WARRIOR BASE, South Korea (March 15, 2013) -- Eighth Army marked the third anniversary of the North Korean attack on the Republic of Korea Navy Ship Cheonan that claimed the lives of 46 ROK Sailors.

Senior ROK-U.S. Alliance leaders attended the ceremony at Eighth Army's command post during Exercise Key Resolve, March 15.

The ceremony was hosted by Eighth Army Commander Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson.

Senior leaders placed white Chrysanthemums at a memorial to honor the ROK Sailors who died defending their nation.

"Almost three years ago, this outrageous and unprovoked attack took place just off the coast of the Republic of Korea," said Johnson, who also serves as the chief of staff for United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea.

"The men we honor today were patriots," said Johnson. "They were performing their duty as a part of this alliance to protect the people of the Republic of Korea."

During a routine naval patrol off South Korea's west coast near the maritime border with North Korea on March 26, 2010, the Cheonan was sunk by an explosion that split the ship in half.

A South Korea-led international investigation that included naval experts from the United States, Canada, Britain, Sweden and Australia determined that the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo fired from a midget submarine.

The attack was followed eight months later by North Korea's unprovoked shelling of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island. The artillery attack killed two ROK marines and two civilians and destroyed numerous homes and businesses on the island.

Almost 450 South Korean and 100 American troops have been killed during North Korean provocations since the Korean War Armistice was signed almost 60 years ago.

North Korea maintains one of the largest standing armies in the world, much of it forward deployed close to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The totalitarian regime also routinely threatens the region with its Weapons of Mass Destruction programs and bellicose rhetoric.

Johnson thanked the U.S. and South Korean troops who are operating out of Eighth Army's mobile command post during Exercise Key Resolve.

During the annual command post exercise, Eighth Army is training to serve as a combined and joint task force capable of commanding multinational corps-level combat formations.

In September 2012, Johnson visited the wreckage of the Cheonan and he talked about the impression it made.

"For those who have actually been to the Cheonan, you can imagine the force that it took to snap that ship in half and the terror that must have been in the minds of the sailors when it occurred," said Johnson. "But knowing that was a possibility, they stood on the deck. They stood their watch. They did their job."

"Since that time, Sailors just like them and Soldiers like the ones in this room have stood in their positions and stood their watch to continue to defend the Republic of Korea from aggression," said Johnson.