their fellow Marines were attacked by thousands of Chinese.

In the first onslaught of a major Communist offensive that would alter the course of the war, Chinese soldiers, under direct orders from Mao, had launched a vicious attack to annihilate the 1st Marine Division. Wave after wave of Chinese descended on the Marines.

Overwhelmed and outmanned, Finn and his buddies were overrun by the Chinese. With enemy soldiers breaking through their defenses, close-in fighting, sometimes hand-to-hand, erupted.

“They were mixed in right with us,” Finn remembers. Hundreds of white-clad Chinese, oozing a pungent garlic smell, swarmed over Finn and Reilly’s position.

“About that time, Pat Garvin from Detroit threw an illumination round,” Finn recalled. The Chinese “with their white jackets looked like ducks in a shooting gallery.” Silhouetted against the lit sky, they were mowed down by machine gun fire, but as soon as they fell, men running behind them grabbed their fallen comrades’ weapons and charged ahead.

“They just kept coming,” Finn remembers.

Silence on the Hill

In the chaos of the attack, the young Marine ran straight into a Chinese soldier. “I went to shoot him and ‘click’ my rifle was frozen.” Stunned and realizing he was about to get hit, Finn yelled, “He got me!” A Marine heard Finn scream and fired a round at the Chinese fighter. The soldier died instantly.

When the sun came up the next morning, an estimated 300 frozen, grotesquely twisted Chinese corpses littered the snowy North Korean hillside. Famed Korean War historian Roy Appleman, in his seminal work on Chosin, Escaping The Trap, wrote, “Silence prevailed on the hill.”

In a bloody, 24-hour period, the Korean War had changed. General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of UN Forces in Korea, was shocked. He had previously told President Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Chinese would not enter the war. They wouldn’t dare, he had boasted. With “135 [American] dead, 725 wounded, and 60 missing” in just one day and thousands more dying over the next month, the American public was also stunned.

Finn and his buddies would eventually fight their way 14 miles to Hagaru-ri, where they would link up with remaining American units in the area and then “attack in another direction” to the port of Hungnam nearly 70 miles away.

The Long Road to Hungnam

On the first night of the breakout from Yudam-ni, the Chinese attacked again. When the fighting ended the next morning on Hill 1520, only 20 Marines out of a company of nearly 250 were still standing. The rest were dead, wounded, or missing. Finn was amongst the survivors.

He had lived through one of the most terrifying nights at Chosin. In a brief lull in the fighting that night, he had tried to save a group of Marines hit by mortar fire.

“They were all close to death,” he remembered. “One was still conscious. He asked me to give him a cigarette and cover his legs because they felt frozen. He didn’t have enough legs to cover.” There was nothing Finn could do. The man died minutes later.

Before daybreak, another mortar attack took place. A round landed “about four feet” from Finn’s foxhole. “I was protected from all the shrapnel,” he told his father, “but the blast threw me right out of the hole.” The Marines behind him, mortally wounded, lying on the ground, and begging for help, were instantly killed.

“It was good in a way, it put the four boys behind me out of their misery. They were really in misery, believe me,” he wrote.

All My Buddies Were Killed

“All of my buddies were killed,” Finn continued in a letter to his father dated December 10, 1950. “Remember me telling you about Eddie Reilly? He was killed. That really hurt. He treated me like a big brother. All night long he would keep coming out of his foxhole to see that I wasn’t wounded or anything.”

That was the last time he saw his friend. PFC Edmund H. Reilly was listed as “Killed In Action” on December 2, 1950.

He also lost his buddy, Jerry “Peanuts” Caldwell, a 17-year-old high-school football standout. “He was a great guy. He would stay in the barracks writing and reading the Bible while we were at the slop shoot,” Finn recalled.

Another good friend, David Flood, went missing, and three days later a Chinese soldier was killed wearing the Marine’s jacket.“It was one of the eeriest feelings I had during the entire war,” Finn explained. “Knowing my buddy had died and his body had been stripped of its clothes was hard to take.”

By December 9, Finn was in Japan. He had made it down the MSR and had been evacuated by air to a U.S. military hospital where he was being treated for severe frostbite. In typical Marine bravado, he said, “You and mother will never know how close you came to collecting that $10,000 I used to joke about.”

Looking back on his Chosin odyssey, Finn realizes the epic ten-day breakout to the coast was a defining moment of the Korean War and his life.

Coming Home

After recovering in Japan and returning to the U.S., Finn married, started his career, and had five sons. He worked for the same company for 48 years and retired as its CEO in 2000. After a divorce from his first wife, he remarried. His second wife, Arlene, was with him when we met in Seoul last month. During my interview with the couple, I asked Pat how he coped with what he’d been through at Chosin. “I drank,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“For so long,” he told me, “I tried to put the war out of my mind, lock it away, or erase it. But it was always there.” His life eventually changed, and he has been sober now for 45 years.

As I talked with his wife, it was obvious how empathetic she is towards her husband and how knowledgeable she is of what happened to him during his time in Korea. She’s a psychologist, and her understanding of what he experienced at Chosin and how to deal with it shines through in her words and actions.

“For so many years,” Arlene explained, “he coped by avoiding memories, thoughts, and feelings related to his war experience.”

Thankfully, Pat can now talk about the war with his family and friends, go to Chosin Few reunions, and even allow complete strangers who sit next to him during a bus tour to interview him. “He can actually enjoy the present,” Arlene said enthusiastically.

Pat and Arlene, thank you for your friendship and for sharing this remarkable story of sacrifice and survival. Mr. Finn, I salute you, your Marine buddies who never came home, and all the servicemen who fought in the Korean War.

Pat and Arlene Finn on a 2018 “Revisit Korea” trip sponsored by the MPVA (Photo credit: Ned Forney).


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By: Matt Segal, Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), Cary, NC

I was commissioned in 1971 through Temple University’s ROTC program and went on active duty in 1972 as a 2nd Lieutenant reporting to Ft. Ben Harrison for the Adjutant General Officer Basic Course (AGOBC), followed by six weeks at the Defense Information School (DINFOS also at Ft. Ben at that time) for the Broadcast Officer course. During a career that spanned 28 years retiring as a colonel in 1999, I had many assignments, but most were in branch immaterial slots. So beyond year five, I had few AG assignments, working mostly in Public Affairs, Civil Affairs, or in an IG position.

In 1973, I was the deputy PAO at Ft. Dix and called the AG assignments branch and asked to go on a short tour. Branch told me the only available short tours were to South Korea or Thailand as we were sending no one to Vietnam at that time. I told them I would prefer Thailand … so a few days later I got orders to Korea! I guess that’s why they call it a dream sheet.

I would be going as the Administrative Officer to Armed Forces Korea Network (AFKN). That was a perfect job for someone with my background, and I got a letter from my sponsor, LTC Myrick, welcoming me. I got off the plane in Korea in September 1973. My name was called out with a bunch of others at Camp Coiner, and I was told we were all going to the 2nd Division! I was told I would be taking command of the 10th Army Postal Unit at Camp Red Cloud. Surprise, surprise.

I had no postal knowledge (obviously I had not attended the course) and here I was as a 2LT commanding a unit that should have been commanded by a Captain, but what does not kill you makes you stronger. Long story short, it was a great assignment as anyone who has done postal knows, because of (among other things) the smiles you see on soldier’s faces when the unit does its job. And I had some great soldiers and in this little unit of less the 20 soldiers. We actually had an 8th Army Soldier of the Quarter who was presented an Army Commendation Medal by the Commander of 8th Army/USFK/UNC, General Stilwell.

In 1973, about 20 years after the Korean War, Korea was still recovering, as you can imagine, but I loved the Korean people. They were resourceful, polite to a fault, and just great to work with. And their soldiers were as tough as they come. I always knew they would become a positive force for good in the world once they recovered from the horrors of the Korean War. Little did I know how significant a force they would become.

Fast forward to 2016. As a member of the 2nd ID Association, I was informed of the Korea Revisit tour program which was conducted a number of times each year primarily in the warmer months. I always wanted to see South Korea again to see how far they had come in the 42 years since I left. Every October, my wife and I attend the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) annual meeting in DC and throughout the meeting, we saw just how far the country had progressed, but I wanted to see it live in the country. The Korea Revisit tour provided that opportunity for my wife and me in July 2016.

My wonderful wife, Meg, and I have been married over 36 years and she has never set foot in Korea but based on the tour structure and all I had told her from my memory, she was on board for the trip. We also added the optional tour to Korean War sites. Our tour had 121 people in it from pay grades E-3 (just got assigned during a 3-year active duty stint) to several retired GOs. We also had people on our tour who had served or were descendants of military personnel who had served in Korea during the Korean War as well as people who had served from other UN countries such as Sweden, Canada, Australia, The Philippines, Colombia, India, South Africa, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, and others.

At our farewell dinner, General Brooks was with us along with CSM Payton. Imagine a large group of young Korean schoolgirls singing “You are My Sunshine” and giving all veterans a red rose and a kiss on the cheek. Imagine being applauded everywhere you went by a thankful group of people, who you never met. The high from the trip just never stopped, and I urge you to take the opportunity to go on this trip. How many of our allies go this far over the top to say thanks?!

When you are a soldier serving overseas you think of yourself as just doing your job. When you see appreciation like this, you know you were not just doing your job, but fulfilling your calling!

As an AG, you are often the person behind the curtain, but nobody comes into the Army or leaves the Army without seeing you first and last respectively. And if they stay in, your fingerprint is on them, even if they do not know it, at every career milestone, so you really serve as the cornerstone of their military lives.

The South Korean people are really special. If you read Korean history, they have made lemonade out of lemons and not just to their benefit, but to the benefit of the world. That is a legacy that should make us all proud, and I am certainly glad to have been a very small part of it as I was given the honor to serve there.

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The Cashman Family

Submitted by Guy Cashman

My father (Cletus Cashman) fought in Korea with the 1st Marine Division, 1st Battalion. He received a Purple Heart for being wounded at Bunker Hill. We celebrated his 92nd birthday on February 29, 2020.

Dad married my mom in June of 1956, and they were married 62 years until mom passed a couple of years ago. They had six children. My younger brother passed in 2016. He was also a Marine which my father is very proud of.

Dad everyday puts out his American flag and pulls it back in before dark. I was honored to be able to fly with him for his honor flight to Washington, D.C. It was an amazing day for my dad … one he will never forget. Neither will I.

My father also has wrote down quite a few war time stories from his time in Korea. A friend of his has made a small book of it. It’s called the Greenest Marine.

He is going strong and says Semper Fi!

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