"By the rude bridge that arched the flood / Their flag to April's breeze unfurled / Here once the embattled farmers stood / And fired the shot heard round the world."
The poem penned by Ralph Waldo Emerson more than 200 years ago reflects a fight for liberty and freedom just as many other conflicts have been for the same reasons since that time, even unto the present date.
I became interested in the war that began 64 years ago in Korea, stimulated by a neighbor at a summer picnic and conversations with him since then. The neighbor is Bob Brothers, a man of 82, who shares many memories with me.
I remember in the summer of 1960, when I was working at a hotel in Wallingford, Vt., seeing the National Guard traveling in an endless line of vehicles heading eventually for Korea.
Brothers joined the army at age 17 and later became a member of the First Cavalry Division in Korea. He landed there on July 18, 1950. They were fewer than 50 miles north of the Pusan defensive perimeter at the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.
His major weapon was a quad 50-caliber machine gun. The quad 50 was designed as a defensive weapon against aircraft, but he used it almost entirely against attacking North Korean infantry.
"It was very effective," he said, unlike their other equipment that had been used in World War II, such as light armored tanks and 2.36 recoilless rifles.
The First Cavalry moved west and eventually joined up with the U.N. forces coming north from Pusan. U.S. forces, with their U.N. allies, advanced up the peninsula of Korea quickly and joined an inland part of the daring but successful invasion of the Inchon Harbor and nearby capital of South Korea, Seoul.
On their way to North Korea, they destroyed almost all the infrastructure and housing they could, leaving no place for the enemy to hide.
When they got to North Korea, they found they were fighting mostly Chinese troops. The Chinese frequently fought at night so the U.N. troops couldn't see them, but they could smell them! Brothers learned that the adversary included in their diet a fermented cabbage food, which had a very pungent odor. In close combat, particularly at night, the US troops could tell when they were close to the enemy by the strength of the smell of this food.
They began to eat the kimchi, which was distasteful, so their proximity would not be noticed by the adversary because they smelled the same way.
When they got above the 38th parallel, Gen. Douglas McArthur knew that his forces had the advantage. By now the U.N. forces had better equipment, more powerful and effective tanks and more experienced infantry.
It was here that Gen. McArthur got into controversy with President Truman because of his proposal to cross the Yalu River into China proper. He had the enemy on the run and he wanted to keep going. Truman's position was that to attack China with its full forces protecting their homeland would be disastrous.
McArthur lost his command by order of the president.
The U.N. troops then retreated to the South and took heavy losses because of the severe winter and the Chinese forces. They finally stopped and held at the 38th parallel.
During his time in the Army, Brothers hated the press. The troops did not want them around.
"The people do not need to know and are not entitled to know the terrible things that happen on the battlefield," he said.
I respectfully took issue with him about this statement, saying that the free press has the right to most information, excepting situations such as the timing of the invasion of Normandy and the like. How can the people at home make judgments about the war if they don't know what is going on there?
Brothers is a knowledgeable and pleasant person to talk with. He said for a great many years he would not talk about the combat situation in Korea. But finally, after retiring from Republic Steel and Packard Electric, he saw value in telling about his experiences to school children and adult groups.
Brothers requested that I just made sure to end the article with, "God bless America."
Thomas is a Tribune Chronicle columnist.