Many of the names on the wall were soldiers killed in action during a little known period (at least to Americans) in the late 1960s when North Korea conducted a low-intensity conflict in South Korea against US and South Korean forces while the US was neck-deep in Vietnam. From 1966 until 1969, US and South Korean forces battled North Korea special forces in a series of small-scale skirmishes along the DMZ, guerrilla and terrorist attacks (including a brazen attempted attack by commandos on the Blue House--the South Korean version of the White House--in January 1968), and an attempt by the North to foment an insurgency in South Korea. During the period, the North Koreans also seized a US intelligence collection ship and shot down a US surveillance aircraft. The times were tense, but widespread conflict did not break out and eventually, US and South Korean forces foiled Pyongyang's campaign and the border returned to the uneasy peace you read about in the newspapers today.
Part of the title to this blog entry is from perhaps the most comprehensive English-language look at the conflict, Daniel Bolger's Scenes from an Unfinished War: Low-Intensity Conflict in Korea, 1966-1969 (Check it out for free here: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/download/csipubs/ScenesFromanUnfinishedWar.pdf. Published by the US Army's Combined Arms Center, Bolger's study is very well-researched and informative, if somewhat dry. Bolger (a major when he wrote the study, but now a lieutenant general) focused on the efforts of General Charles H. Bonesteel III and his US and South Korean subordinates to craft a plan to defeat the North's campaign, despite operating in a complex and volatile political environment, being forced to use mediocre US and South Korean units (the best US units were in Vietnam, while many South Korean units were ill-trained for counterinsurgency), and operating under the constraint of not expanding the conflict into a major conventional war.
|In January of 1968, the USS Pueblo, a ship designed to collect signals (SIGINT) and electronic signals (ELINT) intelligence was boarded and captured by North Korean naval forces in what Pyongyang called its territorial waters. One US serviceman was killed during the boarding, and the 82 other members of the ship's crew were held in captivity for 11 months. North Korea still has the Pueblo; it is on display as a museum. The Wikipedia account of what became known as the Pueblo Incident isn't too bad http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uss_pueblo.|
|In April of 1969, North Korean fighters shot down a US EC-121 surveillance aircraft about 90 miles off the North Korean coast. All 31 crewmembers were killed.|