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Enduring Peace: 60 years ago the guns fell silent in Korea

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Korean veterans stood alongside their American counterparts Monday at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Oregon Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville. The memorial was opened in 2000 and stands next to the Wilsonville Visitors Center. It’s one of America’s forgotten wars.

Sandwiched between the staggering scale of World War II and the domestic upheaval caused by Vietnam, the Korean War has never gotten the recognition of other 20th century American conflicts. Yet, the numbers don’t lie.

The three-year war on the Korean peninsula claimed the lives of 33,629 American servicemen killed in battle against North Korean and Chinese forces. Another 20,617 Americans died in theater of other causes, including disease and frostbite.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Local resident Sue Lamb plays Taps Monday in honor of Americas military veterans at a ceremony at the Oregon Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville.More than 415,000 South Koreans gave their lives in defense of their country alongside those Americans, who fought and died at the same time as their countrymen back home enjoyed a booming economy and the dawn of the rock n’ roll era.

In Wilsonville, however, the veterans of Korea, regardless of their country of origin, are given a place of honor in Town Center Park. There, the Oregon Korean War Memorial plays host each November to a Veterans Day ceremony that focuses on that sometimes forgotten conflict.

Wilsonville’s memorial primarily commemorates the 298 Oregonians killed in action. It was unveiled in 2000, just five years after the national Korean War Veterans Memorial opened in Washington, D.C.

The 94-foot-long Wall of Honor is made of granite and contains the names of all 298 Oregonians who died in Korea. It also features a 14-foot-wide terrace made from bricks engraved with the names of donors who made the memorial possible.

On Monday it was the site of the city’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, which takes place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in honor of the original Armistice Day in 1918 that saw the end of World War I.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville City Councilor Julie Fitzgerald speaks with South Korean Consul General Song Young-Wan Monday at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville.What had been planned as a small and modest ceremony featuring local veterans recently expanded considerably when Young Wan Song, consul general for the Republic of Korea Consulate General in Seattle, made plans to attend.

“There’s a saying that those who ignore history are destined to repeat it,” Song told an assembled crowd of military veterans, both American and Korean. “This medal will serve us as a very important reminder of the service you had to make to defend freedom and our common values. It also reminds us how precious your efforts and dedication have been, as you will never forget the tragic war nor will they ever forget the hard-won victory which marked the turning point in our nation’s history from backwardness to economic development and democracy.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Oregon National Guard Brig. Gen. Eric Bush gives a Veterans Day address Monday at a ceremony at the Oregon Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville. The medals Song spoke of were Ambassador’s Peace Medals, created specifically for the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire that ended the Korean War. Along with Oregon National Guard Brig. Gen. Eric Bush, Song handed out medals to Korean War veterans in attendance Monday.

"The Republic of Korea has embarked on one of the remarkable economic and social rises in history,” said Bush. “In just one generation this small Asian nation went from ashes to one of the most modern and powerful nations on the Pacific Rim, and with an economy worth $1.1 trillion it’s the 13th largest economy in the world. But with all these great advances and victories, many challenges still remain. Their people are still separated. And our military still stands vigilant and on guard. It’s the greatest alliance in the world, and on this Veterans Day I want to give my personal appreciation to all those who fought in this violent conflict, not just those from Korea but from around the world.”

The war started in the summer of 1950 when the North Korean Army attacked south along the entire 38th parallel with 135,000 men. South Korean forces were quickly routed and the capitol city of Seoul captured by the invaders. According to most historians, the Truman administration was caught at a crossroads when it came to a response.

Before the invasion, military strategists were more concerned with Europe and the possibility of a Soviet incursion than Asia. Truman also was worried that a war in Korea could quickly widen into another world war should the Chinese or Soviets intervene.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Korean War veterans salute the flag during the playing of Taps Monday at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Oregon Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville. The fate of Japan, however, swayed Truman’s final decision. U.S. East Asian policy experts saw Japan as a critical counter to Soviet influence in the region. And Japan’s close proximity to Korea was key in the ultimate choice to deploy American military forces to the peninsula at the end of June 1950.

By September 1950 American and South Korean forces had been pushed back to what would become known as the Pusan perimeter. The 140-mile perimeter marked out a small corner of southeast Korea and marked the high point of the war for North Korea.

Later the same month, American forces carried out a daring amphibious landing at Inchon near Seoul, while their counterparts broke out of the Pusan area and headed north.

“It’s a point of pride and honor to have you all here today to honor veterans together at this site,” Wilsonville City Councilor Julie Fitzgerald said Monday. “Today, we are honoring not just those who have fought for us in battle but every man and woman who has served in our country’s armed forces since its founding 237 years ago.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Veterans of the Korean War from both the Republic of Korea and the United States gathered Monday morning at the Wilsonville Visitor Center for a Veterans Day ceremony. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war in 1953.




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