Korean MemorialKorean War & Korea Defense Service Veterans, Lake Co. (FL), Chapter 169

On the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Cease Fire.

By Tom J Thiel, July 27, 2013, Veterans Memorial at Fountain Park

Thank you for inviting me here today. My challenge is great. A Korean Vet talking to an audience of Korean Vets.

Let me start by asking each of you to think of where you were 60 years ago.

I was preparing to enter The Ohio State University under the GI Bill.

I had completed my Korean and Military Duty a year earlier.

But let’s go back even further, to V-J Day, September 1945, when the Korean Peninsula became separated at the 38th parallel. Separated by ideologies. A Communist North Korea. A pro-western, elected, Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South.

map of Korea 1950's Korean War Color MapThey were to unite under one elected government, but instead they became antagonistic and there were skirmishes between to two.

And, our own State Department had placed the Korea Peninsula outside the U.S. "defense perimeter" in Asia, leading Mr. Kim to think we would not defend South Korea.

North Korean artillery and mortar fire broke the early morning sounds of a light rain falling at daybreak on June 25, 1950. Mr. Kim claimed reunification, and all across the 38th the N. Koreans invaded.

Russian equipped and trained, they quickly overcame the ROK defenses, and started toward Pusan. Their goal to unify Korea under communist rule.

Cold War factors both at home and abroad led President Truman to alter the US position on defending Korea. He immediately committed U.S. forces to oppose the invaders, first with aircraft, and then ground forces. While fifteen other nations committed ground forces under the UN, 88 percent of these were U.S.

Within days a small group, about 500 total, infantry and artillery of the 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division were airlifted to Pusan and traveled north by conscripted rail and truck. Named Task Force Smith after their leader, Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Smith, their mission to engage the enemy and delay him.

As TFS members moved north they wondered what their future held. Prevalent throughout, both EM and Officers, was the belief that once the North Koreans saw a U.S. uniform they would turn their tails and head back North.

Rain was also falling on the morning of July 5, 1950, near the town of Osan about 50 miles south of Seoul on the highway Pusan, the place Col. Smith chose to defend.

According to seventeen year old North Dakotan Norman Fosness:

“The ground was hard and rocky, and we had to chip away with our trenching tools.  It began to rain -- real hard.

I couldn’t see very far; there was a hill in front of us.

Suddenly a T34 tank came into sight as it came around a curve in the road maybe 1,500 yards away. Then another and another!

I started to count the tanks.  I quit at 16!  I knew we were in big trouble!

I knew then that this was not just a few bandits crossing the 38th parallel! 

And they didn’t run when they saw American uniforms!”

TFS lasted about 8 hours. Nearly half the men were killed or became Prisoners of War.

A new monument was dedicated last spring to TFS at Osan. A U.S. Air Base is near by.

Fosness escaped through machine gun fire and muddy rice paddies. That is a story of its own.

The Reds continued south.

As rapidly as it could, the U.S. move ground forces to Korea, but the NK steam roller moved on.

Many battles were fought. Places like Pyongtaek, Chonan, and Chochiwon.

In the battle of Taejon; the 24th Div. suffered 3,602 dead and wounded and 2,962 captured, including the Division's Commander, Major General William F. Dean. It lost all of its 34th Infantry Regiment.

Overhead, the KPAF shot down 18 USAF fighters and 29 bombers; the USAF shot down 5 KPAF fighters.

By August, the KPA had pushed the ROK Army and the Eighth United States Army to the vicinity of Pusan, in southeast Korea.

We were about to be driven into the ocean!

In early September, the UN Command only controlled about 10% of Korea, in what was called the Pusan perimeter, a line partially defined by the Nakdong River. But it was in control.

Art, I think you found yourself in this plight!

Early September found member Dick Pfahler on the USS St Paul in Inchon harbor shelling Inchon. And helping orphans on Fushi-to.

Despite Pentagon opposition, MacArthur received permission to invade behind NK lines at Inchon near Seoul.

And on Sept 15 the Inchon invasion took place – Marines, Army and ROK forces.

MacArthur once again a tactical genius.

Almost simultaneously, UN forces at the Pusan perimeter broke out and began moving north meeting up with the invasion forces at Osan again.

On 25 September, Seoul was recaptured by South Korean forces. Most of NK forces eliminated.

North Korea was defeated! The war was over!

Oh, if only that had been the case! If only we would have stopped there!

I had not yet received my DRAFT NOTICE!

By 1 October 1950, the UN Command had repelled the KPA northwards, past the 38th parallel.

The ROK Army crossed after them, into North Korea.

Six days later, on 7 October, with UN authorization, the UN Command forces followed the ROK forces northwards.

We now became invaders.

Despite warnings from China and Russia that they would support NK!

On 15 October, President Truman and General MacArthur met at Wake Island. (MacArthur refused to meet the President on the continental US.)

MacArthur told Truman that there was little risk of Chinese intervention in Korea, and that the PRC's opportunity for aiding the KPA had lapsed. Though the PRC had some 300,000 soldiers available, "if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang, there would be the greatest slaughter."

On 19 October 1950, the 1st Cavalry Division captured Pyongyang, the North's capital city. UN forces continued North.

On that same day, Chinese troops began to secretly cross the Yalu River separating China and North Korea.

On Nov. 1, the first engagement of Chinese troops with UN forces occurred at Unsan NK. The Chinese mistakenly thought they were attacking ROK forces. Instead they overran the US 8th Cav Regiment.

One of our members, Harry Olson, was at Unsan; Harry was one of only a very few to escape.

After this attack, the Chinese troops melted into the mountains.

Gens. MacArthur & Almond were not convinced that the Chinese had openly intervened.

And on 24 November, MacArthur ordered the Home-by-Christmas Offensive with the U.S. Eighth Army advancing in northwest Korea, while the US X Corps (Marines and Army) attacked along the Korean east coast.

And, as ordered by my draft board, I reported for duty on Nov. 22, and began basic training at Camp Breckenridge KY.

In judging Chinese intervention in Korea, MacArthur failed totally. The Chinese were waiting in ambush.

On November 25, they launched their Second Phase Offensive. They had enough troops sufficiently far south to ambush UN Forces as they retreated to the South.

Frozen Chosin on the east; The Valley of Death and others on the West.

Many thousands of UN (89 % US) were slaughtered, wounded or froze in retreat back to below the 38th parallel.

Seoul was again in Communist hands.

In April 1951, the Chinese launched the “Chinese Spring Offensive" with approximately 700,000 troops.

Also in April 1951, I arrived in Korea and as a replacement took my position on the battle lines as a member of the 4th (Weapons) Platoon, Easy Company, 19th Rock of Chickamauga Regt, 24th Infantry Division, in the central sector of South Korea near Chuncheon south of the 38th parallel.

After initial success, the Chinese were halted by 20 May. At month's end, the US Eighth Army counterattacked and regained "Line Kansas," just north of the 38th parallel.

I received my “baptism under fire” as a part of this action.

The UN then halted its offensive action about this time and at the "Kansas Line," thus beginning the period of the Korean war known as “the stalemate.”

The Stalemate lasted until the armistice of 1953.

But that didn’t mean the war had stopped. Not by any means.

We continually engaged the enemy, the Chinese, in mostly small jabs into enemy territory, taking perhaps five miles of their territory. Then after being there for a few days, we would blow up all our fortifications and pull back to where we launched from. Each time we suffered many casualties.

About July 1 we all became really pumped up by the news that Peace Talks had begun. Of course, our hopes were to be dashed as the talks went on and on.

“Stalemate” – is how History treats my contribution to the Korean War effort. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War gives these two years but four paragraphs!

And so must I, as time is far too limited.

Not that there was no additional fighting; there most assuredly was.

You may have heard of, hell some of you were at places like:

·       Bloody Ridge (18 August – 15 September 1951),

·       Heartbreak Ridge (13 September – 15 October 1951),

·       Old Baldy (26 June – 4 August 1952),

·       White Horse (6–15 October 1952),

·       Triangle Hill (14 October – 25 November 1952),

·       Hill Eerie (21 March – 21 June 1952),

·       Outpost Harry (10–18 June 1953),

·       Hook (28–9 May 1953),

·       Pork Chop Hill (23 March – 16 July 1953),

·       Kumsong (13–27 July 1953).

And to these I must add, the Battle of Kumsong October 1951 Operation Nomad. My company, Easy Company 19th, went from about 240 men to about 60 men, with 13 Killed in Action in about two.

Two of the KIA’s were in my squad! I lost another in November.

After a 1951 Yuletide dinner of beans and wieners online, in January 1952, I left Korea with all of the 24th ID for Japan. About Mar 1, I boarded the Weigel for the return voyage to San Francisco. My war was over, God answered my mother’s prayers.

But sadly, the Peace Talks, and the war went on!

The hang-up at the Peace Talks was POW repatriation. Many Chinese and North Korean POWs refused to return to the north. This was unacceptable to their countries.

Then on 27 July 1953, The UN Command, supported by the United States, the North Korean People's Army, and the Chinese People's Volunteers, signed the Armistice Agreement to end the fighting.

The “then battle line” approximately at the 38th parallel was established as the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which has since been patrolled by the KPA and ROKA, US, and Joint UN Commands.

US has maintained about 30K troops there continuously; if there are any of you here today, you are who we want in our chapter.

The war is considered to have ended 27 July 53, even though there was no peace treaty.

North Korea nevertheless claims that it won the Korean War. I suspect it still believes that today, as it is a nuclear nation, and frequently threatens not only South Korea, but even the US!

Costs of the Korean War (U.S.)

·       36,500 Killed in combat (2.5 x LSBG) / Total killed 54,000

·       102,000 Wounded

·       8,100 Unaccounted/not recovered/MIA (Still there today, Govt not doing much, some evidence that some are still living today)

·       7,245 Prisoners of war; 2,806 Died in captivity, and 21 Chose not to return

·       U.S. Combat Deaths after armistice signed in 1953. ??? (120 to 8/year on average)

·       $67 Billion (1953 dollars), or $535 billion (2008 dollars)

korea at night 2008Benefits of the Korean War

·       Stopped the crawl of Communism to S. Korea, to Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

·       Helped to initiate the failure of Communism throughout world.

·       Created a brilliant comparison between Communism and the Freedom that one has in a Republic. (Korea at Night)

·       Created a brilliant South Korea both economically and politically.

·       Drove the first nail in the coffin of Communism.

What should you take from the Korean War

·       Veterans – Pride

·       Citizens – Pride

Benefits vs Costs?

·       The costs of war, any war, are incredibly, incredibly high. Tragically high!

·       But the benefits of freedom are – infinite!

·       Freedom is not Free!