ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - U.S. Army Africa officers assigned to the Ethiopian Defense Command and Staff College (EDCSC), recently spent an afternoon with veterans of the Kagnew Battalion - an Ethiopian unit that fought alongside U.S. troops during the Korean War.

Meeting with members of the Ethiopians' Korea War Veterans Association was the start of a friendship that will continue to grow, said Lt. Col Randy Torno, who helped organized a tour in early November of the veterans museum and memorial, tucked inside a park within the Ethiopian capital.

Torno and a team of U.S. Army officers teach at the EDCSC and mentor Ethiopian military instructors. The break from the classroom offered the U.S. Soldiers a glimpse at an often forgotten chapter in military history, Torno said.

"It's an honor to meet the men who fought alongside our Soldiers in Korea," Torno said. "Our discussions with the Korean War veterans will directly apply to the strategic coursework in the classroom."

In 1951, the United Nations formed a coalition to fight against communist North Korean and Chinese forces on the Korean peninsula. The Kagnew Battalion was comprised of then-Emperor Haile Selassie's personal body guards. During three years in combat, three Kagnew battalions served in Korea. Another arrived following the cease fire.

Ethiopian troops fought alongside the U.S. Army's 32nd Infantry Regiment, under the 7th Infantry Division, taking part in hundreds of battles to include action in the Iron Triangle and the fight for Pork Chop Hill. During the war, 122 Ethiopian troops died and 526 were wounded in action.

"This was a fantastic opportunity to meet face to face with Ethiopian soldiers who were there on the ground, fighting as part of a coalition sixty years ago - here they are, telling us their personal stories," said Lt. Col Brendt Vitale, who took part in the visit.

Yilma Belachew, a Kagnew battalion captain, said he was happy to see a group of American officers interested in the veterans' association and was eager to hear of the U.S. Army Africa's current mission to mentor Ethiopian officers in military strategy.

"It's great because an old friend is always a good friend," Belachew said. "So, I'm glad that Americans came to our country. I hope they will do a lot and build another part of history."

Page last updated Fri November 20th, 2009 at 06:59