The Devil's Playground is a timely account of what it is like to serve along perhaps the most dangerous and sensitive strip of land in the world. In recent months two bullet-riddled attempted escapes from North to South brought worldwide headlines. And with Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un exchanging threats, the world hopes for a diplomatic solution, but watches with bated breath.
Author Gary L. Bloomfield, a military journalist in what is called “the demilitarized” zone between North and South Korea in the 1970s, combines his personal experience with interviews and historical insights to present a fresh, up-to-date, account of what it is like to serve on perhaps the most contentious strip of land in the world today.
The Devil’s Playground combines history with current events that today have the rest of the world watching, hoping there is no explosion, which could lead to a nuclear war. While world attention is focused on the Koreas, few people understand what is at stake and what happens there every day. Here is the unfiltered answer.
Formed in 1953 after the Korean War ended in a stalemate, the demilitarized zone is anything but. It is in fact one of the most heavily-armed regions in the world--a powder keg just waiting for someone to light the fuse. There have been more than 40,000 truce violations ranging from minor fisticuffs to brutal killings, from moving heavy artillery into the zone to assassination attempts in downtown Seoul since the Armistice Agreement was signed.
The demilitarized zone is also the focus of an intense propaganda war—with thousands of flyers sent across the border each year from both sides. Few people realize that over the years North Korea has trained 100,000 men for guerrilla warfare across the border, and it is unknown how many have already secreted themselves in South Korea. It is the duty of the American and South Korean soldiers there to stop them.
Gary Bloomfield presents here the first unvarnished accounts of the tension and the impact serving on the line can bring. Just one example: Though firefights are rare, US soldiers often hear North Korean soldiers and their laughter and the taunts, but they rarely see their tormentors.
Life along the demilitarized zone is a war of nerves, a game of cat and mouse, though it’s hard to tell who’s chasing whom. Bloomfield covers it all in unsparing detail and offers fascinating previously little-known details.
Life along the demilitarized zone is a war of nerves, a game of cat and mouse, though it’s hard to tell who’s chasing whom. Bloomfield covers it all in unsparing detail and offers fascinating details. Here is Guardpost Ouellette, which some American soldiers call the edge of the world; or Radar Site #4, overlooking the truce village of PanMunJom to the west, a hilltop where the tension is thick 24 hours a day; deadly minefields and miles of razor-sharp concertina wire and the desperate people who try of pass over them. Here also are the trigger-happy, shoot-to-kill sentries along the border on both sides; concrete bunkers with 24-hour guards armed with machine-guns, and spotlights, trip flares and other sensing devices concealed everywhere add to the heavily-fortified barrier against a North Korean attack. And of course the details of the Tree Incident in 1976, which nearly triggered World War III.
The Devil's Playground is a living history with the spit of real life and a vivid look at brinksmanship in its most precarious state.
Gary L. Bloomfield is an award-winning author and photographer who served two tours in Korea as a military journalist. He is the former managing editor of VFW magazine. Sports Illustrated called his book, Duty, Honor, Victory: America’s Athletes in World War II “Riveting and moving."