Living History: Korean War Memorial
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2008 -- On June 25, 1950, the 38th parallel marked the beginning of a war that was to be like no other. In 1995, the Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated to recognize the contributions of these "forgotten heroes." At the memorial, there are 19 statues representing all the services who fought the war on foot: 15 Soldiers, three Marines, one Navy medic and one air forward observer. And the memorial is a tribute to the totality of the armed forces effort.
The Korean War Veterans memorial is directly across the reflecting pool from the Vietnam Veterans memorial. President Clinton said "In steel and granite, water and earth, the creators of this memorial have brought to life the courage and sacrifice of those who served in all branches of the armed forces from every racial and ethnic background in America. They represent, once more, the enduring American truth: From many we are one."
On the smooth granite wall, more than 2,500 photographic images of crew chiefs, mechanics, cooks, helmsmen, nurses, pilots, among many others -- all in an operational mode -- symbolize the vast effort that sustained the foot soldiers. The planners of this project want visitors to look at the mural, and see someone they think they know. They want the memorial to be a living tribute, not a grave stone.
Many have called the Korean War the forgotten war. We have learned time and time again, freedom is not free. And these same words are inscribed on the wall of the memorial.
In the aftermath of World War II., the country of Korea was divided between the U. S. and the former Soviet Union. The line of demarcation was the 38th latitude of parallel, commonly known as the 38th parallel. And immediately, much like the Berlin Wall, road blocks, barbed wire entanglements and other controls restricted traffic between the two regions.
The first American blood of the war was spilled by Task Force Smith, where the first American engagement of the war ended in a retreat. There were circumstantial reasons for the defeat -- foul weather prevented close air support which could have been used with extreme effectiveness; there was a lack of anti-tank weaponry and ammunition which could have prevented the North Korean tanks from over-running our defenses; and our men for various reasons beyond their control weren't trained as well as they should have been. American military leadership remember the lessons learned by keeping forces equipped, prepared and ready.
By the end of July,1950, only two months after the initial invasion, the Far East Air Forces' destruction of the enemy's aircraft, mainly on the ground, had reduced the North Korean Air Force to no more than a token force.
The U.N. Command air effort was directed against the advancing Northern army and in close support of the U.N. Army. Close air support had to make up for a lack of Army support fire, and this use of airpower prevented the North Korean Peoples' Army from accomplishing its mission. By sheer volume of firepower delivered against the whole of the enemy's forces, airpower weakened the enemy advance until U.N. ground forces could be consolidated on the Pusan perimeter.
Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, commanding general of the 24th Division, said, "Without question the Air Force definitely blunted the initial North Korea threat to the southward. Without this continuing air effort it is doubtful if the courageous combat soldiers, spread thinly along the line, could have withstood the onslaught of the vastly numerically superior enemy."
Air Force pilots faced the Soviet MiG, a superior jet fighter -- faster and more maneuverable than our jet fighters in the early stages of the conflict. Nevertheless, Air Force pilots decimated their force, knocking out more than 800 MiGs. An astonishing ratio of 13 to 1, since U.N. air forces lost only about 60 jet fighter aircraft.
Our forces and the allies endured terrible hardships -- numbing cold, an enemy of overwhelming numbers, the threat of imprisonment and torture. This war was fought on foot in desperate battles on hills with names such as Old Baldy, T-Bone, Heartbreak Ridge and Pork Chop. Airpower throughout the conflict brought to the enemy military forces and civilian population the full impact of the war, with all its attendant destruction.
The Korean War brought many lessons to the American public, to the military services as a whole and to the Air Force. We learned terms like limited action, 38th parallel and United Nations Command. Theater war replaced world war and limited objectives replaced the total defeat of the enemy, a trend still affecting the nature of conflict today.
Air rescue and front-line evacuation came into its own during the Korean War, transforming loosely-knit efforts into a highly efficient worldwide organization earning the respect of all the military services.
America had clear-cut victory in the war on fascism in World War II. But, when President Dwight Eisenhower called an end to the conflict in Korea, and the U.N. signed an armistice, peace didn't reign in the world, but only on a single battlefield. After such a long struggle, Americans failed to note the importance of Korea.
South Korean President Kim said that "the blood and sweat shed by the U.S. and the U.N. troops proved to be the mover behind the realization of freedom throughout the postwar world. The free world's participation in the Korean War, its first resolute and effective action to stem the expansion of communism, changed the course of history. In this sense, I would say that the Korean War was the war that heralded the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism."
(From an article that appeared on AF.mil.)
Related: Korean War Veterans Memorical National Park Site
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