WILLIAM M. ROSENSTEEL, JR.
[William Rosensteel is a Korean War
veteran who served as SFC, Tank Company, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd
My nephew, age 42, asked me about the Nogun-ri story: "What are your thoughts about the disclosure of
the killings in Nogun-ri? Maybe we
should stop sending our soldiers ANYWHERE.
Many South Koreans want us out.
Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time
to attack North Korea. Reaction?" This was my response:
is no proof, as of now, that it happened.
it did happen, it was probably because North Korean soldiers would dress
as civilians and infiltrate our lines along with the fleeing
refugees. Once behind our lines
they would kill our troops where they could find them until they were
captured, killed, or overtaken by their own troops moving South. [Comment
– When soldiers dressed as civilians are captured they are treated as
spies and shot – which is why soldiers wear uniforms.]
is the province of suffering. Would
you rather have an artillery barrage brought down to kill the armed enemy
from getting through our lines, or, assuming [your son] is one of the
defending troops, not fire on the crowd because of the civilians, let the
enemy come through, and because of this great humanitarian act [your son]
is killed by a North Korean who is behind our lines. [Comment – This puts it on a personal
basis and makes you think doesn’t it – when your son may die because
someone was afraid to give the order to fire.]
there just isn’t time to sort it all out, and so expediency takes over and
to save American lives everybody gets it from the artillery or small
arms. It isn’t nice and it isn’t
right, but then as Sherman
said, "War is Hell." The mission is
all important. Think about standard
rules later. War means killing
people. That’s all there is to
it. If we are to win we must kill
before they kill us. There is no
other way to win. Wars must be won
for God’s sake. He has a part in
every war! The quicker we can kill
the enemy, the quicker we can go home to our mothers, wives, and
kill people and break things.
Consideration of others has its place, however, when faced with
time constraints or other combat circumstances—consideration of the
civilians or death of myself or my troops because I failed to kill the
enemy among the civilians, the following represents my rules of engagement
and consideration of others: My
mission and the mission of those I command is to seek-out, close with, and
destroy the enemy by fire or maneuver.
Those are my ‘considerations’—PERIOD!
is the last bastion of freedom in Asia
that is directly protected by United
States troops. If we abandon Korea,
the North Koreans will surely attack, and there would be a great blood
bath as the North Korean Army hates the South Koreans and would slaughter
them en mass if allowed to occupy South
Korea. We would lose face, and our word would
never again be trusted by our allies and friends, especially in Asia. If we abandoned South
Korea, it will be a sign to the
Chinese that we would probably not defend Formosa,
so they would attack them. It isn’t
just a matter of one little country in Asia.
without severe provocation or in response to an aggressive move by them is
not going to happen. We would have
a full scale war on our hands. The
North Koreans would undoubtedly be assisted by the Chinese. We do not have sufficient troops (37,000
in South Korea,
I think) to launch an attack without a massive buildup of men and
material. The North Koreans are not
a bunch of wimps like the Iranians.
They will not fold up, throw down their arms, and run at the first
sign of an American uniform. They
are well armed, well equipped, well trained and WILL FIGHT TO THE
DEATH. Any such build up requires
time, lots of time. Such a build-up
without provocation from North Korea
would certainly tell them we are going to attack. The only thing they would not know is
where and when. North
Korea is pure hell to fight
in. Mountainous terrain, hills that
go almost straight up and straight down.
And winters that defy description.
Such an attack would require the strongest resolve on the part of
the American people—I think the American people don’t have that kind of
resolve. Seven of our Rangers were
slaughtered in Somolia. Their
uniforms were torn off and Somolians were dancing on their dead bodies and
nothing happened – No response from the present administration – No
response or massive outrage from the American people. No, the American people don’t have that
kind of resolve – They are too soft.
[Comment – There is a difference
between killing a bunch of civilians who have been infiltrated by the enemy
because you don’t have time to sort them out or for any other reason that will
save American lives – and killing thousands of civilians by fire-bombing
Dresden – or killing civilians (also American POWs by the way) by fire-bombing
Tokyo or killing civilians by dropping Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?]
American troops captured by North Korean soldiers had
their hands bound behind their back with telephone wire,
and then [were] killed either by summary execution or [by] having gasoline
poured on them and then burned alive.
American troops facing this kind of enemy attempting to infiltrate are
not too predisposed to give a damn about not killing civilians, because some
civilians have be killed in order to kill the enemy. As I wrote earlier – War is hell.
You are in command.
What would you do? Think about
God Bless – Bill
P.S. – There was a movie that dealt with this
subject. It was titled "Target Zero",
and starred Robert Mitchum (and Ann Blythe I think). He was a combat commander faced with this
very decision. It’s been years since
I’ve seen it on TV.
P.S.S. – We killed civilians in Kosovo during bombing
runs on bridges, buildings, roads, etc.
Collateral damage I think they call it.
Where was the great outcry from the American people? Three of our soldiers, surrendered without
firing a shot, giving up a 50 cal MG, a humvee, small arms and ammunition. They were not even wounded in battle, yet
when they were returned we gave them a Purple Heart, and they were treated like
heroes. This generation is certainly not
like the WWII generation. We will never
see any like them again. We are too
soldiers that were captured by the Serbs were on patrol when they were forced
to stop by a classic military tactic – the roadblock. The Serbs used civilian sympathizers to
orchestrate the roadblock, then three were taken under
fire by the Serb soldiers. Our brave
troops, unwilling or afraid to fire on civilians who were blocking their way to
freedom, threw up their hands and surrendered without firing a shot, losing as
I said, a .50cal MG, a humvee, small arms and ammo. For this brave act we gave them the Purple
Heart, and treated them like conquering heroes when Jackson
went and got them from the Serbs. The
Purple Heart is for wounds suffered in combat, not because you are punched
around by the enemy after capture. Makes
me want to puke! The mission was
ill-defined and there were no clear rules of engagement. When you are fired upon you engage and fire
back regardless if they are dressed in civilian clothes or in uniform!
A few months ago I was in the Dean Witter office here in San
Luis Obispo (California). At that time there was a Korean woman
employed there – she was in her early twenties.
She saw "Korean Veteran" on my cap and asked me if I had been in the
Korean War. When I told her I had, she
stood up, shook my hand, and said, "Thank you very much. Thank you for saving my country." I was impressed, especially since at her age
much of what she knew of the war was what her parents or grandparents had told
her. Later I learned she had been in the
USA since she was very young (two or three), and then I was even more impressed
that she felt that strong about what the United States military had done for
William M. Rosensteel, Jr., Korean War veteran, SFC, Tank
7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry