The heroic but
unpublicized role of the Turkish troops during the 1950-53 Korean War is far from being fully acknowledged by most of the Western
historians and public, although we observed the 50th anniversary of that
fateful war on June 25, 2000.
The 5,453-strong Turkish
brigade served under the command of late Brg. Gen. Tahsin Yazici as a part of
the U.N. force fighting the communist expansion on the Korean peninsula. The
“Anatolian Lions” were later awarded the highest honorable citation of the
U.S. Army for saving the U.S. Eighth Army and the IX Army Corps from
encirclement and the U.S. 2nd Division from total annihilation. In
this legendary effort, the Turks lost 717 men and suffered 2,413 wounded
representing the highest combat casualty rate of any U.N. unit engaged in
Congressman John P. Murtha (Democrat
12 District) of the House of Representatives (as Rep. Hobson) was one lawmaker
who remembered the great Turkish-American solidarity that shaped history fifty
years ago in the cold, harsh, and unforgiving hills of Korea.
John Murtha (D-PA) Praises Turks in Korean War
“As someone who joined the Marine Corps during the
Korean War, I’ve always felt strongly about our allies in Turkey,” Said Rep. Murtha
on June 27, in his address he delivered on the House floor.
“As we mark the 50-year anniversary of the start of
the Korean War on June 25th, the Turkish military’s bravery and heroism deserve great
The Turkish Brigade demonstrated superior combat capability and courage
from the critical moment it entered the battlefield in October 1950, through the
cease-fire agreement of July 1953,” Murtha reminded.
Chinese prisoners cross-examined
Gen. MacArthur said, “The Turks are the hero of heroes”
Yazici gets the Silver Star from U.S.
8th Army General Walton H. Walker, for Yazici's
heroism and courage during the Kunuri battles.
fierce combat ability of the Turkish Brigade should never be forgotten."
provided the fifth-largest military contingent among United Nations forces — 5,453
soldiers at the peak of the war. The Turkish Brigade is credited with saving the U.S.
Eighth Army and the IX Army Corps from encirclement by communist enemies, and the 2nd
Division from total destruction during critical battles in November 1950,” he said.
Nations’ Forces Commander in Chief General Douglas MacArthur said ‘the Turks are the
hero of heroes. There is no impossibility for the Turkish Brigade.’ No enemy attack
succeeded in penetrating the front of the Turkish Brigade, while British and American
forces were forced to withdraw from defensive lines. Even though out of ammunition, the
Turks affixed their bayonets and attacked the enemy, eventually in hand-to-hand combat.
The Turks succeeded in withdrawing by continuous combat and carrying their injured
comrades from the battlefield on their backs.”
the twenty U.N. Members contributing military forces in Korea, Time Magazine praised the
Turkish Brigade for its courageous battles and for creating a favorable effect on the
whole United Nations Forces. A U.S. radio commentary in December 1950 thanked the Turkish
Brigade’s heroism for giving hope to a demoralized American nation,” Murtha continued.
the Korean War is often called ‘the Forgotten War,’ partly because it ended
inconclusively with no real winner, the fierce combat ability of the Turkish Brigade
should never be forgotten. The 717 Turkish soldiers killed in action, and the 2,413
wounded in action, represent the highest casualty rate of any U.N. element engaged in the
fighting. The simple white grave markers in a green field near Pusan will eternally remind
us of the heroic soldiers of a heroic nation,” Murtha ended his remarks.
The South Korean monument reads, in part:
"On October 17, 1950, Turkey dispatched army units
to defend the freedom of Korea and the peace of the world. From that time until the Korean
Armistice was signed in 1953, the Turkish forces fought valiantly in the Battles of
Kumu-ri, Wawon, Shillim-ri, Uijongim, Yonch'on, T'oegyewon, Kumhwa and Hansullim. They
suffered 717 dead, 2,246 wounded and 167 missing in action. Even after the war, the
Turkish troops remained in Korea until July 1966."
Senator Robert C. Byrd, on June
The United States’ relationship with Turkey
dates back to .the post-World War I creation of the Turkish Republic, which was
founded on the American model of separation of church and state and the free-market
economic system. That relationship continues today as Turkey remains a bulwark of
secular democracy in a hotbed of neighboring conflicts involving religion and
A testament to Turkey’s friendship with the United States is Turkey’s crucial
role during the Korean War. Turkey came to our aid during that critical time.
Turkish troops fought alongside American forces and demonstrated exemplary courage,
dedication, and discipline. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, who was then the
Commander of the United Nations forces in Korea, hailed the Turkish troops as “the
bravest of the brave.”
Turkey’s decision to get involved in Korea secured its rightful place in the
family of nations. At great risk to its own political future as well as to its
economy, Turkey showed itself to be a reliable and stalwart world partner.
Over the years since the Korean War, the United States’ relationship with Turkey
has only grown stronger. As a fellow member of NATO, Turkey’s strategic location
near the Soviet Union and its former satellite states, as well as Turkey’s role in
the volatile Middle East, has proved invaluable.
The Turkish Republic has come a long way since its inception in the early part of
this century. Its future as a friend of the United States and a a crucial member of
NATO is assured. As we approach the 21st century and look back on what has been
accomplished during this century, I am proud to call Turkey a friend and ally.
Yep, Senator Byrd is
correct... Turkey has proven an incredible friend and ally to the United States
through the years. Another recent "critical time" was when President
George Bush Senior began to put together the alliance in preparation for the Gulf
War, and Turkey's then President Turgut Ozal was the very first (if memory serves)
to pledge significant support.... ultimately costing billions to the Turkish economy
in years to come. Meanwhile, The United States has proven a great friend and ally to
Turkey as well... but only when the United States needs Turkey! Otherwise, this
fair-weather friend's government and media treat Turkey as the Rodney Dangerfield of
the founder of modern Turkey, had stated back in 1937:
“...We must not ignore discomfort in another part of the world. We must pay
attention to it just as if it had occurred in our midst.. We must not divert from
this principle no matter how distant the event is. This approach shall set
individuals, nations and governments free from selfishness; for selfishness, be it
personal or institutional, must be perceived as evil... We shall pay attention to
the whole world from now on...”. This outward orientation and sensitivity became
an integral part of Turkish foreign policy and continued as part of Atatürk,’s
legacy, even after his death. Hence, Turkey’s membership in the United Nations
shortly after this organization’s constitution.
The Turkish notion of “faithful unto death” was the underlying reason of Turkey’s
contribution to the Korean War. Turks took it on themselves to comply with the
principle of “Pacta Sum Servanda” and to fulfill their obligation in
terms of their UN membership, to help another member in defending democracy and
freedom whatever the cost may be.
Turkey continues to send her sons to
provide democracy, freedom and comfort to other nations suffering from chaos,
disaster or foreign aggression, even if this means that they may be placed in harm’s
way. Turkish troops served under UN command in Somalia and continue to serve in
peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina today.
Commentary has been taken from various
articles of The Turkish Times
In 1946, President Harry Truman sent
the USS Missouri, our most powerful battleship, to deliver the body of the
Turkish ambassador back to his home country. That singular act of respect was
greeted with ecstasy throughout Turkey and sealed an emotional bond to us for
a generation. It should not be hard for the Bush administration to find other
ways to make sure Turkey knows it values their friendship.
During the Korean War, American and British units worried when an allied unit
was placed on their flank. The exception to this rule was Turkish troops. When
the Turks were on your flank you could be absolutely certain they would never
break and leave you in the lurch. Their country has proved to be just as
resolute for six decades. The United States needs to let Turkey know we will
be there for them also.
Excerpted from James Lacey's article, "Time to Treat Turkey as an
Ally," Nov. 2002, insightmag.com
Fingers are Enough!"
Written by Hikmet Feridun Es
At the moment I'm writing this, all the hospital
corridors in Japan are filled with the wounded. Our own wounded boys are being sent to
Japan from Korea by airplane... mostly to Japan's General and Apex hospitals.
When I came to Japan for a couple of days to mail my
photos and (journalistic) reports, I got a telephone call in the early morning. The
hospital's doctors asked me I needed to hop in a car and go to the hospital right away. In
a situation like this, the word "request" has no meaning. Our boys in the
hospital could not communicate with the doctors in the doctors' language. I happily rushed
to the hospital.
Let me explain the courtesy and attitude of our boys
in their own words. I asked one of the young men whose body was riddled with holes,
carrying ten to fifteen wounds, "What's wrong?"
As much as he was capable of mustering, in a sweet
tone, he replied, "I have nothing, efendim!"
This attitude from the Turkish soldiers so affected
the American doctors, they were in tears.
"We never, ever saw any kind of wounded like
these men. These men act as if their bullet, machine gun and bomb wounds are nonexistent.
The wounded from any other nation, in similar shape, would be crying and shaking in their
situation. Your boys never utter a word of complaint.
These American doctors, so moved by the uncomplaining
attitude of the Turkish soldiers, attempted to go the extra mile to minimize their pain.
"Aci!.." This is the first Turkish word
("pain") that the American doctors in the Tokyo and Anex hospitals learn. Every
time they encounter a wound, an aching chest, a throbbing back, when they feel with their
fingers, they ask in Turkish:
In the Anex hospital, we stood in front of a bed. A
Turkish soldier, so young, one would call him a kid. Wrapped totally in bandages. His name
is Ahmet Cicek. (Chi-chek.) From "Cankir." Many parts of his body were injured
from an exploding bomb.
What's wrong?" I asked.
"Nothing is wrong..."
(My darling boy!)
The doctor unwrapped the bandage from one of his
hands. I could never have imagined a hand to be in such a mutilated shape.
Signaling one of the patient's fingers, the doctor
told me in English:
"Tell him we need to amputate this finger from
When the other doctors noticed my reluctance, they
"What's the matter? This is very
Ahmet Cicek from Cankir first looked at me with foggy
eyes... then at the men, dressed in white.
I protested. I added I had much experience, spending
days and nights in hospitals, and mentioned by helping them I needed to be free in my
"Please permit me, Doctor, don't make me give
this boy such news."
The doctors replied, "However, he must know what
is to happen to him. And we must begin the operation immediately."
When he noticed the ongoing argument, Ahmet Cicek
from Cankir asked, "What are they saying, big brother?"
I finally revealed: "Ahmet. One of your fingers
is no good anymore, my son. If it's not removed, your whole hand will be endangered. They
now want to take you into the operating room."
At that moment, something happened I would have never
expected. Ahmet Cicek began to laugh! Yes, he was laughing:
"Only one finger, big brother?"
"Yes... Only one finger!"
"Really, what is there to be sad about? I
already realized that finger could rot my entire arm four days ago. I was going to cut it
myself, but I didn't have enough strength in my other hand. I tried, but I couldn't. Let
them cut it.... nine fingers are enough!"
This and the following article have been
translated with the help of Holdwater's limited Turkish, from the only Turkish history
"book" in my collection, called "Resimli Tarih Mecmuasi," a bound
collection entitled, "Illustrated History Magazine," Number 19, July 1951.
"Turkish Soldiers Number One"
Even the enemy would say this about the
Written by Hikmet Feridun Es
We approached what could be enemy territory,
and there was a rustling in the bush. A young soldier suddenly emerged, with his
He was shouting while asking. Approaching the
American tank closest to him, he handed over the paper he was holding. Soon, we all
gathered around this tank, and read this note, written in English:
"We are two prisoners of the Chinese. The
boy who brought this note knows where we are hiding. Come and rescue us."
The "tank men" first discussed the
possibility of a trap. However, the "Celal Dora" forces were themselves
searching for the enemy, and they were in a position to entrap the ones who could be
setting a trap. Then we observed the soldier, who was speaking slowly but was
clearly nervous. Even our Korean translators figured there could be something fishy
photo is from another story, telling how a fallen Turk was
rescued under a hail of bullets & was operated on, in the field.
Well, we couldn't take the chance
of leaving prisoners behind, so with the kid in front and our "Mehmets"
following... we prepared for the possibility of danger.
Finally, we found two American soldiers ahead.
When they saw our boys, they cried:
"Turks! ... Brother Turks!..."
They hugged the Mehmets... what a sight to
behold. These two men were prisoners of the Chinese for eight weeks. When the Reds
retreated, they took the Americans with them. However, when our boys speedily
advanced, the Chinese decided to leave their prisoners behind, declaring:
"Wait here. Sooner or later, Americans
And they left them. Another portion they wanted
to take with them. These two American boys were in this group, but they managed to
escape and hide. All prisoners who got loose of the Chinese reported how the Chinese
acted in humanitarian fashion. As deprived and poor as they were, they even shared
their rice with the prisoners, and did not beat them. These were in start contrast
to the North Koreans, who would take the opportunity to beat the prisoners...
sometimes making sure to perform such acts in secret, from the Chinese. The Chinese
would save the United Nations prisoners from the beatings, whenever possible.
This is not in keeping with the anti-Chinese
propaganda. The Chinese prisoners that fell into our hands -- for example, recently,
we captured many Chinese -- the Chinese prisoners have gotten to know the Turks
quite well. Many of them have learned only one sentence in English, which they keep
Turkish soldiers Number One...
At every opportunity, they would communicate to
us that there is no greater soldier, indicating that they have found us to be a
During the initial period of the war when we
were in haste, we weren't able to take the best care of our prisoners... but now the
Chinese prisoners enjoy good comfort. If they are wounded, they are examined
immediately. The Turkish cigarettes they are given ample supplies of are consumed
|FOOD FOR THOUGHT
If you are an American reader, ask
yourself.... why was the media so quiet when it came to acknowledging the Turks' bravery
during the 50th Anniversary Korean War remembrance period in 2000?
As Professor Mahmut Ozan said in his
commentary during this time, "As
if they were adding salt to the wound, the TV networks were glorifying the unselfish
bravery of the British, Canadian, and Greek units, and mentioning even the Colombians and
the Ethiopians by name, with their ‘invaluable’ contributions rendered to the armed
forces of the United States." Not that these other nations did not contribute to
the war effort, but none of them saved a U.S. division from total destruction; no other nation's soldiers suffered higher
casualties, none gave hope to a "demoralized American nation," and I doubt any
of these other nations received obvious heartfelt praise by American major players
(President Dwight Eisenhower, General Douglas MacArthur). What forces are at work that
prevent anything good being said in the U.S. media about Turkey? Think about it. And think
about how tainted all the negative information you keep hearing about Turkey might
READ PROFESSOR OZAN'S THOUGHTS ON THE KOREAN WAR REMEMBRANCE, CLICK HERE.
"Turkey" on korean-war.com