SEOUL, Republic of Korea – October 15, 2015 —
On Oct. 6 2015, at U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Republic of Korea, one of the last living ‘plank holders’ of the original Marine Security Guard Program from 1949, U.S. Marine Corps Warrant Officer George V. Lampman (Ret) met with MSG Detachment Seoul to share his experiences from standing watch at the embassy on the morning North Korea attacked the Republic of Korea–the beginning of the Korean War.
Lampman made the trip despite the passing of his wife, Sook Ei Lampman, last week. He spoke at length with Marines, while carrying the ashes of his wife along with him and his family during the more than three-hour engagement with the Marines. This is his story.
Twenty Marines arrived in Seoul, Korea with no military uniforms or identification to set up a Marine Security Guard Detachment, Jan. 10, 1949. The Marines set up the security posture quickly and were accepted in the embassy community. By November, they held their first Marine Corps Ball, celebrating with more than 200 guests. Duties became routine and time passed by quickly until the events of June 25, 1950.
At 8:45 a.m. that morning, the Marines were notified that North Korea had crossed the 38th Parallel at 4 a.m. in force. The Marines were recalled and the trip back to the embassy included being shot at by Soviet-built aircraft.
The Marines were sent to the main railroad station to pick up embassy staffers arriving from Pusan and alert embassy families in outlying residence through crowded streets and aircraft strafing overhead. By midnight, the decision was made to evacuate all dependents.
By the afternoon, the Marines began burning classified material. Due to the amount of material to be destroyed, not only were the embassy basement furnaces used but the Marines also set up a homemade cage to burn documents in the parking lot.
The next morning, the Marines were tasked with destroying all embassy vehicles by shooting rounds into their engine blocks. Due to the size of the motor pool, it took several hours to destroy them all.
American dependents and nonessential employees assembled at the embassy for evacuation. The Marines escorted and controlled the bus convoy to Inchon. The group of 682 women and children boarded the only available ship and sent to Japan. Late that afternoon, the Marines escorted another bus convoy of American Embassy employees to the airfield for evacuation.
On the 27th, the Marines again escorted the bus convoy of the remaining nonessential personnel the airfield. Once they returned, the Marines finished burning all classified, destroyed switchboards, and code machines. The Marines were instructed to take all the currency on hand, pick out the best jeeps, and head south to Pusan.
At the last minute, the Marines were told one more plane was heading to the airfield. The Marines trip included crossing the Han River Bridge, which would be blown up later that night. The runway was full of people wanting to be on the plane. The plane was boarded by 110 people and too heavy to take off. As the plane headed down the runway, a stream of gear was push out the back to lighten the load, as the sound of machine-gun fire surrounded the airfield perimeter.
Starting in the morning of the incursion and continuing for more than 60 hours, Marines cleared the embassy and got all personnel out safely risking life and limb to get the job done.