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Thursday, December 6, 2012

POST 1014; DECEMBER 06, 2012; PANMUNJOM, KOREA (SUMMER 1953)

It has become quiet at Base Camp. 

Across the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) a few yards north of Base Camp, there is no sound of guns.  To the south, Seoul might as well be on the moon.  Nightly curtains of antiaircraft gunfire keeping Bed Check Charlie at bay...are no more. 

B.B. and I regularly hitch a ride between our Munsan-ni Base Camp and Suwon's K-13.   Oxen (cows) pulling stinking Honey Buckets (wooden carts transporting human waste) are often our transportation down Highway 1 to Seoul...gardens flourish in newly occupied farm houses...the gardens being not on the ground, but rather growing out of the thatch covered roofs,,,roofs sometimes two feet thick.  We no longer carry loaded weapons as we travel the rutted and bombed highway.

Work in my office has also changed...tension has lowered as new assignments are received.  Lt. J becomes involved in Graves Registration; i.e., thousands of NATO military personnel have died since the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel into South Korea two and a half years ago.  Where each soldier died, a record has been filed away, giving latitude and longitude (geographical position numbers  - coordinates - on the surface of Earth).  Lt. J. consolidates these thousands of  numbers (i.e.:  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/LongitudeIntro.html).

Lat/Long for Munsan-ni - about 2 miles west of Base Camp, Panmunjom and 30 miles north of Seoul, Korea -  is:

36 degree - 30 minutes - 0 seconds N (north of the equator)
127 degree-30 minutes - 0 seconds E (east of Greenwich, England)



Being Lt. J's assistant, I undertake to put Lt. J's work into acceptable format, including endless pages (hundreds of pages, single spaced, two columns per page) typed on legal size paper.  Every page MUST BE PERFECT; i.e., erasures, changes, etc., are simply not allowed.  To say the truth, I become quite adept at typing tens of thousands of lat/long coordinates.  I let my fingers do the walking...not looking at what is typed...my fingers know when a mistake is made...I listen to my fingers - yank out the page with the error - and begin that page again.

I perform my work in an OK fashion.  My General calls me to his desk:

Maynard, I am nominating you for the next class at West Point.

Stunned.    My mind and my emotions leap back to that night only one year ago...being placed behind bars in the Pasco jail...being "deported" into the Rocky Mountains...here's $5.00...do not come home...  My guilt...my conscience...my fear of discovery...of tainting the very core of my country...I respectfully refuse my Generals offer.   I walk back to my typewriter plunging myself into the depths of isolation.  I become my own worse enemy.

Five times in the next 10 years, I am offered positions in US Academy classes:  2 at USAF, 2 at West Point, 1 at Annapolis...in addition to two nominations to OCS (Officer Candidate School).  I decline them all.

I am, indeed, in need of psychological help...I, however, do not know that, .  I do my job; receive accolades at each stop; and in June 1962, walk away from my 10-year career, never to look back.

But. again, I am getting ahead of myself.

In 1953, thousands of NATO soldiers captured by North Korea / China - some held for years in North Korean Prisons - march across Freedom Bridge, back to South Korea; I am there.

FREEDOM BRIDGE, Highway 1, north of Seoul...over which 12, 773 prisoners of war returned from North Korea into the south in 1953.

For those left behind, the lists  Lt. J and I produce, are used for years to retrieve the remains, returning them to the country of their birth.

Two times more in 1953, I fly the K-13 "Gooney Bird" to Kokura, Kyushu, Japan, visiting my "second home".  Yes, I will share those visits...

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