The Poplar Tree Incident: Mistakes and Excesses in a little planet called Earth

in writing •  5 months ago

Hello my SteeMates, hope everybody is doing great! I’m back and this time I have a little question for you guys: How many Americans do you need to cut down a tree?

Dumb Humans: Mistakes and Excesses in a little planet called Earth

The Poplar Tree Incident of 1976

We all have this annoying neighbor and his tree that have nothing better to do than block our fair share of sun. And while some of us have thought about cutting that muthafucka’s tree others have acted on it – but don’t worry I’m not here to point fingers.

Now imagine this tree was in, let’s say, the most dangerous area on earth and each minute you spend chopping it you might very well get shot in the head. Although this is common practice for Uncle Sam I'm not talking about 'Merica. The place I'm hinting at is, in fact, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean in a little place called the Korean peninsula.

The context

At a time of ideological conflict between the USSR and the USA, the objective for the capitalist pigs and the good ole comrades was to get as many countries as possible to adopt their world view. Although the phrase Cold War was coined to describe the lack of direct physical confrontation between the 2 superpowers, the war was a little warmer in countries such as Vietnam or Korea.

The Korean War, during which the Republic of Korea – AKA South Korea – and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – AKA North Korea – were at odds, had inflicted heavy losses on both sides with over 1 million deaths for North Korea, 1.2 million for South Korea, 600,000 for China which supported North Korea and some 40,000 for the USA and United Nations Command – AKA UNC – combined. The conflict ended in 1953 with the different parties agreeing to the establishment of the Demilitarised Zone – AKA DMZ – which was - and is still today - a sort of No Man’s Land running across the Korean peninsula.

Food for thought

Two things are interesting to highlight here, first, although the UNC was supposed to be an international coalition, it was led by the Americans and the vast majority of the troops were provided by the Americans. Second, throughout history we’ve seen countries with names such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the German Democratic Republic or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and these are undemocratic more often than not.

Although the war had ended, tensions remained high and another conflict arose in 1966 during which North Korea attempted to assassinate the South Korean president Park Chung Hee and captured the USS Pueblo and its crewmen. This conflict known as the DMZ conflict ended in 1969 but provocations from both sides continued.

And this brings us to the crazy part!

In August of 1976, the UNC wanted to get rid of a tree situated in the DMZ that blocked their vision between checkpoints 3 and 5. So, five Korean maintenance workers were sent and swiftly the commies intercepted them and rejected the idea of cutting down the poplar but agreed on trimming it.

1st attempt

The first attempt of such an operation was a complete catastrophe – why else would there be a second attempt. At 10:30 five members of the Korean Service Corps and a UNC security team led by captain Arthur Bonifas entered the zone when they were confronted with 2 Korean People’s Army officers - AKA KPA. Once again, they spoke and quickly agreed on trimming the tree, the KPA officers even offered some advice. What a happy bunch right?

Well, this did not last long. At 10:50, some thirty KPA guards appeared and ordered the UNC to stop, captain Boniface refused and turned his back to his foes who did not hesitate to hit him with the blunt end of an axe. He died on the spot. Several others were injured in the event such as American First Lieutenant Mark Barrett who managed to hide. He was found 90 minutes later in such a poor condition that he did not make it to the hospital.

Although the DMZ was under constant surveillance and there is actual proof that the North Korean army started the conflict, Kim Jong-Il – the current head of North Korea – stated at a conference that:

Around 10:45 a.m. today, the American imperialist aggressors sent in 14 hoodlums with axes into the Joint Security Area to cut the trees on their own accord, although such a work should have mutually consented beforehand. Four persons from our side went to the spot to warn them not to continue the work without our consent. Against our persuasion, they attacked our guards en masse and committed a serious provocative act of beating our men, wielding murderous weapons and depending on the fact that they outnumbered us. Our guards could not but resort to self-defence measures under the circumstances of this reckless provocation.

The aggression was thought to be premeditated and the US troops went to DEFCON 3, which means that once again:Shit was getting real.

While the US was searching how to retaliate, Park insisted that he wanted to teach his foes a lesson without firing a single shot. Obviously, the Americans were confused, what else could they do in a foreign country if not emptying a mag or two?

This leads us to the 2nd attempt.

2nd attempt

On August the 21st operation Paul Bunyan was launched and trimming the tree was not an option anymore, they had to cut it down. At this point, it had become more of a – pardon my French – dick contest than anything else. Paul Bunyan wasn’t even a general or anything like that, but a giant lumberjack part of American folklore.

The operation started at 7:00, without prenotice, a convoy of 23 vehicles, two security platoons of 30 men each from the Joint Security Force and an additional 64 South Korean special forces highly trained in Tae Kwon Do were getting in place. But there was more to come, An m728 combat vehicle – which is nothing less than a tank – had its guns pointed at the bridge of no return which connected both Koreas. And that was it… for the ground troops.

20 utility helicopters and 7 cobras were deployed in the area as well. And in case this was not enough, B52 bombers, a dozen C130s and the USS midway were nearby and ready to launch an all-out attack if necessary. Oh yeah and two 8 men teams were deployed to actually cut down the tree. Because let's not forget that the mission was all about cutting down a damn tree!

The North Koreans acted accordingly and about 200 commies set up machine guns which were aimed at the UNC and South Korean forces. As the tree fell down no shots were fired. Both armies backed down and went back to their respective countries.

Moral of the story

Dear USA, the Cold War was difficult for you, it tested your ideology as well as your military, political and economic abilities. You’ve had numerous hardships : The Bay of Pigs operations against Cuba was a complete fiasco, you’ve lost part of your dignity during the Vietnam war and you've got the USS Pueblo captured during the DMZ conflict. But you did not give up! When you saw that tree you knew it was meant to be cut down. You've failed once but that did not stop you, you kept on going you little guy! And in the end you've cut down that tree! Maybe it took a 64 ninjas, some air force and ground troops but you've made it Uncle Sam!

So, there are two things you can take from this story :

  • Never give up on your dreams
  • If you have a problem with your neighbour's tree just call the US military

Hope you've all enjoyed this Article, please leave a comment if you feel like it and an upvote if you like what you've felt! Resteems and new followers are also greatly appreciated!

This tale is a proof of the mistakes and excesses humans make in a little planet called Earth.

1ArticleWikipedia - Poplar tree Incident
2ArticleBritannica - Korean War
3ArticleWikipedia - Korean DMZ conflict
4ArticleUniversity of Oregon Library
5VideoYouTube - Poplar Tree Incident
1Cutting the tree
2Axe Incident
3The tree today
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