Korean War Legacy Project

Melesse Tesemma


Melesse Tesemma is the president of the Ethiopian Korean War Veterans’ Association, serving the 142 surviving Ethiopian veterans from the Korean War. He is a retired colonel who fought in Korea shortly after graduating from the Ethiopian military academy in 1951. As a second lieutenant of the Imperial Ethiopian Army, he led a platoon in Korea for fifteen months. Upon return to his country, he led security forces until Haile Selassie left office. After that, he worked for welfare associations until accepting his current position with the Korean War veterans. Although he had never heard of Korea before he left for the war, he now knows far more about Korea and loves its people. He wishes the best for the Korean people.

Video Clips

Children Crying in the Streets

Melesse Tesemma arrived in the first detachment on May 6 of 1951. The city was in ruins. Orphaned children cried in the streets. Poverty reigned. He returned five years ago and was surprised at the progress of modern Korea. Haile Selassie donated $400,000 dollars to Korea during the war. Now he notes that Korea’s and Ethiopia’s roles have reversed economically.

Tags: Busan,Civilians,Depression,Food,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Modern Korea,Physical destruction,Poverty,South Koreans

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Fear and Commitment in Battle

Melesse Tesemma acknowledges feeling afraid as he joined the fighting in the Korean War, but he asserts that soldiers cannot allow fear to interfere with a mission. He arrived in Kumhwa and fought the Chinese on Hill 358. Shrapnel from a mortar shell injured his leg during the fighting. He received Korean, Ethiopian, and United States awards, including the United States bronze star.

Tags: 1952 Battle of Triangle Hill, 10/14-11/25,Geumgang,Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Personal Loss,Pride,Weapons

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Chinese Artillery Barrage

Melesse Tesemma considers the Battle of Triangle Hill Battle his most dangerous experience. His platoon had just arrived at their location and thus had not yet dug many trenches. The Ethiopian soldiers had the high ground, but large numbers of Chinese approached. The Chinese had difficulty climbing in the steep terrain. Still, he lost fellow soldiers, including his dearest friend. Melese Tessema and the other platoon officers spoke English, but soldiers from the lower ranks did not, creating language barriers across groups. At one point his platoon provided machine gun support to Korean forces nearby. After fighting ended, their only hope was to communicate in sign language.

Tags: 1952 Battle of Triangle Hill, 10/14-11/25,Geumgang,Chinese,Communists,Fear,Front lines,Personal Loss,South Koreans

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Testament to the Bravery of Korean Soldiers

Melesse Tesemma attests to the bravery of South Korean soldiers, describing hand-to-hand combat of South Koreans during the Battle of Triangle Hill. Though his memory is sharp, he has not preserved his letters. He wrote many letters, a few to his girlfriend, but more to his mother. As an only child, he knew his mother missed him terribly. His happiest moment during the conflict was returning to Ethiopia in June 1952. Since his return from Korea, he has wished that Ethiopia could learn from the economic successes of South Korea.

Tags: 1952 Battle of Triangle Hill, 10/14-11/25,Geumgang,Impressions of Korea,Letters,Modern Korea,South Koreans,Weapons

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Video Transcript

00:00:00          [Beginning of Recorded Material]

Interviewer:                            Its November 11th 2019 the capital city of Ethiopia which is Addis Ababa. My name is Jongwoo Han. I am the president of Korean War Legacy Foundation. We have about 1,500 interviews of Korean War Veterans from 19 countries now including Ethiopian soldiers. We are doing this to preserve your memory


…first of all because it’s been a long time but at the same time we are doing this to honor your service as a Korean War Veterans from Ethiopia and also we are making this interview into reaching materials so that teachers in the classroom can continue to talk about the war that you fought for that’s why we are doing this and also Korean governments Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs (MPVA)


…you know well right? They commissioned my foundation to conduct this series of interviews from 22 countries so that MPVA will make a special government website for the 70th anniversary of the breakout of the Korean War next year that’s why we are here. I am so impressed with so much kindness and strength of the Ethiopia as well as beautiful country


…lot of resources. So it’s my great honor and pleasure to meet you sir and doing this together. Please introduce yourself what is your name and then spell it for the audience please?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Thank you very much. My name is Melesse Tesemma.

Interviewer:                            Can you spell it?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yes. M E L E


…S S E (Tesemma) T E S E M M A my grandfather name is Debela. Debela, Melesse Tesemma.

Interviewer:                            I see.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            How old are you?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well, presently I am 89 but after two month I will become 90.


Interviewer:                            90 years old man?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. In January 1st I will be 90.

Interviewer:                            Mine too. I am January 1st too. So what is your birth day then?

Melesse Tesemma:                 1st January. In 1931.

Interviewer:                            1931?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. Ethiopian Calendar.

Interviewer:                            Ethiopian calendar?

Melesse Tesemma:                 No, no I mean Gregorian calendar.

Interviewer:                            Gregorian?


Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            It’s western. Got it. You look like a 60 year old man?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Thank you.

Interviewer:                            What is the secret? Do you drink a lot or do you exercise a lot?

Melesse Tesemma:                 I think it’s the result of my wife. My wife is taking care of me very much.

Interviewer:                            Wow. What is her name?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Her name is Tsedal. Assefa, Tsedal. T S E D A L.


… (Assefa) A S S E F A. Tsedal Assefa.

Interviewer:                            Wish i can meet her while i am staying here but, i think you have a very special title here in Ethiopia right? So could you introduce yourself as you are the president? So could you talk about the Korean War Veterans Association in Ethiopia and what do you do there?

Melesse Tesemma:                 When now?


Interviewer:                            Now.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Now I am presently I’m the president of the Ethiopian Korean War Veterans Association. I am the president now am working on that.

Interviewer:                            How many members how many soldiers still survive?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Alive?

Interviewer:                            Yeah alive.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Alive presently they are one hundred forty-two I think.

Interviewer:                            One hundred forty-two?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. Presently alive


…this is for today tomorrow I don’t know may be.

Interviewer:                            You may have another member actually to join you tomorrow so that you can increase the number. So please tell me what do you do what is the job of Ethiopian Korean War Veterans Association and what did you do you are the corner retired corner right? So please tell me about your military career?


Melesse Tesemma:                 My military career? Well when I go to Korea I was fresh graduate from my military academy. I graduated in 1952/April/11. 11 or 12 I don’t know. The next day I dispatched to Korea the next day,


…the next day of my…

Interviewer:                            Next day?

Melesse Tesemma:                 The next day of my graduation yeah.

Interviewer:                            So that was 1951?

Melesse Tesemma:                 1951 yeah. Then I was a platoon leader in the Korean War. After that I return to my unit to my mother unit and I served in many different unit. So I served in Ethiopian Defense Minister Units.


…And after the emperor Haile Selassie left his power and I was patient so after that I have been employed to many civilian organizations. And since I left my job it’s about 30 years. In the whole 30 years


…I have been serving in many welfare organizations. And after that when this association was organized I started serving the Association.

Interviewer:                            When?

Melesse Tesemma:                 That is in 1992 in 92 I think.

Interviewer:                            So you have been president since 1992?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Wow. So what are the works


…that you’ve been doing as a president of Association? What did you do?

Melesse Tesemma:                 In the association? Well actually I can’t say this is only welfare I ask some sort of support from friends such like Koreans mostly, mostly Koreans. So now my result is fruitful


…so the Koreans were helping us in many kinds of service.

Interviewer:                            For example?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Like scholarship? Do they give you scholarship?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Scholarship, allowances such like pension allowances, free hospitalization, at the Korea hospital


…and that’s all. That is what I am doing. You see as you have seen here they build us a nice building here Lotte groups now I think we are going to use this for income generation. So this is very, very, very good help for us.

Interviewer:                            Yeah and today is November 11th right?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            So it’s a veterans day


…what is it?  You have seem to have a special event?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Today is November 11th and we celebrate this day turn towards Busan.

Interviewer:                            Yeah.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Turn towards Busan. Because I think this is the Memorial Day for Busan because Busan is a place where we have been embarked from the ship when it came to Korea. At the same time Busan was


…there was a United Nations cemetery including the Ethiopians who lost their lives at the battlefield. So I think that is the Memorial Day today, today we are celebrating that Memorial Day.

Interviewer:                            That’s great. I came to the right time here to see all these things but were you in the first dispatchment of Ethiopian soldiers to Korea right? So then you must have arrived


…in Busan May 6 of 1951 right?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            So, wow you are in the first dispatchment right?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah first and second. It’s the same.

Interviewer:                            So, tell me about this because you are the only living witness I think, not many who saw Busan in 1951 and you’ve been back to Busan many times right?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Once.

Interviewer:                            Once?

Melesse Tesemma:                 After the War?


Interviewer:                            After the War?

Melesse Tesemma:                 After the War once.

Interviewer:                            When?

Melesse Tesemma:                 It’s about five years ago I think.

Interviewer:                            Okay, so you can give us a good comparison of Busan in 1951 and five years ago Busan tell me please? Describe the detail?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well, when I arrived to Korea in Busan I found Busan in very catastrophic condition


…so people were very, very poor. I can say that very frankly and I hope you, you know? Very poor and the town was already ruined I see many children on the street crying because they lost their families and they were in very, very poor condition.


…That is what I have seen at that time. For the second time when I see Korea…

Interviewer:                            Five years ago?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. It was very surprising to me. Korea to see in that five years ago it is very, very few years to make such a progress I was very much surprised.

Interviewer:                            Why?

Melesse Tesemma:                 I was very much surprise the town is was very modern time and


…very different from what I have seen at the beginning.

Interviewer:                            So please give me your honest opinion of what did you think about the Korea in 1951 very poor right compared to Ethiopia at the time?

Interviewer:                            Well, you know at that time Ethiopia was much better than the Koreans as that time because of that his Majesty our king


…he donated Four Hundred Thousand US dollars for Koreans.

Interviewer:                            Wow.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Before the unit arrives about before we arrived the seven month a head Emperor has donated our Hundred Thousand US dollars.

Interviewers:                           At the time?

Melesse Tesemma:                 At the time yeah.

Interviewer:                            That’s a huge.

Melesse Tesemma:                 So that shows you how Ethiopia very far from Ethiopia at that time.

Interviewer:                            Strong.

Melesse Tesemma:                 So this time it is the reverse I can say.


Interviewer:                            But you know history change you know all the time so you never see you never know what will happen in Ethiopia and we hope that we can work together okay because you helped us 70 years ago you know that’s how we become so strong now. But you are in good position to explain to young students who will listen this interview about


…why Emperor Selassie decided to send his army to Korea why?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well, he has got an experience. Ethiopia was the member League of Nations so at that time when Ethiopia was invaded by Italians his Emperor Haile Selassie presents his grievances to the members


…of the organization they didn’t receive they didn’t accept they ignored his appeal and then we were invaded. So…

Interviewer:                            By Italian?

Melesse Tesemma:                 By the Italians yes. By the Italians You know at that time during the Second World War the situation of Ethiopia and Korean is the same because at that time Korean was also under the colonization of Japan.

Interviewer:                            Exactly.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. Ethiopia also


…under the colonization of Italian.

Interviewer:                            Yes.

Melesse Tesemma:                 So when emperor comes back to Ethiopia in victory now when he was asked by the United Nation to join that, he remembers what happened to him by the League of Nations. So he really accepted they didn’t expect that he will accept it. But Emperor has done it. When he was asked he said


…“we know the situation we tested it so we have to help the people who are under the colony so there for I would send my troops will join the battle we help those who lost their freedom we will fight for freedom of Nations” he said. That’s why that’s the reason.


Interviewer:                            That’s why I am very thankful. Thankful to the Ethiopian soldiers and Ethiopia because it was from 1935 to 1941 that Ethiopia was occupied by the Italy and they understood the situation in Korea so well so I’m very thankful to the Ethiopian soldiers and Emperor’s decision. What is the most important contribution of Ethiopians soldiers are the most


…wonderful accomplishment that Ethiopian solders made during the war compared to others soldiers from other countries?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well, Emperor has warned his unit to do the maximum effort for to liberate Koreans. So very loyal to the Emperor and we paid attention to his


…warning and to his order so that’s why we gave the maximum effort during the battle.

Interviewer:                            And I read books about Ethiopian soldiers and there was no prison of war? How is it possible?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well it’s a matter of the training system.

Interviewer:                            Wow tell me?

Melesse Tesemma:                 The training system. You know we


…why we don’t have any prisoners of war we when we go to the battle field we check each other each individual check each other. So therefore when somebody died or receive casualty they check each other so that is why. We will never leave


…any casualty or dead body behind. That’s the reason.

Interviewer:                            I am amazed because I did interview with a lot of Korean War Veterans from many other countries and there are many, many prison of wars but in Ethiopia there is no single prison of war that’s amazing.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah that is the reason as I told you.

Interviewer:                            I see.

Melesse Tesemma:                 We check each other. So even when we go to the battle


…we check each other we see each other and we count the numbers participants and we came back when we came back also we check each other.

Interviewer:                            That is amazing.

Melesse Tesemma:                 That’s why.

Interviewer:                            So at the time when you arrive in Busan May 6 of 1951 you were second lieutenant?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Second lieutenant yeah fresh graduate. I was second lieutenant.

Interviewer:                            Okay. My Goodness were you afraid


…were you scared?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well off Corse I am human being anybody afraid but the most important is people can afraid and a soldier even can afraid but he has to control himself so that is what everybody is afraid of this. As you know. But we control ourselves what we are doing where we are going when off cores now when we check ourselves we are going to the battle that is the place where you are dying


…so whether you afraid or not you have to accomplish your mission.

Interviewer:                            Right answer. So from Busan where did you go?

Melesse Tesemma:                 From Busan to Gimhawa.

Interviewer:                            Gemhua?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Gimhawa.

Interviewer:                            Directly?

Melesse Tesemma:                 To the west or the east I don’t know Gimhawa.

Interviewer:                            No it is east Gimhua, Gimhua. So you went to Gimhua and tell me what happened what did you there who was the enemy and did you fight


…and give me some story about it?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well, you know after I arrived at the Gimhawa the third day arrived in Gimhawa I was sent for patrol action. So the hill I do remember to the hill “three five eight”

Interviewer:                            “Three Five Eight?”

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah to the hill Three Five Eight so to arrive there we have to cross the water at that time there was


…a stream it was full and then we have to cross we are going on foot I was up to here.

Interviewer:                            The water up to here?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Wow.

Melesse Tesemma:                 So we crossed there and just we arrived to the place we made contact with the enemy.

Interviewer:                            What enemy Chinese or North Koreans?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah the place were occupied firstly…

Interviewer:                            Chinese? North Koreans?

Melesse Tesemma:                 by the North Koreans or Chinese I don’t know


…so we fought and then we took the place we controlled the place and I stayed there for three days so after three days somebody replaced me and I came back to the frontline.

Interviewer:                            How was it difficult? Very scary?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well it was the first day so it was difficult for me.

Interviewer:                            Yeah. Must be.

Melesse Tesemma:                 At that time though the fighting did not take


…many hours so it was only completed within a few about 20 minutes, within 20 minutes time we capture the place. So at that time it was very it was much time for me because it was the first war that I met.

Interviewer:                            Ever?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Ever yeah.

Interviewer:                            Oh my Goodness.

Melesse Tesemma:                 And then during my stay I stayed there for about 15 month


…so during my stay I made many patrol actions so although it took me much time I didn’t feel like the first time because it’s after my experience.

Interviewer:                            Yeah. Were there any dangerous moment that you could have been wounded or killed? Tell me about those details?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yes I received I have injured on my right leg…


Interviewer:                            Where? Okay show me.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Here, it was a shell of mortar, mortar shell. This splinter here is this is.

Interviewer:                            Does it still hurts?

Melesse Tesemma:                 This like this yeah.

Interviewer:                            Does it still hurts?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. The bone did not hurt it was not hurt.

Interviewer:                            Okay.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            So you got what is… The medal?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Oh Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Yes.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah from Korean government and from Ethiopian government and I receive also


…Bronze star.

Interviewer:                            Bronze star?

Melesse Tesemma:                 American bronze star.

Interviewer:                            That’s a very prestige’s medal? Bronze star?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Okay. Where is it?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well I didn’t were now it’s in my home.

Interviewer:                            Oh my goodness you should have brought to me.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yes I have it. I have many medals.

Interviewer:                            Do you have a pictures too? Did you take a lot of pictures during the war?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yes I have you can see it in the museum here.

Interviewer:                            Okay I want to take a picture of those.


Melesse Tesemma:                 You can see it. But not decorated but the decorated picture I have at home and if you want to have it I will send you a copy.

Interviewer:                            Please I need that so that we can publish it in the internet so everybody can see it.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Okay.

Interviewer:                            And I want to use that as a teaching material for Ethiopian history teachers. So any special memory about


…the battle that you had anything you still remember? Scary, very dangerous but very rewarding?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well the very danger one the action I participated in Triangle Hill.

Interviewer:                            Triangle Hill?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Triangle Hill it was very hard battle which I have ever received when I was in Korea


…and that was very, that I do remember what happened.

Interviewer:                            Can you tell me more how was it?

Melesse Tesemma:                 You know in Triangle Hill in my command post my company commander came to my command post because his command post was not good he came to my command post and when we see enemy with binocular immediately we received volley fire you know artillery fire.


Interviewer:                            Artillery fire yes.

Melesse Tesemma:                 The American observer was with us it was about seven o’clock in the afternoon in the evening now at the same time tremendous of enemy’s soldiers was approaching to us so that place was very new for us we didn’t dig much, I mean we didn’t dig good defensive position but anyway we were on high ground


…we can see the enemy approaching it took us many hours to fight. We didn’t lose much…

Interviewer:                            Soldiers?

Melesse Tesemma:                 we didn’t lose many soldiers because we were on the high ground

Interviewer:                            High ground.

Melesse Tesemma:                 We were in the high ground and they were in the low ground they couldn’t climb as they want. So that night I do remember and even I lost


…some of my solders next to me. I was saved at that time that is the most difficult time for me.

Interviewer:                            That’s a very famous battle Iron Triangle,

Melesse Tesemma:                 Oh yeah.

Interviewer:                            Gimhua, Chochiwon, yeah. Yes.

Melesse Tesemma:                 We have participated five bad battles and one of them is Triangle Hill which is the worst one.

Interviewer:                            Yeah. So you were there?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah I was there.

Interviewer:                            Whoa you are the history.


Melesse Tesemma:                 I was there.

Interviewer:                            Wow. Did you still have a kind of memory of those like a flash?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well yeah but yes I remember when I lost my intimate friend there was second lieutenant the same graduate with me I still remember his name is here now.

Interviewer:                            What’s his name?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Moges.

Interviewer:                            What was the most


…difficult thing during your service in Korea was it weather or was it killing or what was the most difficult thing?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Really at the beginning it was the weather at the beginning when we arrived there. But immediately we adopted it immediately. So for the weather but only one thing


…language, the language otherwise everything was good. But language…

Interviewer:                            But Ethiopian soldiers work with the Americans seventh division right?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. Under seventh…

Interviewer:                            So were you able to speak English there?

Melesse Tesemma:                 No.

Interviewer:                            No?

Melesse Tesemma:                 The soldiers does not speak, they don’t speak English but we can speak English we officers.

Interviewer:                            Officers?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Officers yeah. The platoon leaders


…all platoon leaders they speak English.

Interviewer:                            That is good.

Melesse Tesemma:                 That is easier. So we hear what they say and we translate to our soldiers.

Interviewer:                            What about Korean soldiers did you work together with the Korean people or?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Once.

Interviewer:                            Once? Tell me.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Once yeah. You know I gave support to the Korean out post. I, I myself…

Interviewer:                            Yeah.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Was in one out post and the Koreans also next to my left side it was about


…mid-day they were attacked by the enemies and then I was giving support with machine gun and with heavy weapons 51 and 57 and so on, and so on mortars also I was giving them. Then when they finish the war they when the enemy retreat I went to the Koreans rock then we couldn’t speak


…they don’t speak English or Amharic and I also I don’t know either Korean or I speak only Amharic and so we were contacting with sign.

Interviewer:                            Body language.

Melesse Tesemma:                 That was what I have been doing.

Interviewer:                            Did you like Korean soldiers?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Oh very much still, still I am surprised they were brave


…soldiers. I can say that is truly they are very brave soldiers.

Interviewer:                            Like Ethiopian soldiers?

Melesse Tesemma:                 I think even better may be. I saw them even fighting hand-to-hand combat on that day.

Interviewer:                            Were you able to write letter back to your family?

Melesse Tesemma:                 At that time?

Interviewer:                            Yeah.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Oh yes.


Interviewer:                            During the War?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Always yes, yes.

Interviewer:                            What do you write?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well how are you I am all right, I am still all right.

Interviewer:                            I am still in one peace.

Melesse Tesemma:                 I am still alive. That is. Well at that time you know i was not married.

Interviewer:                            You wore married?

Melesse Tesemma:                 I was not married at that time.

Interviewer:                            Okay.

Melesse Tesemma:                 No I was not married…

Interviewer:                            Did you have girl friend?

Melesse Tesemma:                 As I told you I was just fresh graduate.

Interviewer:                            Did you have girl friend?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well off cores


…as a young man yes off cores. But at that time was my mother was alive so am writing always to my mother.

Interviewer:                            And to your girlfriend?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Sometimes.

Interviewer:                            Sometimes?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Dis you still have that letter?

Melesse Tesemma:                 You know I am the only child for my mother so therefore I have to write every time.

Interviewer:                            So your mother must be very hard to live you in Korean War?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.


Interviewer:                            Oh my Goodness. If you have a letter i want to scan those so that we can put it in the website?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well at that time?

Interviewer:                            Yeah.

Melesse Tesemma:                 You know how it’s a very long more sixty seven or sixty eight years.

Interviewer:                            Seventy Years.

Melesse Tesemma:                 How? Who can keep that letter now?

Interviewer:                            You don’t have it?

Melesse Tesemma:                 No.

Interviewer:                            Oh Okay.

Melesse Tesemma:                 I don’t have it.

Interviewer:                            Alright, what was the most rewarding


…moment during your service in Korea? When was you happy or most Yes kind of moment?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well, the most happies day for me when I was in Korea the day I came back to Ethiopia.

Interviewer:                            You are very honest man I like that yeah. When was it? When did you leave Korea?


Melesse Tesemma:                 I went to Korea in March and came back on June or May I think.

Interviewer:                            So 1952 June or May okay. So let me ask this question sir? When you left Korea did you ever imagine that Korea would become like this today?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Never! Never how could I imagine


…how could I because at that time when I came back there was still fighting in Korea so I didn’t expect.

Interviewer:                            But Korea is now 11th largest economy in the world…

Melesse Tesemma:                 11th Yes 11th

Interviewer:                            and most powerful democracy in Asia.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            I mean what did you think about this whole change transformation?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Oh well I wish,


…I wish my country be like Korea because we learned so many things from Korea and even sometimes once your president came here and he told the progress of Korea how Korea became today’s Korea so he gave advice to our leaders at that time. So I myself I


…accept his advice. So we have to work like Koreans.

Interviewer:                            Have you participated in another war like Congo?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yes I have been to Congo also.

Interviewer:                            So you been to Congo…

Melesse Tesemma:                 Nine years after

Interviewer:                            Yeah?

Melesse Tesemma:                 I have been to Congo also. Congo is not actually fighting no there is no fighting this only police work…

Interviewer:                            Action.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah police action.

Interviewer:                            So any other war that Ethiopia involved after the Korean War?


Melesse Tesemma:                 Oh yes still. Because they are as peace keeping the present Ministry of Defense is participating in.

Interviewer:                            Oh yeah In Korea but any other country?

Melesse Tesemma:                 In any other countries in African countries and other countries.

Interviewer:                            But that’s a peacekeeping action.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah as a peacekeeping action.

Interviewer:                            Yeah so but I learned that in Ethiopian school and school text book they don’t talk about the Korean War? Why is that?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well, the present


…young people they don’t know about Korea.

Interviewer:                            Why? Why not why we don’t teach?

Melesse Tesemma:                 The transition you know after the Emperor the…

Interviewer:                            There was communism.

Melesse Tesemma:                 The communist so they don’t want to mention about Korea even they were hunting us the Korean Veterans they were hunting us they don’t like us as that time and they even they sent us without,


…without pension. So because they consider us that the enemy of Communist.

Interviewer:                            Yeah.

Melesse Tesemma:                 That is why. So it was about 17 year’s gap so therefore they young generations they don’t know about the Korea. Now they are starting to know about Koreans.

Interviewer:                            So the book that you are watching now you have is…

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            The Korean War and its Legacy


…and my foundation Korean Legacy Foundation published it in the United States based on American soldier’s interview and since we don’t teach about the Korean War in Ethiopia here we can make something like that Ethiopian textbook about the Korean War using your interview and many other interviews


…and add more things so that we can publish this book. Can we do it?

Melesse Tesemma:                 There is no published books about the Ethiopian soldiers about the Korea War.

Interviewer:                            It is about the lesson plan teachers can use so that they can use it in the classroom it’s not regular book.

Melesse Tesemma:                 No.

Interviewer:                            It’s a lesson plan.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. This is your publish?

Interviewer:                            Yes.

Melesse Tesemma:                 So there is no is there any



Interviewer:                            No not there.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Not there okay.

Interviewer:                            But I wanted to make Ethiopian books for the teachers so that teachers can teach about the war that you fought for and the relationship between Ethiopia and Korea. Did you think we can do that?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yes why not.

Interviewer:                            Why not right?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah why not. Why not.

Interviewer:                            Why not.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Why not, why not.

Interviewer:                            So my foundation wants to work with you if you can help us


…to identify good history teachers here they will work for you and for us and my foundation can invest make up donations and we can publish it here.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah but you know you cannot find much about, about the Korean War because most of the hero soldiers were now died you cannot get the true information may be only very few


…who knows about the Korea War and even they cannot remember now because as they are too old now nobody can remember the detail that’s the problem. But you know if you like I have an old book written by that the Greek person and I will…

Interviewer:                            Give it to me please?

Melesse Tesemma:                 I will give you it is to old most part of pages are torn


…but you can join it and you can read it. After that you can get even in that, in that book there two, one or two places even my action there you can find it.

Interviewer:                            So we can have a lot of history records find.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah many pictures in that book yeah many pictures in that book you can find it.

Interviewer:                            And also Ethiopian soldiers made the orphanage right? The children who lost their parents you made


…orphanage “Bohwawon” right?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Remember? Did you involve that?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Which children you mean?

Interviewer:                            You mean the Korean children during the war?

Melesse Tesemma:                 The Korean children yeah you can… have you seen…?

Interviewer:                            Not yet.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Not yet?

Interviewer:                            Yeah

Melesse Tesemma:                 There are yeah. Even there was one Korean he is still alive.


…That Korean was I was taking care of him and I invited him once he was here and his picture is here. His name is Showtayu something like that I call him “Sentayehu”

Interviewer:                            Sentayehu?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. I have his picture. He was here I invited him here and he joined our celebration here and he went back. No when I have been to Korean last about five six years ago


…I met him there also.

Interviewer:                            That’s the story we need to tell. Any other story battle story that you want to tell me?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Most of the battle I joined is mostly as am second lieutenant and as am platoon leader many times I have been to patrol. So that I do remember several times I have been to patrol action and sometimes I don’t contact enemies and most of the times I contacted enemy


…and I fought most of the time. That is it was tiresome second lieutenant for platoon leaders it was tired some. You go out for patrol action every week at least every week, once every week, once a week at least.

Interviewer:                            That’s very dangerous.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Otherwise twice a week. That is what I do remember. No rain, no snow at any time you can go


…out and you fight.

Interviewer:                            You are lucky to be still alive because that is a very dangerous mission.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Sure I was lucky yeah.

Interviewer:                            Did you know anything about Korea before you left for Korea in 1951? Did you learn anything about Korea?

Melesse Tesemma:                 No. I’ve never heard about Korea before that.

Interviewer:                            You never heard about it?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well you know I heard that I am going to Korea for War


…and only a few days before I left to Korea. Before that I don’t know anything about Korea. Even the name I didn’t hear Korea the name. I know that Asia.

Interviewer:                            He left for Korea day after he graduate from the military academy this is amazing story. So now you know Korea right?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Now I know Korea,


…who is Korea now I know.

Interviewer:                            So what is Korea to you personally? What is Korea to you personally?

Melesse Tesemma:                 For me?

Interviewer:                            Yeah.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Well after that I heard some books also to know about Korea. Korea was a county which faced so many problems, through many problems and by Japanese, by Russian, by


…Chinese and I know. Korea was in the middle of those nations you know. Japan, Russia, China it was in the middle.

Interviewer:                            Yes.

Melesse Tesemma:                 So because of that everybody, every country was…

Interviewer:                            Try to have.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah. That that I came to understand lately when I want to


…know about Korea and I read some books. So Korea is very strong county to face all those problems.

Interviewer:                            Yes. Geopolitically it’s a very difficult location.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Everybody wants to have…

Melesse Tesemma:                 They want to have you know.

Interviewer:                            Yeah. Next year will be 70th anniversary of the breakout of the Korean War next year. So do you have any special message


…to your Korean friends?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Off cores I have I wish the relation between Ethiopia and Korea will continue and I wish all the best to the Korean friends and the country and I wish many Koreans will celebrate this 70th year


…being invited here in Ethiopia including Sentayehu my son.

Interviewer:                            Yeah.

Melesse Tesemma:                 And good place Korea and Ethiopia thank you.

Interviewer:                            Thank you so much sir for your sacrifice and honorable service on behalf of Korean nation I extend my sincere appreciation to you and I hope that I can work with you


…so that we can publish books like that for our teachers okay. Sir that’s the best way to keep your legacy.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Okay.

Interviewer:                            If teachers keep taking about in the class room young generations like him will learn about it okay?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            So you have to help me okay?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yeah.

Interviewer:                            You promise?

Melesse Tesemma:                 Yes.

Interviewer:                            Thank you sir.

Melesse Tesemma:                 Okay.


[End of Recorded Material]