Korean War armistice recalled
August 6, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Resplendent in the Marine uniform of his youth, John Cole snapped a salute July 27 as he and thousands of his fellow Korean War veterans and their families gathered at the Korean War memorial in Washington to mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended what has been called "the forgotten war."
"My feelings are out here with all the veterans," said Cole, who lives in Roy, Utah. "I lost a lot of friends over there."
Cole, 86, a survivor of the Chosin Reservoir, a 17-day battle fought in sub-freezing temperatures between Nov. 27 and Dec. 13, 1950, was a corporal when he served in Korea six decades ago.
"When we came out of there, my particular company had over 260 men, when we got to Hagaru [an airfield and supply location] there were eight men who were still combat effective. The rest of them were out of action with frozen feet, frozen hands, frozen everything," said Cole.
More than 36,000 Americans were killed in the Korean War, which was fought from 1950 to 1953, and there are roughly 7,900 American servicemen who remain listed as missing in action as a result of that conflict, which ended on July 27, 1953.
After laying a wreath at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, President Barack Obama paid tribute to the veterans of the Korean War, telling them they were not forgotten.
"On this 60th anniversary, perhaps the highest tribute we can offer our veterans of Korea is to do what should have been done the day you came home," Obama told the crowd of approximately 5,000. "In our hurried lives, let us pause. Let us listen. Let these veterans carry us back to the days of their youth, and let us be awed by their shining deeds."
Obama was joined in the wreath laying ceremony by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
"The veterans we honor today were the young we sent to the mud of Korea with very little notice," Shinseki said. "The lessons are many, as are the arguments about how they should have been better prepared and equipped to fight that expeditionary mission. What is unarguable, however, is the heroism with which these veterans performed their missions."
Hagel said Korean War veterans stepped forward at a defining moment in the nation's history.
"America's armed forces liberated millions of people from tyranny," he said. "We stood with our fellow citizens of the world, even though they lived on the other side of the world. And we did it not alone. We forged a lasting partnership with the Republic of Korea."
Special Envoy from the Republic of Korea Kim Jung Hun also lauded the partnership between his country and the United States in his remarks.
"The Korean people will never forget the sacrifices of the Korean War veterans," he said.
The president said that the Korean War taught the nation valuable lessons about military preparedness.
"After the Second World War, a rapid drawdown left our troops under-equipped, so that in the early days of Korea, their rockets literally bounced off enemy tanks," said Obama. "Today, as we end a decade of war and reorient our forces for the future, as we make hard choices at home, our allies and adversaries must know the United States of America will maintain the strongest military the world has ever known, bar none, always. That is what we do."
Korea also reminds the nation of its obligation to its fallen and their families, long after the guns of war are silent, said Obama.
"To this day, 7,910 Americans are still missing from the Korean War," he continued. "And we will not stop working until we give these families a full accounting of their loved ones."
Obama also strongly disputed that the Korean War ended in a tie, with South Korea on one side of the Demilitarized Zone and North Korea on the other.
"We can say with confidence that the war was no tie," he said. "Korea was a victory. When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom, a vibrant democracy, one of the world's most dynamic economies, in stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North, that's a victory, that's your legacy."