Cpl. Thomas L. Bildner - Korean War Veteran
The Punch Bowl is a basin along the Military Demarcation line in Korea. Surrounded by high hills, some with peaks above 1,000 meters, many fierce battles were fought there during the Korean War because of its strategic location. Tom was one of the G.I.’s who fought to keep the area in the hands of the United Nations troops. The area was almost peaceful during the day, when the South Koreans who worked for the UN forces carried logs for bunkers and did other services for the troops. It was at night that the firefights were fierce. Tom was present when General Mark Clark came to Munsan, located at the DMZ (demilitarized zone), to sign the treaty that would end the Korean Conflict (which was never a declared war). He witnessed the prisoner exchange that took place shortly after. And he was finally able to be reunited with his wife and daughter, whom he had last seen when his baby was just five weeks old.
On the 50th anniversaryof the beginning of the Korean War, the Republic of Korea sent messages of appreciation to the United Nations troops who had helped their country remain independent.
But the troops didn’t have to wait fifty years for thanks. During the war Tom Bildner received a letter from a Korean high school student that was directed to Tom’s battalion. The boy’s name was Pak Ro Hee, and he was fifteen or sixteen years old. His letter read, in part:
“My dear soldiers of the U.N. forces, I pray blessings on you soldiers from friendly nations who came here to Korea to fight for the cause of freedom and peace....
“I thank God and pray that you...soldiers of the U.N. forces win the war and triumphantly go back home where your dear family is awaiting your glorious return.”
JoAnne P. Mille