Ex-congressman and veteran makes his peace in North Korea
On a recent trip to Pyongyang, former Bay Area Rep. 'Pete' McCloskey confronts his troubling combat memories by meeting and saluting a Korean War adversary
For decades, former eight-term Bay Area Rep. Paul N. "Pete" McCloskey Jr. has dreamed of a Korean War battle moment he cannot shake: Peering into a trench he sees the terrified faces of his teenage opponents, clutching wicker baskets full of grenades.
He empties his weapon.
Last week, at 86, he at last had an opportunity for personal reconciliation. As a member of a small delegation led by Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, McCloskey traveled to Pyongyang with a singular intention.
"My primary hope was that I could salute, shake hands and embrace one of those kids who fought against us," said McCloskey, a decorated war hero who now farms olives and citrus in Yolo County and continues to work part time as a lawyer. "It's something I've wanted to do for 50 years."
It wasn't easy. Many have died. But North Korean officials called around and found a retired three-star general, in full regalia, working as a docent in the North Korean capital's imposing Victorious Fatherland War Museum.
Ji Young Choon was a 17-year-old machine gun platoon leader when his division drove through the South Korean town of Inje and the county of Yanggu, McCloskey would learn. McCloskey, a Marine second lieutenant who led six bayonet charges and came home to two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and Navy Cross, was 23 and fought in the same theater.
Through an interpreter the men spoke, haltingly at first, in the museum courtyard. "He wondered, really, what we were doing there," McCloskey said with a laugh in San Francisco on Friday, after his long trip back to California. "I said I had been in the American Marines. That didn't impress him." (To read the entire article, please click HERE)