Today marks the 64th anniversary of the start of the Korean War: June 25, 1950.
On that day, the army of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea attacked south and initially routed the army of the Republic of Korea. The Korean War was the first conflagration between the expansion of communism against western democracy. It began a series of proxy engagements between the Soviet Union and the free world. Korea was a far and distant place, and the United States had pretty much demobilized its military forces, while at the same time the Soviet Union was doing the exact opposite.
The initial American forces deployed to Korea, but Task Force Smith was ill equipped and was overrun by the North Korean army. American and South Korean forces were pushed back into what became known as the Pusan Perimeter.
It was there courage and heroism shined brightly. And with the holding of the perimeter, came a brilliant operational maneuver, the Inchon Landing. American forces were able to land behind the enemy and cut them off. Seoul was retaken. Allied forces then pushed deeper into North Korea and Pyongyang fell. But as the American forces pushed further north toward the Yalu river, the Chinese Army became committed and resolute.
Once again American heroism came through at a place called the Chosin Reservoir where U.S. Marine Corps General Oliver P. Smith famously stated, “Retreat? Hell, we’re just attacking in another direction.” And Marine Corps legend Lewis “Chesty” Puller stated, “Don’t forget you’re First Marines! Not all the Communists in hell can overrun you!”
The Chinese pushed the allied forces back and the combating forces fought back and forth along the hilltops of the country. In the end, the Korean War was settled along the 38th parallel by an Armistice in 1953. The war is considered to have ended at this point, even though there was no peace treaty.
Less than a decade after the end of World War II there had been a new combat engagement based upon two conflicting ideologies. The Korean War was a limited war, and thus had limited results, which still echo today.
I was stationed there in 1995, and the opportunity to see the battle sites and study the history was an unforgettable experience. And of course, standing on the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), peering over and seeing the enemy — the North Korean army — is something emblazoned in my memory.
Some refer to the Korean War as the “Forgotten War.” That is hog wash. It is not and never shall be forgotten — especially the bravery demonstrated on the hills in that distant country.
So on this day, if you happen to be in Washington D.C., visit the Korean War Memorial, look into the faces of those statues and remember the stories of courage, valor, heroism in the first fight against communism.