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Robert Mercy, I Hear No Bugles

Robert Mercy talks about his brother Richard Mercy, the psychology of movies and dystopic futures...

READERSVOICE.COM: A big part of the memoir is your friendship with your twin brother Richard, as well as your other friend Richard E. Robertson. I was wondering if they got a chance to read the book and what they thought of it.

ROBERT MERCY: Yes, both have read Bugles and appreciated the honesty of the text. In reviewing the story chapter by chapter each of us learned that certain recalled events happened differently than we remembered.

For example, Robertson’s encounter with the Chinese in the chapter, The Battle for Uijongbu, was different from what I recalled. Robertson was compelled to shoot down a line of a dozen GIs that the Chinese had used as shields as they made their way towards his OP. They had not been “pounced upon as they tried escaping up our slope”, which is how I stated it in the book.

All these years later I discovered his moral dilemma was more complex than I’d imagined. My brother thought the army and former regimental officers wouldn’t like the story because I was too critical of the officer corps—even though he agreed that all the stated events were true.

RV: Does your brother Richard still run the private detective agency and what sort of cases does he take on?

RM: Yes, but recently he’s limited his cases to high profile murders and robberies. He has become the bane of the local Long Island police departments because his experiences allow him to recognize their often illegal and draconian ‘expediency practice,’ which seeks to convict the most immediately available parties—that may not be guilty.

[To be fair, I’m in Australia and have no practical way of investigating these allegations, so I have to say this is the opinion of Mr Mercy –ed.]

Richard still champions the same ideals he held as an MP at seventeen.

RV: When the armistice was signed in 1953 at the end of the Korean War, what did you think the future of communism would be? What do you think of its future in the world now?

RM: I instinctively felt that ‘peace’ was only tentatively paused before hostilities resumed.

Korea was the beginning of a long national trend of fighting wars for objectives other than a sustaining victory, but like a chess game, to maneuver and whittle away at your opponent’s resources until the board is swept clean.

Big Wars have been designed “out of fashion” by the new global power elite of Corporate-America. The forces it will soon field, in lieu of its exhausted National Guard reserves, will be those ‘mean & lean’ mercenaries. Nor will this greatly disturb or trouble the rapidly diminishing Middle class segments of a world that are slipping into financial bankruptcy.

As a student of history and human psychology I suspect, despite periodic illusions of universal tranquility that human conduct will not alter from what it has historically demonstrated. It would take phenomena of Biblical proportion to avert what might occur when resources and tolerance diminish in an over-populated world that’s estimated to be fourteen billion by 2050. There will be no utopian land to escape to.….

RV: There is a lot of good background historical information in the book, about battles going on around you in Korea, and disturbing facts about the numbers of massacred and tortured G.I.s and Korean civilians. Where did you get background information for the book?

RM: In addition to the massacre site I personally came upon in Taejon there were well documented cases recorded in both our Regimental & Divisional daily activities logs for the 24th Infantry division.

I also researched the divisional histories of other UN units, plus the New York Times, The Christian Monitor and numerous other books and periodicals.

I did extensive cross-checking to maintain high accuracy. I suspect the actual number of atrocities might be far greater if all the possible undetected rampages and killings of individual soldiers or small units could be recorded.

For example there are eight thousand American soldiers alone who are still listed as MIA, or missing in action. How did they and the tens of thousands of other missing South Korean, Australian, Turkish troops die?

RV: You talk in your book about your lifelong love of movies. The Korean War is relatively unexplored in the movies, except for MASH maybe, and Gran Torino (A great movie by the way). I was wondering why you thought this was, and if you thought I Hear No Bugles might be turned into a movie?

RM: If I could co-direct and/or advise the filming I’d show, via the thoughts and actions of the protagonist, how films influence young receptive minds and plant seeds that bloom out into unconscious desires for the noblest of fulfillments—a heroic death.

It would also show the anomaly of that time-period when the US military deliberate under-trained its troops so they’d become peaceful “Ambassadors of Good Will” in the countries we had conquered.

That and our cultural ritual of honoring sports contributed to the army’s near total destruction in the opening days of the Korean War. Another component that would give the film a psychological twist was my need to create, in order to fight more effectively, the pseudo guise of my country’s most recently defeated foe —a Samurai sword carrying Japanese officer. It would be a multi-faceted film.

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-copyright Simon Sandall.