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Thursday, December 16, 2010

CHRISTMAS EVE IN KOREA 1953

OUR TREE & BOOZE...CHRISTMAS 1953, FREEDOM VILLAGE, PANMUNJOM, KOREA
OUR BARTENDER - CHRISTMAS 1953 - FREEDOM VILLAGE, PANMUNJOM, KOREA

ONE OF THE GUYS - FREEDOM VILLAGE, PANMUNJOM, KOREA - 1953


2 OF THE GUYS CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS 1953 - PANMUNJOM, KOREA


4 OF US GUYS - ME BUILDING 'LIL STINKER...KOREA 1953


6 OF US GUYS - ME IS 2ND FROM LEFT - IN OUR TENT, FREEDOM VILLAGE - 1953


5 OF THE GUYS - CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS - FREEDOM VILLAGE, KOREA - 1953


2 OF THE GUYS - TREE & STOVE - CHRISTMAS 1953 - KOREA


4 OF THE GUYS - OUR TENT CHRISTMAS 1953 - FREEDOM VILLAGE, KOREA


OFFICER FRIENDS - PANMUNJOM FREEDOM VILLAGE - 1953


ME'S NAVION MODEL...Gave it away when Rotated Home


'LIL STINKER - Gave 'lil Stinker Model to one of the Guys


OUR TREE - PANMUNJOM FREEDOM VILLAGE - 1953


The Big Guns were lighting up the sky over the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone):


Seoul, 30 miles South of Freedom Village, was hidden behind a wall of anti-aircraft fire as "Bed-Check Charlie" roamed around the City dropping a bomb here and there...just to keep everyone awake all night...


A few days earlier, a Marine Corsair WWII vintage fighter had a dog-fight with a "Bed-Check Charlie" directly over Freedom Village...


I watched the two airplanes - both with running lights lit - diving, climbing, swooping, and SHOOTING at each other - as they performed their life and death dance in the twilight of the guns from Seoul.


Only one airplane won...circled the burning loser crash site a short distance from us...before turning South.


That pilot (forget his name) became an ace before my eyes, having shot down his 5th North Korean Aircraft...all "Bed Check Charlie". Google this.


Two times in the previous 6 months, I watched a bomb actually separate from the wing of a tree-top skimming Bed Check Charlie bi-plane (two wings) as he tried to kill me...both times, people WERE killed within a couple hundred feet...(reminds me of 18-wheelers on I-80).


Now that I have your attention...this story is about walking...and Christmas Eve in Korea 1953.


PANMUNJOM NATO/NORTH KOREA Peace Yalks were held in a camp in the center of the DMZ. North Korea had their "Peace Village" on the North Side of the DMZ. NATO had their "Freedom Village" on the South Side of the DMZ - near the 100% destroyed city of Munsan-ni.

(By agreement, both sides agreed NOT to attack each other's Peace Villages)...

Altho, sitting on the step of our Tent, an artillery projectile screamed a foot or two over my right shoulder - coming in from the North -, impacted next to a light pole not 20 feet from ME, but did NOT explode...believe that was my "second" life used up.

I was an Air Force one-striper ( Airman 3rd Class) Stenographer stationed in Freedom Village. ..where, by the way, I met and chatted with Premier Nehru for a few minutes (India had a contingent fighting for NATO).

Having seen over 2 years of fighting, the rolling hills of the DMZ were denuded of major vegetation. It was strictly forbidden to walk anywhere near the DMZ, as fighting was still intense and land mines were everywhere. It was, in fact, strictly FORBIDDEN to leave Freedom Village without permission AND a weapon (pistol or rifle).

Being ME...even at 17 years old..., I, of course, hiked many a night - unarmed - all over the hillsides to the East of Freedom Village; often sitting in an old fox hole or bomb crater, watching the fighting in and around the DMZ...I know, ME... a bit different.

Nearing Christmas Time, We 8 enlisted soldiers of our tent decided to decorate for the Holidays. Of course, we had no decorations... no trees to be found.

So we wrote letters home asking for decorations. Lo and behold, we soon had boxes of tinsel and bulbs and lights...now to decide how to decorate...also asked for and received rolls of TP...none being available in our Latrines. (Dad actually typed his letters on TP...to economize, you see). Learned how to complete your business using only one sheet of TP...

On my nightly excursions into the DMZ hills, I once came upon a couple bedraggled Trees... not even Charlie Brown possibilities. Kept looking night after night. Finally, found a passible half-tree about 4 feet tall - the other half had been blasted off. I dug it out with my hands and dragged it back to our tent. A day or so later, I found another. Reclaimed it from the blooded earth and when wired together with the first 1/2, made a respectable Christmas Tree.

We decorated. One guy had a record player. He wrote home and got some Christmas Music records (76 rpm). We all brought a couple bottles of our favorite hooch from the PX down in Yong Dong Po (on the South Side of the Han River that runs through Seoul).

(We had one Tent-mate who knew - he said - every girl in Yong Dong Po...when I rotated home, he was still in quarantine being treated for VD...guess he might still be there).
Anyway, Christmas Eve, our tent rocked. We had a decorated tree, tons of food, bookoo booze, Christmas music, singing and generally celebrating - making lots of noise.

Wasn't long before an Officer showed up - most Officers were Field Grade; i.e, Major and above - asking us to keep it down. After checking us out and accepting our "gifts", he left wishing us Merry Christmas. Was but a few minutes before word apparently spread, because visitors ... including a General - came a calling.

Our Tent was the center of entertainment...Officers can make merry too.

Found some Pics of that night in my Mother's photo album she left when she died from Cancer and a failed surgery a few years ago...forgot all about those pictures...now I share them with YOU.

Happy Holiday Season

SAM & ME

1 comment:

Bob said...

Great story Bruce. Glad you guys got your decorations in time.