On a Monday morning in Colorado Springs, he gets up as usual and proceeds to get ready for work, but this day is like no other day in his life to date. He is up before the sun has even made an appearance, an anomaly for him, as he must catch a 6 a.m. flight to embark on a journey that would make any avid historian salivate.
Joseph Berg, the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Museum director, accompanied by the noncommissioned officer in charge of the museum, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cline, and a representative from the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment "Manchus," 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Sgt. 1st Class Joel Jasso, flew 12 hours and, with all the excitement of kids in a candy store, arrived in South Korea.
After getting settled into their lodging, the next morning, the trio came face-to-face with the object of their admiration -- the Liscum Bowl, a 92-pound silver bowl that has been referred to as "one of the foremost trophies of any American regiment."
"I was really honored to be chosen to be the custodian of such an important artifact," Berg said. "I mean, we literally traveled with that bowl every step of the way from the museum in Korea to Osan Air Base to Travis Air Force Base, California, and then overland from Travis to here at Fort Carson, so it was myself, Sgt. 1st Class Cline and Sgt. 1st Class Jasso from 4-9 Infantry all traveled together with the bowl."
Currently the museum at Camp Red Cloud is under renovation, and the bowl was scheduled to go into storage for the duration of that renovation, but the Center of Military History came up with a better idea.
"The Center of Military History, which is my higher headquarters, decided that rather than put such an important artifact into storage for several years while the museum was being renovated, that they wanted it to be closer to its parent regiment and in a place where it could be exhibited openly where everybody could see it and still be able to have access to it," Berg said.
A 'nail-biting experience'
"I was really excited," Berg said, as his smile widened. "I'd never been to Korea before, so that was my first trip to Korea. I didn't quite know what to expect, and I wasn't quite certain how I was going to move a 92-pound silver bowl, which is why I had to recruit some help along the way, but the most important thing to me was that it arrived here in good order and didn't get damaged, because that's a long trip by ground and air for the bowl to get here. It has arrived in perfect condition, but it's been a nail-biting experience a couple of times, working with Air Force loadmasters to make sure this thing was very carefully handled during the trip, and it was really exciting to watch all of the Army team come together to help move this artifact."
The whole operation went off without a hitch as museum staff and transportation personnel coordinated and worked together to move the irreplaceable piece of history.
"We inventoried the bowl and all the cups and signed the (Department of Defense Form) 3161 just like any other piece of Army property to transfer ownership of the bowl from the 2nd Infantry Division Museum to the 4th Infantry Division Museum. After we did that, then we packed it up inside a white crate, and then we packed that crate inside of another crate to give it additional protection in case it got hit with a forklift or something like that, because it had to be moved by materiel handling equipment. Then the following day, we drove it down from Camp Red Cloud to Osan Air Base, and we loaded it into an arms room at Osan Air Base to be secure until the flight."
After a down day where the trio got to see a little bit of Seoul, they all boarded a 747 at Osan Air Base bound for Travis Air Force Base, California.
"We flew in a 747 cargo jet with the bowl literally right underneath our seats," Berg said. "We were riding up in the hump of the aircraft, and the bowl was in the cargo bay right underneath us, so we were with it every minute of the trip."
Once at Travis, they strapped the meticulously packaged artifact into the back of a cargo trailer and drove from California to Colorado.
A brief history
At the turn of the 20th Century, the United States, along with Japan, Russia, England, France, Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary, formed an alliance to combat violent anti-foreign uprisings in China, also called the Boxer Rebellion.
In response to the conflict, Col. Emerson H. Liscum, commander of the 9th Infantry Regiment, deployed his troops to China.
In the Battle of Tientsin, facing a nearly impossible situation due to a "grave tactical error," Liscum calmly calculated how to get his men out of there, according to the history as recounted by journalist and descendant of the late colonel, Rebecca Liscum, who has spent decades looking into the geneology, life and legacy of Col. Liscum.
"Troops returned fire as best they could," she said. "The color bearer took a hit, and Col. Liscum instinctively and bravely reached for the flag and instructed others to carry the injured Soldier back as best they could. Within minutes, a sniper struck the colonel, and as best he could, he kept his composure, thinking only of his unit. He instructed his men to carry on and not tend to him. His dying words are etched in history -- 'Keep up the fire!'"
According to the Center of Military History website at www.history.army.mil, on July 15, 1900, two days after the city was retaken, Soldiers of the 9th Infantry Regiment -- the Manchus -- discovered a government mint full of silver bullion and coins inside a burnt-out building in the American-held sector of the city.
The Soldiers guarded the mint, whose contents were worth an estimated $376,000 -- about $11 million in today's currency.
Due to the intense heat of the fire, the bars of silver had melted and fused together into amorphous, misshapen masses of silver.
The Manchu Soldiers turned the silver over to the Chinese government, but sometime later, Statesman Li Hung Chang presented the last two masses of silver, weighing a total of 90 pounds, to the 9th Infantry Regiment as a token of appreciation for their actions and dedication to retaking the city.
The officers of the unit got together and decided to commission an enormous legacy trophy be made from the misshapen silver. That trophy became the Liscum Bowl, named in honor of their brave commander. But the Liscum Bowl is not just a bowl; it is an entire silver set with cups engraved with the names of the officers who served in the regiment on the Asian continent from 1900 up until the Korean War, as well as a tray, and a ladle.
The 9th Infantry Regiment broke apart as a regiment after World War II, said Berg.
"That was when the Army began going to the brigade system, as opposed to the regimental system, so it would have been in the 1950s after the Korean War," he said.
With all the moving about of the elements of the regiment, reorganizing of units, deactivations and reflaggings, to date the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, is the only remaining active duty element of the 9th Infantry Regiment.
So after Berg's journey to retrieve the bowl, it will now rest where it is collocated with its parent unit, and the significance of that for the unit is tremendous.
"What we're talking about is an artifact that is well over 100 years old," Berg said. "It's worth about $2.5 million, and it's a physical connection to the past of the regiment, so this is something that was constructed in 1902 and has been passed down through the lineage of the Manchus ever since then, and so it's a way for the Manchu Soldiers to see in physical form the heritage of their regiment, so that's the real significance of it. It's a link to the past of the Manchus."
To mark the occasion in a manner befitting its importance, the 4th ID and Fort Carson Museum hosted an unveiling of the ornate bowl April 25 for the Manchu Soldiers, friends and family to lay eyes on the bowl, many of them for the first time.
"I had heard of the Liscum Bowl, and I had seen pictures of it," said Lt. Col. David Uthlaut, commander of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. "A lot of my predecessors in this job talked about it and what a special trophy that it is. It's pretty amazing to be a part of this history to be honest. I've been a part of this unit and this regiment since October. It is an honor and a privilege to be in the command seat for this piece of our lineage that honors such a distinguished member of our regiment, Colonel Liscum."
While its climate-controlled, humidity-controlled permanent case is yet to be completed, Berg wanted to unveil it before the upcoming deployment of 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Reg., to Afghanistan so that they could be present, and the young Manchus could be in the physical presence of their legacy.
"Listen well," said Uthlaut. "This is our history as we are on the doorstep of another combat deployment with the opportunity to extend once again this noble legacy of the 9th Infantry Regiment."
Former Manchus and current Manchus stood shoulder to shoulder and saw the bowl in its temporary exhibit, and the retired Manchus sized the young ones up.
"I can see that a lot of you weren't even born 42 years ago when I served with 2nd Battalion, and there's probably quite a few of you that weren't quite on this earth yet by the time I retired from active duty, but I served with the 9th Infantry when the Manchus were the only permanently forwardly deployed infantry battalion in the U. S. Army that was facing hostile foes, and that was on the Korean Demilitarized Zone," said Randy Ford, a former Manchu first sergeant.
"I never get tired of hearing about our history and our lineage, and it's always a reminder to our Soldiers of what we carry with us," said Uthlaut of the stories shared by the Manchu veterans. "The regimental system in the Army gives us a lot of that history that we can extend, especially as we get ready to deploy. I think all of us really learned something here today about the history of our organization and about Col. Liscum, who gave us our motto of, 'Keep up the fire' and understanding where that came from."
"With his calm, cool demeanor even in a fierce battle, he thought of others and instructed his men to persevere -- 'Keep up the fire,'" said Liscum. "So to you, the 9th Infantry, on the eve of your deployment, carry not only that motto to heart, but the spirit of those words, those important words of Col. Liscum. As an honorary member of the 9th Infantry Regiment Association -- a Manchu -- and representing collective relatives of Col. Liscum, I send you our best as you carry on his legacy. Keep up the fire."