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An Ethiopian hero of the Korean War

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Time Zone: EST (New York, Toronto)
Messenger: Eleazar Sent: 9/25/2012 11:29:47 AM

An Ethiopian hero of the Korean War
By Alex Last BBC World Service
Mamo Mamo Habtewold: Outnumbered 20 to one
Continue reading the main story
In today's Magazine

Sixty years ago, Ethiopia was at war. Not in Africa, but thousands of miles away in Korea. This is the story of one Ethiopian officer who won a US gallantry award.

In 1951, the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, decided to send thousands of troops to fight as part of the American-led UN force supporting South Korea against the communist North and its ally, China.

They were called the Kagnew battalions and were drawn from Haile Selassie's Imperial Bodyguard - Ethiopia's elite troops.

Capt Mamo Habtewold, now 81 years old, was then a young lieutenant in the 3rd Kagnew Battalion. He clearly remembers a send-off from the Emperor himself, as he was about to leave for the other side of the world.

"Always when a battalion went to Korea, he came himself and made a speech and he gave each battalion a flag - and he ordered us to bring that flag back from Korea," Mamo recalls.

When Ethiopia had been invaded by Italy in 1935 Haile Selassie had condemned the League of Nations for its failure to act. Now, as a staunch ally of the US, he was eager to practise what he had preached.

"As you know our King, Haile Selassie, was a great man for collective security. And when the UN asked him for troops for Korea, he accepted without any question," Mamo says.

Mamo was himself keen to go, especially after the first Ethiopian battalion sent to Korea returned in 1953.

"Everyone was boasting when they came back from Korea, so everybody wanted to fight," he says.
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“Start Quote

We were the best fighters... no Ethiopian soldier was taken prisoner in the Korean War”

Mamo Habtewold

The Ethiopians fought as part of the US 7th Division. At the time, the American army had only just started to become racially de-segregated. But for Mamo discrimination was not an issue.

"You know Ethiopia has a 3,000-year history as an independent country. We Ethiopians were proud and boasting that we were Ethiopians. We don't care about any colour. The Americans didn't call us 'Negro' as we would be angry," he says.

And Mamo is proud of their record in Korea.

"We were the best fighters. The three Ethiopian battalions fought 253 battles, and no Ethiopian soldier was taken prisoner in the Korean War," he says.

"That was our Ethiopian motto: 'Never be captured on the war field.'"

That motto was put to severe test.
Capt Mamo Capt Mamo would like to return to South Korea to see where he fought

In 1953, while peace talks dragged on, the two sides hoped to strengthen their negotiating position by battling for control of the barren, rocky hills and ridges which lay in front of the main UN front line.

Some of the hills had nicknames: Old Baldy, T-bone and, most famously, Pork Chop Hill. Defence of this area was assigned to the US 7th Division, which included the Ethiopian Kagnew battalion.

One night in May 1953, Mamo led a small patrol down from his hilltop outpost to scout out the land below. What he didn't know was that his patrol was about to be enveloped in a major Chinese army assault.

"We were 14 Ethiopians and one American in our patrol. It was written later that we were fighting 300 Chinese soldiers - one man against 20," he remembers.

Four members of the patrol were killed, including the American corporal. Everyone else was wounded.
Continue reading the main story
Selassie's Korean army

Ethiopia sends three 1,200-strong battalions
Soldiers drawn from emperor's imperial bodyguard
First Kagnew battalion arrives in May 1951
Assigned to US 7th Infantry Division
Ethiopians fight in a number of engagements including Battle of Pork Chop Hill
Ethiopian casualties: 121 killed, 536 wounded

Discover more about the Korean War
Find out if your ancestors fought in Korea

"They tried to take my radio operator prisoner, but I killed the Chinese soldier and saved that man. And one time they came to finish us when we were all wounded, and I was left with one hand grenade and I killed them. It was very hard."

The fighting continued on and off through the night. Cut off, his men wounded, Mamo feared they could not hold out much longer.

"I was wounded several times, I was tired, exhausted and I fell unconscious twice. The most important thing was to find a radio to contact the American artillery. But my three radios were destroyed.
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“Start Quote

It's like a man who is living with his family, and all the family is dead and he returns to an empty house”

Mamo Habtewold

"I gave one soldier my pistol to cover me while I went looking for a radio. I fainted again, and I was afraid I might be captured, I wanted to kill myself. But when I ordered the soldier to give me my pistol back, he refused, and the other soldiers said 'Don't give it to him!'"

So Mamo decided to fight on, after all.

"I just looked for a weapon from one of the dead men, and when the Chinese attacked I would shoot, and when it was quiet, I would look for a radio," he says.

In the end he did find a radio. He called in American artillery which halted the Chinese attacks. Reinforcements got through and under the cover of smoke he and his wounded soldiers were withdrawn. Back at base, Mamo was the only one of his patrol left standing.

"They all went to hospital. I was the only one who went back to the bunker. It's like a man who is living with his family, and all the family is dead and he returns to an empty house - that is how I felt. I was so sorry. I was very depressed."
Continue reading the main story
Cold War conflict
UN poster

North Korean forces invade the south - 25 June 1950
UN resolution condemns invasion - 26 June 1950
Ethiopia is among 16 countries to send troops
Armistice ends fighting - 27 July 1953

For his actions, he was awarded Ethiopia's highest military honour. The Americans also gave him a Silver Star for gallantry in action.

More than 3,000 Ethiopians fought in the Korean War, more than 120 were killed, more than 500 were wounded. The survivors returned to Addis Ababa as heroes.

"It was really a big day, especially when we came back from Korea, we brought back our dead soldiers. In Addis Ababa it was so crowded. Half of the crowd were weeping, half were celebrating," Mamo says.

After the war, Mamo was promoted to captain. He was forced to leave the army in 1960 in the aftermath of an attempted to coup by members of the Imperial Bodyguard. He went on to have a career as a businessman and administrator.

This year the South Korean government announced it would give pensions to the surviving Ethiopian veterans of the Korean War. Mamo still hopes to return to South Korea one last time and see the place where he became an Ethiopian war hero.

An Ethiopian hero of the Korean War

Messenger: Matthew Sent: 10/3/2012 11:47:37 AM

Blessed Love Eleazar
InI father fights injustice where ever it is found. InI must be like our father.
As SoulJahs of Jah Army InI must also follow the Example of such Ethiopian heroes and be willing to sacrifice everything for the cause.

Haile Selassie the First - April 14, 1951

You are today on the point of leaving Ethiopia on a voyage half way
around the world in defence of liberty and of the principles to which all
members of the United Nations stand committed.

We have personally come here in the presence of the highest officials of
the nation which is honouring you today and of representatives of other
nations participating in this momentous undertaking to bid you a fond
farewell and Godspeed on your mission and to give to you Regimental
Colours.  These flags you will carry in valour throughout the campaign.  
You will, We are sure, bring them back to Your Emperor and
Commander-in-Chief, to whom you have sworn allegiance, as cherished
battle standards, glorified by your exploits and heroism.

You have been called upon to represent amongst the armed forces of
many friendly nations engaged in the same high endeavour, the heritage of
a people that, for untold centuries, has fiercely fought to defend its
freedom and independence.  Everyone among you has known sacrifices in
recent years.  In the dark hours when We and Our People were called
upon to fight, We did not fail in Our fierce resolve, and today, thanks to
that determination, Ethiopia has again resumed her rightful place amongst
the United Nations.  We have all earned the right to be proud of that
heritage of struggle.

We must recognize, then, that every nation that fights, as we have done,
for the defence and maintenance of its independence has the right to
expect the honour and indeed the assistance of all freedom-loving peoples.  
You are departing on a long crusade in defence of that very principle for
which we have so long fought -- freedom and respect for the freedom of
others.  With such traditions and after such sacrifices, Ethiopia would be
the very first nation to recognize the imperative urgency of the call of duty
towards a sister nation.

It is in yet a larger sense, Soldiers, that you are today leaving the homeland
to fight on distant shores.  You are fighting not only for freedom as We
know it in Ethiopia, and the right of each people to its freedom.  You are
also representing and defending in far corners of the earth, the most
sacred principle of modern international policy -- that principle of
collective security with which the name of Ethiopia is imperishably

It is but natural that small nations who must so vigilantly defend their
independence, should regard collective security as the cornerstone of their
very existence.  Their support of that principle should be instant,
unhesitating and absolute.  No small state, no democratic nation, no people
imbuded with charity towards its fellow men, could do otherwise.

Of all nations of the world, the name of Ethiopia has been most closely
associated with that principle.  Our undaunted defence of collective
security at the League of Nations, Our own appeal to that august body,
Our fierce and un-aided struggles throughout the darkest hours preceding
the last World War, the courage of our patriots, the unending sacrifices of
Our families, have given to Ethiopia an imperishable place in the history of
that principle in modern times.

Messenger: Matthew Sent: 10/3/2012 11:56:58 AM

Did not Hesitate
This is why, as Sovereign Head of Ethiopia and as Commander-in-Chief of
the Ethiopian Armed Forces, We did not hesitate immediately to respond to
the appeal for collective assistance launched by the United Nations
following the aggression in Korea.

From the first, it was evident that much time, effort and expense would be
required to provide for your participation in the combined front of the
United Nations forces in Korea.  Foreseeing those inevitable difficulties,
Ethiopia did not hesitate to provide instant assistance before even Our
military forces could be brought into the battle.  That is why, not only did
We promise military assistance, but also immediately transmitted funds to
the United Nations to help in the collective effort.

Thus it is that you are now departing to take your honoured place beside
the valiant soldiers of other United Nations, those of the United States,
Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Turkey and others.

At this proud moment of participation in the first collective and
world-wide effort for the defence of the principle of collective security,
Ethiopia and Ourselves can look back with pride on the progress achieved,
progress to which Ethiopia has so heavily contributed in recent years.  
Precisely fifteen years ago this very month, We, Your Emperor, and
Commander-in-Chief, addressed from the battlefield a pressing appeal to
the League of Nations for the respect and application of the principle of
collective security.  It was not a question then as now, even to hope for
the application of measures of military sanction.  So new then was that
principle that Ethiopia could only hope for the most basic economic
sanctions to restrict aggression, and urgent measures to bring to an end
the use of asphyxiating gas.  However, it was also in that same month,
fifteen years ago today, that the Council of the League of Nations finally
declared its inability to meet these essential requirements of collective
security.  Undaunted by this failure, Ethiopia under Our leadership and
with the courage of its patriots continued the struggle until that glorious
day when, at the head of Our troops and with the aid of British Empire
heroes, We re-entered Our Capital.
Korea Recieves
Today, it is no longer a question of asking for simple economic sanctions.  
Korea asks the United Nations and receives from it collective security in
the form of military assistance.

In joining today in these measures of collective security, We are being
faithful to Ourselves and to the obligation which We conceive to be the
most high and solemn duty not alone of the present hour, but of the
present century.  Collective security knows no bounds or distances.  In
participating in the measures of collective security in the Far East, We are
only fulfilling Our obligations towards the United Nations.  Just as
previously, by the sending of financial assistance, We had manifested Our
sympathy towards the valiant people of China so sorely tried by natural
disasters, so today, We deplore the new hardships which that people has
been called upon to suffer as a result of the events in the Far East.  Let us
hope that peace and tranquillity may soon be re-established there.

You have been fortunate, Soldiers, in that each one of you has been
selected thus to testify before the world to the flame of liberty and of
devotion to the cause of international justice which has fired the breasts of
Our patriots.

You are following the footsteps of the long line of your forefathers in
proclaiming before the world the right of each nation, determined by its
own efforts to save its independence and freedom, to receive as collective
security assistance of all peace-loving nations.  Ethiopia could do no less
today and still remain faithful to her traditions and to the sacrifices which
We have all undergone.

Soldiers, the spirit of your ancestors, heroes of the thousand-year-long
struggle for the defence of Our freedom will follow you and will
strengthen your hands and hearts in the heat of battle.

Remember that you are about to pay a debt of honour for your homeland
which was liberated thanks not only to the blood of her patriots, but also
to that of faithful allies, likewise members of the United Nations.  
Remember also that in paying this debt, you are laying the basis for a
universal system of collective security on behalf of your own homeland as
well as of nations of the world, be they great of small, powerful or weak.

May God protect you, give you courage to acquit yourselves as heroes
and bring you back safely to your beloved homeland.

Messenger: Eleazar Sent: 10/3/2012 9:45:44 PM

Give Thanks for those speeches Matthew, I have not Read them before.

Messenger: Matthew Sent: 10/6/2012 12:17:11 PM

Eleazar that is one speech, its taken from selected speeches of HIM. ( Kagnew battalion and collective security.)


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Haile Selassie I