Between 1966-1970 soldiers stationed on the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) came in regular contact with North Korean infiltrators probing US military defenses in what became known as the “DMZ War”. Two examples of such incidents occurred the morning of August 10th, 1967 when North Korean infiltrators conducted two separate ambushes of 2nd and 7th Infantry Division soldiers:
The events that morning began when a 2nd Infantry Division military working dog by the name of “Blackie”, handled by Specialist Jack L. Tyrrell, were leading a squad sized patrol in the early morning hours. The patrol was sent out at dusk after a sentry during the night had heard a possible North Korean infiltrator near his post. As the patrol looked for the infiltrator Blackie smelled something suspicious and headed for a nearby tree. That is when a North Korean infiltrator sprung out from behind the tree and shot Blackie and SPC Tyrrell.
After the initial firing more concealed North Koreans opened fire on the American patrol. However, the warning provided by Blackie had given the other members of the US patrol time to take cover. This allowed the Americans the opportunity to immediately return fire at the ambushers. The North Koreans realizing that their ambush had been compromised withdrew back towards the DMZ. The ambush cost Blackie his life, but no other Americans were killed with SPC Tyrrell being the only person wounded.
Work Detail Ambush
However, the ambush that Blackie had prematurely triggered was not the only ambush the North Koreans had planned that morning. US 7th Infantry Division soldiers from B company 2-31 Infantry Regiment had conducted a woodcutting mission inside the South Korean side of the DMZ that morning before returning to their camp for lunch around 11:45 AM. The soldiers moved south in a two truck convoy up a small hill in a drizzling rain. Each truck carried a platoon of US soldiers in the back of it. As the convoy approached the crest of the hill approximately 3-4 North Koreans appeared on the side of the lead truck and lobbed grenades at it. One of the grenades landed on the hood of the truck and killed the Platoon Sergeant Philip Boudreaux.
After the initial grenade attack more North Koreans opened up on the lead truck with small arms fire. In the ensuing ambush two more US soldiers, PFC Donald Craplicki and PFC Jerry Skaggs would be killed. The fatalities could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the actions of Specialist David Richardson who stood up on the back of the truck and returned fire at the ambushers while the other soldiers jumped out over the side of the truck and into an adjacent ditch to take cover. SPC Richardson was wounded by grenade fragments and shot twice, but incredibly continued to return fire. The return of fire from Richardson allowed platoon leader 2nd Lieutenant David Colwell who rode in the second truck to organize a response to the ambush.
While soldiers in the second truck took cover Colwell crawled up the hill to the first truck to check on the status of the soldiers. After helping to get wounded soldiers in the ambush zone out of the truck and administering first aid he ran back down the hill to order a soldier to run to a nearby outpost to request reinforcements. Other soldiers in the second truck then pushed forward to return fire at the ambushers. The firefight lasted about 30 minutes before the North Koreans withdrew back across the DMZ. No North Korean bodies were found, but US soldiers reported seeing some of the ambushers shot and blood was later found at the scene.
The aftermath from the ambush left the US with 3 soldiers killed in action, 16 more wounded and one ROK Army Korean Augmentee to the US Army (KATUSA) also wounded. 2LT Colwell would later go on to be recognized with a Bronze Star for his actions that morning. I could find no record of Specialist Richardson being awarded any valor medals, but it seems like he would have been a great candidate as well.
November 25, 1967 edition of the Stars & Stripes newspaper announcing the Bronze Star awarded to 2nd Lieutenant David Colwell.
A few days after the ambush the United Nations Command officially protested the aggression during the 253rd meeting of the military armistice commission. During the meeting the UNC spokesman Major General Marvin Demler blasted the North Korean delegation for the deadly attacks. North Korean spokesman Major General Chung Kuk-pak had the audacity to claim that if any UN soldiers had been killed it was because they shot each other by mistake. Later in the meeting Maj. Gen. Demler responded to the North Korean subterfuge by saying, “My colleagues and I agree that the proper assessment of this situation is that every ass likes to hear himself bray.” Demler continued to say that the UNC would “hunt down and kill or capture all North Korean communist intruders.” Despite Demler’s tough talking the North Koreans would go on two weeks later to launch an even more deadly ambush on Camp Liberty Bell that left 4 soldiers dead and 26 wounded to further escalate the growing DMZ War.
August 18, 1967 edition of the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper.
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