Saturday, February 13, 2016

Honoring Korean War Veterans in Ethiopia

Was honored yesterday to be contacted by the Military Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and asked to send her a copy of my book Fire & Ice: The Korean War, 1950-53, for inclusion in a permanent historical exhibit being installed in a ceremony there next month. Suffice it to say that I immediately signed a copy of the book, dedicated it to the Ethiopian soldiers who fought and died in Korea, and got it into the mail.

“Ethiopia agreed to send an infantry battalion to Korea, which included volunteers from Emperor Haille Selassie’s Imperial Security Guard, a unit of elite six-foot-tall soldiers,” I write in my book. “Dubbed the Kagnew, or Conquerors Battalion, the unit was relieved by fresh battalions twice during the Korean War. (Kagnew, according to some sources, was an imperial warhorse and the namesake of the unit.)”

“Ethiopia's 1st Kagnew Battalion, a 931-man unit, arrived in Korea in May 1951 and was attached to the 32nd Regiment of the U.S. 75th Infantry Division in June 1951. In April 1952, the 1st Kagnew Battalion was replaced by the 2nd Kagnew Battalion. In April 1953, it was relieved in its turn by the 3rd Kagnew Battalion, which remained in Korea until April 1954.”

“Ethiopian soldiers fought in many battles during the war and were highly regarded for their skill in hand-to-hand and bayonet fighting, patrolling, and night fighting. Altogether, 3,158 Ethiopians served in the Kagnew battalions. Of those, 121 were killed, 536 were wounded, and none were taken prisoner.”

“A number of Ethiopian nurses also worked with the Red Cross in Japan.” 

Ethiopian soldiers, like those of other U.N. contingents, were among the best their country could provide. Here, an Ethiopian gunnery crew prepares to fire a 75mm recoilless rifle.