An American Rabbi in Korea
A Chaplain's Journey in the Forgotten War
Publication Year: 2004
During the height of the Korean conflict, 1950-51, Orthodox Jewish chaplain Milton J. Rosen wrote 19 feature-length articles for Der Morgen Zhornal, a Yiddish daily in New York, documenting his wartime experiences as well as those of the servicemen under his care. Rosen was among those nearly caught in the Chinese entrapment of American and Allied forces in North Korea in late 1950, and some of his most poignant writing details the trying circumstances that faced both soldiers and civilians during that time.
As chaplain, Rosen was able to offer a unique account of the American Jewish experience on the frontlines and in the United States military while also describing the impact of the American presence on Korean citizens and their culture. His interest in Korean attitudes toward Jews is also a significant theme within these articles.
Stanley R. Rosen has translated his father's articles into English and provides background on Milton Rosen's military service before and after the Korean conflict. He presents an introductory overview of the war and includes helpful maps and photographs. The sum is a readable account of war and its turmoil from an astute and compassionate observer.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
Series: Judaic Studies Series
My father’s correspondence from Korea during the conflict there gave little insight into the breadth and depth of his experiences. We knew that he had been serving in the area of the Chinese Communist intervention in North Korea in the winter of 1950, with the resultant encirclement and retreat of Allied forces. We knew that he had been evacuated with the other troops, by...
Dipping into the waters defined by the Yellow Sea on the west and the Sea of Japan on the east rises the troubled peninsula of Korea. Its land mass borders China, Manchuria, and Russia and faces, across a small expanse of sea, a historic nemesis, Japan. Its tumultuous, largely Chinese dominated history spans at least twenty-five hundred years, approximately the last two centuries of...
1. The Chaplain
Milton J. Rosen was born in Vilna, Lithuania (then under Russian domination), in 1906, the youngest of six children. His family immigrated to the United States shortly afterward, settling in Chicago, where the elder siblings rapidly adjusted to their new surroundings. This easy adjustment proved less a source of blessing than a cause of distress to his father, a man of deep...
2. Der Morgen Zhornal
Der Morgen Zhornal, known in English as the Jewish Morning Journal, and later, as the Jewish Journal and Daily News, was established in 1901 in New York, and for a time was the only morning Yiddish newspaper. Early in the century, it took over the editorial and classified advertisement departments of the previously prominent...
Already in the spring of 1950, there were intelligence reports coming to the Far East Command in Tokyo regarding major troop concentrations north of the 38th parallel in Korea and evacuation of civilians from that area. For a considerable period of time prior to these reports, there had been border clashes between forces of the North and South...
4. Der Morgen Zhornal Articles December 4–December 25, 1950
On the 5th of November, on a mild, early Sunday morning, we left the harbor of Yokohama on the ship General Hasse.
5. Disaster and Retreat
On November 25, the Chinese reemerged in great force and with great fury. They rapidly destroyed the ROK II Corps, driving them back with such speed as to leave the U.S. Second Infantry Division without a right flank, while the ROK First Division was being hit on the Second’s west. Efforts to reinforce the retreating troops from around Kunu-ri failed. Indeed, Kunu-ri, just...
6. Der Morgen Zhornal Articles December 28, 1950-January 14, 1951
It was the first of December, when our small Japanese boat, packed with soldiers and transporting guns, brought us, with considerable difficulty, into the harbor not far from the city of Hamhung. The frost burned our faces. It had snowed all morning without cease. The gray sky, full of clouds, appeared to merge with the very ground over which the military port...
7. Pusan Again
Back in southeastern Korea, Chaplain Rosen docked, at first, in Pusan, only to be sent north by rail to the mountainous area of Kyongju. However, it was not too long before he was returned to Pusan, to headquarter there, using it as a base for excursions to various units in the greater surrounding area, seeking Jewish soldiers, offering his services as chaplain. The chilling...
8. Der Morgen Zhornal Articles January 16, 1951–March 11, 1951
We had been speaking with longing of returning to the United States, as if describing a distant dream, and if not to America, then at least to Japan. These soldiers went on to confide various episodes of their battlefield experiences. The longer, extended discussion centered on the latest developments in the war. In the midst of the conversation, my division chaplain appeared and...
9. Japan Again
Chaplain Rosen had been in Korea for some ten months, when, sitting at breakfast with some other officers in Pusan, he was greeted by his medical officer with a direct order to appear in the clinic that afternoon for an examination. He had never registered any physical complaints at the clinic, with the exception of requiring crutches for a time because of a...
Chaplain Rosen had indeed not really left Japan. After spending a year as a teacher of Hebrew Studies in Chicago, he returned to Tokyo, where he was admitted to the University of Tokyo as a research fellow in the Faculty of Letters. By 1960, he had become a recognized and competent scholar in the Japanese language and in the reading of “Kambun,” Japanese...