Friday, August 24, 2018

Lifeline on Rails

Photo courtesy of the Doug Price collection.

C. 1950-51.  In a strategic sense, the rail yard in Pusan was the most valuable real estate in South Korea during the Korean War.  At the time, the nation's road network was insufficient to support the volume and variety of heavy traffic needed to sustain the U.N. forces combatting North Korea's incursion. Transportation was best achieved on the Korean rail network, developed by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea during the first half of the 20th century.  

In 1950, with the advent of the Korean War, U.S. and allied planners immediately recognized the strategic value of these railroads.  For military purposes, the port city of Pusan was the heart of this network, because it was here that maritime cargo would be transshipped to the railroads' rolling stock.

The majority of military personnel introduced to Korea approached the front lines as close as could be practically achieved by rail. Their journeys started in Pusan, which at the same time was the ultimate collection point of Korean refugees displaced by war. These refugees arrived in Pusan with few resources.  To a large extent, they survived by begging, bartering, or scavenging the refuse generated by the American and other U.N. armies.  

Thus is the setting for this photograph. For the thousands of Americans who served in Korea, their first encounter with the Korean people was achieved in this manner.

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