DAEJEON, South Korea -- This year marks the 71st anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
During the war, 19,300 Korean railroad workers were deployed to transport war supplies to the fighting lines, making an enormous contribution with 287 of them making the ultimate sacrifice. After soldiers and police officers, railroad workers made up the third largest number of casualties, according to information from KORAIL, the Korea Railroad Corporation.
To honor the memory of those railroad workers and engineers, Daejeon City’s Dong-gu district held a ceremony to mark the 71st anniversary of the Korean War Veteran KORAIL Engineers at the district office’s Wind Garden July 15.
Brig. Gen. Michael Roache, Eighth Army deputy commanding general – sustainment, and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb, Eighth Army senior enlisted advisor, represented the Eighth Army team. They joined railroad company representatives, veterans, family members and city officials for the ceremony, which was held with COVID-19 measures in place. Also in attendance were family members of the honored engineers.
Roache also served as one of the guest speakers for the memorial ceremony.
“It is my great privilege to pay tribute to the Korean railroad workers for their valor demonstrated in support of military operations, an effort that ensured freedom to this day,” Roache said. “They fought for freedom to build a great alliance, an alliance that remains ironclad today.”
The KORAIL workers hold a special place in the heart of Eighth Army, not only for their role in the war effort, but also for three engineers who volunteered for a rescue mission that occurred July 19, 1950.
Maj. Gen. William Dean became trapped following the Battle of Daejeon after North Korean forces overwhelmed his 24th Infantry Division. Three Korean train engineers; Kim Jae-Hyun, Hwang Nam-ho and Hyun Jae-young; helped guide a train carrying 33 Special Forces Soldiers through enemy territory to rescue Dean.
Unfortunately, the mission ended in failure with 32 out of the 33 U.S Soldiers killed in action and Dean being captured by enemy forces. Hwang and Hyun were among the few survivors of the rescue mission, which nevertheless made it to Daejeon on the bullet-riddled train. Dean would remain a prisoner of war until the end of the conflict.
For their efforts, the three Korean railroad engineers were posthumously awarded the U.S. Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service by the Pentagon in 2012 and 2015. They have been collectively honored as Korean War Hero of the Month by the Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs in past years.
“Commemorating the 71st anniversary of the Korean War, we honor the legacy of hundreds of thousands of rail workers, American and Korean servicemembers, whose sacrifice and dedication seven decades ago, held the line on democratic principles we cherish and created the Republic of Korea as a peaceful and prosperous country today,” said Roache.
To this day, KORAIL maintains a headquarters in the city of Daejeon, which has a population of 1.45 million and sits about 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of Seoul. The company operates the main metro train service in Seoul where it transports 2.74 million people per day, according to the company website.