Monday is an anniversary that isn’t on the lips of most Americans. It’s always been that way. That’s why we are writing this reminder.
June 25, 1950, North Korean communist troops invaded South Korea. America, as part of the United Nations, responded by sending troops to help the few unprepared soldiers we had there. Thus began the Korean War, which continued until the cease fire agreement July 25, 1953. We still have thousands of troops there.
As with any war that America has been involved in, lives were not only interrupted but changed forever. We still had a draft and men were called to duty. Many World War II veterans who remained in the reserve were notified to report for duty. Military installations that had been closed, or used in a limited manner, since WWII once again became active.
America didn’t go out in the war effort as it did during WWII. Americans were still getting over the Big War. Many Americans were not in the mood for another war, and they ignored what was going on in their country and in Korea. They had had enough of war and had tossed it out of their minds. One war in a lifetime was enough!
Once the shooting stopped in Korea, not much was heard about that war. There were a few movies about the fighting. One of the most realistic was the one about Pork Chop Hill. Then along came the television series M.A.S.H. That series was a hit. One of the best things about it was it told the story of the part helicopters played in saving lives of soldiers who had been wounded. It was the first time on a large scale that helicopters were used in this manner. Critics, including combat veterans, say the series didn’t do a good job of showing how savage the fighting really was.
Just recently in one of the major bookstores in St. Louis County in the military history section, we looked for books on the Korean War. We found one. Maybe there were others, but we could find only one. We know more books were written about the Korean War and we surmise there isn’t much interest in it and that’s why more books aren’t on the store shelves, which were overloaded with books about WWII. We understand that because it was the Big War.
Like any war, there are many untold stories. One is about as the war continued and the South Korean army became better trained, it still was a new army with few experienced officers, most of whom were trained in the United States. It was difficult to coordinate actions with the South Koreans or ROK forces. Communication was not good. Their officers had a hard time making a decision. We had military advisers with most South Korean units and that helped. Infantry companies had South Koreans attached to them, but in the last year of the war, some of the South Korean troops had been through so much that they were listless, suffered from battle fatigue and weren’t much help.
One of the best books on the war was published by the Associated Press in 1993. The many photos of the war in the book really tell the story of the fighting. It reported that a total of 22 countries were involved in the war, which “left Korea a ravaged, smoking ruin that stank of death.” More than 4 million men, women and children were killed, wounded or otherwise incapacitated in the war — including nearly 2 million civilians in North and South Korea.
This so-called police action left 54,246 Americans dead, including 33,629 in combat and 20,617 killed from accident or illness. There were 103,284 Americans wounded. Some of these Associated Press statistics were reduced somewhat in later years by our government. We don’t know who has the correct numbers.
In the final two years of the war, after truce talks began, the U.S. suffered 63,200 casualties, including 12,300 killed on the battlefield. The total number of United Nations forces killed, wounded or missing was 996,937. The total in those three categories for North Korea was 1.4 million, which included 401,401 Chinese killed. There were Russian advisers to the North Korean forces but ther losses were minor.
The North Koreans could not have fought as long as they did without arms and supples from China and Russia. Toward the end of the shooting in 1953, the communist forces could only sustain an attack for six or seven days. Most of their attacks lasted only a couple of days. They didn’t have a supply line to sustain long attacks.
Who won the war? The fact that South Korea was saved from communism was a victory. Look at South Korea today and one sees a modern country, free people with opportunities, a booming economy. To say there was no winner is incorrect, and indicates a lack of knowledge of the facts. The price was high. Freedom comes at a cost!