LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Retired US Air Force Brigadier General Rob Givens is an accomplished combat pilot with knowledge of the Korean Peninsula. Now, he’s warning Americans to pay close attention to the rising tensions in that region because there are major consequences.
“Our mission was to deliver air power up north, if we needed to, to deter them, but if necessary, go attack the North,” explained Givens.
Givens, who now lives in Louisville, spent four years soaring through skies over South Korea. Just off the A-10 pilot’s wing tip, to the north, was the enemy. North Korea was seen as a constant threat. Each time the combat veteran strapped in, his rocket powered flying machine hauled a lethal insurance policy.
“Were you prepared to go and drop live ordnance?” we asked.
“Every single day,” Givens confirmed.
Now retired, Givens watches from the sidelines, undecided on what US leaders should do next. He wonders who will blink first and if that move will trigger an armed conflict.
“Really, this is something that I've tried to talk about it with everybody that I could possibly talk about it,” he explained, “because North Korean does present a real security threat to the United States. But we are at a point now where we as a people, we as a country, have to come together and make a decision on what we intend to do.”
Givens described the debate, “Do we take losses now to buy down the risks, or mitigate the risk, of taking much greater losses later? Or do we accept the risk of much greater losses later to not losing any life now?”
He adds context to how small the room for error is by explaining that the capitols of the north and south are roughly the distance from Louisville to just east of Lexington. Twenty-five million people live in the south's capitol he says, an area about the size of Jefferson County, where residents sleep in the cross-hairs of 11,000 North Korean cannons which are perched 35 miles away.
Givens estimates the city could suffer 20-thousand civilian casualties an hour alone.
“Yes, we are really worried about the North Koreans shelling Seoul,” he said.
Some have argued that the US could end a conflict with the North in "five minutes.” Givens corrects that assumption as misguided logic because reducing the North to smoldering ash with a nuclear warhead is the last thing anyone wants. His years of commanding a fighter wing on the peninsula leaves him to believe a war could be unlike anything the US has seen since World War II with hundreds of thousands of reservists needed for action, world economies suffering, and cyber attacks on the homeland. It's a much different reality of war than Americans have experienced since 9-11.
“Unless you've got a friend or family in the military, you're somewhat distant from the war,” he said, comparing recent conflicts with what he fears could happen. “No one will be distant from this war if we have to go to it.”
Still, he’s willing to get back in the fight if the country calls.
“I would go tomorrow,” Givens insisted, “and I don't say that lightly because I've dropped an awful lot of bombs. I've flown a lot of combat missions and, as difficult as it is to admit, I've killed a lot of people and I swore I really wouldn't do it again. But that's one that, if it was necessary, I'd go tomorrow.”
You can see the full conversation with Retired Brigadier General Rob Givens here.