August 18 1976

What happened on August 18, 1976?

It would be helpful to introduce a few photos of the area in question to show exactly what the layout and terrain is like.  The following photos are provided by Bill Ferguson, a member of the Joint Security Force, 2nd Platoon in 1976.  Below is a photo of the tree as well as the area of the fight taken December 1975 — 8 months prior to the axe-murders.  Note the elevation of the roadway and Check Point 3.  This photo was taken from the same location as the photos you will see later.cp3

A better photo, not normally seen, is the view to include KPA8 (Korean People’s Army 8).  Below shows the tree (to the far right) and the area where 1LT Barrett was found (circle).    Visible here is the “egress” road which goes by KPA8.  Overview KPA8 CP3

From the “egress” road, this is KPA8 (north Korean) and with Check Point 3 in the background.  “The Tree” is on the right.  Strictly speaking the road is not part of the truce area EXCEPT for a very small part … what is seen here.kpa8

This “map” of the Joint Security Area shows the “egress” road at the bottom and clearly outside the boundary of the JSA limits.  This was very important 3 days later during Operation Paul Bunyan.



Your first step is to click on the link below.  A fairly large video file will download and should start playing.  This is an interview with Sgt Bickley who took part in the fight at the tree and can be clearly seen in photo(s) which follow. (This should be a VIDEO file but audio will work.)

Bickley is outlined in this photo. At the top center of the photo one can make out 2 NK soldiers. To the left of them is thought to be Bonifas' white helmet.
Bickley is outlined in this photo. At the top center of the photo one can make out 2 NK soldiers. To the left of them is thought to be Bonifas’ white helmet.

Bickleys Story

Second, there where 3 cameras filming that day. Sgt Breider was “testing” his new Nikon using black and white film. Cpt Shaddix was using his Pentax and telephoto lens and color slide film. And then the guard at CP3 had an 8mm movie camera.  I have seen about 8 seconds of the movie (found it on a Chinese Documentary of North Korea … go figure).

The 8mm film can be seen here:

or here

Once I determined there were multiple cameras I then went about trying to put the pictures in sequence.  I used the civilian workers positions in the photos as a “time table” with the assumption that once the workers started down from the ladder they did not reverse course and go back up the ladder.  Once the photos were in order … wow!  Zooming in helped a great deal too.  And so does Bickley’s story.

This is a slide show.  You should be able to download the photos below (one at a time) by right-clicking on the individual photo and then select SAVE IMAGE AS … Feel free to analyze the photos yourself.

  • 1 The fight is about to start.

Why continue to tell this story?  Because it has been told so often and so wrong.  A certain “Army” magazine is currently running a story about Operation Paul Bunyan and several parts of the story only echo incorrect information that has been stated many times.  Even the JSA website, for many years, had a photo mislabeled.  The man in their photo identified as Barrett was really Bickley.


Mislabeled photo once part of JSA website.
Mislabeled photo once part of JSA website.

Just a few weeks ago an on line history site stated ” … since the odds were 15 to 35, Barrett ran across the street and jumped into a ditch … ” which, to me, implies cowardice.  That article was SO wrong, they finally removed it from their web site.

For the record:  Barrett died saving one of his men.  The interview states this and the photos back up the interview.  There were 2 American soldiers in the marshy area.  The photos back this up.

I am sure there will be more debates on who, what, when, where, why and how for another 40 years.  Hopefully, this issue is put to rest.

3 thoughts on “August 18 1976

  1. I had served in the 3rd Armored Division as a gunner aboard the M60A1 during some of the hottest period of the Cold War on the Czech border.People in general fail to realize the danger these men were in. Just keeping all the military chess pieces involved , moving in consort while continually firing your weapons in preparation for “That Day”. Resulted in a lot of severe injury and yes, death.

    We had even had two of our scouts “kidnapped” by Soviet Spetsnaz and kept for several days. Within 48hrs of their return they were sent back to the States and we were told basically, Don’t ask.

    Years after returning home I read this account of American Officers hacked to death with their own axes. I was stunned and enraged. Why? Why were these uniformed servicemen unarmed in a hostile environment? It made no sense to me. During my duty, while in the field, everyone was required to carry your service issued .45 with spare ammunition totaling 12 rounds each on your person. Every man was entitled to defend himself from any hostile that was to present himself as a danger.

    I realize all the all the geo-political twisted logic that has applied to North Korea back then because of the Red Chinese scare. So, they didn’t want to make a big show of force. But, the real question, the same one that struck me back in 76′ Who talked these Officers out of leaving their sidearms behind? That’s the only reason those men died. I am positive that their last thoughts while fighting for their lives with their bare hands was to curse that Commander that made that order, while their hands were instinctively running  over their hips seeking the weapon the were trained to use as a final life saving measure.

    Why was that pivotal action not more closely scrutinized?

    I am now a 70 year old man, I have had a life. Its a shame they couldn’t.



    1. The terms of the truce village limit the number of weapons within limits of the Joint Security Area.

      1. Thank you for your reply. And thank everyone for the work on this site to keep these men and their memory alive. I had never learned of the response by our guys back then. The detailed information your site provides is heartening and reflects well on you all.

        I commend you all.

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