Excerpt from a letter I just came across (Dec 2010):
"...Yesterday I went up to Panmunjom. It is really an eerie experience. You drive across Freedom Bridge and up to the MLR (Main Line of Resistance) -- the front line -- and there is a sentry in a sandbagged post with a large sign on it saying, 'Stop--you are now leaving the Main Line of Resistance.' We stopped, shoved out our passes and proceeded. I was driving and had three Marine majors with me, Henly, Hipkens, and Mackel. We drove along and shells were landing on Outpost No. 2 as we drove by. It was about 1,000 yards to our right. Outpost No. 1 was on our left and white phosphorous shells were bursting long streamers of white smoke over its face.
"We drove by that and we were in 'no-man's land,' with 200 yards of so-called demilitarized territory on each side of us. It had much of the nightmarish quality of walking naked through Times Square. A tank was entrenched on Outpost No. 1 (the farthest point out), lobbing a shell out somewhere about every five minutes.
"We finally came to the check point and had to surrender our pistols and ammunition. Then on ahead to a small bridge where there were two Communist soldiers on guard. Their rifles looked very long compared to ours. Their uniforms were light grey with red shoulder bands. They looked steadily and intently at us as we went by. Then we were within the Panmunjom security circle which is two miles across, a 2,000-yard radius circle.
"We checked in at the security station which is manned by a small garrison of armed personnel who stay there all the time. We were joined by a guide who took us on to the receiving setup where we inspected the place where we will work as soon as the truce becomes effective.
"On the way back we watched the Communist guard detail march down the road past us and on to the little bridge. They were silhouetted against the sky as they marched along a rice paddy wall, and we could watch the changing of the guard with an excellent view.
"One amazing thing was to see the Korean farmers still planting their fields in the truce circle in complete oblivion of the war around them.
"We left at 4:30 so as to get back before dark. Again that nightmarish feeling of unreality when we drove back toward our lines. Four men in an open jeep driving through no-man's land and no one was supposed to shoot at us. The corridor was 200 yards wide on each side of us with barbed wire marking the sides. Yet, just on the other side--war. We passed a large artillery piece just 250 yards away as it went off, so you can readily see what a schizoid situation it is. I took no pictures as it was a miserable day, but the next time I will take them regardless of the weather.
"Our time is now given over to meetings, briefings and orientation talks by everyone and his brother. Gen. Mark Clark came to the camp today and rumors are again flying. Anyway the hopeless situation of last week seems to be slowly shifting to the brighter side. Maybe July 15 will bring something."
HTS 14 July 1953
1 Med Battalion
1st Marine Div.
Cease fire - 27 July 1953