America’s battle today with North Korea is a war of words
For Jack Enkemann, it was way more than tense talk. It was sheer terror.
“We had the artillery going out and the mortars coming in,” recalled the member of Hall County’s Korean War Veterans of Georgia. He was stationed in North Korea in 1952.
“We just tried to live day to day,” he said. “And the nights were the worst part. Nights were terrible. We were all expecting (the enemy) to sneak through the lines at night. Everybody was on 100 percent alert.”
The veterans group consists of men in their 80s sharing memories of the Korean War era, though most didn’t serve in combat during the brutal 1950-53 conflict.
The group meets the fourth Wednesday of every month at Central Baptist Church in Gainesville for a business meeting.
Every Tuesday, they gather for breakfast at Longstreet Cafe off Pearl Nix Parkway, where, according to veteran Harry Jones, “We talk about everything — it’s not business, just social.”
“We do tell a few stories that aren’t printable,” Enkemann said, drawing laughter from others at the table.
The conversation drifts among several topics, such as health and other personal events, but it does turn to more serious topics, such as current events, the men said.
“We do straighten out the world,” said Darrel Whiting, grinning.
The heightening North Korea crisis is like scratching at an old wound for the men, reviving memories better forgotten.
“I stayed there 4 1/2 months,” Enkemann said. “I don’t know who the replacements were and I didn’t care.”
Air Force veteran Chuck Hendrickson was stationed on an airstrip during the war.
“We fought infiltrators trying to get through the lines trying to blow up some of our jet planes,” he recalled. “We were the closest to the front lines.”
Hendrickson was in Korea for one year.
The war ended with a truce on July 27, 1953, splitting the Korean peninsula in two: free, democratic South Korea and dictator-controlled communist North Korea.
But there was stalemate even during the war.
“We were just trying to hold the line,” said Enkemann, who served in an area near the modern border between the two Koreas. “We weren’t trying to gain any more ground.”
Use of the atomic bomb was considered in Korea, fresh after the U.S. had used two of them against Japan to end World War II.
Whiting, who witnessed nuclear testing during his military days, said, “I know they could have zeroed in with these bombs — maybe put about three in there — and that would have been the end of (the war).
“Same thing with Vietnam, we didn’t really fight to win. ... You can’t fight a war with one hand behind your back,” he said.
In the years since the Korean War, North Korea has become an isolated country. Relations with its main ally, communist neighbor China, have been strained lately, especially with North Korea’s missile testing and threats about nuclear capability.
But the rhetoric with its old enemy, the U.S., has hit fever pitch.
President Donald Trump told the U.N. General Assembly this week that the U.S. will have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if the North continues to threaten the U.S. and its allies, including Asian neighbors South Korea and Japan. He has signed an executive order that would enable the United States to sanction individual companies and institutions that finance trade with North Korea.
The end game with North Korea has veterans concerned. They see the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as wanting war with the U.S.
Enkemann, for one, is hoping for a peaceful resolution.
“War is not nice,” he said. “Anything we can do in the world today to prevent a war should be done. Nobody wins a war.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
We were just trying to hold the line. We weren’t trying to gain any more ground.Jack Enkemann, Korean War veteran