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"Freedom is Not Free"

This simple inscription is on the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was first coined by retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock, of New Mexico Military Institute to express graditude to military service members for their sacrifices and to those who gave their lives in defense of freedom. The Korean War is sometimes referred to as the "Forgotten War" because it never received the full support of the United States and coming so soon after the end of World War II. This war was different from others. Korea had originally been a part of the Japanese empire but after WWII, it fell to the Soviets and the United States to split the enemy's imperial possessions. According to the History Channel, "In August 1945, two young aides at the State Department divided the Korean peninsula in half along the 38th parallel. The Russians occupied the area north of the line and the United States occupied the area to its south." By the end of the decade the communist dictator Kim II Sung was ruling North Korea with solid support from Russia. South Korea was run by Syngman Rhee, who the U.S. supported tepidly. Men are never happy with borders and these imposed boundaries were no exception. Each regime was guilty of infiltrating the others' territory and over 10,000 North and South Koreans were killed before North Korea actually invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950.

People have to look back to remember what was happening during this time. In the early 1950s America and Russia were in the midst of the Cold War and the fear of communism and the spread of Russia's power was the largest foreign policy issue that the U.S. was facing. According to the History Channel the U.S. feared that the invasion by North Korea "was the first step in a communist campaign to take over the world. For this reason, nonintervention was not considered an option by many top decision makers." Within days of the invasion the United States sent troops and supplies to Korea. "If we let Korea down," President Harry Truman said, "the Soviet[s] will keep right on going and swallow up one [place] after another." The fight on the Korean peninsula was a symbol of the global struggle between east and west, good and evil. As the North Korean army pushed into Seoul, the South Korean capital, the United States readied its troops for a war against communism itself.

A year after the invasion, the United States had waged a defensive war, then an offensive war and was now stalemated in a war of attrition. When the United States invaded North Korea it had riled the Chinese who then spent thousands of troops into North Korea. President Truman did not want WWIII and peace talks began in July 1951. Two years later on July 27, 1953 an armistice was signed and a two-mile demilitarized zone that still exists today was established.

The Korean War was short but very bloody. Nearly 5 million people died and more than half of these were civilians, higher than the civilian casualty rate in Vietnam and WWII. Over 37,000 Americans died in action. President Truman was heavily criticized for his handling of the war. This was the first war where America had not forced the unconditional surrender of its enemies but President Eisenhower felt that the only way to "win" was to use nuclear weapons and attack China, thus creating WWIII. This did not seem to be what anyone really wanted, a border skirmish that could balloon into a world war.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial

"Our nation honors her sons and daughters, who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met."

This poignant tribute is also on the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The memorial consists of two parts. The two sections are very different but equally moving. One part is a group of 19 statues, dressed in rain gear walking through the rice paddies of Korea. It is a cross section of America and includes the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. You cannot help but feel like you are "there" when you see this memorial.

Photo from National Park Service website.

The second part of the memorial is the mural wall. I have looked at the wall many times but never really understood its full meaning until I researched it at The Korean War Veterans Memorial site. The site states that "The Mural Wall was designed by Louis Nelson of New York, NY and fabricated by Cold Spring Granite Company, Cold Spring, MN. The muralist, sculptor and architect worked closely to create a two-dimensional work of art adjacent to the three-dimensional statues. The wall consists of 41 panels extending 164 feet. Over 2,400 photographs of the Korean War were obtained from the National Archives. They were enhanced by computer to give a uniform lighting effect and the desired size. The mural, representing those forces supporting the foot soldier, depicts Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel and their equipment. The etchings are arranged to give a wavy appearance in harmony with the layout of the statues. The reflective quality of the Academy Black Granite creates the image of a total of 38 statues, symbolic of the 38th Parallel and the 38 months of the war. When viewed from afar, it also creates the appearance of the mountain ranges of Korea."

Picture from KoreanWarVeteransMemorial.org.

Veterans Remember

The U.S. Flag should be displayed on Saturday, July 27 in honor of National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day. As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Armistice, the Army Times has conducted a couple of interviews of veterans that tell about their experience in Korea. See Army.mil to read these interesting accounts.

For the Navy, The Future is Now

For any who missed the exciting first touch and go by a drone on a Navy air carrier, the USS George HW Bush, should visit BreakingDefense.com. It is a very exciting look at the future.

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