Pannam, a village north of the thirty-eighth parallel, had been a typical fishing settlement on Korea’s east coast before the war. By June 1951, only a few solitary, straw-roofed huts standing amid rubble remained to mark where the village had been. Naval shelling and air attacks from the U.N. forces had left the village in ruin. As early as the previous December, the villagers had begun scratching out caves in the red clay hills near the town to escape the barrages. With the war intensifying along the coast, entire families were forced to move into the caves. There they fashioned a crude underground city. Most of the holes could only be dug large enough to shelter five or six people. Thin straw mats, hung at the entrances, served as doors and provided some insulation. A few of the burrows had roof supports to prevent cave-ins from the bombardment, but shells occasionally penetrated the caves and new holes had to be dug. The villagers, mostly women and children, came out of their underground shelters at night to do what farming they could. During the winter, some villagers returned to their ruined homes to dig up hidden caches of rice, potatoes, and vegetables buried for protection against Communist seizures. When South Korean soldiers arrived in the town, they found that some of the villagers suffered from typhus. One village resident, a twenty-four-year-old mother with seven children to feed, was a refugee from further north whose family had tried to reach South Korea but could not make it past Pannam. Her husband decided to leave her and the children in this “safe, out-of-the-way” fishing village while he joined the army. She lived in one of the largest caves in the cliff city, a circular dwelling about ten feet across, and her fingernails were raw and ugly from repeated digging in the clay. She said that most of the time the villagers were too afraid to go outside to wash. One sixty-year-old man refused to come out of his dark and damp cave. The man was ridden with typhus, too sick even to brush away the hundreds of flies that swarmed around him. “I am not afraid of anything any more,” he said softly. “I want to die — I would rather die than live like this.” Pannam served as a stark example of what the war could inflict on Korean civilians, and Americans and their leaders had

a difficult time avoiding such knowledge completely. The story of Pannam had been front-page news in the New York Times.1