Korea War Hero Captain Mamo Habtewold speaks at book-signing event |
Organizers | November 14, 2009
Ato Neamin Zeleke, the lead organizer and publisher, opened the event with a remark that highlighted the importance of preserving the legacy of heroic Ethiopians who served their nation with honor and dignity and who paid the highest price in honor of their nation and people.
The event featured speeches by distinguished guests as well as family members of the late General Demissie Bulto. Among those who spoke were the wife of Maj. Gen. Demissie, W/o Aster Adamu, his brothers Ato Kibebrew Bulto and Ato Berhanu Bulto , and Capt. Mamo Habtewold, an old friend of Gen Demissie and the most decorated Ethiopian war hero during the Korean War.
Capt. Mamo, who was awarded the highest medal of honor by Emperor Haileselassie, a Silver Star from the US Govt., and King Leopold’s Star from the Belgium Govt., and the highest medal from the Korean Govt., spoke about his early days with Gen. Demissie at the Royal Honor Guard Military Academy and at the Korean War.
Woizero Aster’s remarks focused on the hardship military families endured on daily basis and the struggles she faced and overcame in raising a family while her husband was fighting in the war against Somalia in the South and East and later against EPLF forces in Eritrea.
Those who spoke following her praised W/o Aster for preserving her late husband’s war diaries for over twenty years and leading a successful effort to unearth the remains of her late husband and other officers, who were killed by Mengistu loyalists and buried en masse in Eritrea, and place them in a proper burial in Addis Ababa.
Gen. Wubetu Tsegaye, who was imprisoned by Col. Mengistu following the May 89 coup, also spoke about his encounters with Gen. Demissie during one of the major battles in the North. Gen. Wubetu described Gen. Demissie as an officer with an amazing skill as a strategic military thinker and planner in drawing up the most complex and largest military maneuver during the battle to free Barentu that included air born (several thousand that was dropped by a parachute), Heliborn troops (Troops dropped from Helicopter), amphibious landing with the Ethiopian Navy, mechanized and ground troops.
Brig. Gen. Tesfaye Habtemariam, who received the highest medal for his heroic leadership in a daring rescue mission in the Nakfa Mountains, also spoke eloquently about the time when he met Gen. Demissie for the first time when he was sent to Ethiopian Airborne in the 1960s to receive commando training. He singled out Maj. Gen. Merid Nigussie and Gen. Demissie as two general officers who were highly capable army leaders. He said “I see the two of them as very similar, almost as two sides of the same coin. I recall many instances when they would show up at the battlefield and inspect the tiniest detail that one may overlook. They would look at a freshly dug foxhole and would ask the soldier to try to sit and move around in it. Then would ask the soldier ‘how are going to sleep in it, sit in it, relax in it? You may be pinned down here by enemy fire for days,’ they would caution.” Gen. Tesfaye added, “some times the soldiers would leave behind some of the ammunition that we would distribute for the given mission. The amount distributed depended on the nature of the mission but some soldiers would leave some of it behind to lighten their load. I have witnessed these two Generals conduct random checks of the soldiers’ sacks before sending us off to a mission. The two were the most detail oriented leaders who deeply cared about the welfare of their soldiers.”
Gen. Tesfaye also recalled an instance during the much-celebrated victory at Barentu when Gen. Demissie showed up at the frontlines in Algena to encourage the troops. “He was not supposed to expose himself like that. However, he was a kind of leader who believed a general should inspect every movement and encourage his troops even when doing so posed grave dangers to his own life. The soldiers did not expect to see a senior commander at the battlefront and his presence gave us a moral boost.”
Brig. Gen Gezmu, Capt. Getachew Woldemariam, Lt. Ayal-sew Dessie, Ato Asteway Merid, the son of the late Maj. General Merid Negussie , Ato Ayleneh Ejigou, and Ato Samson Demissie also spoke before the Q&A session. Gen. Gezmu said he remembered the late general in particular for his unique effort to improve the welfare of his soldiers and staff. He recalled the general as a man who would try to help alleviate personal problems of officers and soldiers under his command. Capt. Getachew reminisced about his days with Gen. Demissie as a cadet at the Royal Guard Militay Academy. An old friend of the author of the book, Ato Samson, recalled the time some fifteen years back when the author began writing the book. Samson remarked that the book has inspired him to record his own father’s story and held the book as an example of how each of us can contribute to the preservation of the history of our people.
A documentary video directed by Artist Tamagne was also shown followed by a Q&A session with the author. Artist Alemtsehay Wodajo read a poem dedicated to members of the former armed forces who gave the ultimate. Distinguished guests preset include Amb. Imiru Zeleke, Amb. Ayalew Mandefro, former Defense Minister, Ato Mulugeta Lule, senior journalist.
Gen. Demissie served in the Ethiopian army for a total of 38 years, 23 years during Emperor Haileselassie and 15 years during the Dergue regime. He received a total of 17 medals, 15 of which he received from Emperor Hailesellase including first level medal for battlefield heroism for his heroic deeds leading an airborne battalion at the battle of Degehabour during the first Somalia war in 1963.
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