Renewed North Korean threats remind veterans from region of time fighting in Korean War
Lou Bauldoff has vivid memories of his military service during the Korean War.
A former surveyor with the Army's 37th Field Artillery Battalion, he surveyed from hilltops the military targets north of the 38th parallel, the boundary between North and South Korea. Communist North Korea's 75,000 soldiers crossed that line to invade South Korea on June 25, 1950.
Bauldoff was in Korea from spring to October 1952.
“I was glad to get home,” said Bauldoff, 84, a resident of Clearfield, Butler County.
Now, almost 60 years after a July 1953 truce ended the war, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the grandson of the dictator who led the country during the war, is threatening nuclear attack.
“It makes me angry to feel that I was there and spent that time out of my life, risked my life in a couple of situations, and now somebody else is probably going to have to go back and do it all over again,” Bauldoff said.
North Korea may have developed a nuclear device small enough to mount on a ballistic missile, but its “reliability would be low,” according to a new U.S. intelligence assessment released Thursday at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.
“I'm sure the U.S. has things in place to counteract anything they want to throw at us,” said Cranberry resident Bob Carrara, 81, who served as a Navy corpsman, or medic, in Pusan Bay, South Korea, in 1952-53.
The United States and South Korea are on high alert in the wake of North Korea's threatened test launch of a mid-range missile with the potential to reach the U.S. territory of Guam. Local Korean War veterans and international security experts say Kim's threats are intended to intimidate South Korea and give him international standing.
“I think the guy's a complete nut. I thought his granddad was kind of a nut, but he had pretty good backing from China and Russia. And I don't think this guy's got that,” said Saxonburg resident Ron Harbison, 84, who served as an interceptor operator on night fighter aircraft with the Marine Corps during the Korean War.
The combined efforts of the United States and South Korea would bring quick victory over North Korea, said Ryan Grauer, an assistant professor in the graduate school of public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
“This is the same game that North Korea has played many, many times over the past couple of decades,” said Grauer, who said a war is highly improbable.
“It's a shame that that country's not very big and the way they act like that,” said John Kouche, 84, a resident of the Southwestern Veterans Center in Highland Park. Kouche is a former Air Force staff sergeant who served in the Korean War.
“They should talk it out and not fight it out.”
Often referred to as The Forgotten War because it was overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War, the Korean War was the first military action of the Cold War.
About 5.7 million people served in the U.S. armed forces during the time of the Korean War, and about 1.8 million of them served directly in the war, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
During the war, 33,739 service members died in battle, while 2,835 others died in other theater-related events.
There are 2.3 million surviving veterans of the Korean War era, including 121,482 in Pennsylvania, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
While most observers think North Korea is posturing, the Pentagon last month announced longer-term plans to bolster its U.S.-based missile defenses.
“We do have to stay vigilant because if people start talking about doing something crazy and then they act on it … we have to take it seriously, there's no doubt about it,” said Anthony Filardi, 82, of Overbrook, who served in an Air Force unit in Japan to support the Korean War efforts in 1953-54.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.