SEOUL, South Korea -- A U.S. army soldier, wounded in a gunbattle with North Korean guards chasing a Soviet defector, was awarded the Purple Heart Sunday and said the North Koreans lied about how the firefight erupted.
'What the North Koreans said happened is way off,' Pvt. Michael Allen Burgoyne, 20, of De Witt, Mich., said of the battle Friday at the truce village of Panmunjom.
'Right now, I don't feel very good about the KPA (North Korean Peoples' Army),' said Burgoyne, who made the comment after receiving the order of the Purple Heart for his gallantry shown during the firefight at Panmunjom, 35 miles north of Seoul.
The soldier received the medal from U.S. Army Gen. William J. Livsey, commander of the American-led United Nations Command, at the 121st U.S. Evacuation Hospital in Seoul where he was recuperating from a gunshot wound in his jaw.
Burgoyne was listed in good condition and medical officials said he should be released from the hospital in about a week.
The 10-minute firefight, described by the United Nations Command as 'the most serious violation in the Joint Security Area (Panmunjom) in the history of the Korean armistice agreement,' left three or four people dead and two wounded on both sides.
The UNC said the 427th meeting of the Korean Military Armistice Commission would be held at the truce village Monday to discuss the incident.
North Korea claimed the Soviet, a member of a military secretaries tour group at Panmunjom, was forcibly taken away by UNC guards after he inadvertently crossed the borderline that bisects the oval-shaped truce village.
The UNC said the Soviet, identified as Vasiliy Yakovlevich Matuzok, defected 'voluntarily and of his own volition.'
It said about 30 North Korean soldiers, firing pistols and automatic rifles, ran across the border to stop the fleeing Soviet, touching off a firefight with South Korean and American guards on duty.
A South Korean soldier was killed. The UNC counted two North Koreans killed and up to five others wounded, but Pyongyang military officials admitted to three killed and one seriously wounded.
'I am a very, very lucky guy,' Burgoyne said. He said the single round that struck him in the neck 'was like getting slugged in the jaw until I saw the blood.'
Burgoyne said he was only 10 feet away from the South Korean soldier shot to death, describing the guard as 'a good friend of mine.'
Burgoyne said he was escorting a South Korean work party near the scene when he saw the Soviet defector racing across the border with communist guards in pursuit.
'I heard yelling and saw the KPA running and pulling weapons as they came across the MDL (Military Demarcation Line),' Burgoyne recalled.
After getting the South Korean workers to safety inside a UNC checkpoint, Burgoyne said he and the South Korean soldier took up positions near a helipad overlooking a lake in the UNC sector toward which communist guards had chased the Soviet defector.
'I opened fire at about 15 KPA and they all stopped and started firing at me,' Burgoyne said.
Burgoyne said a regular 'hailstorm' of rounds landed all around him, pinning him down. It was apparently at this time that the South Korean soldier was fatally shot, he said.