On this day; 25 June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, signifying the start of the Korean War. As wars go this has become a forgotten one and in spite of having ended on 27 July 1953 the region has never really become safe. The North, governed by a dictatorship is constantly sabre rattling against its more prosperous southerly neighbour.
Following the end of the Second World War, Korea was liberated from the Japanese invaders that had occupied the region since 1910. The United States and Soviet Union agreed to divide Korea into two occupation zones due to concerns of ‘spheres of influence’. and a temporary internal border was created in 1948 between North and South Korea based on the 38th parallel – the circle of latitude that is 38 degrees north of the equator. The Northern part becoming a Marxist state under the dictatorship of Kim Il-sung and propped up by the Soviet Union, while the South was led by Syngman Rhee and propped up by America.
Following the invasion The United Nations (UN) Security Council responded and called on all members to help the South. American quickly sent forces to support the country followed by further UN support of troops from 17 countries including Australia, Canada, France, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Turkey, New Zealand, South Africa, Colombia and Great Britain. By early September 1950, the South Korean and UN forces were facing defeat as North Korean forces pinned them against the southern coastal port of Busan. In response on 15 September 1950, the United Nations Commander General MacArthur ordered an amphibious landing at Incheon, a port halfway up the Korean peninsula, behind enemy lines. The landing allowed UN forces to make rapid progress north during the autumn of 1950, nearing the Chinese border by November. Alarmed by the proximity of South Korean and UN troops to their border China entered the war, sending forces into North Korea pushing the UN Forces back into the south.
Fighting stalled in early 1951 and armistice negotiations began. For the next two years troops faced a stalemate near the border, in trenches a little more than a mile apart they faced extreme conditions of cold and hot weather. Finally, in July 1953 an armistice agreement was signed, but there was no peace treaty. To this day the Korean War has not officially ended and tensions still run high between North and South Korea and US forces remain in the south serving along one of the most heavily militarised borders in the world. (https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/stories/the-korean-war)
South African involvement was limited to a SAAF fighter squadron, with 50 officers and 157 other ranks of 2 Sqn SAAF sailing from Durban on 26 September 1950. This initial contingent was commanded by Cmdt S. van Breda Theron DSO, DFC, AFC and included many World War II SAAF veterans. The squadron was deployed as one of the four USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing squadrons flying P51 Mustangs and later converted to USAF F-86F Sabre fighter-bombers. The South Africans lost 34 SAAF pilots killed with eight taken prisoner. 74 Mustangs and 4 Sabres were lost. Pilots and men of the squadron received a total of 797 medals including 2 Silver Stars, the highest US military award given to foreigners, 3 Legions of Merit, 55 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 40 Bronze Stars. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_Air_Force#Korean_War)
In South Africa I am aware of two Memorials/Rolls of honour. The first being at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Sadly tension ebbs and flows on the tenuous border between North and South Korea, and there is a massive wealth gap between North and South. It is unlikely that they will ever be re-united and there is always a small chance that a major war could break out there at any time. The sabre rattling continues, with China always in the background ready to lend massive military support to the dictatorship of Kim Jong-un. The war has never been forgotten in Korea, but elsewhere in the world it has faded into memory.
War Grave photography can be a very rewarding experience, with highs and lows, and many times you are left shaking your head or just feeling angry with what you see. My post today is one that finally had closure for me after many years.
I was “responsible” for many of the original photographs that we have on the South African War Graves website that covered the cemeteries and memorials in and around Johannesburg and a few other places in Gauteng. I found it very satisfying to do and it did help me when I was suffering from an extreme case of “cabin fever” in 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately though, many casualties had slipped between the cracks when the South African Roll of Honour was being compiled. Apparently the person responsible for that job was stricken with Spanish Flu and passed away, and the unfinished ROH was adopted and the files of those who had not been processed were stuck on a shelf.
In 2012 we started the record card project in an effort to photograph as many of the WW1 record cards as possible. The end goal being to submit the names of those who had slipped through the cracks to the CWGC and ultimately to have them added to the ROH. When Ralph and Terry started to submit names for inclusion to the CWGC, one of the graves I went to find was that of PAULINE HERMIONE EMILY PAFF, a Probationer Nurse with the South African Military Nursing Service. She died of pneumonia and influenza, at Johannesburg Hospital on 20 October 1918 and was omitted from the ROH.
She is buried in Brixton Cemetery in the “EC” section (“English Church”) although that does not necessarily mean that the grave would be easy to find. Brixton is a big cemetery and there are very few grave numbers/markers and no real coherent plan of what is where. Fortunately I know the cemetery quite well and because I photographed the war graves can identify a section based on known graves. Pauline’s grave was close to the fence of the Jewish section and a few graves close to where I was stung by a bee in 2009. By the time I left South Africa in 2013 no headstone had been erected although she had been approved for inclusion in the ROH and on the CWGC lists for South Africa.
This past week Sarah Welham Dove was able to send me a photograph of her headstone and I was finally able to get closure over this grave. Pauline has been remembered and no longer does she rest in an unmarked space in a cemetery that is rapidly deteriorating due to indifference.
I am also hoping that in the intervening years a headstone has been erected for Chris Charles Doak in Braamfontein too, although there was a dispute about where he was buried. He was somewhat of a troubled chap and died as a result of an overdose of morphine. Hopefully one day I will be able to display his grave here too. Irrespective of whether they died by misadventure of through no fault of their own each is important, and that is why we were out there taking the photographs.
Rest n Peace Pauline and Chris and all those who we are still waiting for an answer on.
Yes it is true, I am a closet Otaku and have been watching Japanese Anime since 2008. I really come from a comic and traditional cartoon enjoyment background so it was just a progression from there, but prior to 2008 the only real exposure I had to anime was the children’s programmes on TV like Heidi, Transformers or Starblazers and a couple of others that I do not recall. The biggest problem that I had back then was the quality of the animation was not as slick as that of Disney or Warner Bros. or any of the other cartoon brands coming out of America.
It is difficult to know what was my first anime; and there are two contenders: Mahoromatic or Azumanga Daioh. To confuse matters even more, the local newsagents released one of those partworks series that included a DVD and magazine for weekly purchase and I collected a few of them before giving that up because they kept on returning to the same series (Macross) which I did not take a fancy to. I am NOT a fan of giant meccha, or idiots in general and Macross seemed to embody both. At the time I was living in Randburg and there were two anime shops in Brightwater Common that I started to visit. There was a very nice woman that worked at the one so that may have influenced my wallet and she recommended that I try either of the two shows. There were few options open to watching anime; you could download it using a file sharing programme like Winmx or Limewire, you could buy an “official dub” or even a dodgy “fansub” or you could hope to find somebody who knew somebody that knew somebody else that had a copy you could watch. An “official dub” is loosely speaking an anime that has been dubbed into another language (usually English) by a company that has purchased the rights to it ie. an officially licensed translation done by professionals, a fansub is an anime that has been dubbed into another language by a fans and subtitled. I am hard at hearing and because most anime never reached our shores “officially” ended up with fansub exposure because of the subtitles. It also meant that I was watching the show in Japanese and reading the subtitles. This was very helpful to me because it helped with my hearing, I am now at a stage where I will not watch something that does not have subtitles and will quite happily watch a movie in another language by reading subtitles. Indirectly It has opened a whole new world to me.
Back at the grindstone I gradually expanded my viewing into different genres of anime. In my case “Slice of life” became a favourite and still is, but I also enjoyed a lot of the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. Anime does lend itself to the science fiction and fantasy quite well and of course you can literally do anything as long as you have some sort of a story, characters and enough fan service to satisfy any otaku. What is fan service? it is any material added in to cater to fans, it can range from huge battle scenes right down to upskirting, sexual innuendo, panty shots, boobs, shower scenes and so forth. Unfortunately anime is often seen as a pastime enjoyed by perverts, weirdos, geeks, gamers and shut-ins. Generally those are males, but occasionally there are female equivalents watching anime just as eagerly. Let’s face it, anime does have somewhat of a jaded reputation.
Another important aspect of anime is “character traits or tropes“, the best known probably being the “tsundere“. For some odd reason the tsundere is quite popular amongst otaku, Probably the most famous tsundere is Haruhi Suzumiya, and in my opinion is one of the more curious anime girls around (incidentally, Nagisa is a Byoukidere, they live with some kind of terminal illness, but still manage to be cheerful and kind despite this hardship. Often, they pass away from their illness at some point during the series). The opposite of the tsundere is? There are just so many to choose from and you can find all permutation of personality within anime, although wars can break out over which character fits a particular trope because there are different levels of tropes too. Its really quite complicated but once you start watching anime you start to categorise the characters and slot them into the appropriate boxes.
I will also admit that on quite a few occasions I have been forced to reach for the tissue box because there are quite a few weepies out there that can reduce watchers to blubbering wrecks. In my opinion Clannad After Story wins the grand prize. I will not leave any spoilers here but trust me on this one. Incidentally. Clannad also has my favourite anime girl (sometimes called a “waifu” (the origin of the word comes from the katakana word for wife; ワイフ). Nagisa Furukawa pretty much embodies many traits that make her very likeable but she is somewhat of a tragic character too, stricken with a mysterious illness that always happens at the worst possible moment.
I do use myanimelist to record my viewing trends and have been doing so since 2008. So far I have watched 714 shows/movies/ONA/OVA/series and dropped 103. It is a handy one stop source for all anime information although every so often it gets hacked and becomes a disaster all on it’s own. Generally anime have 12 episodes in a season or 24 spanning 2 seasons. (There are 4 seasons in a year). Although the best 12 episode anime never seem to have a season 2, or if they do it can be years after the original. It is a very fickle industry that is driven by local (Japanese) demand as opposed to overseas demand.
Manga is the book equivalent of anime, although most anime seem to be derived from the manga. These read from right to left and can be found in English too, although they are pricey and you could end up sitting saddled with hundreds of them and nowhere to store them. The South African market was minuscule and when I was buying them they retailed at roughly R120 each (in the UK they sell for around £11.50 per volume). When it came to disposal time I ended up with this pile of books and nobody wanted them. I also collected anime figurines and have quite a few left over from my days in South Africa. They too were pricey but the resemblance to the characters they depict is amazing. If I had been able to find them easily I would have had a huge collection, but pricewise the expense is not really warranted. And, once you have them there is no way to resell them as there is no real market.
Like it or not anime and manga is not a mainstream activity that is pursued in the west. I really struggled to find like minded people in South Africa and the few internet groups that I did encounter were graveyards of activity. And, whether you like it or not the preponderance of characters is female, young and curvy and the viewership is mostly male. There are however a few excellent male characters and Takashi Natsume from the from anime Natsume Yuujinchou springs to mind almost immediately. He is surprisingly “normal” and overall a very likeable character. Male dominated anime does have a small following amongst females, and there is an even smaller group known as Fujoshi (腐女子, lit. “rotten girl”) and they are female fans of manga, anime and novels that feature romantic relationships between men (known as Yaoi).
Inevitably hearing all this Japanese has given me an ear for the language too and I have picked up quite a lot of words over the years although I could never have a conversation in the language. I do have an appreciation for it’s complexity and incredibly difficult Japanese written word and I will not even attempt to explain it but like most languages it is probably easier to pick up if you are surrounded by native speakers. And, as a result of my interest in Japanese I have become a fan of the many opening and ending music from a number of the anime I have watched. It does tend to make people stare strangely at me, but they do not know what they are missing.
The really great thing about anime and manga is that it does not dwell on the perfect, it covers all manner of personality, sexual orientation, gender, age and imagination. There is something for almost everybody (assuming you know where to look), and even weirdos like me will find something of interest to watch. Unfortunately it does have a seedy, exploitative, sexist and ageist side to it too, although watching anime does not automatically make one a lolicon.
Favourites: I have many although they tend to slip down the list as I discover new new shows and in most cases the paring of male and female characters makes these favourites. These are just a few in no particular order. (I also cannot get this table to align properly so please excuse it.)