Thumbnail
NL / FR / EN

 

1955-2005

Fifty years ago, our battalion whose achievements had earned the admiration and respect of all the nations present in the land of the morning calm for the Belgian Army and thus Belgium itself. But before telling the ultimate period of the history of the BUNC, it is necessary and well founded to retrace the happenings between the cease-fire and the unavoidable autumn of 1955. This subject has been practically never been treated, although more then a thousand volunteers were involved in this period. Only General Chrahay, thanks to the pen of Colonel Pirlot, has summarily dealt with the subject in the sixth and last part of his book " The Belgians in Korea".
The following text is based at the same time on this scanty source of information, on several information's from the Archives Directory of the Security Division, and the memory of your servant.

On July 12th 1953, Lieutenant-Colonel GATHY hands over command of Lieutenant-Colonel BODART and two weeks later, teh truce talks which were started two years ago earlier on July 10th 1951had finally turned into a ceasefire. A "demilitarised zone" with 2 kilometres on both sides of the contact line was evacuated by the belligerents. The southern border of this zone was given the name of "No pass line". From July 28th, this line is occupied by one company per battalion. Where the BUNC , as part of the 7th. US Regiment, is concerned, this means that B Company is given this task. The rest of the battalion is in bivouac. From August 7th, onwards, the 3rd Infantry Division of which we are part, is placed in Corps reserve. The battalion is installed in Pango-ri, at 25 kilometres from the demarcation line and will stay there till 01 May 1954.

Before going further, I quote two excerpts from a memorandum by US Lieutenant-General Jenkins, Commander of IX Corps, passed on to all units under his command. This document which explains the meaning of the signing of the Cease-fire for the UN, was to be read to the troops by the company commanders or equivalent units . The excerpts concerned reflect the frame of mind that animated the command and the volunteers of the BUNC till the last days of their presence on the Korean soil.

3)b " This is no peace. This is but a cease-fire that can be broken by the enemy at any given time. The troops will be withdrawn to a guarding position and will have to stay alert in case of an attack by land or air. The only difference with the situation existing is a change in the position and the end of the military action.

3)d The period now following is as important as the combat and the vigilance cannot be lessened. We still stand at a short distance, facing the same enemy and have to be prepared to anticipate all his movements.

Life at Pango-ri from August 7th 1953 till May 1st 1954

For the men who had known Chatkol, the change from a wartime situation to an apparent peacetime was not always easy. They had to get used again to a more strict discipline and totally different rules of conduct, which were sometimes applied too strictly. As an example amongst a thousand: The brown beret, that symbol, could not be worn during exercises and the helmet be worn instead. (I remember the case of one high-ranking individual who hid under cover along he route of a march and sprang from it to inflict company punishment on the transgressors.) They also had to accept the fact that their superiors who had led them through combat were being replaced by officers who had not yet been in action. The tension lasted for several months and then finally ended due to the departure of the most violent protagonists who reached the end of their contract (being volunteers for one year only) and also due to the psychology of people on one side and goodwill on the other, order was restored finally. It has to be noted that the unit's performance did not diminish at all during this difficult period. The pride in wearing the famous brown beret and the will to be worthy of the fame acquired by the battalion, made sure that exercises and manoeuvres under live fire were carried out with excellent will and ardor, not in the the least animated by an important esprit de corps. In the knowledge that fighting could resume at any moment, everyone gave the best of himself in order to be ready and certainly not to show inferiority, should the situation deteriorate again. (As a matter of fact, the realism of the exercises caused the horrible death of Sergeant Boving)

Conclusion

These sacrifices have not been in vain. South Korea has risen from its ashes and has expanded into one of the most modern countries of the Far East.
The communist advance was stopped. More than 40 years later we witnessed the fall of the communist regime in Europe. In Korea signs of getting closer are noticeable. Let us hope that we, like our successors, will know a period of lasting understanding and PEACE.

Disband of the battalion

After the return to Belgium in July 1955 the Belgian Corps of volunteers was disbanded. The standard was handed over to the 3rd BATTALION PARACHUTISTS which carries on the tradition.

The barrack - building is named after Lieutenant GAILLY PIERRE (KIA in Korea 1953)
 Thumbnail  Thumbnail
Lieutenant Pierre Gailly
( Killed in action)