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Thursday, July 28, 2016 12:12 am

Anniversary of America’s forgotten war

 

The Korean conflict from 1950-53 is often called “America’s Forgotten War.” For the families of Americans killed or missing there, it is anything but forgotten.

This week (July 27) marks the 63rd anniversary of the end of hostilities in the three-year conflict, which came on the heels of World War II and involved 24 nations, with a cost of 2.2 million casualties. The United States, one of 22 United Nations Allies, lost 54,246 killed and 103,284 wounded. Over 7,000 Americans remain unaccounted for today.

An armistice was signed between the U.S., North Korea and China on July 27, 1953, that ended the hostilities. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Timothy Washington, deputy director of the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee that marked the anniversary in 2013, notes the many effects of the conflict.

“The results have been 60 years of freedom for the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and 60 years of oppression for North Korea,” said Washington in a 2013 interview. “The Republic of Korea has been one of America’s most powerful allies ever since, and has assisted us in many of our efforts, including Vietnam, the post-9/11 era and Afghanistan.”

The war began on June 25, 1950, when North Korean forces attacked the South with an artillery barrage along the 38th parallel, the dividing line between the two sides since World War II. Seoul fell on June 28, and American ground troops entered the conflict three days later.

U.N. forces landed in southeast Korea at Pusan, practically the only area not in North Korean hands. A daring landing against high tides at Inchon on Sept. 15, 1950, helped launch a U.N. offensive on Seoul, and South Korea was liberated days later.

China entered the conflict that year, and a “grinding war” ensued in costly engagements like the Chosin Reservoir, considered by many observers as the most savage battle in modern warfare. Poor weather, including frigid temperatures, also defined the war. Peace talks began in 1951 and were finalized with armistice two years later, though no treaty was ever signed.

“The Korean War is the first time that America drew a line in the sand, literally, to stop Communist aggression,” said Washington. “It began a pivotal period in the Cold War, to stop the Communist threat and protect freedom.”

Tensions still flare frequently between North and South Korea. In 2014, there were over 29,000 American troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula. “The war never really ended, even though the armistice was signed,” remarked Washington.

Some 5.7 million American troops were on active duty during the war. Over 1.8 million were in Korea, and less than 600,000 of them survive today. A total of 131 Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Tom Emery is a freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville. He may be reached at 217-710-8392 or ilcivilwar@yahoo.com.

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