By Bob Kerr, Fort Leavenworth LampJune 24, 2010
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (June 24, 2010) - On June 25, 1950, President Harry S. Truman was at his home in Independence, Mo., when he received a call from Secretary of State Dean Acheson.
"Mr. President, I have some serious news," Acheson said. "The North Koreans have invaded South Korea."
Nearly 60 years later, veterans, politicians, diplomats, service members and family members gathered at the Community of Christ Auditorium June 21, a few blocks from Truman's home, to commemorate the start of the Korean War.
The Korean War veterans appreciation ceremony, hosted by the Harry S. Truman Library, the Truman Library Institute and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, attracted about 400 veterans and families, as well as many well-wishers, including a contingent of Command and General Staff College students and Fort Leavenworth leaders.
Speaking at the event were Truman's grandson Clifton Truman Daniel, South Korean Consul General Chul Huh, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond of Missouri, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and featured speaker Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command.
Daniel, honorary chairman of the Truman Library Institute, said his grandfather told Acheson to request a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
"Convinced that Communist North Korea was backed in its aggression by the Soviet Union, Grandpa quickly returned to Washington and made a series of momentous decisions that would change the course of world history," Daniel said.
"Grandpa would later say that his decision to commit U.S. troops to a United Nations force in Korea was the most difficult of his presidency," he said. "He knew he would be ordering American Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen into deadly combat. He also suspected that his decisive actions could, if not coupled with restraint, lead to the initiation of a third world war and a possible nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. While historians continue to examine and debate the origins of the Korean War, there is no question that today South Korea is a vibrant democracy and an important U.S. ally."
"Korean War veterans, you are our heroes," the South Korean consul general told the assembly, which included CGSC students and liaison officers from his country who are now serving at Fort Leavenworth.
Huh said his country rose from the devastation of the war to become the 10th largest economy in the world today.
"Korea is the first country to go from being an aid recipient to an aid donor," Huh added.
Huh also introduced a video that the government of South Korea produced to thank the United States and the U.N. allies who came to the country's defense in 1950.
Petraeus also praised the Korean War veterans as heroes, saying, "Under the flag of the United Nations and alongside troopers of more than 20 other nations - from Britain and Belgium to Thailand and Turkey - nearly 1.8 million American troopers answered our nation's call to serve."
Petraeus recounted the heroic deeds of Marine Pfc. Richard Nightingale and Army Sgt. Francis Schwartze, both of whom attended the event. He said he was there to honor and thank Nightingale, Schwartze and all Korean War veterans.
"Despite the Korean War's description as 'The Forgotten War,' your service and your sacrifice are far from forgotten," Petraeus said. "You are far from forgotten by the people of the Republic of Korea, a people who today enjoy prosperity and freedoms never dreamed of by their malnourished and impoverished brethren north of the 38th Parallel, and a people who participate in what is now one of the most vibrant, modern economies in the world."
The Truman Library and Museum's special exhibit, "Memories of Korea," continues through Dec. 31. Other special events are planned to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Visit www.trumanlibrary.org for information. The Truman Library and Museum is at 500 W. U.S. Highway 24 in Independence.