“We have been living for several weeks, an unprecedented period due to the pandemic which is hitting the whole world. Our Korean government pays special attention to the veterans of the Korean War in these delicate times. So in my name, and that of the Republic of Korea, while expressing to you the solidarity of the Korean people, I want to send you these masks ” : the letter is signed by the Korean ambassador to France. He wishes Michel Ozwald to stay in shape, despite the raging epidemic. Not far from Michel, the balance sheet then increases every day in the Grand Est and Burgundy-Franche-Comté.
This gesture of friendship so many years after the Korean War (1950-1953) moved this resident of Danjoutin in the Territoire de Belfort. Michel Ozwald, was 19 years old when he embarked in 1951 for Korea to raise the French battalion on the spot. War then raged between communist North Korea and the South, supported by the United Nations. Michel Ozwald is part of the UN battalion there, made up of just over 3,000 French soldiers.
“Koreans don’t forget us, and it touches me”
Receive his masks and this letter, ” that made me happy, I didn’t expect that. We don’t talk about veterans in France too much. When there are no masks, these people there, 70 years after the Korean War, they think of the elders who waged war with them … They do not forget us, and that touches me, because that time has passed. I have become an old man, my God, and it makes me happy, it warms my heart ” says Michel Ozwald, touched by this Seoul gesture.
Michel Ozwald, child of public assistance
From Korea, Michel Hozwald remembers the cold. Temperatures at -30, -35 degrees. The Franc-Comtois is one of the last veterans of the Korean War still alive in France. “I went to Korea, I was 19, the rest were 25 or 30. Today they are all dead, or there are not many left. “ confides in a clear voice Michel Ozwald.
“By joining the Army, I wanted to get out of hell where I lived”
If Michel Ozwald joined the Army, it was out of hope. “I am a child of public assistance. I was abandoned at birth. I was born in Aisne. I lived the pain of the children of the assistance rejected everywhere “ explains Michel who has not forgotten anything about this suffering. Work on a farm from the age of 14, theft he is accused of in a bakery and of which he is not the author.
“ I missed my parents. When I was accused, mistreated, I would have liked to cry in someone’s arms. I cried a lot “ he remembers.
“We had only one hope, we kids in public assistance, to get involved at the age of 18. I signed up for Indochina. We went to take over the Korean battalion, I had no particular ideology, I wanted to get out of hell where I lived. I was told you were going to die there, I didn’t care ” says the former veteran.
In Korea, trenches like those of the 14-18 war
Of his life, of his childhood without parents, Michel Ozwald wrote a book “Course of a combatant”. From this Korean War, he remembers trenches comparable to that of the 1914-1918 war. “We were there in the trenches, like in 14 with decomposing corpses that we could not evacuate because we were clubbed by the Chinese. It was terrible “ he remembers. “I spent my time in Korea at the forefront, in combat, being at the disposal of a captain who said to me, you have to shoot here and there” says Michel Ozwald who will finish at the rank of colonel in the French Army .
Twice, the former veteran has been invited to return to Korea. “We are always received like princes, gods,” he says. Koreans and French gathered in the National Association of Alumni and Friends of the French Forces of the UN and the Korean Battalion and Regiment meet every year on the Champs-Elysée to rekindle the flame of the unknown soldier. The bond between the two nations and its men has never been broken.
These masks from his Korean past, Michel Oswald dedicates them an invaluable value. That of the heart. Loyalty. Of almost eternal recognition across borders.
The Korean War in brief
The Korean War opposed, from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), supported by the United Nations, to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), then supported by the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union. It results from the partition of Korea following an agreement between the Soviets, which liberated Manchuria and the North of Korea and the Allies victorious from the war of the Pacific at the end of the Second World War. It was one of the first major conflicts of the Cold War.
It is estimated that the conflict has left more than 800,000 dead among Korean, northern and southern soldiers, and 57,000 among soldiers of the UN forces. The number of civilian casualties is estimated at 2 million and the number of refugees at 3 million.