Recollections of Jan Dillen

Jan Dillen was a Captain-Commandant and platoon commander in the Belgian contingent between 1953-5.

"My motivations for volunteering for Korea was paying back the USA for having liberated Belgium in WWII and, of course, to fight for freedom. The most popular motives however was adventure, following a career in the army or wanting to fight for peace

We were attached to the 29th English Brigade, and then to the 3rd US Division. We had an excellent relation with the Americans and the British.

The Korean people had the most painful lives I ever saw - they had nothing! No food, no clothes. Their land was destroyed - every house was hit by the war and every family had several deaths. In the Belgian battalion we had 70 Korean soldiers under our command - very good soldiers, courageous and disciplined. I had three of them in my platoon - the best.

The difference between Flemish and Walloon in the battalion didn't exist - we were one battalion united. I was Flemish but was platoon commander in a Walloon company. The only thing was that after a year I spoke French as good as my Dutch!

After the armistice we were in line at Chorwon on the demarcation line. Everything was the same as during the war, only there was no shooting any more.

The Belgians (who were all volunteers) were not much appreciated, even now - many of them considered us as mercenaries and adventurers. I never went back to Korea but my grandson has visited Seoul last year on invitation of the Korean government’s "Peace Camp”. Every country which participated in the war could send 3 students."

Jan Dillen

Jan Dillen is the author of an excellent website on the Belgians in Korea