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Muffled Shots: A Year on the Dmz

Muffled Shots: A Year on the Dmz

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Muffled Shots: A Year on the Dmz

211 pagine
3 ore
Dec 12, 2000


The linecrossers came from North Korea-hard men highly trained in assassinations, hit-and-run commando raids and sabotage. The soldiers sent to stop them were young Americans stationed along the 151-mile long DMZ. It was 1967, and for Team Delta the war was not in Vietnam but on a windswept hill in South Korea.

Dec 12, 2000

Informazioni sull'autore

William Roskey’s published articles have appeared in Military History, Soldier of Fortune, Gung-Ho, and other publications. His novel Muffled Shots received accolades from such nationally known military writers as W. E. B. Griffin and J. C. Pollock. During Roskey’s active duty with the US Army, he served as a translator and analyst with both US Army Intelligence and the National Security Agency. Roskey currently lives in Arizona.

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Muffled Shots - William Roskey


All Rights Reserved © 1986, 2000 by William Roskey

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the publisher.

Authors Choice Press an imprint of, Inc.

For information address:, Inc. 5220 S 16th, Ste. 200 Lincoln, NE 68512

Originally published by Elghund Publishing Company

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

ISBN: 0-595-14951-0

ISBN: 978-1-4759-2158-8 (ebook)





























Thousands of our men will soon be returning to you. They have been gone a long time and they have seen and done and felt things you cannot know. They will be changed.

—Ernie Pyle


A Year on the DMZ


OLD KOREA HANDS WILL KNOW THAT THERE IS not now, nor has there ever been, an 18th Infantry Division in the Eighth Army. The 157th Military Intelligence Battalion as well as the 29th Meteorological Observation Group are likewise fictitious, as are the camps named. And although there are many such hills in Korea, the one in this story exists only in the author’s mind. The characters are entirely fictitious as are the incidents that are related.

What is real is this: Since June 25, 1950, American soldiers have been fighting in Korea. Even now, the peace talks at Panmunjom continue and the killing and maiming continue. This novel will, it is hoped, give the reader an idea of what it was like to serve on the Korean DMZ in the latter half of the 1960s.

Few people know how the North Koreans, evidently heartened and emboldened by the successes of their friends, the North Vietnamese, began to step up their attacks on South Korean and American positions along

the DMZ in those years. For years before, they had initiated few exchanges of fire on the line, and the infiltrators they had sent across were primarily on intelligence and reconnaissance missions. Then, quite suddenly, in the fall of 1966, things got hot fast. Perhaps the primary cause was the North Koreans’ desire to see whether the United States, in light of its increasing military activity in Vietnam, was really prepared or determined to defend both South Korea and South Vietnam at the same time.

For whatever reasons, I saw the situation on the line get bad in late fall of 1966 and then grow increasingly worse in 1967. Only years later, long after I returned to the United States, did I come across an old 1967 United Nations report on Korean truce violations, and discover how dramatic the surge had been numerically; the only measure I had had to go by was the surge in my adrenal gland secretions. The UN had numbers. In 1966, the UN report states, there were nineteen exchanges of gunfire on the line and eleven below it, producing sixty-four U.S. and South Korean Army casualties. However, from January 1 through October 18 of 1967, there were 212 exchanges of fire, resulting in 401 U.S. and South Korean Army casualties.

The UN Report on Truce Violations also lists ROK National Police and civilian casualties, and goes on to say, The North Korean infiltration into the Demilitarized Zone and the interior of the Republic of Korea, apart from causing heavy human casualties, has involved in every case violations of the letter and/or spirit of the Armistice Agreement of 1953, and specifically cites North Korea’s failure to respect the integrity of the territory of the Demilitarized Zone and the interior of the Republic of Korea, saying that such behavior constitutes a violation of paragraph 7 of the Armistice Agreement. I am certain that when this report was read into the record at Panmunjom, the North Korean representative was unimpressed. He probably made a great show of stifling a yawn, which is more than the America people back home did.

This book is dedicated to the men of the United States Army who manned that lonely line, to those who stood and delivered at a time when no one except the beleaguered people of South Korea cared. To the men who convinced the North Koreans and the Communist world that the United States would not write off Korea because of the events transpiring in Vietnam. This book is dedicated to the widows, children, parents, and brothers and sisters of those who died there during the late sixties. Be proud of their unsung sacrifices, because with no support from their countrymen, with aging equipment, and with a great deal of courage, they turned back the North Korean probes decisively, demonstrating that North Korea would pay a heavy price in any second invasion. Things quieted down quite a bit in the mid-seventies, although even today sporadic firefights break out. But over forty million South Koreans live in freedom today in large part because some brave men from exotic places like Sioux City, Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Newark, and Albuquerque, made a stand. Men who fought without counting the cost, who fought because they had a vision of something bigger than themselves. They were all heroes, every one.

—William Roskey

August 1985

Home is the sailor, home from sea, And the hunter home from the hill.

—Robert Louis Stevenson


The Hill

FOR YEARS, TOO MANY YEARS, I TRIED TO WRITE about a certain hill in Korea. About what it was like to go up that hill, what it was like to come down it, and about what happened in between. About the high toll it exacted. It’s important to me because, in a very real way, I’ve never left the hill. Every shrub and trench, every sandbag and pebble and foxhole, every rusted strand of barbed wire is indelibly etched on my brain as clearly and as crisply as any image on the finest and most intricate lithographic plate. I return to the hill still in nightmares, which have mercifully become less frequent (if no less vivid) as the years have gone by. I wake in a start from the sounds of ghostly gunfire to reach for a rifle that isn’t there. That hasn’t been there for a long time. I wake suddenly to find myself a middle-aged man in a warm bed in a comfortable suburban community half a world and many years away from an unknown hill in a remote mountainous part of Korea that no one knows of or cares about.

You see, I was working on the belief that if I could somehow capture the experience in words, the resulting catharsis would produce an inner peace, and I wouldn’t ever have to return to the hill again. Not even in my dreams. So I tried; I tried it from every aspect. I wrote in the manner of the impersonal, detached third-person observer. I also spilled out my guts in an emotional stream of consciousness, describing the hill in almost hallucinatory anthropopathic terms—as an ancient, evil, malevolent living Thing, as a hulking, brooding Presence lusting after blood like a huge, greedy, and insatiable vampire sponge beneath my feet.

I wrote about the geology of the hill and its topography, its shape, elevation, and composition, about its flora and fauna. I talked about how it looked under a blistering summer sun, as well as under a luminous Oriental moon surrounded by thousands of sparkling stars. I wrote about what it was like to be on the hill when driving, seemingly never-ending sheets of monsoon rains poured out from boiling, ugly pewter skies. I wrote about how it was in the winter, when ice and snow were bad, but not half as bad as the bitter freezing winds that whipped down through the mountains from Manchuria and from Siberia. About how the winds howled through the frozen valleys like crazed banshees come to claim the spirits of the dead. I wrote countless pages about how the hill looked and sounded and smelled, and even about how it felt beneath my combat boots. And all of that writing was a waste of time. I threw each page away almost as soon as I’d finished it. None of it hit the mark, and I never quite knew why. Now I know; it has taken me all these years to realize that the story I’ve tried to tell is not the story of a hill at all. It is a story about a group of men.

It’s a story about a group of young men who subsisted on a diet which consisted chiefly of black coffee, blacker humor, and adrenaline, and who grew old very quickly. It’s

a story of skylarking, adventuresome, and supremely confident American boys who were transformed into cynical veterans with tired and wary eyes, who counted days and hours, and who believed in no one and who trusted no one except each other. We didn’t trust the North Korean Army facing us, and, after a time, trusted in no army and no government including our own. Neither, as a general rule, did we trust any civilians of any nationality—particularly politicians and journalists. We were a small group, thirty-five in all, and believed without question that the rest of the inhabitants of the world fell into two categories: those who wanted to see us dead and were actively working toward that end, and those who didn’t care, including our own countrymen back home and the U.S. Army Pacific. That’s drawing the lines starkly by anyone’s standards, but the irony is that when I look back now, as an older and more mature man with the 20/20 hindsight that the passage of time confers, I can see that those youthful notions of ours were essentially correct.

Ail our dreams and ambitions coalesced into a single common goal—to survive. That was the grim resolve that kept everyone going. The readiness, the determination to do whatever it took, including killing as many people as necessary in order to get home again in one piece. While I was there, the 151-mile line, which stretched from coast to coast across the Korean peninsula and which had been relatively quiet for years, began to heat up. The firefights which periodically erupted were sudden, brutal, and deadly, but remained short and, although the frequency of the firefights began to increase dramatically, rarely involved any units above squad level. The casualties were still considered to be in the acceptable range by both Eastern and Western military planners. The U.S. Army’s chief headache was finding a way to explain to the men who were being shot at, as well as to the families and Congressional representatives of these men, why they weren’t receiving combat pay. It was especially difficult to explain to widows that their husbands hadn’t been in combat when they’d been shot. Men were receiving Purple Hearts and decorations for valor. Some men were even being shipped home in boxes, but the Army said that the line was no longer a combat zone.

Look, the Army said to irate soldiers, families, and Congressional, let’s be reasonable about this. We have more than fifty thousand men in Korea. Not all of them are being shot at on a regular basis, and not all of them are even on the line. Many are far to the south and never hear a single shot fired. We cannot countenance paying all fifty thousand men an extra $55 a month under these circumstances, but we do want to be fair about this. Therefore, we decree that henceforth any man shot or killed in hostile action will be considered to have been in combat for that month, and he or his widow or other beneficiary will receive the sum of $55. Should a man be wounded twice, he will receive $110 if the wounds are sustained in separate months. If three times … and so on.

Now even in those days, $55 was not exactly a princely sum. And we, soldiers of the wealthiest nation on the planet, could not help but feel that our country was not only being miserly, but also a little irrational. The absurdity was in the best tradition of Joseph Heller: A thousand may fall to your right and a thousand may fall to your left, but unless you fall, you don’t get the fifty-five bucks. One night, as a running firefight between North Korean infiltrators and South Korean troops began to drift toward us, I took up a position to give covering fire with my M-60 machine gun, and I wondered in a somewhat detached fashion which of us or our survivors would be receiving checks for $55. To the Army’s credit, however, this policy only remained in effect for less than a year. A few months after I had returned to the United

States, I was told that the Army had extended combat pay to all men who served north of the Imjin River. This was a far more equitable resolution of the problem, and I don’t know why they hadn’t thought of that in the first place.

The firefights were discussed virtually every day at Panmunjom. At 0207 hours this morning, one of the United Nations negotiators might say for example, the cease fire agreement was once again violated by the North Korean Army, when it ambushed a South Korean Army patrol near Kumhwa. Four members of the patrol were killed and three were wounded. The United Nations Command demands an immediate cessation of such irresponsible and hostile acts, along with a formal apology and written assurance that there will be no repetition of such incidents. Whereupon the North Korean negotiator would customarily respond with something like: At 0210 hours this morning, soldiers of the puppet South Korean Army wantonly attacked a small unit of the Army of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea in the DMZ north of Kumhwa. This cowardly attack by the lackies of the imperialistic running dogs of Wall Street was heroically beaten back, and serves as but one more incident to add to the now many hundreds of times that the U.S. warmongers and their stooges have endangered world peace and earned the just affront of all freedom and peace-loving peoples throughout the civilized world. And so another routine day would begin at Panmunjom.

Firefights were one thing, but the specter of another full scale invasion quite another. The fear of that is something we lived with every day for more than a year. The North Koreans had done an excellent job of it years before on 25 June 1950, when they’d sent ten crack infantry divisions and 150 nearly invincible Russian T-34 tanks, along with numerous other supporting units hurtling across the 38th parallel under a curtain of intensive and highly accurate artillery fire. Three days later they entered Seoul, far to the south. They had been threatening to do it again ever since, and we had

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