37,000 Americans Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice

BY DUANE ALLEN VACHON, PH.D. Last Monday, July 27, was the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice. The day passed with little or no fanfare regarding the Armistice, or the 37,000 Americans who lost their lives so the Armistice could be signed. The major news sources in America were busy all week covering the killing of a Lion in Africa by a dentist from Minnesota.

The Korean War is often referred to as “The Forgotten War.” I am sure it is not a forgotten war to the families of the nearly 37,000 Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion.

1.8 million American men and women served and sacrificed so that a people they had never met would know the blessings of liberty and security. Sixty-Five years ago, despite the nation’s continued weariness from World War II, America’s armed forces were again called upon to help defend against the tide of imperialism – this time in the form of Communism. Slogging through mud, crossing endless mountain ridges, battling bitter cold and snow, and enduring heavy enemy fire in a three-year fight against the North Koreans and Chinese, nearly 37,000 Americans gave their last full measure of devotion, pushing the invading armies back across the 38th parallel. After three years of a bloody and frustrating war, on July 27, 1953, the United States, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and South Korea agreed to an armistice that brought the Korean War to an end, even if it was an unsatisfactory stalemate.

The Korean War is often referred to as “The Forgotten War.” That is because Congress never issued a declaration of war, and President Truman never referred to Korea as a war-he called it a “police action.” Today, Americans can look at Korea, Vietnam, even Iraq and Afghanistan and recognize all of these as wars. But in the 1950’s no precedent existed for acknowledging a military conflict as a war in the absence of a formal declaration. Moreover, when the war first broke out, most Americans feared that America’s involvement would result in the same type of rationing and full mobilization that had characterized the Second World War. When that failed to occur, most Americans turned back to their own lives within a few months, ignoring the conflict raging half a world away. About one-fourth of Korean War veterans also served in World War II and many went on to serve in the Vietnam War. Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of Korean War veterans is their silence. It’s been noted that veterans of both World War II and the Vietnam War came back to talk about what they did, but Korean War veterans just came home and tried to pick up their old lives and forget their wartime experiences.

If you meet a Korean War veteran please thank them for their service. Thank them for fighting to defend the Korean people, we should also reflect on the open and prosperous society that is their enduring legacy. The Republic of Korea has risen from occupation and ruin to become one of the world’s most vibrant democracies and the friendship between our two nations — forged in war and fortified by common ideals — remains as strong as ever. This progress was not an accident. It reminds us that liberty and democracy do not come easily; we must win them, tend to them constantly, and defend them without fail. As we mark this anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, let us show the full care and support of a grateful Nation to every service member who fought on freedom’s frontier.
On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. This invasion was the first military action of the Cold War. By July, American troops had entered the war on South Korea’s behalf. As far as American officials were concerned, it was a war against the forces of international communism itself. After some early back-and-forth across the 38th parallel, the fighting stalled and casualties mounted with nothing to show for them. Meanwhile, American officials worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. The alternative, they feared, would be a wider war with Russia and China–or even, as some warned, World War III. Finally, in July 1953, the Korean War came to an end. In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war. The Korean peninsula is still divided today.
Here’s a look at the Korean War. July 27, 2015 marks 62 years since the signing of the armistice agreement that ended the fighting.
Causes of the Korean War
Under Japanese rule before and during World War II, Korea was divided into two parts after the Japanese surrender. The Soviet Union occupied the area north of the 38th parallel and the United States occupied the area south until 1948.
Two new ideologically opposite countries were established in 1948.
North Korea wants reunification under communist rule.
Facts
The first war in which the U.N. played a role. When asked to send military aid to South Korea,16 countries sent troops and 41 sent equipment or aid. China fought on the side of North Korea, and the Soviet Union sent them military equipment.
The U.S. sent about 90% of the troops that were sent to aid South Korea.
The first war with battles between jet aircraft.
The U.S. spent around $67 billion on the war.
The truce talks lasted two years and 17 days.
The casualty toll had been reported as 54,246 until June 2000, when the Pentagon acknowledged that a clerical error had included deaths outside the Korean War theater in the total.
There are more than from the Korean War as of April 2015.
There has never been a peace treaty, so the Korean War has technically never ended.
U.S. Troops Statistics
Source: Dept. of Defense
U.S. Deaths:
Hostile: 33,739
Non-Hostile: 2,835
Total In-Theatre: 36,574
U.S. Wounded in Action – 103,284
Other Casualties by Country (killed and missing)
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
South Korea – (217,000 military, 1,000,000 civilian)
North Korea – (406,000 military, 600,000 civilian)
China – (600,000 military)
Fought from June 1950 to July 1953, the Korean War saw Communist North Korea invade its southern, democratic neighbor. Backed by the United Nations, with many of the troops furnished by the United States, South Korea resisted and fighting ebbed and flowed up and down the peninsula until the front stabilized just north of the 38th Parallel. A bitterly contested conflict, the Korean War saw the United States follow its policy of containment as it worked to block aggression and halt the spread of Communism. As such, the Korean War may be seen as one of the many proxy wars fought during the Cold War.

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Duane A. Vachon PhD is a psychologist and a Secular Franciscan. He has several books published and has had hundreds of articles on social justice and spiritual issues published. His Doctoral thesis on ethics has set the standard at many universities. Reach Dr. Vachon at vachon.duane@gmail.com