How Turks saved Americans in Korea

How Turks saved Americans in Korea

Turkey's operation in Syria, Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 systems, Washington’s anti-Turkish sanctions, as well as a number of other events have negatively affected bilateral relations, and experts predict that they could deteriorate further. Against this background, Doctor of Philosophy, retired Colonel Elkhan Askerov recalls an interesting episode linking the United States and Turkey.

69 years ago, Turkey saved the United States from defeat in the Korean War. In the early 1950s, the United States sought the assistance of NATO countries, but no one but Turkey responded to Washington’s request. Ankara sent an infantry brigade code-named 'Northern Star' consisting of 5,000 to Korea to help the United States.

Turkish Army General Tahsin Yazıcı ordered the soldiers to circle the wagons and cover the right flank of the retreating U.S. Army. By taking up defensive position at Wawon, on November 28, 1950, the North Star fighters entered the bloody battle with the advancing units of the Chinese army.

Despite a powerful rebuff along defensive lines, at dusk the Chinese broke through the defense. Bayonet fighting ensued, resulting in 400 Turkish casualties, but the Turks managed to defend their positions.

In the morning, the 'Northern Star' went to the Kunu-ri village, where it entered into a fierce battle with the Chinese military, which had three times as many troops, and forced the enemy to retreat.

The Turks lost more than 20% of their personnel in these battles, but fought bravely and fiercely, while the U.S. Army was able to evacuate. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of UN troops in Korea, described the Turks as heroes: "No enemy attack could break the spirit of these soldiers, even after having run out of ammunition, they continued fighting in hand-to-hand combat."

The courage of the Turkish infantry is also described in the book titled 'Soldier' wrote by a U.S. army officer, a Korean war veteran, a participant in the Kunu-ri battle, Anthony Herbert: "They lunged, drove the bayonet into the abdomen, whirled, struck down hard on top of the rifle with their with their left hand and consequently disembowled their victims. My most vivid memory of that charge is of my gratitude to God or the United Nations or whoever was responsible for putting the Turks on our side."

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