Christmas Greetings from ex-enemies, winter of 1952, 62 years later

In the latest Korean War Veteran, Internet Journal for the World’s Veterans of the Korean War – December 22, 2015 received from Canada is this article.

“Korean War Veteran Vic Dey of Australia sent this Christmas Card which the North Korean Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers (Chinese armies) sewed all along the front lines in the winter of 1952-1953, hoping to demoralize some of the United Nations Forces troops and softening their resolve to hold the line.

1 2

Inside was a lengthy diatribe, but very well written, comparing life in the trenches to that being enjoyed back home – where many did not pay any attention to what was happening in Korea – and the words dripped with the theme, “futility.”

Yet the UN troops, like Vic himself, held. No doubt a reading of the text inside, at the proper low ebb of the spirit in a weary soldier so tired he was seeing things that were not there, caused some mild upset, maybe a lot, but many or most never bothered with the inside and instead saw simply a Christmas Greeting, and they, too, yearned for the peace that would come, yet were resolved to pay for it as they must.

Vic Dey served in Korea with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment. In his message that came along with the treasured greeting card, was this recollection of the winter of 1952-1953.

“I do remember new year’s eve 1952 when we patrolled the valley in front of Hill 355 (Dagmar/Little Gibraltar/Kowang San), snow-snow and freezing cold and next morning there were trinkets on our barb wire, amazing we never saw or heard a thing.

The phenomenon was pervasive along the line. A week before that enemy patrols in some places had set up Christmas trees close to allied positions, festooned with glass trinkets molded in little animal shapes, with cards like the one Vic sent to us.

Some of the allied units did the same, taking safe conduct passes and trees to the enemy. But the war did not stop. There were fatalities, even on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day there were turkey dinners all along the line in many reserve positions and in the echelons. In some cases troops on the line were relieved for Christmas Day for a short respite and a good meal.

But there was no truce. Peace would not come until July 27, 1953.

Below are photographs from a recent Ambassador for Peace Medal presentation made at the Australia Club in Melbourne by the Korean Consul General, Jo Hungu.

Among the dignitaries present was Australia’s Victoria State Minister of Veterans Affairs, Hon. John Eren. Vic Dey led several Australian veterans, 11 of whom received the Ambassador for Peace Medal from Consul General Jo.

3

In his address Korean War Veterans Association of Australia President Vic expressed thanks for excellent treatment afforded to Veterans by Korea’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, and other agencies.

“Most people here this evening know about the Korean War, the devastation and destruction it caused and how the Country rebuilt to become a world power.

Tonight I would like to try to explain the generosity of the people of the Republic of Korea. Generosity is given and received in many and various ways: A gift, a helping hand to support someone in need, to name a few.

Australia has fought in many Countries around the World for over 100 years in support of peace and freedom. Many of our Comrades lay forever in cemeteries in those countries. They are well-kept and well looked after, which is a comforting thought for loved ones back here in Australia.                                        

Having said that, no country looks after and takes care of foreign Veterans like South Korea. Their Generosity in taking excellent care of the UN Veterans in the UN Cemetery in Pusan, really has to be seen, to be believed. Clean, shiny polished head-stones, immaculate gardens. Spotless!

Beginning in 1975 and on an annual basis since, The Korean Government, the Ministry of Patriot’s and Veteran Affairs’, and The Disabled Veterans Association host return to Korea tours on a subsidized basis. 

On arrival in Korea every Veteran, his wife or carer or family member, is greeted, photographed and warmly escorted, virtually 24/7.

Interpreters, guides, coaches, high class hotels and meals… Nothing is left to chance to ensure the Veteran is extremely well cared for.

When you leave to return home it is with an everlasting memory of meeting the most genuine, sincere and generous hosts.

Another act of Generosity was shown by the Korean Government in arranging for Mrs Nancy Hummerston (who died in 2012) to have her ashes laid to rest with her husband Captain Kenneth Hummerston, who was Killed in Action, six days after arriving in Korea in 1950. Truly an act of human kindness.

The Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, offers descendants of Korean War Veterans free university courses. There is one young Australian     studying there now on a five-year engineering course. He is just now completing his second year. His Skype and international phone calls are free.                                                                 

And finally, tonight’s Reception is another generous show of appreciation to Australian Veterans and our Families. To the Korean Consul-General, Jo Hongju, and your Staff, we offer our sincere, heartfelt thanks, and our gratitude for your generosity, for your friendship and for your support.                          

I thank you and God bless you.”

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Vic Dey, AOM

Korean War Veterans of Australia