Madisonville resident and Waco native Billy Van Davis, who can define his early life with over a year spent fighting for his country in Korea, watches with a skeptical eye almost exactly sixty-five years after the armistice split the country in two for good as the North returns the remains of certain soldiers who were lost behind enemy lines.
“The POWs that did survive told some horrible tales of what happened in the North, and it was extremely cold over there,” said Davis as he reflected back to the early 1950s. “Shortly after the armistice was signed, the information we received was that about 26,658 were killed, 118,000 wounded and the whereabouts of 18,000 known only to God. As time goes on, there will be more and more dog tags found in those rivers.”
Davis heard stories of American POWs being marched through the cold Korean fields, often without the luxury of clothes, freezing to death or becoming too weak to march on. They were simply discarded into nearby rivers, or whatever happened to be most convenient.
Davis was a member of the Seventy-First Airborne Brigade and served in the war for thirteen months. He had an itch to serve his country from a young age and follow in the footsteps of his cousin and role model, Elvis Kelly, was shot down and killed over New Guinea during the Second World War.
“Our enemies to the North were extremely barbaric people,” said Davis as he further defined his skepticism of the hermit kingdom’s validity and intentions with the return of fallen Americans. “From a layman’s standpoint, I don't see how they can identify who the remains belong to, but being over there also makes me very doubtful of any sort of good will gesture, even today.”
Like many Americans and citizens across the globe, Davis has good reason to have reservations about North Korea. The unstable nation has violated human rights on a consistent basis since effectively shutting themselves off from the rest of the world and have been attempting to build operational nuclear weapons to threaten the West.
President Donald Trump made history this year by simply bringing Kim Jong-un, the country's dictator, to the negotiation table, but time will tell how prepared Kim is to give normalcy a fighting chance. Regardless of the country’s future, and the Korean Peninsula as a whole, the Kim family cannot be part of future leadership in the long run.
“I think there is a big question mark with President Trump and Kim Jong-un because neither are the kind to admit that they are wrong,” said Davis. “But I think the President is doing a great job as a whole and I hope he decides to keep on keeping on.”
Davis believes the Korean issue is far from resolved and will continue to be a hot button issue for the United States for quite some time.
“As someone who served over there and in the Military for over 38 years, I would say we are are not through with Korea yet,” said Davis. “I do not see how things can continue to carry on the way they have been.”
Davis was born in 1930 and will celebrate his eighty-ninth birthday on Jan. 7. He was married to Rita Slaughter-Davis, who passed away in July of 2017.
The Korean War began in 1950 and lasted until the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. This established a demilitarized zone between the North and South and timeless tensions that continue to this day.