President Barack Obama said the Korean War was America’s first use of an integrated fighting force in a world war. On the 60th Anniversary marking the end of the Korean War President Obama paid tribute to veterans of the war. He praised them for their military service and dedicated effort in what some have termed as a forgotten war.
“Here in America, no war should ever be forgotten,” said Obama. The President participated in a ceremony that marked the anniversary of the armistice that ended combat operations in Korea. Veterans of that war returned home during a time of social protest and peace movements in that period. “No veteran should ever be overlook,” said Obama.
The President talked about the brutally cold winters, muddy rivers, rocky mountains, the “choking dust” of hot summers, and the influx of hundreds of thousand of Chinese troops. The President cited the veterans as having prevented North Korea from over running South Korea.
The war pitted North Korean troops and Chinese troop against a U.S. led United Nation coalition with South Korean troops. The Korean War was America’s first use of integrated units in a world war. Black Americans fought on an equal base with other Americans in the campaign.
It is noted that a formal peace treaty was never signed and the country remains divided at the 38th parallel. The north is largely communist with the south being a democratic state allied with U.S. interests. By proclamation on Saturday Obama marked the day as National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day.
In the ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on The Mall in Washington, D.C., the President spoke of the significance of the war effort. South Korea is now a thriving productive Democratic nation. “We planted the seed, and the Korean people made it grow,” said Salvatore Scarlato, a New Yorker that served with the Marines in 1952 and 1953.
About 36,000 Americans died in the war and about 100,000 soldiers were wounded. The South Koreans lost 415,000 soldiers with a similar number wounded. The total number of lives lost in the entire war is estimated at 2.5 million including all fighting forces from both sides.
James LaForest, 81, remarked that President Obama is one of the relatively few Presidents that did not serve in the military. He believed it demonstrated a sign of changing times. “It shows we’re going to have a transition from military to a civilian mind,” he said.
“While it may be forgotten to some, it certainly was a significant war,” said Col. David Clark , director of the Defense Department’s 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Ceremony. “Not only did it stop communism, but it saved the Republic of Korea …and allowed them to become a great nation on the planet and an ally of the U.S.”
President Obama vowed to keep the U.S. military as the world’s premier fighting force. With the move in the North Korean War of an integrated military it was the first war towards galvanizing America towards an invincible fighting force.
By Thomas Barr