Punchbowl. 1989. Ceremony in honor of Sgt. Charles Lehman, KIA 09/25/51. Ribbon from his Sunset High School Diploma. Photo: Ministry of Defense.

 

 

Punchbowl. 1989. Capt. Lee,  Escort Officer, ROKA. Photo: Hal Barker, 1989.

 

 

Punchbowl. 1989. Escort officers. Lt. Kim Won Hyung, far right front. Photo: Ministry of Defense.

 

 

Punchbowl. 1994. View from southern rim looking north.

 

Additional Photographs From
The Punchbowl

Return To Heartbreak
Ridge

A Journey Into The Past

 

Punchbowl

The next day, Lieutenant Kim and I set out for the Punchbowl and the location of X-83, the airstrip where my father was stationed with the First Marine Air Wing in 1951.

The Punchbowl is a natural geologic bowl several miles  across, ringed by steep mountains on three sides. The bowl creates the richest farmland in South Korea, and the area is starkly beautiful in winter.

A week before leaving for Korea, I received a letter from Mrs. G.H. "Tommie" Johnson of Dallas, Texas. Her son, Corporal Charles F. Lehman, 5th Marines, First Marine Division, was killed  September 25, 1951, in the Punchbowl area. She wrote,

    Dear Mr. Barker,

    This is the ribbon that was tied around his high  school diploma 'Sunset High.' My daughter asked me to send her regards and thanks. 

    She is married to the Marine who was with my son when he was killed."

    Thanks again for all you are doing.     

    "Sincerely, Tommie."

I carried the long purple ribbon in my breast pocket. In a  Jeep again, we climbed in low gear through deep Korean mud. Our final destination would be far inside the DMZ, on a crucial defensive ridge facing the North Koreans. 

Two lines of fences and barbed wire stretched in both directions. Republic of Korea troops in winter white uniforms constantly patrolled the wire. I was given a briefing by Captain Lee regarding the disposition of troops in the sector before me. I could see stone markers delineating the border through the  telescope. To my right, United Nations and South Korean flags flew side by side.

Kumgang Mountain, a mystical point in Korean life, lay off to the northeast, shrouded in mist. All the officers pointed out toward Kumgang as if pointing in itself would will away the mist. One ROK officer told me in broken English that he would like to go to Kumgang Mountain with his children in a country where war was a forgotten word. 

A cold wind blew when I left the observation point. Sleet  was falling, and the view into the Punchbowl was swirling with signs of winter. I stopped for a photograph with the Korean officers, then it was back into the jeep for the trip down.

I had forgotten about the purple ribbon in my haste to take in everything. Captain Lee asked where I would like to leave the ribbon. I jerked into reality.

We drove on until I saw a promontory. I recall feeling very strongly this should be the place. The Korean officers jumped out and raced through the ankle deep snow up and to our right. The sky was gray, the wind was blowing, it was late in the afternoon. I held the ribbon high in my hand, the wind carrying it straight out from my body.

I let the purple ribbon go with the wind.

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Photos of Hal by Ministry of Defense, ROK. All other photos  Copyright Hal Barker, 1989.

 

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