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S. African veteran of Korean War dreams of returning with his kids

All Headlines 18:05 June 03, 2011

PRETORIA, South Africa, June 3 (Yonhap) -- Time is running short for 86-year-old Joe Joubert to achieve his lifetime dream -- returning to Korea with his grown-up children to show them where he fought for peace more than half a century ago.

Last year marked the 60th anniversary since war broke out on the Korean Peninsula, drawing in the U.S. and 20 other allied nations to fight with South Korea against a North Korean invasion. The fratricidal conflict lasted three years from its launch on June 25, 1950, and ended in an armistice that left the Koreas technically at war to this day.

In an interview Tuesday with Yonhap News Agency, Joubert told stories of his successful missions as a pilot fighting against North Koreans and their allied Chinese forces.

"The weather was very bad. Water was even coming into the cockpit," he said, speaking at his home located north of the administrative South African capital of Pretoria. "That morning, the Chinese communists, they were pushing our forces back. They (the U.S. Army) wanted to ask (us) to stop the communists from (coming) in. I went to the target, fired two rockets and a machine gun, covered 200-300 meters in two to three seconds. It was quick, quick."

Soon after, he said he spotted an American soldier waving his arms frantically on the ground. Thinking that he attacked the wrong place, he quickly contacted the commanding airplane to confirm his target. He later found out the waving was a signal to keep shooting and only then was he able to breathe a sigh of relief.

For his contributions, Joubert, who was 25 at the time, was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. armed forces.

"We were very proud that we could be part of the war and do our job as well as we could because I like the Korean people very much," he said.

Joubert flew a total of 175 times during the war -- between September 1950 and July 1951, and again between January and June 1952 -- to set a record among South African pilots.

Decades later, he visited South Korea in 1991 and again in 2007 and 2010 to discover a country that had changed beyond recognition.

"When I went there in 1991, I could not believe it. During the war, there were one or two bridges across the Han River. We bombed them so that nobody could cross," he recalled. "When I went back, there was something like 20 bridges ... 18, 19 bridges ... I could not believe it."

Asked whether there was anything he wished for from the South Korean government, he simply asked for a continued display of love and affection.

"South Koreans, as you know, (are) looking very well after us. Korean veterans, they look well after us. And they must just keep on showing the love in their heart," he said.

"What I would very much like to do one day is to take my children there. I never got the opportunity of taking them there. (I'm) getting older. It means a lot to do that," he added, speaking of his three children who are in their mid-40s to early 50s.

"Because they would very much like to go and see where their dad fought during the war for Korea. My children want to see, I would like to show. It is part of history."
(END)

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