By Fidel V. Ramos
Former Philippine President
(First of Two Parts)
Once again, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) is capturing the world’s headlines, this time with North-South negotiations on sports at Panmunjom.
FOR THEREIN LIES EITHER (1) MANKIND’S PEACEFUL AND BOUNTIFUL FUTURE, OR (2) THE BEGINNING OF MASS DESTRUCTION AROUND THE WORLD. THE IMMEDIATE REASON FOR THIS MOMENTOUS GLOBAL EVENT IS THE WINTER OLYMPICS HOSTED BY ROK WHICH COULD LEAD TO NUCLEAR DIPLOMACY, WHICH COULD FURTHER RESULT IN THE DENUCLEARIZATION OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA AND ITS EVENTUAL REUNIFICATION, THEREBY REDUCING RISKS OF MANKIND’S OBLITERATION.
Sixty-six years ago, in January, 1952, almost to the day, FVR found himself in the frontlines at the height of the Korean War as a reconnaissance platoon leader of the 20th Battalion Combat Team (BCT), Philippine Army (in mid-winter). He had volunteered for that combat assignment in Korea which was the first-ever overseas commitment of our newly reorganized AFP.
From a divisional set-up, the AFP had been regrouped into 27 mobile, hard-hitting BCTs against the elusive Communist insurgents, the homegrown Hukbalahaps, that had mounted a nationwide rebellion to supplant our newly-won democratic independence at the end of World War II.
REPLACEMENTS FOR THE KOREAN FRONTLINES
FVR’S JOURNEY TO THE KOREAN BATTLE ZONE WITH 20 OTHER OFFICER-REPLACEMENTS BEGAN FIRST BY PHILIPPINE AIR FORCE C-47 FROM NICHOLS (VILLAMOR) AIR BASE TO LAOAG; THEN TO TAIPEI; THEN TO NAHA, OKINAWA; THEN FINALLY TO HANEDA AIR BASE IN TOKYO.
The following day, the Filipino lieutenants were outfitted with winter uniforms by the Philippine-UN Liaison Group, and then traveled by railroad to southern Japan, then across the Sea of Japan by ferry to Pusan, South Korea; and then by a troop train northward beyond the 38th Parallel to the PEFTOK’s frontline positions along the Imjin River, 30 miles north of Seoul. General Douglas MacArthur (USMA ’03) was then the Supreme Commander, Allied Powers (SCAP) and concurrently United Nations Commander.
FVR had previously been assigned as a heavy weapons platoon leader in the 2nd BCT, the strike force of the II Military Area, Philippine Army, in Southern Luzon. As such, he had become familiar with the modus operandi and tactics of the Communists in the Philippines as well as their mountain and forest strongholds, notably Mount Banahaw, Mount Makiling, and the Sierra Madre Mountains at the Laguna-Quezon border. He also became closely attached to his colleagues of young Army lieutenants principally from the PMA Class of 1951 (the first post-WWII grads) led by its First Captain (“Baron”) Leopoldo Regis, who later perished (as Junior Aide) with President Ramon Magsaysay and 24 others in the tragic crash of a PAF C-47 in Cebu in March 1957.
REGIS WAS AN OUTSTANDING COMBAT LEADER DURING HIS TIME AND WOULD HAVE ATTAINED IMPORTANT HIGHER COMMANDS HAD HIS YOUNG CAREER NOT BEEN CUT SHORT BY THAT FATAL ACCIDENT.
BEGINNINGS OF THE KOREAN ARMISTICE
IN HIS HISTORICAL CLASSIC, “FILIPINOS IN THE KOREAN WAR,” DR. CESAR P. POBRE (PMA ’52) NARRATES: “THE TALKS LEADING TO THE ARMISTICE BEGAN ON 10 JULY 1951…
“The United Nations Command negotiating panel was composed of VADM Charles Turner Joy, commander of the Far East Naval Forces, as head. Its members were the 8th Army Chief of Staff, the Far East Air Force Vice-Commander, the Naval Forces Chief of Staff, and the Chairman of the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Park Sun Yup. Heading the Communist delegation was the Chief of Staff of the North Korean People’s Army, General Nam Il, plus two other North Korean high officials. China also sent senior delegates, led by the Deputy Commander of the Chinese Army, General Chieh Fang.
“With the peace negotiations set in place and actual talks started, fighting could have stopped quickly or at least abated significantly. That was not so, however. Complaining about the UN Command bombing of the neutral city of Kaesong, the Communists called off the talks. And, fighting continued as furiously as ever. But instead of large-scale offensive-counteroffensive operations, this time it was a sort of bitter seesaw struggle over rivers and hills.
The talks resumed in October and the agenda adopted at the start was worked out. As agreed, the demarcation line was determined at the existing battle line, with a buffer or demilitarized zone (DMZ) extending outward two kilometers on each side of the line, with the important city of Kaesong in Communist hands. The boundary line thus laid out would become one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world…..
“Finally, on 27 July 1953, after two years and 17 days, the armistice was concluded – by that time, between American Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison Jr. (UNC panel head) and the chief of the Communist delegation, North Korean Gen. Nam Il, as well as the commander of the Chinese People’s Volunteers, Peng Dehuai. The delegates affixed their signatures to the 18 copies of the agreement written in three languages.
“THEN THESE WERE FORWARDED FOR SIGNING BY THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE UNITED NATIONS COMMAND, THE SUPREME COMMANDER OF THE NORTH KOREAN PEOPLE’S ARMY, AND THE COMMANDER OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE’S VOLUNTEERS.
THE MILITARY ARMISTICE COMMISSION
“THE ARMISTICE, WHICH RESULTED FROM 118 ACRIMONIOUS MEETINGS, WAS ENTITLED ‘THE ARMISTICE AGREEMENT FOR THE RESTORATION OF THE SOUTH KOREAN STATE.’
“It was adopted to ‘insure a complete cessation of hostilities,’ with the signatories pledging not to ‘execute any hostile act within, from or against the demilitarized zone,’ or enter the air, ground or sea areas controlled by the other. In order that the agreement would be observed faithfully, a Military Armistice Commission (MAC) was created which was to meet regularly at the DMZ.
To assist in its functions in the MAC, the UNC had employed the services of the UNC liaison groups. These were organized in the early stages of the war from 12 of the 16 nations which provided assistance to the UN effort in Korea.
THE PHILIPPINES WAS ONE OF THE 12 NATIONS WHICH HAS SINCE MAINTAINED A LIAISON GROUP…..
GENERAL/PRESIDENT EISENHOWER’S DECLARATION
“IT WAS GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (USMA ’15), THEN THE NEWLY ELECTED U.S. PRESIDENT, WHO WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN ENDING THE WAR ‘QUICKLY AND FAIRLY.’ IN ANNOUNCING THE ARMISTICE AGREEMENT, HE SAID IN PART:
‘SOLDIERS, SAILORS AND AIRMEN OF SIXTEEN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES HAVE STOOD AS PARTNERS BESIDE US THROUGHOUT THESE LONG AND BITTER MONTHS. IN THIS STRUGGLE WE HAVE SEEN THE UNITED NATIONS MEET THE CHALLENGE OF AGGRESSION – NOT WITH PATHETIC WORDS OF PROTEST, BUT WITH DEEDS OF DECISIVE PURPOSE. AND SO AT LONG LAST THE CARNAGE OF WAR IS TO CEASE….. WE HOPE THAT ALL NATIONS MAY COME TO SEE THE WISDOM OF COMPOSING DIFFERENCES IN THIS FASHION BEFORE, RATHER THAN AFTER, RESORTING TO BRUTAL AND FUTILE BATTLE.’
“PRESIDENT EISENHOWER’S ANNOUNCEMENT MUST HAVE RESONATED AROUND THE WORLD AND REACHED DEEP INTO THE CONSCIENCE OF ALL NATIONS. IT MUST HAVE BEEN A HISTORICAL LESSON THAT HE WANTED PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER TO LEARN AND OBSERVE. WHICH IS THAT WAR IS NOT HAVING A PICNIC AT THE PARK. IT IS A COSTLY AFFAIR, NEVER FAILING TO EXACT SO HEAVY AND UNQUANTIFIABLE A TOLL ON MAN AND MATERIAL.
“THE KOREAN WAR ITSELF IS AN EXAMPLE. STATISTICS SHOWS THAT AN ESTIMATED 2.5 MILLION CIVILIANS WERE KILLED OR WOULD – AROUND 1.5 MILLION NORTH KOREANS AND ALMOST 1 MILLION SOUTH KOREANS (373,599 WERE KILLED, 229.625 WOUNDED, AND 387,744 ABDUCTED OR MISSING). THE MULTI-NATIONAL U.N. COMMAND SUSTAINED 778,053 CASUALTIES, MOST OF WHOM WERE SOUTH KOREANS AND AMERICANS. THE ESTIMATED CASUALTIES OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE’S VOLUNTEERS AND NORTH KOREAN PEOPLE’S ARMY RANGED FROM 1,187,682 TO 1,545,822.
“Yet, these figures do not tell all. The millions who perished left behind numerous others who had to go on living in misery and squalor. Untold numbers lost their loves ones and close relatives. Families were separated and torn apart. As reported by the Korean Red Cross, close to ten million Korean families had kin or family members that were dislocated or otherwise lost. More than five million North Koreans sought refuge in the South, many of whom left their spouses, children, parents, siblings or close relatives behind…..
“Indeed, the Korean War was so destructive – it hardly did make any sense to many people – that it had better be forgotten more than remembered. Hence, one of its labels is the ‘forgotten war.’ But how could it be forgotten when it had left such a painful scar of its effects and consequences, especially on the nations which got involved in it.” (Please revisit FV R’s related column last 29 August 2010.)
CONCLUSION: SHOULD THE NORTH-SOUTH SPORTS DIPLOMACY FAIL, AND ERUPT INTO NUCLEAR WAR, THE TOTAL GLOBAL FATALITIES COULD TOTAL 7.5 BILLION PEOPLE FROM ALL NATIONS OF THE WORLD, BAR NONE.
LEADER KIM JONG-UN AND PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, IS WAR OKAY WITH YOU??? OF COURSE, NOT. NEITHER IS WAR OKAY WITH US FILIPINOS, PRESIDENT DU30 INCLUDED!!!
HINDI NATIN KAYA ITO!!!
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