“My grandfather and his Korean experience was the international composition of the forces fighting on the peninsula. To a lot of us it’s a pretty typical collection of Military Forces composed of the South Korean, British, Australian, Canadian, Dutch, Thai, Philippine, Columbian, South African and several others, albeit US led. However there was one contingent, the Turks, that stood out to my grandfather.

Apparently the Turkish forces, which amounted to about a regiment or brigade in size, occupied positions to the northwest of his units sector. He said they fought with great ferocity and generally their sector was quite. Now US Soldiers get paid pretty well in comparison to other countries. So the Turkish leadership had a bounty for enemy ears. Bring back a pair of Red Chinese or Communist North Korean ears, the you would get some extra Turkish ₺ lira on payday.

The Turks would slip out at night in small groups of two or three from their own lines into those of the Chinese and North Korean, armed with only a Turkish yatağan dagger and a sidearm, cut some throats and collect some ears then return to their lines. My grandfather said you never saw a Turkish Soldier without one of those curved daggers.

Well after a while some of the ears they were turning in for their prize weren’t the persuasion of enemy. Some of the enterprising Turks were going over the no-man’s land between the two forces and were taking the ears of UN Contingent KIA that were still lying on the battlefields. This of course caused alarm and the UN Command demanded a stop to the practice. And the Turkish command complied after much protest.

Well it didn’t take long before the Turkish troops, who in their minds were merely trying to earn a few extra bucks and take it to the godless enemy, started to slack and lose morale and interest in fighting. This led to their sector getting hotter as the Red Chinese and Communist North Koreas started probing figured out that the Turks weren’t putting up the fight they were before. Of course this also caused alarm to UN Forces adjacent to the Turkish Brigade, they were becoming unreliable and allied forces were concerned the Communist would roll over them and put everyone in danger of a collapse in the defense.

After debate and consultation it was agreed that the Turkish Soldiers could resume collecting the bounty on enemy ears but only enemy ears that could be verified. They could not scavenge the killing field in the front lines for ears on corpses, particularly those of UN dead. The Turkish leadership agreed and went back to fighting.

Oddly enough the enemy learned the hard way, the Turks resumed their nighttime patrols, the vigorous defense of their sector and all returned to status quo. My grandfather smiled a little as he told that story. “Damnedest thing.” he would say. I don’t think their practices bothered him all that much as he reaped part of the benefit of that security.

– David M. H. SFC, USA (R) submitted on behalf of Leon W. SFC, USA (R) Korea & Vietnam

This story was documented by Battles and Beers. Every soldier has a story, and every story deserves to be told.

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