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.
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.
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.
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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.