CHUNCHEON, South Korea — In 1964, 2nd Lt. William Ford, a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma Army ROTC program, was headed to South Korea for his first assignment.
2nd Lt. William Ford poses with the Fourth Launcher Section, Battery B, 1st Missile
Battalion, 42nd Artillery at Camp Page, South Korea in June 1965. Courtesy photo.
Upon arrival in Korea, the young Field Artillery Officer was assigned to Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery at Camp Page near Chuncheon.
His unit maintained responsibility for artillery in the defense of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
During an exercise in a local valley area near Camp Page and the city of Chuncheon, with his fellow U.S. Soldiers and Korean augmentees, heavy rain began to fall.
Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of rain, then 1st Lt. Ford realized the dam on the other side of the city would be tested. Not only would the dam be of concern, but the ability of the river which runs from the dam to flood the area in where platoon was training.
If the dam broke, it would flood the entire valley
Ford had not heard any radio traffic warning of immediate danger, so he continued his training.
As Ford noticed the water rising at a quick pace, he set out markers, every 10 feet, to monitor the levels. By the time he had placed the last stake near his vehicle’s tire, the first one was covered. He also noticed the local farmers scrambling to get their produce to high ground. Had the dam broken or were the banks of the river simply flooded by the immense amount of rainwater?
The answer mattered not to Ford; he ordered his platoon to relocate their equipment to high ground. Unoccupied Soldiers began to help the local farmers.
Ford secured his equipment the best he could and continued to help the locals collect their produce. The second of four stakes was now covered by the flood waters. Ford directed his driver call for air support to help evacuate personnel in the area, to include the farmers.
Evacuation operations, led by Ford’s platoon sergeant began as soon as the helicopters arrived. After several hours and numerous trips to Camp Page, the flood waters had reached the vehicle’s tires. The valley was now completely flooded and all four stakes withered under the water.
When Ford finally arrived at Camp Page, he learned the city leadership did indeed open the flood gates to release the stress on the dam. A notification had been sent, but it did not reach his platoon.
An enlightened Ford felt grateful for the safety of his men and the farmers. The next day Ford’s platoon returned to recover their equipment. Save a few lighter pieces that were not secured in the trailers that may have been swallowed by the river, most of the equipment remained where they left it on what they thought was high ground near the river.
A few of the vehicles had suffered minor water damage, but this did not degrade the platoon’s ability to return to Camp Page and start recovery operations. They would prepare to go back to the field in the next week or two.
Today the Chuncheon Dam stands over 100 meters high and is one of the borders to the Chuncheon Lake.
Fast forward to 2011 and Ford is the president of the University of Oklahoma Army ROTC Alumni Association. He met an Army major, Maj. David Jensen, the ROTC program’s executive officer.
As the executive officer, Jensen was responsible for assisting the alumni association with meetings, events and scholarship banquets. Because of this interaction, Jensen and Ford, both Field Artillery Officers, developed a bond of brotherhood and lasting friendship.
Jensen was pending an assignment to South Korea and Ford wrote a letter to the mayor of Chuncheon and asked Jensen if he can find time to deliver it.
The letter contains the Chuncheon Dam story, some of Ford's other memories and a unit photo. Jensen made the trip to Chuncheon in May 2012 and delivered the letter to a grateful city mayor.