Operation Paul Bunyan

Update: Video from the talk (also includes final thanks).

This is the slide deck from my talk at Ignite London.

My information came from a number of sources: Imjim Scout and VFW Post 7591 were very useful and the paper on Richard G. Stillwell came as a result of an FOIA request by the Nautilus Institute (.PDF link).

Bob Harris’ account of his trip to the DMZ is also very interesting, and features some great photos.

4 thoughts on “Operation Paul Bunyan

  1. As a former member of the JSA, thanks for your talk on Operation Paul Bunyan. Overall, and considering the time limits imposed upon you, it was pretty good. Five minutes is simply not enough time though to adequately explain all of the other convoluted intricacies of the JSA and the Korean mindset leading up to the event. One of the biggest was the “bigger is better” mindset, partially explaining the abundance of military personnel and hardware present at the time. It was also the only time (at least up to that point in time), where the UNC side violated the limits on the number of armed personnel inside the JSA (30 armed enlisted and 5 armed officers). After attacking and killing our two officers with axes, we took it very seriously, and most of us from our unit wanted revenge, regardless of cost. Luckily though, those in command above us had cooler heads, and far more intelligence and military knowledge than we did, but we still performed our jobs as ordered.

    Also, the checkpoint at the Bridge of No Return (not Freedom) was staffed during the daylight hours by two UNC soldiers (1 American and 1 South Korean) and closed at night. During the summer months, when the tree was in full leaf, sometimes the North Koreans (KPA) would attempt to kidnap the soldiers there and drag them across the bridge. The boundary of the JSA extended halfway across the bridge, so beyond that and they would be outside of the nuetral area and in North Korea, outside of our control. It happened to me twice, once during the day and another time at night, when I was making a quick check of our checkpoints that were closed at night. The daytime one we simply closed and locked the doors, then called in to our main checkpoint which sent a jeep with some more soldiers, and the KPA walked around a bit before leaving. The nightime one, I was alone. As I was checking the doors and windows on the checkpoint, 6 KPA suddenly appeared. I backed up towards my jeep, and once there, I reached behind me and opened the gas tank on the jeep with my left hand. Once it was opened, I pulled my .45 pistol with my right hand and then stuck the barrel of my pistol into the tank. The KPA started to back away, so I simply climbed back into the jeep and drove away, keeping my pistol barrel in the tank until I was far enough away. The gas tank cap is right under the drivers seat (on the outside), so this was fairly easy to do, though once I started to sit down I needed to switch hands.

    We’d play kind of a cat and mouse with the KPA when stationed at that checkpoint as well. We’d walk out onto it and stand around, The KPA would call into one of their checkpoints outside of the JSA, and sometimes a KPA guard truck would suddenly appear and begin racing across the bridge, trying to run us down, make us jump off the side, or at least try to make us run (making us look weak in their minds). Rarely were the successful, evan after building a ‘ramp’ on the other side of the bridge were they could keep a truck hidden from view until it suddenly appeared at the bridge entrance. Some of us (myself included), would occasionally play hopscotch on the bridge so we could antogonize them, besides, it helped break some of the boredom.

    Things like this were fairly common, though unrecorded, events within the JSA while it was a neutral area. They would try to stop our jeeps by dragging 2×4’s with nails in them whenever a jeep went behind Panmungak (the large KPA building on their side of the JSA), and beat the UNC soldiers with clubs while the were obscurred from view from any of our checkpoints.

    All of the KPA guards at that point in time (mid to late 70’s), were all handpicked for the job. They had to be orphans, and were contstantly told that their parents were killed by Americans during th Korean War (which may have been true, who knows?). They were also told that if they killed an American, they were guaranteed to go to college, and merely injuring an American was a way to get promoted.

    On night (I think around Oct or Nov of 1975), 4 of us went around on a walking patrol in the JSA. We snuck out of our main building (doubled as our barracks when we were on duty), through a side door, then made our way around to our various checkpoints in the JSA, carrying just our .45’s and an axe handle. The triangular looking building on the hill from your slides (we called it OP#5) was our last stop before heading back. Near that checkpoint was a KPA checkpoint which was manned 24×7 (both sides would close the checkpoints on the other side at night). When we were close, we heard snoring from the KPA checkpoint, so we crept up to it and then pounded on the side with our axe handles. We instantly hear a chair scrape the floor and some yelling, so we quickly ran back to our side and continued to walk as if nothing had happened. Once we were right outside our main building (CP#4), about 8 KPA surrounded us and started taking pictures. We tried to keep the axe handles behind our backs, but in some of the pictures the axe handles were barely visible. Anyway, the next day the KPA called for an immediate JDO (Joint Duty Officers) meeting, one of the lowest, yet most common meetings between the UNC and KPA sides. There, they produced the pictures and promptly denounced us as “Lt. Zilka’s Mad Dogs who patrol the JSA at night with big sticks”. Well, that was quite an honor, to be singled out like that, and the name sounded good, so it stuck. After that night our platoon was known as the “Mad Dogs”.

    Anyway, thanks again for your presentation.

  2. I was in Charly co 2/9 cutting grass with sling blade when Alert went off and chopper brought Capt Bonifases body to batt Hq to have Doc Flowers pronounce him dead.2-3 days later was in 1 of 2 ten bird sticksin pea soup fog while they chopped trees alls i knew is SFC Pablo said if we suddenly banked a different direction prepare to get off and fire my pig north,when out of ammo make my(our) way to Imjim river and swim accross cause the shit done hit the fan,luckily we landed and mess hall had great Chicken dinner(i loved messhall chow)

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