Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with David E. Mark
I should revert to that jeep. Much earlier on, back in 1947, we had wanted a jeep for our little advisory office and the military said, “We don't have extra equipment. We can't give you a jeep,” and so forth. So finally we got the acquisition cleared in Washington and they sent a telegram back saying, “Purchase of jeep from military is authorized. Payment of so many dollars,” and, of course, it was signed, as all cables are, with the name of the Secretary of State, who at that time was General George Marshall. So when we took that cable around to the military, the officer said, “Good, God. If General Marshall wants you to have a jeep, you'll get a jeep.” [Laughter]
But anyway, I was traveling around South Korea in early October 1948, and indeed off on the east coast and in the south, which were then very, very distant places from Seoul, isolated and cut off. We did not even have any troops around there. The Americans had little stations of the Army Counterintelligence Corps in a few towns, and we stayed in old Japanese houses where the CIC lived. I got to the Southeast just about the time that the rebellion broke out, so that I stayed around the area and a couple of days later, got back into one of the first towns that the South Koreans had been able to recapture from the communist rebels. It was a terribly gruesome sight all around in this area of combat, because they had taken 200 to 250 people who were prominent in the local South Korean community and killed them.
Q: Who is “they”? The rebels?
MARK: The rebels, yes. And they had marched these people out of town, along a road, tied their hands behind their backs and just mowed them down, so that there were about 200 to 250 prominent corpses along the road. When our people, that is either the South Koreans or the Americans, but this was mainly a South Korean recovery operation, got hold of some of the communist rebels, they were not dealt with kindly, either. It was pretty rough on both sides after what had happened, though only a mild foretaste of the war years.
When I got back to Seoul about four or five days later, I went to see the ambassador and said, “You know, the communist strength, their military strength, is obviously a lot stronger than we had thought, and if we pull out all our forces, as is now scheduled for December 31, we're soon going to lose this place.”
Q: But who had put down the rebellion? Had it been American troops?
MARK: It had been the South Koreans for the most part, but Americans were giving them backstopping support, logistic support, and advice, I'm sure. We had advisory—
Q: But Americans weren't engaged in combat or air support?