Dennis Earp was just 20 years old when he was put behind barbed wire in a brutal Communist prisoner-of-war (POW) camp in North Korea.
The young South African Air Force (SAAF) pilot had been shot down while flying for United Nations forces to defend what is now South Korea. The SAAF’s 2 Squadron in the Korean War suffered, proportionally, the highest casualty rate of any of the UN forces with 36 of its members never coming home.
The abuse and privation Earp suffered remained with him for the rest of his life and he became an implacable enemy of Communism. Yet, his sacrifice and those of the other South Africans in Korea helped the South (now the Republic of Korea) avoid Communist conquest … and the country is now one of the most prosperous in the world.
The government in Seoul annually commemorates those who died to help their country and there is even a small ceremony in Pretoria, although with fewer attendees every year.
These men, like Earp, did what they did for the ideal of freedom, not for apartheid, as did South Africans in World War II. With Earp’s passing this week, another of those links with the past was broken. But we should not forget.