The Forgotten War: Korean War Veterans and a Chance for Peace

Actively, the Korean War was fought between June 1950 and July 1953, but the armistice didn’t stop the war, it just imposed a cease fire on the participants. The war continues. No peace treaty has been signed, no victory was declared and, after 60 years, some Korean War veterans think the time has come to make peace.

In July, the three remaining Korean War veterans in Congress introduced legislation that would formally end the war. Long overdue, the resolution seeks to honor the veterans of that war by ending it. The bill was introduced by Charles Rangel (D-NY), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Sam Johnson (R-TX). If passed, it would symbolically end the longest ongoing war in American history.

A brief history of the Korean War

After being liberated from Imperial Japan at the end of World War II, the Korean peninsula was divided into two administrative zones. The northern zone was administered by the Soviet Union while the southern zone was administered by the Americans. The 38th parallel marked the dividing line between the two zones.

When elections were called for in 1947, the Soviets blocked attempts to hold them in their administrative zone. Instead, the Soviets supported Kim Il Sung as the head of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In the south, meanwhile, the Americans supported Syngman Rhee as the leader of the Republic of Korea.

The formal war began with an incursion across the 38th parallel by DPRK forces in June 1950. The North Korean forces pushed the South Korean army back to Pusan and took control of almost the entire peninsula. The United States pushed a resolution through the United Nations Security Council, which the Soviets were boycotting at the time, condemning the attack and formed an international alliance to push the North Koreans back.

Three years later, a cease-fire was announced, returning the border to its original location and the peninsula to an uneasy peace. Uneasy, but not formal. The unending conflict has born fruit in recent years as the “hermit kingdom” of North Korea pushes its agenda out of step with the rest of the world.

The forgotten Korean War veterans

Overshadowed both by the World War II veterans that came before them and the Vietnam vets that followed, Korean War veterans never received the attention and honor due them. The lack of resolution to the conflict played a large role in that. The first major conflict between Communism and the West had an unsatisfying conclusion and many people in our government and the public were willing to forget that it was ever fought.

During World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War a larger percentage of the population served in the military.

From our article, Honoring Veterans and the Sacrifices they have Made. Click here to read the complete article.

It wasn’t until 1995 that the memorial honoring Korean War veterans was built in the nation’s capital. Compare that forty-year gap between the cease-fire and the memorial opening to the seven-year span between the ending of hostilities in Vietnam and the opening of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

Korean War Veterans

A resolution and a new beginning

The Congressional bill that currently sits in committee will have no effect on the political interaction between Korea and the United States. The goal of reunification of the Korean Peninsula is further apart now than at any time since 1953. The Soviets were replaced by the Chinese as supporters of the DKRP before the conflict ended and, as Chinese military and economic power surge, the creation of one Korea declines.

The bill will, however, bring an end to the state of war that exists between our countries and a sense of closure to the many Korean War veterans that have waited a very long time for it.


 

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Sources

Charles B. Rangel, Press Release – Three Remaining Korean War Veterans In Congress Introduce Bill Calling for Formal End of Korean War, July 2015

Congress.gov, H. Res. 384, Calling for a formal end of the Korean War, July 2015 [https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-resolution/384]

U.S. Department of State – Office of the Historian, The Korean War, 1950–1953 https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/korean-war

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