The making of Korea: Forgotten War, Remembered Heros
Preparing for the documentary
Profiles of those interviewed:
George Gaspard, Korean War Veteran
Service in Korea During Hostilities
George Gaspard was among the first Green Berets sent to Korea after training in Special Intelligence School in Japan. He worked as a TLO (Tactical Liason Officer) along several battle fronts in a “Line Crosser” Detachment, overseeing a 40-60 man group of South Koreans involved in undercover operations. Gaspard's parent unit recruited the Korean personnel for use by TLO Teams. He and his agents would cross patrol lines and infiltrate the enemy posing as North Korean or Chinese to gather intelligence and to recruit defectors.
A line crosser had to cross friendly (US) patrol lines at a predetermined point (called the patrol gate), and with an interpreter and a small group of South Korean agents, to penetrate enemy lines, insert the agents, and return through the enemy lines and into the patrol gate. Crossing friendly patrol lines could be as dangerous as going through enemy lines. Gaspard was not dressed in enemy clothing, however, his agents were. It was easy for US patrols to mistake them for invading enemy soldiers. Even though the operation was carefully coordinated with the patrol leader who was running the patrol gate, occasionally the personnel assigned to man the gate at the key return point were substituted for other soldiers. Gaspard’s men had to be careful they were not mistaken for enemy soldiers and fired upon. Tensions about returning through US lines were always high. TLO’s and their interpreters would put on an agreed-to piece of clothing just before getting to friendly lines to differentiate themselves from an enemy soldier. The troops stationed at the patrol gate had to be able to recognize the signal so Gaspard and his people wouldn’t be killed.
Just as clothing played an important role in providing safe passage through the patrol gate, it was vital to ensure that the inserted agents blended in with the enemy. The South Koreans infiltrating the North Korean military had wear the appropriate uniform. Chinese infiltrators had to be dressed like soldiers in the Chinese military. The slightest detail out of place could give them away. Gaspard and the others responsible for outfitting the soldiers had to be sure the tailors had got every detail correct – men’s lives depended upon it. Gaspard’s group had successfully recreated military uniforms for both countries for winter time operations and were working on summer uniforms when the armistice was signed.
Uniforms of NKA (North Korean Army), CCF (Chinese Communist Front),
and ROK (Republic of [South] Korea). (photo courtesy of George Gaspard)
On the last day of the war [July 27, 1953], Gaspard's 40th Division Headquarters ( to whom he was attached) told him to shut down his operations by the end of the night. He could not do so because he still had operators in the field. He later received four “packages” (Chinese soldiers crossing over to the UN side). After July 27, both sides retreated to an area 2,000 meters away from the 38th parallel dividing each other’s territory. This buffer space was called the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). He continued to run operations after the armistice because the US wanted to ensure the North Korean Army had not advanced into the DMZ. Among other duties, his forces also were assigned to graves registration, identifying the fallen soldiers.
George Gaspard shows the film crew his military medals
Despite the danger of the job, Gaspard regards his work as a Tactical Liason Officer the most satisfying in his military career. He enjoyed the autonomy of the work. A veteran of World War II (Marines), the Korean War (Army), and the War in VietNam (Army), Gaspard feels that he made the right choice to go into the service. He asserts that the military has been at the forefront of many things we take for granted. The Korean War saw the formal end of segregation in the military. It has expanded women’s roles. These changes took place in the armed forces before they did in the civilian sector and helped pave the way for their eventual acceptance in everyday life.