THIS THING OF OURS-ADOPTION

THE KOREAN WAR BABY

My name is Don Gordon BELL and I am one of the earliest of the first generation of KAD's (Korean ADoptees). The Korean War had been settled by Armistice three years before I left war-torn Seoul, Korea, on May 21, 1956. It was the first plane of twelve 'war babies' processed thru the Harry Holt Adoption Program. Read more of MY STORY on My Pages.
I grew up in a typical middle-class family of English-Scottish roots in greater Los Angeles, Ca, USA. Memories faded, Korean language was 'lost' and I did not know anything about the country of my birth until I met Korean Marines in Vietnam while serving with the US Marines. It was my first exposure to real Korean people. I was not completely aware of how prejudiced most Koreans thought towards a Half-Breed like me. I learned what "Tuigi" meant, a Korean word for a "Child of a Foreign devil". Oh, wonderful.


All my life I always had to answer the question: "What ARE you?" and I simply would tell 'my story'. It was not a big deal for me, for my Adoptive Parents had taught me that being an American meant that WE were from many countries. I never 'wished to be White' and just learned to stand up for my own identity. MY Identity was as an American, with mixed heritage. I did not know what being "Korean" meant but often wondered about my roots, and what my birth father's ethnicity. Mexican, Native Americans, and Spanish people would tell me that I had their 'genes' for sure. Little did I know they were right!

After college, I traveled to Manila and for ten years I lived in the Philippines. I was excepted as a 'mestizo' and fit into the former Spanish colony. I was a B-movie Character Actor,
working on international and local films, enjoying a 'crazy and wild' abandonment. Then a life changing experience gave me faith in a personal Higher Being. After walking away from the film business, I lived back in the USA, not sure of my direction in life finding work in construction, finish carpentry, door hanging, and many other jobs I'd like to forget.

In 1991, at 38, I attended a Holt Heritage Camp that was a great experience and really began my own journey of Adoption Identity search. I had never thought much of my Korean culture, though I always felt proud of being "HALF-Korean" and "half-Something".

In 1994 I came back to Seoul, Korea, with my church Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and was invited to stay with a church in East Seoul, for one year. I have lived here since late 1995- re-discovering my "Korean-ness", teaching English and telling my Adoption Story to thousands of Korean students of all ages, helping their understanding of Korean Adoptees. It is one of the issues that Korea is now facing, even for its own secretly adopted children, those who were adopted IN-Country by Koreans who desired a family but due to problems with Infertility secretly adopt.

I was a charter member in 1997 (first dozen members) of GOA'L (Global Overseas Adoptees' Link, founded by Ami Nafzger) and continue to be involved with the complex issues of This Thing of Ours-Adoption. Thousands of KADs have visited Korea over the years, searching for their culture and Some search for birth family. Seventy-five thousand have come, yet only 2,400 plus have found Reunion with Birth family, often with varying results. There are many complexities, many don't want to search concerned about offending their Adoptive Families. Each KAD must decide what they want to do, when to do it, etc.


At 61, I am still 'working thru' my Adoption Identity. Each of YOU need to 'work through' your own understanding and hopefully find forgiveness and healing. Read many different accounts and compare before coming to conclusions. I hope that you will learn what IS happening NOW, in the land of your birth, the Rep. of Korea (South Korea). (See Report Links).

Times are changing, the reasons for 'relinquishment for adoption' have shifted, but there continues to be a need for a multi-tiered approach and understanding of Adoption issues. Slowly, attitudes of Korean society ARE changing for the better. But, the majority continue to feel embarrassment and shame. Thus, Adoption is still shrouded in secrecy even for those who are adopted In-country. There ARE positive signs and movements of NGO's and KAD groups are advocating for the Unwed Mothers. However, two-thirds of pregnant women each year, continue to give up their babies for adoption. One out of four are sent overseas, YET three are secretly adopted in-country. The Myth that "Koreans don't adopt" is false, but they need to open up and hopefully change their shame to pride.


This blog is for EVERYONE, whether you are an Adoptee, Adoptive Family, Birth Family or involved in Adoption in ANY way as a professional, social worker, official, etc, from Korea or the world. We examine the complex issues and personal journeys that we, domestic and overseas adoptees, have to face and sort out in This Thing of Ours-Adoption. (Use the Ligit Search function (Left Column) to check for Posts on various topics, TransRacial, TranCultural, MultiCultural families, Domestic, Civil Code Law Adoptions, InterCountry Adoption, etc.)
I personally have come to a compromised, nuanced position on this thing of ours-adoption. I advocate a Multi-tiered Plan that tries to be balanced, realistic, fair to all.

UPDATE: Living in the Philippines since 2010, at first teaching students from several countries as an Online Tutor, based in Makati, Metro Manila. I was working on a Digital Library for Online Tutoring or ELearning; developing an agritourism farm; and Overseas Retirement Care for foreigners needing 24/7 health care.

Then some 18 months ago, in July of 2012 I met with Andrew Leavold, a crazy film obsessed Aussie who helped "pull me back into film making".

WHEW! Lot on my plate. I have also been learning much about the Filipino society's very different viewpoints on unwed motherhood and adoption.

Latest: As of Sept. 2012, I worked on an Indie Film, "Baybayin, the Palawan Script", directed by Auraeus Solito, and international award winning Filipino director. I had a role in the film and explored my hobby as a STILLS Photographer. Currently I have quit all teaching, co-writing on an international film that will be done in 3D and CGI effects. I am back in the film-making business and I love it.

Adoption Discourse needs to hear YOUR VOICE. Every opinion, even opposing viewpoints will be posted and interaction invited by email and Comments have been activated again with spam filters!)
. Welcome, come learn, and share your thoughts.


September 11, 2009

Smell of Victory


Napalm, the Smell of Victory


March 1976, Laguna de Bay, Philippines


On the set of Apocalypse Now, starring Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall, I had just received the ‘casting call’ for the next week’s shoot. We had only a simple idea of the plot at this time. We had just finished the ‘village one sequence’ where Capt. Willard and the PBR crew meet with the eccentric CO of the 1st Air Cav, Airmobile Division, Lt. Col. Kilgore played by Robert Duval. We shot ‘village one’ on the shore of the largest fresh water body, Laguna de Bay, southeast of Manila in March-April of 1976.



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The night party scene was being filmed that night, real beer, vintage coke bottles, and steaks, hotdogs, hamburgers, etc. were being consumed with pleasure by cast, crew, and background artists. Rumor had it that marijuana smoke was mingling with the scents of a great all American cook out.




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Apocalypse Now (1979) - Robert Duvall as Lt.Col Kilgore; with Francis Ford Coppola.



After three months of shooting I was the Set PA (Main Production Assistant) for all extras at this time, working directly with 2nd A.D. Larry Franco, under 1st A.D. Jerry Ziesmer. I knew Mr. Duvall and other main cast members as one of my daily tasks was to inform them when they were needed on set. I called him “Colonel” which he enjoyed as he ‘got into character’. The Colonel was joking with his ‘troops’ which he often did between breaks, asking where they came from, and so on, when one extra asked what happened next in the movie. (At this time few of us understood the plot, knowing only that it was loosely based on “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad).



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‘Col. Duvall’ gave us a brief outline of the next sequence of attacking the second village (filmed later at Quezon Province on the east coast) at the mouth of the river (i.e. Mekong). This would lead up the PBR and Capt. Willard to the Cambodian border and beyond. The PBR would be dropped by helicopter into the lagoon after the village is ‘suppressed’. Col. Kilgore is interested in the surfing champion ‘Lance’ and wants his two surfers to join Lance in surfing the point. It is during the high point of the attack that heavy mortar fire from the tree line causes even Capt. Willard to question the safety of surfing while under fire. Col. Kilgore then stands up and says that he’ll make the beach safe to surf and calls for a napalm strike to clear the tree line.


I remembered an incident during the Vietnam war, making a very memorable quote, just after we had done a bomb damage assessment on a hill. It had been targeted because a Viet Cong rocket company had been located in a hill complex honeycombed with tunnels. We circled high above in the command CH46 helicopter, waiting until two Daisy-Cutters, 15,000 lbs. each, were dropped within 15 minutes of each other from C-130 Hercules, with delayed charges that penetrated the hill before exploding. Finally napalm was dropped from F-4 Phantoms, ‘fast movers’, as a sort of “coup de grace”.



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Our teams landed after the napalm had burned out and actually found a few enemy survivors stumbling out of tunnels on the hill and from escape tunnels nearby. The hill had collapsed in places and most of the dead we did find were only burned slightly. They died of suffocation because napalm sucks up all the oxygen. The lingering smell of gasoline, hung in the air, thus leading one Staff Sergeant to nod his head and say “Ah, napalm, the smell of victory”.


I thought of his noteworthy quote and interjected “Ah, napalm, the smell of victory”. Duvall looked at me, with intrigue and asked why I said that. I told him about this anecdote and he told me that he loved it and would talk to the director, Coppola about using it. Of course he did slight artistic changes but in essence keep the quote intact.


Here is the dialog after the napalm strike hits the treeline and the mortars are silenced.



Col. Kilgore


“Smell that? You smell that!? Napalm, son.

Nothing else in the world smells like that…

I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

You know one time we had a hill bombed, for 2 hours.

When it was all over I walked up.

We didn’t find one of them, not one stinking ‘dink’ body.

The smell, you know that gasoline smell.

The whole hill, smelled like…

Victory…Someday this war’s gonna end…”



Yes, and one day I knew the film would ‘wrap up’ for me. I was already cast for a supporting role in Sid Furie’s “Boys of Company C” and I would be working under Ken Metcalfe and his wife Marie. Life would go on, but the best years of my life was working on this film epic, THE classic war movie of the Vietnam conflict. The next nine years were to be full of highs and lows, but “what a way to make a living”!!






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