Yolo County Korean War hero returns from historic visit to North Korea

SACRAMENTO - The Yolo County olive farmer and former Congressman who led a record six bayonet charges in North Korea in 1951 met a North Korean general this week who fought in some of the same battles.

Pete McCloskey, 86, returned to the isolated nation with a non-government-sponsored delegation led by former US Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg.

Gregg told reporters the purpose of the visit, which began Monday, was to "build bridges" between North Korea and the United States.

Although McCloskey had been hopeful the delegation could arrange the release of Korean-American Kenneth Bae, held by North Korea since 2012, Gregg told a South Korean lawmaker that the trip was not focused on any specific issue.

McCloskey's wife, Helen, said her husband had a "very moving and historic meeting" with a three-star North Korean general who had fought in some of the same battles as McCloskey's Marine Corps unit, and like McCloskey, had been wounded three times.

"I can't begin to tell you how glad I am to hear this as Pete has long wanted to journey to North Korea, with the element of reconciliation and shared experience," Helen McCloskey wrote in an email.

Helen McCloskey was reluctant to attract attention to the trip prior to her husband's departure from Pyongyang because of the experience of another Korean War veteran, Merrill Newman, who was detained in North Korea for six weeks last year until he offered an apology for his role in the war.

On Friday, McCloskey was on a flight home from Seoul, South Korea and was expected to return to the Bay Area in the afternoon.

McCloskey represented parts of the Bay Area in Congress from 1967 to 1983 and ran against President Richard Nixon in the 1972 primary on an anti-war platform.

He and his wife now grow olives in the Capay Valley and McCloskey is leading an effort to erect a Korean War veterans memorial overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.


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