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Kamaksan

by Patrick J. Knowles 2400383, 3RAR
21 February 1951 - 29 February 1952

This is a story about a mountain that has influenced Korean history for many centuries. It stands 2170 feet in height. In comparison it is 160 feet less than Mount Haigamine, that mass of a mountain at the back of Kure, Japan. The northern face is less than half a degree from vertical, a forbidding sight. The eastern wall is similar; it runs south for about 3½ miles, tapering down to 350 feet. The front face runs west for 6½ miles and tapers down to 400 feet.

To the east is another mountain referred to as Castle Hill, about 200 feet smaller and equally forbidding. At the top are various outcrops of sandstone that give the impression of turrets on an old castle. Both mountains are separated by a gorge about 100 yards wide at the base at one spot.

In May, 1951, I was directed to take 1 Section, 1 Platoon, 'A' Coy, 3RAR, to the top of Kamaksan on a clearing patrol. We ascended from a point 2½ miles south of the northern face. It was a strenuous climb. The ground was covered with small rocks not quite the size of a football, so we had to watch our step every foot of the way.

Two thirds of the way up we came across a section of old road or track about 8 feet wide; maybe an old supply route. On reaching the top we enjoyed a magnificent view into North Korea, the countryside of which was lush green. South Korea at that time was quite desolate and barren.

We discovered an old fire place with four Japanese Army helmets in a circle around it. Apart from that there was no sign of recent occupation. To the east of the mountain there was a large boulder about 7 feet high by about 6 feet wide that had a seat chiselled out of it. Legend has it that one of the Khans had it cut out so that he could sit and ponder how to defeat the Korean Army of 45,000 soldiers that was blocking his way in 1259 AD. The mongols defeated the Koreans and cut off all their ears.

1500 yards north of these mountains, and in direct line of the re-entrant, was the lmjim River with its underwater bridge believed to be 2000 years old. I once walked across it at low tide.

After our observations it was time to return to our positions. This time we took a more southern route which was a lot easier. Nearing the road we came to a grove of trees and there was the cream on the cake. Hidden by the trees was a dam and we proceeded to have our best drink of water for a month. A farmhouse was also hidden by the trees. On inspection there was no dirty boot marks to upset farmer and his wife, so we left them in peace. A good day all round.

First Published in The Voice, August 1997. This is an edited version.



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