(The following is the first article filed by then 17-year-old The Manila Times reporter Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino, Jr. in 1951, complete and unedited. He had been sent to cover the Korean War as a correspondent.)
Somewhere at the western front, Korea: There are four men probably five in this battalion today who are leaving [living]“on borrowed time,” when they escaped a Chinese box land mine by sheer luck last March 26 as the 10th was knifing deep into enemy territory to link-up with the 187th Airborne RCT at Uijongbu, Korea. They are: Lt. Col. Dionisio S. Ojeda, 10th Commander; Capt. Francisco Javier, S-2 Intelligence; T/Sgt. Raymundo M. Ganuelos, 36, married, of Bacnotan, La Unión; Cpl. Faustino Tumamak, 27, of Villalba, Leyte; and possibly Pfc. Félix Alfaraz, of Cabatuan, Iloilo.
He was evacuated to a certain Japan military hospital and has never been heard of since. The accident occurred early on the morning of March 26 at the blasted ghost town of Uijongbu, roughly 15 miles north of Seoul.
Colonel Ojeda was leading the 10th early on the morning of March 26 at the blasted ghost town of Uijongbu, roughly 15 miles north of Seoul.
Colonel Ojeda was leading the 10th convoy who were to link-up with the paraboys followed closely by Captain Javier’s jeep driven by Pfc. Alfaraz. At the road junction at Uijongbu railhead, Colonel Ojeda ordered Corporal Tumamak his driver to stop as he alighted to orient himself with the 10th’s present location.
Captain Javier, upon seeing Ojeda alight, ordered his driver, Pfc. Alfaraz to stop likewise and for [some]unknown reason alighted, too. So as not to obstruct traffic, Tumamak with Sergeant Ganuelos, Ojeda’s commo man, drove up about a hundred yards ahead to park his vehicle, followed closely behind by Pfc. Alfaraz, with Pfc. Wiro Yap, S-2 personnel sitted [sic]beside him.
Hardly has [sic]Tumamak parked his jeep, when suddenly an earth-shaking explosion was heard, and Captain Javier’s jeep, like a piece of paper was tossed high up in the air and landed in a barren Korean garden ten feet from where it was a few seconds ago.
Pfc. Alfaraz was thrown out of the jeep about sixty feet away and Pfc. Yap was picked up from a rice paddy dead. His face charred beyond recognition, his eyes bloodshot. Alfaraz was writhing in pain and moaning as a corpsman lifted him to a waiting ambulance.
Looking back, Tumamak and Ganuelos were speechless and stricken dumb, and in their blank stare, they tried to comprehend why the mine did not explode when they passed over it and instead it had to pick its victim as if “it was made to order.”
Both fingered feverishly their rosaries mumbling [an]incoherent prayer of thanks. To this date, Colonel Ojeda cannot explain why he alighted at that railhead junction. Usually when he stopped his jeep to orient himself with the location he never alighted.
Captain Javier whose habit is always to park the jeep before going down also cannot explain why he alighted. He could have been with the other two. The doubts of Tumamak and Sergeant Ganuelos were explained by mine experts of the Ordinance service.
There is a wooden box land mine used by the Chinese here in Korea that is not easily detectable by mine detectors. Furthermore, they bury these mines deep in the roadbed with only a rod protruding on the surface to detonate the primer if stepped upon.
Apparently Tumamak’s jeep missed the rod by the skin of his teeth. It is believed about 10 pounds of TNT was detonated. To show the extent of the damage, a newspaper inside Captain Javier’s jeep which he was reading a minute before was torn to shreds as it if were eaten by a pack of mice.
The jeep itself was in a fearful mess, not a reading a minute before was torn to shreds as it if were eaten by a pack of mice. The jeep itself was in a fearful mess, not a single part of it could be salvaged. That was high noon.
As the sun set that afternoon after the fatal accident and after the historic link-up with the 187th RCT above Uijongbu, PFC. Yap’s body was taken by the Army Graves Registration personnel to Pusan where it will be buried side by side with the other gallant United Nations heroes who had given up their lives here in Korea.
Colonel Ojeda, Captain Javier, Sergeant Ganuelos, and Corporal Tumamak, although stricken and bereaved with the loss of a comrade at arms silently reminisced that night with haunting memories, “We could have been the victims in that accident for which the battalion mourns and the flag flies at half mast.”
1. As seen in this story, Aquino’s English was not yet polished, prompting Boguslav to tell him: “You take care of the news; I’ll take care of the grammar!”
2. Paraboys refers to soldiers who parachuted down to the war zone as parachute boys.
3. Commo is a military acronym for “Communications Officer.”