Bonifas, Arthur George, MAJ

 Photo In Uniform   Service Details
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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Field Artillery
Last Primary MOS
1193-Field Artillery Unit Commander
Last MOS Group
Field Artillery (Officer)
Primary Unit
1975-1976, United Nations Command Security Battalion-Joint Security Area
Service Years
1966 - 1976
Official/Unofficial US Army Certificates
Cold War Certificate

Field Artillery


Two Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
New York
New York
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SP 5 Robert Hermann (Bob) to remember Bonifas, Arthur George, MAJ.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Newburgh, NY
Last Address
Newburgh, NY

Casualty Date
Aug 18, 1976
Hostile, Died
Intentional Homicide
Korea, South
In the Line of Duty
Location of Interment
West Point Cemetery - West Point, New York
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Section 34, Row C, Site 137

 Official Badges 

4th Infantry Division United Nations Command Joint Security Area (Korean)

 Unofficial Badges 

Joint Security Area Panmunjom Artillery Shoulder Cord Manchu Mile (original) Cold War Medal

Cold War Veteran

 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
In the Line of DutyCold War Fallen
  1976, In the Line of Duty
  1976, Cold War Fallen

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Parachutist (Basic)

 Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
  1962, US Military Academy (West Point, NY), B
 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
Army Ranger School2nd Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment197th Infantry Brigade5th Battalion, 16th Artillery
4th Infantry DivisionUnited States Military Academy West Point (Staff-USMA)United Nations Command Security Battalion-Joint Security Area
  1966-1966, Basic Airborne Course (BAC) Airborne School
  1966-1966, Field Artillery Officer Basic Course
  1966-1966, Army Ranger School
  1966-1968, 1193, 2nd Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment
  1966-1968, 1193, 197th Infantry Brigade
  1968-1969, 1193, 5th Battalion, 16th Artillery
  1968-1969, 1193, 4th Infantry Division
  1969-1970, Field Artillery Officers' Advance Course
  1972-1975, 2728, Department of Mathematics, United States Military Academy West Point (Staff-USMA)
  1975-1976, United Nations Command Security Battalion-Joint Security Area
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1968-1968 Vietnam War/Tet Counteroffensive Campaign (1968)
  1968-1968 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase IV Campaign (1968)
  1968-1968 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase V Campaign (1968)
  1968-1969 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase VI Campaign (1968-69)
  1975-1976 Deployment - Korean DMZ Armistice Enforcement
  1976-1976 Cold War Incident - Hatchet Incident (Korea)1
 Colleges Attended 
United States Military Academy
  1962-1966, United States Military Academy
 Other News, Events and Photographs
  Aug 20, 2012, Additional Information
  Jun 29, 2019, More Inforamtion
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

 Arthur G. Bonifas graduated from the USMA class of 1966.  He also served in Vietnam. Camp Bonifas in the Joint Security Area is named in his memory.  The camp was formerly known as Camp Kitty Hawk and Camp Liberty Bell, but was re-named on August 18, 1986.  MAJ Bonifas, along with 1LT Mark T. Barrett, were both killed by North Korean soldiers in what has become known as the Axe Murder Incident.

On Wednesday 18 August 1976 at 1040 hours in the morning, a United Nations Command (UNC) work force of five Korean Service Corps (KSC) personnel accompanied by and UNC security force, including the Joint Security Force (JSF) Commander, Captain (P) Arthur G. Bonifas of Newburgh, New York, First Lieutenant Mark T. Barrett of Columbia, South Carolina, and one Republic of (South) Korean Army (ROKA) officer started to prune a large tree in the vicinity of UNC Check Point #3. 

This tree partially obscured the view between UNC Check Point #3 and UNC Check Point #5. In addition the unpruned tree was also blocking the view of the "Bridge of No Return" from "Freedom House." Shortly after the KSC work force arrived at the tree and began to cut it back, (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) personnel appeared at the work site. For a short time, the KPA security force observed the pruning without apparent concern. 

Suddenly, the KPA security force commander demanded that the JSF commander cease pruning or there would be trouble. Captain Bonifas did not order the operation stopped. Senior Lieutenant Pak Chul of the KPA, seeing that he was losing control, took off his wristwatch, wrapped it in his handkerchief and put it in his pocket. Another North Korean rolled up his sleeves. 

Lieutenant Pak then shouted "MI KUN UL CHU KI GI CHA." Translated, it means, "Kill the U.S. Aggressors."; the UNC security force was attacked by a superior force of 30 KPA guards wielding pick handles, knives, clubs, and axes. Senior Lieutenant Pak jumped on Captain Bonifas from the back forcing him to the ground where Bonifas was beaten to death. 1LT Barrett was also attacked. 

The KPA soldiers used the mattox and axes the tree trimming detail was using prune the tree as weapons. The North Korean attack was broken up when a UNC soldier drove his 2 1/2 ton truck into the fight and over Captain Bonifas to protect him. The UNC Security Force then withdrew but not before two American Army Officers were murdered and, a ROKA officer, three Korean Augmentees to the US Army (KATUSA) and four US enlisted men were wounded.

The following day a Military Armistice Commission (MAC) meeting was held, at which time the senior MAC member, Rear Admiral Mark P. Frudden, delivered a strong protest and demanded assurance from the KPA that this would never happen again. It was also the first time at a MAC meeting that a UNC representative defamed the Communists as "savage".

According to Major Wayne Kirkbride, who wrote a book about the ax murders and the operation to cut down the tree, "for three days that tree stood as a challenge to free men everywhere." A UNC crisis team was formed at Yongsan and Operation Paul Bunyan was developed. Kirkbride pointed out that it was developed to "establish the right of movement in the JSA and to generate sufficient combat power to accomplish the mission."

On the 20th, the bodies of Capt. Bonifas and Lt. Barrett were taken to Kimpo Airport for return to the States. At the airport, a ceremony was held during which Bonifas was promoted posthumously to major, and he and Barrett likewise were awarded Purple Heart and Joint Service Commendation medals.

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