Military Intelligence Soldiers View Cheonan Memorial
By Kurt E. Van Slooten, 501st Military Intelligence Brigade PAOJanuary 16, 2020
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea -- Nearly 10 years after the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan, the broken ship, which looks like it was just raised from the depths, serves as a memorial for the Republic of Korea Navy sailors who perished in the attack and a reminder that continued vigilance is required.Soldiers from Headquarters, Headquarters Company (HHC), 501st Military Intelligence Brigade toured West Sea Protection Hall and the Cheonan Memorial at ROK Navy Second Fleet Command, Dec. 19, as part of their ongoing leader development program.The first stop on the tour was West Sea Protection Hall were the Soldiers watched two videos. The first displayed the conviction of the ROK Navy 2nd Fleet to protect the west coast of the Republic of Korea and showcased some of the ROK Navy capabilities. The second was in Korean and showed the devastation wrought by the tragedy of the sinking of the Cheonan on the families and friends of the sailors who lost their lives.As the group continued the tour, the ROK Navy lieutenant, who served as the tour guide, gave detailed explanations of the attacks and battles that took place along the Northern Limit Line (NLL) from the first Yeonpyeong sea battle that took place on June 15, 1999, through the sinking of the Republic of Korea Ship Cheonan on Mar. 26, 2010, and North Korea's bombing of Yeonpyeong Island later that year in November.The tour included scale models of the marine salvage efforts that later reunited the pieces of Cheonan back in Pyeongtaek, which allowed for the creation of the Cheonan memorial. TheSoldiers also saw the remains of the propulsion unit of a North Korean torpedo that that was recovered near where the Cheonan was recovered. Within the propulsion unit, the ROK lieutenant pointed out for the group a North Korean handwritten serial number.The group also watched a short video with a computer generated model showing how a torpedo, when detonated under a ship, creates an upward pressure bubble which breaks the ship's keel, then when the pressure bubble collapses, it pulls the keel back down breaking the ship into two pieces. This was shown later in the video with demonstration on an actual decommissioned ship.From there, the group moved to the ROKS Cheonan Memorial Hall. Here the Soldiers saw the two pieces of the salvaged Cheonan, mounted almost as though it was still whole. Walking beneath the ship, they witnessed damage done by the underwater explosion of the North Korean torpedo that sheared the ship in half. Soldiers, unaccustomed to being around ships, were awed at the scale of damage done to break such a large vessel in half.Inside the memorial hall, the Soldiers saw recreations of some of the spaces inside the Cheonan with equipment and machinery recovered from the ship. The final area the Soldiers saw was the room containing the photos of the 46 men who were killed when the Cheonan sank. Under some of the photos there was clothing or mementos from the Sailors who died defending their country.Capt. Harry Gim, commander of HHC, 501st Military Intelligence Brigade, said he brought his Soldiers to see the memorial because it is a recent reminder of the continued tensions between North Korea and the Republic of Korea. "It's important for the Soldiers to see things they can relate to. The Korean War ended nearly more than 60-years-ago, while the Cheonan was attacked only nine years ago. It's also important to understand the lessons learned from the attack and how we better prepare ourselves for possible future events."Gim said he felt like the West Sea Protection Hall gave the Soldiers a good understanding of battles that occurred around the NLL leading to the Cheonan incident. He also wanted the Soldiers to have an understanding of the sacrifice that was made by the 46 sailors who perished on the Cheonan.The 501st Military Intelligence Brigade provides indications and early warning of actions by opposing forces that could threaten the tense but stable peace in the Republic of Korea. In the event of hostilities, the brigade's mission shifts to providing combined, multi-discipline intelligence and force protection support to the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, the CFC Ground Component Command and their subordinate units.