USA — Pentagon Marks 60th Anniversary of the Korean War

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2010 — Flanked by Kore­an War vet­er­ans, many proud­ly bear­ing the medals and insignias of their mil­i­tary ser­vice, defense offi­cials com­mem­o­rat­ed the 60th anniver­sary of the Kore­an War and salut­ed the vet­er­ans dur­ing a cer­e­mo­ny held at the Pen­ta­gon here today.

Korean War veterans
Kore­an War vet­er­ans attend a cer­e­mo­ny at the Pen­ta­gon mark­ing the 60th anniver­sary of the start of the Kore­an War, Arling­ton, Va., June 24, 2010.
DoD pho­to by Elaine Wil­son
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“Amer­i­cans have always been defined by their courage and char­ac­ter and incred­i­ble opti­mism about their coun­try and its val­ues,” said Joseph W. West­phal, under­sec­re­tary of the Army and the event’s keynote speak­er. “Kore­an war vet­er­ans are exam­ples of that.”

The Kore­an War began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea launched an attack on South Korea in an effort to place all of Korea under com­mu­nist rule. By Sep­tem­ber 1950, the efforts of U.N., Unit­ed States and South Kore­an forces held the North Kore­ans in check at the Pusan Perime­ter.

The war would last three years. After­ward, Korea would remain divid­ed into a free, demo­c­ra­t­ic South and a com­mu­nist-dom­i­nat­ed North. The Unit­ed States since has had a “long and proud” rela­tion­ship with South Korea, West­phal said.

Dur­ing the past 60 years, more than 3.5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have served mil­i­tary duty tours in Korea, West­phal said. The 28,500 U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers who serve in South Korea today, under the lead­er­ship of Army Gen. Wal­ter L. Sharp, he said, exem­pli­fy the nation’s ongo­ing com­mit­ment to the defense of South Korea.

South Korea “is a crit­i­cal ally, a val­ued part­ner, an hon­ored friend of the Unit­ed States,” he said.

West­phal paid trib­ute to Kore­an War vet­er­ans, and shared the sto­ry of Ronald Ross­er, who flew in from Ohio to attend the cer­e­mo­ny. In Jan­u­ary 1952, he said, then-Army Cpl. Ronald Rosser’s unit, Com­pa­ny L, 38th Infantry Reg­i­ment, was stopped by heavy fire while assault­ing ene­my hill posi­tions near the town of Pong­gilli, Korea. Armed with only a car­bine and a grenade, the 22-year-old Ross­er charged the ene­my posi­tion. Three times he ran out of ammu­ni­tion and three times he returned to the hill. Although injured him­self, he then helped deliv­er oth­er wound­ed ser­vice­mem­bers to safe­ty.

Ross­er sin­gle-hand­ed­ly killed at least 13 of the ene­my that day, and for his actions was award­ed the Medal of Hon­or.

In an inter­view after the cer­e­mo­ny, Ross­er, now 81, said it was an hon­or to serve “and in a small way” assist 50 mil­lion South Kore­an cit­i­zens to enjoy the ben­e­fits of a free and demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety.

“Not many peo­ple can say that,” Ross­er said.

West­phal urged Amer­i­cans to nev­er for­get vet­er­ans like Ross­er. “Let’s nev­er for­get free­dom is not free and we can nev­er stop thank­ing those who have paid and con­tin­ue to pay that price so that we can enjoy the lib­er­ty and pur­suit of hap­pi­ness,” he said.

Han Duk-soo, ambas­sador of South Korea, also spoke at the event. Thanks to the courage of Kore­an War vet­er­ans, the ambas­sador said, “Kore­an flags still fly over the Repub­lic of Korea and the Korea-U.S. alliance, an alliance forged in blood, is still strong and val­ued by both sides today. This is why we call the Kore­an War a true vic­to­ry.”

“You won free­dom, democ­ra­cy and pros­per­i­ty for our nation,” the ambas­sador told the Kore­an War vet­er­ans.

Today, South Korea serves along­side the Unit­ed States in Iraq, Afghanistan and the waters of Soma­lia, the ambas­sador said.

“As the U.S. part­ner and friend, South Korea is and will be by your side,” he said. “Through your brav­ery and sac­ri­fice you vet­er­ans made that pos­si­ble.

“So today, we hon­or you and the 36,000 of your broth­ers-in-arms who gave their lives so that Korea could be free,” the ambas­sador con­tin­ued. “For that, the Kore­an peo­ple are eter­nal­ly grate­ful to all of you and all of them.”

The ceremony’s pageantry con­trast­ed with the recep­tion many Kore­an War vet­er­ans received upon their home­com­ing.

“We came home and no one knew where we’d been,” said Jack Keep, who served in the Navy dur­ing the Kore­an War.

“This is a great hon­or after all of those years, to have this recog­ni­tion,” Keep con­tin­ued. “It’s a bless­ing to our fam­i­lies to have their fathers and grand­fa­thers hon­ored as well.”

“We appre­ci­ate the atten­tion,” added Keep’s friend, Charles Hoak, an Army Kore­an War vet­er­an. “It shows we’re not for­got­ten.”

Today’s cer­e­mo­ny marked the begin­ning of the Defense Department’s three-year obser­vance of key events of the Kore­an War that will cul­mi­nate with the 60th anniver­sary of the sign­ing of the armistice on July 27, 2013.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)