Vol. 12


The Scarring Things I Saw

1951; near the boundary between North Korea and South Korea

Sometime during the Korean War, P. Vincent Iannace’s personality changed. My grandfather was reconfigured to a more quiet state. This is why the change occurred, as told by him:


We had just sent out leaflets — a warning that our army would attack the village — so all the civilians could evacuate and get to safety. At nightfall our troops would rain down bombs on the Korean1 soldiers. We sat and waited, and being inside a tank, I was not necessarily comfortable — my helmet weighing on my head, my tunic shoving my shoulders to the tank’s floor.

Nightfall crept upon the village as the last orders were sent out on what everyone was to do. My palms were sweaty against the trigger of the gun, and my eyes shone with fear as the time to strike neared. People in my tank exchanged nervous glances.

Finally it was time. We snuck up on the village and readied our men. On the signal of the commander, we fired. Shots rang out back and forth between the Korean and American armies. With shot after shot, Korean soldiers would fall. Cries of pain and misery echoed into the night.

When this battle was won, we had to search the wreckage for survivors or prisoners of war. I clambered out of my tank and began to scavenge the area. The dead lying out before me was scarring. How would you feel if you had to look for survivors among all the dead that you’d just killed, so that they could be your prisoners?

As I scanned my surroundings, I stumbled upon people’s belongings that they’d left behind in the sudden rush of evacuation — cooking utensils, children’s dolls, books, papers, and much more — mostly or completely demolished. It was agonizing to see what we’d taken away from these people’s lives. The fallen were scattered. In some of their hands, guns were clenched, as if they were just about to fire. The soldiers, lying still in a deep red sea, were hopeless and lifeless.

We rounded up the captives in the area. I hoisted myself up and into the tank. When I sat down, I thought about all the Korean men who’d fallen in the line of duty.


My grandfather was so traumatized by his experience that he wouldn’t drive cars anymore. It reminded him so much of a tank that another family member had to drive him. War changes people. It changed P. Vincent Iannace.

Kaitlyn Iannace; North Carolina, USA


1. In this story, “Korean” means “North Korean.” At the time of this war, Korea had two governments, each saying it was in charge of the whole country. When troops from other countries helped North Korea attack South Korea, United Nations forces went to help South Korea.



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