“I could catch the ghost of a Korean Marine.” A female reporter from the 6-25 Corps who wrote that.

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“Korea is the alarm bell that woke up the world…For the communists, compromise is just a trick”
6-25 Virtual interview with Marguerite Higgins, then 29, Tokyo bureau chief of the New York Herald Tribune

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At about 4 a.m. on June 25, 1950, North Korea launched an undeclared, surprise southern invasion across the 38th parallel of north latitude. From then until the night of July 27, 1953, the war lasted three years, one month and two days.

Marguerite Higgins was the only female war correspondent to report from the front lines during the first six months of the Korean War. In 1951, she was awarded the first Pulitzer Prize for her work. In September 2010, the South Korean government honored her with the Order of Sugyo (修交勳章 興仁章). In 2016, she was named a “War Hero of May.”/Wikipedia

During this period, 1.41 million North and South Korean soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing in action, and 21 countries, including five medical aid countries, sent over 1.75 million troops. The June 25 was the largest international war since World War II.

Arriving at Gimpo Airport two days later, on June 27, 29-year-old Marguerite Higgins (September 1920-January 1966), Tokyo bureau chief of the New York Herald Tribune, was the only female war correspondent during the Korean War. By December 1950, she had covered such battlefields as the first contact between U.S. and North Korean forces, the defense of the Nakdong River, the Inchon landings, the recapture of Seoul, and the withdrawal of Jang Jin-ho.

Higgins, who became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1951, is credited with coining the term “ghost-catching Marines.” “They might even capture the devil,” she wrote in an article on August 17, 1950, when the 1st Battalion of the South Korean Marines made a solo landing in Tongyeong and defeated the North Korean 7th Division.

Traveling the first six months of the Korean War

American actress Megan Fox portrays the role of journalist Margaret Higgins in the 2019 movie “Changsari: Forgotten Heroes” (above). Below, a scene from the movie ‘Jang Sari’/Warner Bros. Korea

Journalist Marguerite Higgins’ book about the Korean War was translated and published in Korea in late 1951.

This month, on the 73rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, we decided to listen to the reporter’s upbringing. Below is a fictionalized interview based on Higgins’ book, peacetime history, and articles(記事).

  • Why did you volunteer to cover the dangerous end of the Korean War?

“When I boarded a U.S. military transport plane from Tokyo to Seoul, I was told that ‘Korea is no place for a woman,’ but for me, going to Korea was more than just reporting, it was joining a holy war. As the East Asia correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, I was representing my newspaper. If I couldn’t or wouldn’t go, I had no reason to exist.”

Born in Hong Kong in 1920, Higgins came to the U.S. with his family at age 7 and worked as a student reporter during his college years at UC Berkeley. After graduating with honors from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York, he joined the New York Herald Tribune in 1942 as a society reporter and was sent to Europe in 1944 to cover World War II. He became Berlin bureau chief in 1946 and then Tokyo bureau chief in May 1950.

  • Was that his first visit to Korea?

“No, it wasn’t. Shortly after I arrived in Tokyo, I came to cover the Korean general election, which was held on May 30. I visited a South Korean fortress outside Kaesong, 70 meters from a North Korean army position, and the front page of the New York Herald Tribune on May 29 read: “Reporter Goes to the Border That Divides Korea. Finds Communists Fighting with Horses and Shells,” which was the first front-page story I wrote as Tokyo bureau chief. It was my first front-page story as Tokyo bureau chief.”

Reporter Marguerite Higgins talks to South Korean soldiers with food in front of them (above). Higgins interviewing Korean soldiers with a notebook and pen.

  • What were the early days of the war like?

“When I arrived with three correspondents on June 27, Seoul was in chaos, with the U.S. Military Advisory Group preparing to retreat. At dawn on June 28, I witnessed the bombing of the Han River footbridge, killing many soldiers and civilians crossing the bridge. I barely managed to get a ferry to cross the Han River and walked 22 kilometers on roads and mountain trails, while the rest of us took a jeep to Suwon, where we heard the news of the fall of Seoul메이저놀이터.”

“I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t think South Korea was a dangerous place”

  • It must have been a scary moment?

“As we crossed the Han River, the constant gunfire turned my liver to beans. As the only American in the line of evacuees, I vowed not to be a liability to the group. If South Korea wasn’t dangerous, I wouldn’t have come. “Danger is news, and it’s my job to gather news. You can’t get a story if you’re afraid of getting shot.”

A letter from North Korea’s Kim Il Sung to the Soviet Union’s Stalin on July 8, 1950, asking for support as UN forces, including US troops, entered the Korean War on June 25.

  • He continued to retreat from Suwon to Daejeon, and from Daejeon to Daegu and Pusan.

“At about 11 p.m. on June 30, in the pouring rain, we finally arrived in Daejeon after a seven-hour dirt road ride from Suwon in an uncovered jeep. We put a blanket over our heads, but the water quickly soaked through. The four journalists, including myself, looked like drenched puppies. We were shivering from the cold.”

  • What was the hardest part of being a journalist?

“Finding stories was less than a fifth of the challenge. The hardest part was the lack of transportation and communication. The transportation was solved by a jeep that a fellow reporter was lucky enough to find when escaping Seoul. The reporter used a military phone to shout out to Tokyo, but there was a lot of jockeying for position for one phone, and the wait was usually two to three hours. Phone use was also limited to midnight to 4 a.m.”

Higgins actually arrived in Suwon on the afternoon of the 28th and flew to Itazuke Air Base in Japan on a U.S. military plane to deliver the “Fall of Seoul” story.

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