The war came suddenly. It was a sunny Sunday morning on 25 June 1950, when the peace was shattered by an agitated radio announcer screaming that there was an all-out attack by the North Korean army all along the 38th parallel. Within two days, the distant rumbles of cannons could be heard from our house in Seoul, and on the third day North Korean tanks and soldiers appeared on our streets. It was incredible. The radio had been repeating President Syngman Rhee’s message that brave South Korean army soldiers were repulsing the communist army and that the capital city never would be abandoned to the invaders.
The bridges across the Han River—the only escape routes—were blown up by the retreating South Korean army. There was no question that it was a full-scale invasion. The communist occupation of Seoul lasted for 90 days while the North Korean thrust expanded rapidly southward down the narrow peninsula, despite the U.S. and United Nations participation in the conflict.
The North Koreans in Seoul now engaged in methodical hunts for able-bodied men to be impressed into their various “volunteer” units. I moved nine times from relatives’ houses to friends’ places to stay a step ahead of the occupation soldiers—who were spreading their dragnets ever wider. We heard rumors about “kangaroo courts” held at city squares where any “reactionaries” were bludgeoned to death. I was undoubtedly a “reactionary” by their definition. For the first time I knew fear and hunger, as food was extremely scarce. This was the darkest and most helpless period in my life. I was convinced that all the shocking events were caused by the communist aggression. Along with some schoolmates, I decided to do my part in defending my homeland. – John K. C. Oh
Mr. Oh’s account from USNI Naval History Magazine June 2000, Volume 14 Number 3 [read more here].
Image of members of the “Frozen Chosin” found here.