Kunsan civilian re-connects with Korean War savior
By Airman 1st Class Andrew Svoboda, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 30, 2002
KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFPN) -- A civilian employee here recently re-established ties with the man who saved his life and the Air Force unit that adopted him during the Korean War.
Yong Ku "Mike" Yi, an employee at the base skills center, received an honorary induction into his savior's unit, the 6147th Tactical Control Group's Mosquito Association recently.
The events that led up to the induction are filled with many of the ideals held in high regard to servicemembers throughout history: courage, willingness to help others and camaraderie.
The ability to have Koreans and Americans who met during the war re-connect, if only through a telephone conversation, is a rare event, said Kalani O'Sullivan, the man who helped Yi contact 6146th TCG veteran Ellis Forgy. When successful, the event is extremely emotional, added Sullivan, a retired Air Force captain now living in Kunsan City who studies the history of units involved in the Korean War. Through this research, he tries to make the reunion of long lost friends from the war possible.
According to O'Sullivan, Yi was orphaned at age 7 when North Koreans killed his parents. In December 1950, he was found half-frozen in the snow near Kimbo by three young airmen, one of whom was Forgy, the man Yi would contact again nearly 50 years later.
The airmen took Yi back to 6146th Tactical Control Squadron at Taegu. There Yi was "adopted" by troops in the unit who named him Bobby and brought him gifts after mid-tour visits to the United States.
After the unit relocated, Battery B of the 76th Anti-Aircraft Artillery took Yi with them. Around June 1951, the unit moved here and Yi moved with them. He lived with the unit at the south end of base, said O'Sullivan.
By 1955, illness caused Yi to transfer to an orphanage on Cheju Island. In 1957, he secured a job at the base hobby shop in the photo section, while simultaneously attending school. He worked there until joining the Korean army in 1958.
After serving four years, Yi returned to his job at the base hobby shop.
The reunion of Yi and his benefactor began when a former worker here contacted O'Sullivan to help him find a friend who had worked at the skills center in 1978.
O'Sullivan visited the base's skills center and found Yi still behind the counter. O'Sullivan then offered his services to search for Yi's benefactor using his contacts with veteran groups.
"The key element came from Mike," said O'Sullivan. "By remembering 6164 [the unit] and T-6 [the aircraft, nicknamed the Mosquito], I put together that it was a tactical control unit and knew where to look."
When Yi and Forgy reunited, emotions on both sides of the Pacific were running high -- their telephone conversation was the first time the two had spoken in more than 50 years, said O'Sullivan.
"For every success like this one, we have many more disappointments," he said. "Older people pass away or cannot be found, and we must deliver bad news. Just one event like this makes it all worth while."
Yi celebrated his induction with a dinner amongst close friends and family including his wife and five daughters,
Good fortune smiled upon Yi, who could not be more deserving, according to friends.
"He's a virtuous man, and was born good," said Pyong Sok Yang, the former skills center manager who worked with Yi for more than 30 years.
"A longstanding part of the Kunsan family, he always smiles and waves," said Donald Montgomery, current club manager.
A grateful Yi is thankful for his personal benefactor, and the benefactor of his people.
"I want to thank the U.S., who helped bring spiritual life back to our country and helped save and enrich Korea," he said.