Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Tree Trimming Incident,Korea, Cold War Deaths

One incident I believe I left out of the list was the infamous "Tree Trimming Incident".

On Aug 16, 1976, The United States and the UN Command decided that one particular tree
in the DMZ was blocking the line of sight from two checkpoints.

A workforce of South Koreans was sent out to evaluate the tree as to the best way to remove
it. They were approached by Communist guards who told them to leave the tree alone. The UNC
decided to trim the tree as a comprimise.

North Korea had been attempting to "stir up trouble" for the US and UN forces. Almost half
of the Korean Peoples Army was massed close to the border of the DMZ. And almost daily
issued reports of American brutality and wrong doing. Kim Il Sung was determined to embarrss
the U.S., and starting in March there were more incidents of shooting along the border. On Aug.
5 North Korea declared the South Korea and the United States had completed "war preperations", and ready to attack. Claiming the United States was the "problem" on the
peninsula.

On Aug. 18 a workforce of 15 (3 officers, 5 laborers and 7 security forces) was dispatched
at 1030 hours to trim the tree. According to reports the next six minutes were very dramatic.
Two KPA (Korean Peoples Army) officers and nine guards approached to work force.

When imformed the tree was only to be trimmed one Communist offier agreed, and some
of the guards began giving advice on how to trim the tree. At 1050 hours the Communists
orderd the work to stop, and threatened the UNC force. Thirty guards suddenly appeared
and attacked Captain Arthur Bonifas, the detachment commander. Witnesses saw the guards
bludgen Capt. Bonifas with the blunt end of an axe as he lay on the ground.

The communists also attacked First Lieutenant Mark Barrett and several other Americans
with clubs and ax handles. Pictures show groups of seven and nine communist guards striking
the Americans with their hands and feet as well as clubs.

Bonifas and Barrett died at the scene and several more Americans were injured.

Several options in put forth in Washington, as to how to respond to this attack. First the
area along the border was raised to Defcon 3 and troops were ready to mobilize and deploy.
Other plans were to fly unmanned B-52 bombers over the North, the movement of nuclear
and conventional artillary and mechanized forces to the border.

F-111's and B-52's were moved to bases closer to Korea, a carrier task group was dispatched
to the area.

The tree was cut down and removed, and General Richard Stilwell issued a strong protest
to President Kim. The U.S. did receive a very weak apology for the incident.

The deaths of two American officers should never be forgotten, and these are just two more
of the Forgotten Heroes Of The Cold War. There are many more, some whose stories may
never be told.

Let us not forget any longer. There are still thousands of Americans Missing In Action from
Korea, demand your legislators act now to demand a full accounting and return of all the
POW/MIA or their remains. This is a blot on our history that should be cleaned properly.
Bring our troops home and give closeure to their families.

Jerald Terwilliger
National Vice Chairman
American Cold War Veterans
"We Remember"