The following is an excerpt from Time.com | May 4, 2017 |
On the morning of Aug. 18, 1976, two American soldiers set off to trim a poplar tree in the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ). The tree was obscuring the line of sight between U.N. and North Korean guard towers on the narrow strip of land that has separated the peninsula's communist North from its capitalist South since an armistice effectively ended the 1950--53 Korean War. Both sides had approved the pruning, but North Korea sent soldiers to order the work to stop. Captain Arthur Bonifas and First Lieutenant Mark Barrett refused, and were promptly hacked to death with their own axes.
General Richard G. Stilwell, then commander of the U.N. Forces in South Korea, ordered the tree completely cut down as a symbolic act of resolve. Among the troops sent to help fell the tree was a young South Korean soldier named Moon Jae-in. Tensions were dangerously high, he says today. "If the North had tried to interfere, it could easily have triggered war."
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