THE SCARIEST PLACE IN THE WORLD
When I arrived in Korea, it had been after a very long flight from San Francisco, CA. I had spent the past five and a half months at Ft. Benning Georgia, attending Army Infantry School. When I got there I was told I was being trained to kill and lead others to kill, because that was what an Infantry officer does.
I was an Air Force security policeman being trained to do what most Airmen never do, fight a ground war. I was at Ft. Benning in the fall of 1982, with my tour in Korea to start in January of 1983. They had us absolutely convinced that the US was headed for war.
There were a number of new major weapons procurement programs on line that would bring these new destructive devices into service by 1986. 1986 was the year the US military was going to be ready to take on the Soviet military.
In retrospect this was where President Regan guided the US in out-spending the Soviet Union, finally allowing the Berlin Wall to come down. His actions drove the collapse of the Soviet system of occupying the nations surrounding Russia.
But in 1983 when I headed for Korea, the Army had me convinced that the shooting war could start anytime and I was taking my wife, the Air Force Nurse, with me into a potential war zone.
As we landed at Osan Air Base you could see from the air that the entire base was ringed by concrete fighting positions and there were Korean soldiers on the perimeter with .50 caliber machine guns and anti-aircraft missiles. There was camouflage netting all over the place. As my wife and I looked out the window I commented that the airbase looked pretty darn scary.
We had both volunteered for this posting in Korea and now we were wondering what we had got ourselves into. We agreed it was intimidating, and this was during peace time operations in Korea.
Lieutenant James Brady, US Marine Corps, was sent to Korea in 1951 as the bullets were flying and the artillery was exploding all around. He took over a rifle platoon while under fire and spent most of his tour in Korea living and fighting on the line facing North Korean and Chinese soldiers.
James Brady is currently a columnist from Parade Magazine, but in 1951 he was a young Marine officer fresh out of college headed to a shooting war. He has written a new book titled "The Scariest Place in the World" (www.StMartins.com).
I arrived in Korea in January and it was sub zero outside. Summers were miserably hot and, since Korea is surrounded by water on three sides, the humidity is extremely high. I thought that Korea was an absolutely lousy place to fight a war and I never had to fire a shot.
Lieutenant Brady got to fight his war while dealing with the freezing weather and living in a sandbag bunker. Summertime war in Korea brings on all the smells that the winter campaign hides from you. Over fifty years after Lieutenant Brady's war, columnist Brady went back to Korea and climbed up the mountains on the DMZ, taking himself back to the very spot his sandbag fighting position had been.
In the book he remembers combat patrols he led and the men who did and did not make it back from those fights. Brady trained to be a Marine officer with some of the nation's finest young men. Men who, after their war, went on to be Senators, Congressmen, nationally known religious figures and even famous ballplayers. But in 1951 they were all just young Marines headed to combat.
Brady's book gives you short insights into the lives and contributions to the Korean War effort these Marines demonstrated. Brady has written other books on Korea and has stayed in touch with many of his fellow Marine officers, NCOs and the young privates.
Over fifty years after the Korean War ended (sort of) our Nation is rapidly loosing these combat veterans. Brady's book does an excellent job of capturing at least some of the stories of these veteran / heroes who fought in what unfortunately is now known as our "forgotten war." But Lieutenant Brady has never forgotten the war or the Marines who fought there. We as a Nation have to document and remember our veteran's and the sacrifices they have made for our Nation. We must remember, and James Brady helps us do that.
Copyright 2006 by Major Van Harl USAF Ret. All rights reserved.