The Korean War

On March 22, 1946, John was promoted to the rank of Captain and was assigned to an occupational duty in Japan. He stayed in Japan several years until the Korean Conflict escalated. Excerpts from one of his letters explains,

". . .I was in Japan when the Korean War started and have been in the midst of it since last July (1950). God has again and again spared my life in the midst of danger. Since the war's beginning here in Korea, I have seen many men accept Christ. . .Enclosed is a snapshot taken in front of my chapel tent. We seldom stay long at any one place. I have an American soldier as clerk and driver of jeep and two Korean men working with me. Notice in the picture a little tree in front of the tent. This is a twig off of a fig tree one of my Korean men broke off and stuck here, hoping it would grow. Notice in the background there is the outline of a mountain. On the night of April 27 the Chinese came over this mountain and took command of the entire area including where the tent stood, and held the area for weeks until driven back."
- taken from the article, "John Burkhalter : Hero of the Cross in Korea" All Nations Review, Summer 1951, pages 6-7.


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me - Psalm 23:4

John would once again be stationed on the front at the 49th parallel. He served with the 51st Signal Battalion and the 73rd Tank Battalion. Another newspaper documentary on Rev. Burkhalter entitled, "The Slugging Parson," described his ministry the following way : "He holds as many as five services a week, riding by jeep through choking clouds of dust or climbing steep mountains to reach isolated units of the battalion."

It was during one of these excursions in the mountains that a rather humorous and frightening scenario occurred. While returning from a service in a remote mountain range, Rev. Burkhalter rode through a section that had (unbeknownst to him) been taken over by the North Koreans. They laid in wait on both sides of the crooked hillside road, prepared for ambush. Rev. Burkhalter had been promoted to the rank of Major shortly before and was wearing his full uniform and stately hat. And, of course, he was being driven in the Army jeep which was at his disposal. When the North Koreans saw John approaching in this fashion, they mistook him for a General. Since Generals usually ride well in front of their units, they assumed a convoy would be following shortly behind. The Koreans were afraid to shoot "General Burkhalter" and his driver in fear that they would scare off the convoy. So, they let him drive through unmolested and patiently awaited the arrival of the convoy which never came.

While serving near Kumch’on in the summer of 1950, Rev. Burkhalter gained notoriety when a photograph of him honoring the dead was published in Life Magazine. He was the only G.I. mentioned by name in the article. The caption reads, "The retreat ends for some soldiers in a temporary grave near Kumch’on. Shrouded bodies are placed side by side as a chaplain, John G. Burkhalter, reads a service. Twenty one men were buried here."


Source : Life Magazine, page 29.

While serving on the front lines in Korea, Rev. Burkhalter would again be honored for valor with his second Bronze Star. Major Burkhalter would spend thirteen months in Korea.

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