Bob Baker’s ‘Outpost Harry’ documentary screened for veterans
The quest of Rancho Santa Fe businessman Bob Baker to tell the story of a furious eight-day battle fought 57 years ago across the globe from Southern California played out Friday, June 11, on a Mission Valley movie screen.
“Hold At All Costs,” a documentary about the battle for Outpost Harry, a strategic hill now located in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, had its San Diego debut before a rapt audience including some 50 survivors of the long-ago clash.
David Mills, a Korean War veteran and Outpost Harry survivor who is interviewed in the film, saw the completed documentary for the first time and said it was “amazing.”
“I think it grasps the essence of the struggle in order to accomplish a mission which nobody sought but was looked upon as a duty to God and country,” said Mills, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Mills said he wept during the film “for all the guys who didn’t make it home.”
The battle occurred near the end of the war in June 1953, between U.S. and Allied forces, including Greek soldiers, and their adversaries, North Korean and Chinese troops. Each night, thousands of North Koreans and Chinese attacked in waves, sometimes breaking into the Allied trenches and fighting hand-to-hand.
The documentary explains that the Allied troops were ordered to “hold at all cost” because Outpost Harry was situated at the head of a strategic valley that led straight to Seoul, the capital of South Korea, only 60 miles to the south.
Baker, owner of six auto dealerships in San Diego County, said he was uniquely suited to pursue the project both because he had the financial means, and because he is one of the battle’s survivors.
Several years ago, Baker learned of a nationwide association of fellow Outpost Harry survivors, and began attending the group’s meetings. In 2008, Baker contacted fellow Rancho Santa Fe resident and filmmaker Glenn Palmedo-Smith, and commissioned him to make the documentary. Through his charitable foundation, Baker has spent about $1 million on the project.
Palmedo-Smith and Baker said a national premiere of the film is planned for Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. PBS has agreed to show the film, and Palmedo-Smith said other cable networks may also air it.
“I think Glenn has done an outstanding job of bringing together the stories, the hurt, the pain. It tells how veterans harbor this inside,” said Baker, following Friday’s screening at the Ultrastar Cinema at Mission Valley’s Hazard Center.
Baker said he hopes that after watching the film, veterans will feel more comfortable talking about their war experiences with family and friends. It’s also a way of honoring those who served in what some have called “the forgotten war,” which was overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War.
“It’s my appreciation for those who didn’t come home,” Baker said.
The documentary includes interviews with numerous Korean War veterans, including women who served as military nurses during the conflict. Interviewees also included ex-Marine and Fox Network commentator Oliver North, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York, himself a Korean War veteran.
Palmedo-Smith also traveled to South Korea and China to interview veterans from those nations, and recounted in a question-and-answer session after the film that he was nearly arrested while filming in China without a permit. He said he was unable to gain access to North Korea to tell that side of the story, despite repeated attempts.
The film also contains reenactments from the battle for Outpost Harry. Photographs and military gear that Palmedo-Smith collected for the film have been loaned to the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in Balboa Park, which will open an exhibit on the Korean War and the battle of Outpost Harry on Sunday, June 27.
Veterans who attended the screening said the film was both true to its subject, and necessary to educate the public about the Korean War.
“I think it was a good idea. People need to know about this so-called forgotten war,” said F. Walden Storie, of Springborough, Ohio. “They need to know how expensive it is, and I’m not talking about cash money.”
“It just brought back a lot of memories,” said James L. Fields of Ashland, Kentucky. “I hope they understand when we came home it took me two to three days to realize people didn’t want to talk about it. So we just shut up. It was tough.”
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