The Ketchup Bottle Incident a true story from Jim Warmkessel

I was the duty NCO during a UNC/MAC meeting that was going way past the usual time UNC/MAC meetings lasted. I was told to call the mess hall and ask for sandwiches to be sent to the JSA. After the mess truck dropped off the sandwiches, it left to return to the Advance Camp. As it turned left to go down through the DMZ, a red plastic ketchup bottle fell off the truck right in front of the KPA guard shack. After the UNC/MAC meeting ended, I received a call from the KPA JDO's office. The KPA JDO wanted an immediate meeting at the KPA guard shack where the ketchup bottle had fallen out of the truck. At that time, we had no idea why the KPA wanted to meet us.

Our JDO (Major Gibbens), our Korean interpreter, Yeoman Alan A. Smith and I met with the KPA personnel at the guard shack. When we arrived we saw the ketchup bottle on the ground, surrounded by a circle of small rocks. Major Gibbens went to pick up the bottle, but was immediately told to stand back.

The KPA JDO referred to the object as an explosive device. We (UNC side) laughed. Major Gibbens told them it was a bottle that contained a tomato based condiment. They obviously didn't understand what he was explaining or just wanted to make a big issue of it. The KPA JDO went into a diatribe about the bottle. They must have handled it because he referred to where the object was manufactured. He stated the object was manufactured in Chicago, the city of gangsters, etc. Major Gibbens could not convince the KPA that the object was not a harmful object. Gibbens was fed up with their nonsense, so we just walk away and left them to do what ever they wanted to do with the 'device'.

Aside from the above, during the diatribe Yeoman Smith and I were accused of being CIA agents. They claimed that we were not military. Maj. Gibbens informed them that Smith was a member of the US Navy and I was a member of the US Army. They were convinced that we were not military.

When we got back to the Joint Duty Office, Maj. Gibbens said "What the hell was that CIA stuff about?" We said we had no idea what they were talking about. The truth was that both Smith and I would harass the KPA MPs when we had the night shift in the JDO office. We'd walk around the conference room building and our office with a steno pad looking down at foot prints. The KPA had a guard shack on the hill where our outhouse was located. They'd see us doing our looking.Once we had their attention, we'd kneel down and start writing stuff on the steno pad. The KPA guards would run down the hill to see what we were doing. When they got close, we'd snap shut the steno pad. I had my spit shined books spit upon several times by the KPA guards! Smith and I presumed that what we were doing was interpreted by the KPA to be CIA work.

Jim Warmkessel (JSA Dec 58 to Feb 60)

For JSA veterans by a JSA veteran