Historical Background

The author shares details about the history and his personal experiences in the Korean DMZ War that form the backdrop for his unpublished novel, The Blue House Raid.

American soldiers keep watch for North Korean troop activity from a trench along the southern side of the DMZ, Feb. 8, 1968. (AP Photo)

American soldiers keep watch for North Korean troop activity from a trench along the southern side of the DMZ, Feb. 8, 1968. (AP Photo)

The Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice dividing the combatants along an east-west line called the MDL (military demarcation line) with a two-kilometer buffer to either side. This four-kilometer swath across the Korean peninsula is called the DMZ (demilitarized zone). The US army took responsibility for the westernmost sector of the DMZ (south of the MDL), which included Panmunjom and the JSA (joint security area).

The mid-1960s saw a major uptick of incidents in the DMZ, as US and ROK (Republic of Korea) forces became involved in Vietnam. This little-known piece of history is called the Korean DMZ Conflict or the Second Korean War. Egregious incidents included the Blue House raid (called the January 21 incident in South Korea) and the Pueblo incident, both occurring in January 1968 (same month as the start of the Tet offensive in Vietnam). For a definitive account and analysis of the Korean DMZ Conflict, see Bolger, Daniel (1991), Scenes from an Unfinished War: Low intensity conflict in Korea 1966–1969, Diane Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-7881-1208-9.

On January 24, 1968, my unit, 1st battalion 23rd infantry, had deployed along the road running north from Pobwon-ni and Seoul, as part of a large-scale effort to run down the North Korean commandos involved in the Blue House raid. At the time, I was the XO (executive officer) of Company A, and, as such, ran to wherever the action was—usually arriving a few minutes late, took out patrols, and otherwise contributed to the fog. Company A and the recon platoon killed two commandos that night with a loss of one killed and one wounded.

My novel centers on the Blue House raid but encompasses the whole of the DMZ soldier’s experience during that period with glimpses into the lives of the South Korean population and the conduct of the North Korean commandos. Place names, unit names, and historical events are real. However, plot and cast are fictional: there is no one-to-one correspondence between a character in the story and a real person, except for several known historical characters.