USFK chief visits site where father fought
By Jung Sung-ki & Joint press corps
YANGGU, Gangwon Province ― As the top U.S. commander defending South Korea, Gen. Walter Sharp, commanding general of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC), usually maintains a firm and determined manner in meetings or before troops.
On Friday, however, the four-star general looked more emotional than at other times, as he was visiting a mountainous area that was the site where his father, the late Earl Sharp, had fought during the Korean War.
General Sharp made his first visit to the area, nicknamed Punchbowl, in Yanggu of Gangwon Province, which was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting during the 1950-53 Korean War, at the invitation of Lt. Gen. Lee Sung-ho, commander of the Third ROK Army Corps. Deputy CFC Commander Gen. Jung Seung-jo accompanied Sharp.
Sharp stopped first at a South Korean military observatory at Gachil peak, located above the Punchbowl site, an extinct volcanic crater now used for farming cabbage and ginseng. Then he flew to nearby Bloody Ridge, the site of one of the fiercest battles of the fratricidal war.
He received briefings about the battles at both of the sites and had a chance to talk with three Korean War veterans who had fought in them.
“I’m very honored to be able to come out here today to see where my father fought during the Korean War,” Sharp, who concurrently serves as chief of the U.S. Forces Korea and U.N. Command, told reporters.
He said, “It is very emotional and I am very touched by not only his service and all of the hard work and sacrifice and the blood that was shed back during the Korean War, but also the sacrifices that continues today with these very, very strong soldiers, these very dedicated soldiers here... just how strong they are to continue to defend, unfortunately against the same enemy, that is just north of us.”
Earl Sharp, who passed away in 2006, had served as a lieutenant in the 224th Infantry Regiment of the 40th Infantry Division during the war between January 1952 and February 1953.
Sharp was born in the United States about six months after his father was deployed to Korea.
The general recalled that his father talked little about the war except to describe the cold weather.
“It kind of put yourself in your father’s place. So that’s why I was pretty emotional today,” he said.
Sharp served in Korea between 1996 and 1998 with the 2nd Infantry Division. His father was able to come back to Korea for the first time when Sharp got promoted from colonel to one star general.
“It is as I said, it is very rewarding and humbling to be a commander here, and I am humble to be back in Korea, and again, I will always remember this day.”
The USFK commander urged North Korea to take a different path of stopping attacks and provocations, citing the sinking of South Korea’s ship Cheonan in March in the West Sea.
“I’m very confident in the strength, I’m very confident of the ROK-U.S. alliance, I’m very confident of our war plans,” said Sharp. “We are prepared for anything North Korea could do.”
South and North Korea remains technically at war since the Korean War ended in a truce. About 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent force against the North in pursuit of a nuclear power.