Home > Panmunjom Incident > The Axe murder incident
The scene of the Axe Murder Incident
The axe murder incident, the most brutal event in the history of the Panmunjom’s JSA, occurred on August 18, 1976. It resulted in extremely heightened inter-Korean tension which escalated short of another war.
A tall poplar tree was near the UNC checkpoint 3 and the Bridge of No Return. The tree limited visibility in the direction of checkpoint 4 for the soldiers working at checkpoint 3. So, five South Korean civilian workers were dispatched to trim the tree under the supervison of a UNC guard force.

Suddenly, two North Korean officers and dozens of KPA soldiers appeared demanding that they should stop the trimming. When the workers continued and ignored the request, another group of North Korean guard forces arrived by truck and began attacking the South Korean workers and soldiers by wielding clubs and axes. During the incident, the JSA Company Commander, Captain Arthur Bonifas, and First Platoon Leader, First Lieutenant Mark Barrett, were brutally axed to death by North Koreans.
Immediately after the incident, the United States and the South Korean troops announced the ‘DEFCON 3 ’ alert. The United States dispatched 2 battalions of F-4 and F-111 fighter-bomber to South Korea and sent the aircraft carrier ‘Midway’ to the west sea of South Korea. The Korean Peninsula was again at the brink of another war. This tension only ceased when the North Korean leader Kim Il-sung expressed his regret and sent a letter of apology to the United Nations Command.
After this incident in September 1976, the MDL became a permanent separation between the guard forces of South and North Korea. Afterwards, the United Nations Command carried out the Operation ‘Paul Bunyan’ in order to cut down the tree..

The Axe Murder Incident 1
The Axe Murder Incident 2
A stone monument dedicated to
the soldiers of the Incident.