Friday, December 17, 2004

Merry Mad Monks of the DMZ

This post is born through encouragement from one of my favorite bloggers and Dennis who actually lives in a monastery 9 months out of the year. Thanks for your interest.

Our lineage dates back almost 600 years to Kim Chong-so, a powerful warrior/councilor who secured fame in establishing six military garrisons in northeast Korea under King Sejong's "expansion of the frontier region of Chosun".


Chosun Warrior (Seoul Art Center)

In 1953, after the Korean War, a small group of highly trained American soldiers unofficially became part of a Korean miltary order that traces its lineage back to Kim Chong-so and his Chosun warriors.

Initially garrisoned with Korean soldiers in austere quarters near Munsan-ni, a few miles south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), they were nicknamed the "Merry Mad Monks of Musan-ni" by other American soldiers who marveled at the lives these men led.

While officially known by another name, they adopted the moniker Merry Mad Monks.

In May 1957, the nickname was changed to the Merry Mad Monks of the DMZ.

In 1961, the unit moved even further north and was garrisoned at Camp Kitty Hawk. A new facility, appropriately named The Monastery, became a home away from home for the Monks living on the DMZ.

The Monks lead a highly specialized, hand-picked, 600-man American/South Korean military force which protects members of the Military Armistice Commission, visiting Heads of State and other dignitaries. It also guards the truce village of Pan Mun Jom and conducts ambush and counterinfiltration patrols in the DMZ.

While most Americans are not familiar with the Merry Mad Monks, Pan Mun Jom, or the DMZ, the South Korean government officially recognizes these men as national treasures.


On "Conference Row" aka "Death Row". The "MP" armband is a requirement of the Armistice Agreement. These are infantry soldiers, not MPs.


Eyeball To Eyeball -- My friend Jorge "Ranger" Rangel keeping a watchful eye on North Korean guards peering into the Military Armstice Commission building at Pan Mun Jom. It's an intense place. Stay alert, stay alive.


Sniper Practice. One shot, one kill.


Patrol returning from mission. In the background is a North Korean guard tower. These types of daytime patrols are multipurpose: provide security to the villagers of Taesong-dong, the only South Korean village in the DMZ; conduct reconnaissance; show force.

The most infamous incident involving the Monks was the 1976 Pan Mun Jom Axe Murders.




In August 1976, two of our Monks -- Major (promoted posthumously) Arthur G. Bonifas and First Lieutenant Mark T. Barrett -- were, without provocation or warning, attacked and massacred by a superior force of axe and pike wielding North Korean troops.

Click on photo to enlarge




The incident nearly re-started the Korean War. American and South Korean forces were put on the highest state of alert. As 2nd Infantry Division and 1st ROK Division combat units maneuvered into the DMZ,  US aircraft carriers took up positions in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan.

Faced with the reactive and combined forces of the United States and its Korean Allies, Kim Il-Sung issued his first ever and only apology.




Besides the brutal deaths of Major Bonifas and First Lieutenant Barrett, 59 other Americans and 377 ROK soldiers have also made the supreme sacrifice in defense of freedom and democracy in Korea since the Armistice.

In 1984, a firefight occurred at Pan Mun Jom when Vasily Matauzik, a Soviet citizen visiting North Korea, ran across the Military Demarcation Line (boundary between North and South) to defect.

North Korean guards immediately started firing at him and ran across the line in pursuit. JSA soldiers returned overwhelming fire against the North Koreans, killing 3 and wounding 5. One JSA soldier, Corporal Jang Myung Ki, was killed and one, Corporal Michael Burgoyne, was wounded.


Jang Myung Ki -- Killed in the line of duty while protecting the lives of his comrades and a Russian defector on 23 November 1984.

One of the 3 North Korean soldiers killed turned out to be Captain Pak Chol. In 1976, he had ordered the murders of Bonifas and Barrett. Captain Pak, aka "Bulldog", was taken out by a JSA soldier firing a 40mm grenade launcher. It was a direct hit.

In 1986, Camp Kitty Hawk was re-named Camp Bonifas.

The poem below was read August 18, 1986 by Mrs. Arthur Bonifas, widow of Major Arthur Bonifas, at the ceremony memorializing Camp Bonifas in honor of her late husband.

There he stands, that man of mine,
out on that lonely plain,
In a country strange and different --
it's hard to say its name.
Does that country ever value
how much he sacrifices,
To guard their lives, their hopes, their dreams
in the face of their world crisis?

He stands and he feels loneliness,
alone there standing guard,
To see that our flag of freedom
flies from that fragile lanyard.
And does our country realize
that we too share that post with him?
For our sons are growing up without him
and his parents' eyes grow dim.

So please don't take for granted that man
who patiently stands,
Away from home and family
serving in a foreign land.
He has, and will continue
to strive to ease our pain.
For the tears that fall from your eyes
are reflected in the same.

Yes, there he stands, that man of mine,
out on that lonely plain,
In a country strange and different,
and we scarce can endure the pain.


The "Merry Mad Monks of the DMZ" remain active. The traditional lifting of vintage snake wine to welcome newly joined Monks and to bid farewell to those departing can be heard throughout the halls of the Monastery on frequent occasions.



The north wind moans amid the bare boughs
the moon shines coldly on the snow.
I stand, great sword in hand
on the furthest frontier fortress.
I whistle; and the long loud sound
hangs unanswered on the air.

Kim Chong-so (1390-1453)

34 comments:

The Anchoress said...

Excellent! I'm posting it right away, I love this!

James Mazour said...

What is your source that North Korean Captain Pak Chul was killed by JSA soldiers during the 1984 Soviet defector firefight at Panmunjom?

James Mazour
Operations & 2nd Platoon
Joint Security Area (1973-74)

Anonymous said...

As an enlisted Soldier at the JSA from MAY02 to MAY03 I can safely say that the tradition of the MMM's was still going strong, as is the Happy Mountain Association (for those of us that "work for a living" lol).

Thanks for posting this... the tradition and brotherhood of the JSA should never be lost, and will long live as a treasured memory in my mind.

Daniel J. Wood
SGT, USA (sep.)

Anonymous said...

Nice to finally see a site for
Pan Mun Jom! I hated being there (Korea) While stationed there at the JSA. But I wouldn't trade the experience I had for nothing.
thanks for the memories!

Spec 4 Kerr
May 1986 toApr '87
2nd Platoon Bulldogs.
UNCJSF/JSA

Bill said...

First, regarding the pictures you have of the "Axe Murder Incident". You should probably find a different picture to use. Look at the picture of Lt. Barrett. He is very obviously white. Look again at the fight picture. The person (incorrectly labeled by some 8th Army REMF) as Lt. Barrett is actually black. Lt. Barrett died in the partially obscured depression area where the black box that says "CPT Arthur Bonifas" is at.

Next, for the last poster, Spec. Kerr. When did 2nd Platoon become the Bulldogs? We were given the name MadDogs by the KPA themselves back in '75, when they complained about one of our nighttime patrols in the JSA. We snuck out of CP#4 (now the JDO office) one night, and made a walk around the area. As we neared KPA#10 (I think that was the name, up on the hill near OP#5), we heard snoring. We snuck up on it and pounded the sides with our axe handles, and laughing all the way, ran back to the Pagoda. The KPA caught up to us outside of CP#4, since started taking pictures of us, and later that day, complained about "...Lt. Zilka's Mad Dogs who patrol the JSA at night with big sticks." We called the MadDogs ever since.

Opfor6 said...

1979 JSA 1st Plt. Animals

As a lowly enlisted I could only gaze upon the inter-sanctum of the Monastery while assisting the tours of the pilgrims that road the buses all the way to the edge of the free world to pay homage to this warrior monks.

Anonymous said...

In regards to: "When did 2nd Platoon become the Bulldogs? We were given the name MadDogs by the KPA themselves back in '75,..."

It may have been mad dogs while I was there. It's been many years, I could be mistaken. If so, you have my appology.

PFC (proud F'n Civilian)Kerr,
formerly SPC. Kerr

Anonymous said...

I had the honor of serving with Charlie Co. 1st Bn 23rd Infantry from Camp Hovey 1984 to 1985. At the time the Soviet defector incident occurred we were manning the Guard post mission on Collier and Oulette. For a country not at war, it was certainly interesting times for those of us that were. Amazing the things that warriors made happen that week that no one else will ever know of. An experience and a brotherhood never to be forgotten.

Tomahawk,


Stephen Sweet
HQ's Platoon
C Co 1st/23rd Infantry

dcrerar said...

Microwave Comm., the quantset hut on top of the hill. 1st Signal/275th comm.

PFC Dave Crerar
07/78 - 07/79

Not too many people can say they actually were stationed at JSA. I remember it vividly to this day.

Mike Bublitz said...

Great site!! Brings back a lot of memories. I drank into the unit in January 77, and was assigned to the platoon formerly commanded by Lt Barrett. A funny incident that I recall was the night PFC Fisher stepped out of the OP on top of the barracks, walked over to the side of the building facing the KPA checkpoint, and took a leak in full view of the KPA guard. Then he reached into his jacket pocket and turned on his tape recorder, on which he had recorded a toilet flushing. The KPA reaction was priceless. After 6 months in the platoon, I transferred into the TOC for the remainder of my tour. Everyone remember Yong-gi-gol? Ah, the memories!! In Front of Them All!!

CBandy said...

JSA 68-69. Another good site is Stan Suit's: http://members.aol.com/panmunjom/panmunjo.html
For those that didn't know it, we had an excellent JSA Reunion in Las Vegas last year. It was organized by Jim & Marsha Mazour and it was great from start to finish.
Guest speakers included LTC Anastasia, the then Commander of JSA; Jong Lim Tchue, chairman of the Republic of Korea JSA veterans organization, known as the “Oldboys Society,” and F. Carl “Skip” Schumacher,former operations officer on the USS Pueblo. Hopefully there will be a fourth reunion and more former members will be able to attend.

Anonymous said...

I remember the hole in the asphault one of the M-203 rounds made, and the pieces of shrapnel stuck in the trees with bloody flesh on them. There was also a gelainous pool of blood with grey matter in it from a head shot. The M-203 round hit was pretty amazing - I forget the name of the SGT that was in one of the upstairs windows where the NCO's slept, and people on the ground were yelling adjustments to him like calling for indirect. The JSF 1SG rolled the QRF, and they went into the JSA. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I still remember it.

Anonymous said...

I was stationed in the JSA and commanded the Joint Security Force (JSF) Company, UNCSG-JSA, from Mar 83 thru Mar 84. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my military career. I had rotated back to the US just 8 months prior to the firefight, aka the 'Sunken Garden Incident'. I was traveling through Dallas-Fort Worth back to Fort Sill, OK, from my home in Texas just after Thanksgiving 1984 when I heard some broken and distorted words on a radio newscast: "gunbattle...Panmunjom...security officer's meeting..." I thought, "Oh My God...it finally happened." [unfortunately] For about the next week, the incident was all over the news, radio, front page of the Lawton [OK] newspaper, etc. One of my NCOs who was stationed with me in the JSA was also stationed with me at my unit at Fort Sill. I called up the father of PFC Burgoyne [the Soldier who was WIA during the incident] later on that night, explained who I was and why I was calling, expressed my concern and wished his son a speedy recovery back to full health. I also told him that we (all of America) were extremely proud of how bravely his son had handled himself during the firefight. His father stated that sometimes unfortunate things like that happen and he thanked me for my concern.

I didn't mean to ramble on so much--just wanted to contribute a few comments to history....

William Y. (Bill) Porter
Former Commander, JSF Company
Joint Security Area (1983-1984)
Colonel, US Army (Retired)

Anonymous said...

I just happened upon this site trying to remember the spelling of Pam Mun Jom - glad I found it. I was the Supply Sgt from 1975-76. We were on a laundry run the day Cpt Bonifas was murdered and only got caught up in it once we returned. CPT Bonifas as I often did bible studies together and spoke often of the Lord - I hope to see him one day soon. I'm a preacher now and give a lot of thanks to him and Sgt Hughes from the microwave unit on top of the hill. Yep, they were called Mad Dogs! All of you guys were great and I have great memories we created together. I remember calling a "dust off" for one of our pvt's who was gut shot at the main gate by a Katusa clearing his .45 - he survived but I can't remember his name. Have a geat day!
SSG Pittman - (MSG Ret)

Mike Bilbo said...

I googled for Lt. Zilka, who was my Merry Mad Monk and the original Mad Dog Platoon Leader in 1976 and derosed just before the Axe Murders. I and several others are hoping he'll surface on the internet one day so we can say Hi.

SFC Mike Bilbo (Ret.)
Feb. 1976 - Mar. 1977
Then an Sp/4 &
2nd Platoon Mad Dog!

Anonymous said...

1/9 Manchu 82-83
See Doughboy Bellmore 1975-76
(1/31) videos on http://www.imjinscout.com/new_additions.php
His video "The Tree" was great,youtube took it down because of copyright infringement,"All along the watchtower was the song,perfect song,"NYDUCES" are alowed to use this song on youtube,please help me to send youtube our grevince about this issue

Mike Davino said...

Interesting website. But Pak Chul was not killed in that 1984 firefight. I saw him interviewed on CNN during 1994 by Mike Chinoy. If I remember right, Pak was a major general at the time. He spoke excellent English. I was certain it was him and a few years later contacted Chinoy and let him know whom he had interviewed.

Mike Davino MDavino@yahoo.com

Randy said...

I was there in 1976 when Lt Barret and Capt ZBonifas lost their lives. I was at OP 5 with Capt Shirron, LtCMDR Cook, and a KSC guy along with KATUSA Bae S.S. and Sgt. Brieder who was short and just went along to try out his new Nikon (little did he know!) In the picture it misidentifies Lt Barret that was actually Sgt. Binkley. Barret went over the wall with PFC George and didn't come out his body, flak jacket nad Bucco helmut were all found in the big ditch opposite the wall. Love all you guys from the JSA go Fightin' First! I had the honor of going back to Korea on business called up the JSA and they welcomed me with open arms and had dinner in the Monastery with the staff. Ever Vigilent guys keep up the good work!

Randy said...

BTW Bilbo Baggins you old dog how are you doing. Remember Don "Satch" Stucker and Jim "Joe" Walsh and "Bird" good luck to you and glad to hear you are well.

Peace

my e-mail is doodlerbug@gmail.com and I live in Oak Ridge, TN

Anonymous said...

Brother H@%$#A here, just back states side from Camp Bonifas, The last monkin was one of the most memorable of the last three. It is prob the only time in the military were a Monk Capt can tell a No Name F@*$ ROK major to get him a beer, and sing him a song. in broken English. Its all in tradition and good fun. I personally was in charge of the Barrett Bonifas and Cpl Jang ceremonies last year and believe me it was a great honor and something I will remember for ever. CPL Jang mother still religiously attends the ceremony every year rain, snow and freezing weather and all I can say is it’s a sobering experience. It’s good to know such a web sight exist for old monks to get together.

AlphaFactor said...

Aha. Receiving end of a grenade launcher. So that's how Sr. Lt. Pak Chul met his end.

The alternative narrative was that 20 minutes after the fighting of the Soviet Defector had elapsed, two loud gunshots were heard somewhere north of the JSA. It was Chul, and the KPA Commander, being summarily executed when word got out that the Russian had defected.

He was a sociopath; assigned to the Joint Security Area by the JSA for being recognized as especially ruthless and fanatically devoted to the Great Leader.

Eight years after killing Bonifas, in the back and in cold blood...

A violent end for a violent guy.

DonK said...

Had a great time as a member of Third Herd (3rd Platoon)from November 74 - December 75. Lt Kevin James & Lt Benroe Blount were PL. Cpt Bonfas was our C.O. KIA 8 months after I left. Maj Henderson was injured when I was on mid=tour leave. Would love to contact anyone there during same period.
Don Kemp 678-860-4639

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled across this site while researching Pak Chul. Although I did not serve with JSA, I did serve with the US Marine Field Band, III MAF, out of Okinawa and had the privilege of touring the DMZ during Team Spirit '84. Got to stand eye ball to eye ball with those North Koreans in the conference room with the table and flags and listen to all that loudspeaker crap up and down the zone and view the "propoganda city" etc. My memories of that tour are still intense, and I can tell you that, at that moment of contact with those North Koreans, we were all ready to fight for our country, and while we were not permitted to "flip them the bird", we were able to say it all with eye contact..... God bless all of you that served day to day with JSA..especially during the "Poplar Incident"... that whole scene was really incredible, learning more history right then and there than any text book could ever describe.

Cpl.Bell, 5541, III MAF Band
Team Spirit '84.

Anonymous said...

I served at JSA from March 84 to March 85 and was involved in the “Sunken Garden” firefight.
While it is a time that I likewise will never forget, it matters not when you served at JSA because all are the cream of the crop who are left with a since that cannot be empathized by anyone other than our own brotherhood.

I remember very well the death of Corporal Jang Myung Ki. He darted away from the gaurdpost and drew fire away from others. We found him among some trees where he had taken cover and took a position alone. I think that he is largely due respect from all of us at the very least for being the perfect example of a focused and committed brother of JSA.

I was with Lt.Col. Viale (Commander, UNCSG-JSA) at the moment he met the Russian defector back at Camp Kittyhawk. Viale walked up to him with his hands on his hips and a somewhat angry look on his face and said, “Do you realize that one of my men died because you came here?” The Russian hung his head and said, “Yes sir. I am very sorry (You could see a sad/embarrassed look on his soul).” And then Viale said, “NO! I don’t want you to EVER be sorry. He did what we all here believe in. I just want you to never forget to be worthy of him”, and then patted him on the arm and said, “Welcome Sir.”

Forever “In front of them all” my brothers!

RobertR said...

Goodness. After 25 years, do I stumble upon this forum. I can not even remember what caused this remembrance, to ask one of my assistance to Google this subject of 24 November 1984. Evenso, here we are.
Tomorrow, maybe I will try to find pictures hidden in a trunk in my garage.
I have some of Myung in happier times.
On that day, Myung was outside with Corporal Burgyoune overseeing a civilian party racking leaves. When the two JSF soldiers ran by with the Russian defector, they hussled the Korean civilian into the main building. Corporal Burgoyne was shot in the neck, and dragged inside. Somehow, the door got shut on Corporal Myung Jang Ki.
Lt. Lee, the outgoing LNO, doing a final farewell tour around the village, got on the radio and told Myung to make his way to the eastern checkpoint (checkpoint 1?...I can't remember...been so long). I can only say that this is true, as, Myung was found on the helipad due east of the main building from which he was locked out of, laying on his back, with one 7.62 round to his face, just below his right cheek bone.
As for the KPA commander being killed...I can not say. I have a picture of the man killed by that 203 round. His is still alive at the time of the picture being taken from the position of SSgt. Lamb (later of "Black Hawk Down" fame, though never mentioned). I also have a picture of the items confiscated from those dead. I can not say who they belonged to. It did not seem of importance at the time to anyone.
I would like to recognize Sp4 Orlecki. At that time, JSF had a policy where the soldiers in the platoons could vote in or out those newbies showing up. Sp4 Orlecki was voted out. I over ruled that policy. I kept Orlecki. He ended up being the one man, with SSgt Altop, and the Korean LNO replacing Lt. Lee, that braved the fire, and went out behind the garbage dumpster and layed down the fire that ended the battle. I can not say if it was he who killed who, although, I have the pictures of who it was he did hit, bleeding and crawling along the asphalt by the sunken garden. I will leave it to others to judge who the men were. I spoke lots to the PKA in my tour there, but in my memory I can not remember who specifically was executed later on after the battle (Though, I concur, shots were fired long after the battle, behind the KPA building).
The only person who can truly attest to this is Lt. Christianson of the Swiss delegation. I had lunch and a long afternoon of pear snapps with him in the weeks following, and he and a fellow Swiss officer were behind that building that day, and I did not ask him what he saw. Just part of the...respect for one anothers position.
Anyways, there is my bit on that day. I have more on the day Captain Bonfice and Lt. Barrett were killed.
There were 29 pictures in all besides the one posted. I had them all, until I handed them over by strong request from the Sgt. Major of JSA at that time. I never saw them again. They show exactly who is who, and why all became as it was.
Ho-Hum. Such is history. But lets at least keep the facts straight.

Anonymous said...

@ jsa dec '94-'95. the merry monks were alive and kicking then and i hope our brothers are still there now!......In Front of Them All!!!!!!!
steve rodgers

Ramon said...

Phoenix TV from China did a documentary on the DPRK. This is their view of the JSA incidents.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d103flUjCs&feature=related

I think that is Pak Chol being interviewed.

I visited the JSA from the North in 2008 and questioned the officers. They told me the axe murders were regretable and that the North had apologized. They told me one of their junior officers overreacted. That is not exactly what I expected them to say give the usual DPRK nonsense. They do have an axe in a glass case at their museum near the JSA.

Anonymous said...

I was stationed in "84- 85 with the Mad Dogs. Sgt. Eugene Mahoney for those of you who remember me.

Absolute best duty I ever served. The men of the UNCSF-JSA were and still are some of the finest soldiers in the world.

At the time I didn't truly understand What we were doing. These 25 years later I am in awe of the steel reserve and patriotism of the men I served with.

All the men and officers that have braved Panmunjom for this more than half century deserve a memorial.

Bless all of you and your families.

Your Brother In Arms,
SGT Mahoney

Anonymous said...

Wow...Memories both good and bad are flooding my mind as I read the posts. It is amazing how things have been twisted and warped throughout the years.


JSA 84-86
4th PLT Barbarians before the split
1st PLT afterwards.

If you have to ask about/why they split up the Barbarians...Well lets just say it was in the best interests of the KATUSAs.

Anonymous said...

I just got back from the Korean Memorial in DC. It was heartwarming to note the largest flower arrangements were from people in Korea.

cirwintech said...

I was a Medic with the 1st and 23rd Infantry and did 31 Night patrols on the DMZ before the Co. Commander found out I was 17 in Tent City. I did nearly 2 rotations on the patrols before the placed me up the road with the Big Guns Howitzers. The winter was cold they called the wind the Hawk got frostbite to prove it while wearing Micky Mouse boots. While on my first rotation we walked into North Korea on an early summer night, for those of you who know the signs on the other side are Chinese and Korean and, well it means you are in a mine field, needless to say we back tracked in our own footsteps. I'm sorry to say our Lt. who was of good character was stateside within 3 days of the incident. While on Night patrol I believe Hill 56 Fires broke out on both sides of the Z, brush burning on the South Korean side, the next thing you know, tracers green and orange began flying from both sides we were on an LPOP under a tree on the top of a hill in the light of fires and tracers. I swear rounds hit the tree above us and leaves fell around us, talk about pucker factor. I have allot of good memories more about the men I served with how they treated a snot nosed kid well. Hats off to Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, Co's Infantrymen You were all my big brothers. Your courage, trust, and respect taught me I was the "Doc" after all.


PFC Irwin 1981 - 1982
USA
Camp Hovey Korea

Christopher M. Irwin
SGT ANG (sep.)

Anonymous said...

JSA HQ Company Escort 83-84

Tower duty first shift of night. Walking near temporary barracks by motor pool after duty and heard what sounded like a battle royal going on. Four hours later got up and walked to breakfast. 30 to 40 guys in motor pool parking lot in front leaning rest position being yelled at by NCO's/PLT Leader. I got the hairy eyeball from the people standing and yelling. Some troops had obvious facial injuries/black eyes.

Hi Bill- I can still picture you standing in the TOC.

Choke on the smoke, Eric S 95B

jamierodg said...

I was the Mad Dog PLT LDR from April '85 to April '86. It was a helluva experience for a young LT. No greater memory than SFC Michael Price, our PSG. I can't watch Gunny Highway without thinking of SFC Price. He was a great Vietnam recon vet and a tough NCO.
Ref. "the defector" I am surprised no one has mentioned that years later, it was determined that the whole thing was a setup. The Russian ended up back in Russia. As for LTC Viale, we called him Darth Vader, because he used to pin young LTs up against the wall and chew their asses. He was definitely a commander to go to war with, but he was no fun in peace! Maj Eikenberry, later Ambo to Afghanistan, was a trip, there was so much info in that man's mind. So smart! So many great soldiers and NCO's in JSF, what a luxury being in a all-volunteer unit. Jamie Rodgers (USA Retired), Tampa FL

Anonymous said...

The best of times...the worst of times...

member of the
4th PLT Barbarians before the mutiny
1st PLT Animals after.