Friday December 06, 2013 | 09:14 AM

            Twenty-one year old Army Corporal Bertrand Dutil, of Lewiston, was among those invited with the high ranking government officials and senior officers who attended the initial signing of the Korean War Military Armistice Agreement at Munsan-ni, South Korea, in July 1953. He was invited to witness the ceremony because he speaks French 

Bert Dutil of Lewiston

Bert Dutil

Bert Dutil military ID

            Dutil, 81, is a Lewiston native. His story is included in a tribute to Franco-American veterans of World War I (1914-1918) World War II (1939-1945) and the Korean War (1950-53) currently on exhibit at The Franco-American Collection at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College (USM LAC), in Lewiston.

It was 60 years ago, in 1953, when the fighting in Korea ended but no peace treaty with North Korea was ever signed. It’s called America’s “forgotten war”, although there were, sadly, over 33,000 American combat casualties.        

Dutil, a Franco-American, was invited to witness the signing ceremonies at Munsan-ni in July, 1953, because he speaks French. “There were 28 nations represented at the signing,” he says. “I was asked to be a French interpreter for the representatives from the four or five French speaking countries that sent high ranking officials to participate in the ceremony.”

French is Dutil’s primary language. “My parents and grandparents spoke only French,” he says. At St. Peter’s Parochial School in Lewiston, his classes were mostly in French. Even with his French heritage, he made a point of writing a request to have someone send him a French/English dictionary to use during his role as interpreter at Munsan-ni,

“I wanted to be sure I was using correct French words,” he says.

The large number of high ranking military officers who attended Munsan-ni obviously left a lasting impression on Corporal Dutil. “As an Army Corporal, I found myself frequently saluting very high ranking officers,” he recalls. “There were so many, I could hardly walk three steps between saluting them.”

On Tuesday December 4, 2013, Dutil and other Korean War Veterans were invited to the Maine State House in Augusta where they were presented a book titled “Korea Reborn: A Grateful Nation Honors War Veterans for 60 Years of Growth”. It’s a hardbound, 160-page coffee-table book printed by South Korea, lead by the Ministry of Patriot and Veterans Affairs and the Federation of Korean Industries.

“Korea Reborn”, was published to remember the three-year Korean War’s 60th Commemorative anniversary and is a gift of gratitude from the industries and government of South Korea to the American veterans of the war.

Attending the Hall of Flag ceremonies were Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage and Brigadier General James Campbell, the Adjutant General of the Maine National Guard. Every Korean War Veteran in Maine can receive a copy of the gift book presented at Tuesday’s State House ceremony. There are an estimated 10,000 Korean War Veterans in Maine. Contact the Bureau of Veterans Services in Augusta for more information. http://www.maine.gov/dvem/bvs/

Dutil’s Army Medals from the Korean War are displayed in a medal box in the Collection. James Myall, coordinator of the Collection, provides the names of each medal and the objects in the medal box, all of them earned by Dutil.

Army Medals of the Korean War and military awards received by Bert Dutil:

Bert Dutil medal box

James Myall shows Bert Dutil's Medal Box

First Row top (left to right):  Sharpshooter pin, rifle pin, Combat Infantry Badge, US pin, Drill Instructor E-7 badge.

Second row:  Commendation Medal, Korean Service Medal with Bronze Star, United Nations Korean Medal, National Defense Medal, Korean Medal given by Korea

Third row:  40th Division patch in Korea, 50th anniversary of Korean War pin, name tag written in Korean, Spirit of 76 pin, 76th Division patch while in the Army Reserves.

 More information about the book “Korea Reborn” is found at this site:

http://www.uniondailytimes.com/news/home_top-news/2839512/Book-honors-Korean-War-veterans 

About this Blog

Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.

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