CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago area Korean War veterans on Friday marked the 60th anniversary of the end of what many call “The Forgotten War.”
WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman reports, with the help of their canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, a group of 55 Korean War veterans attended a memorial service at Kennedy Park in the Morgan Park neighborhood.
They were remembered for their able-bodied efforts more than 60 years ago in Korea.
“Looking back now, I think, ‘Well, we did help found an active democracy,’” said 82-year-old Army veteran James Fitch.
Ald. James Balcer (11th), a Vietnam veteran, was on hand to thank the veterans, and praised them for serving in conditions often seen as some of the most brutal for fighting a war – with unbearable heat and humidity in summer, and frigid conditions in winter.
“It was a terrible war. It was absolutely terrible for you guys; the hills, the mountains, the cold, the hot, the Communist forces that you fought,” Balcer said. “But through your efforts, you liberated South Korea from the North Koreans, and Communist Chinese forces.”
Fitch noted, however, that there was little support for the war at the time. He noted it was never officially called a war – but, rather, a “police action” – even though the fighting was intense.
“There was a time when we were called on artillery missions, and didn’t have shells to shoot,” he said.
He was serving in a command position, ordering artillery strikes on the night of the cease-fire in 1953.
“At 10:54, we were still shooting, and at 11 o’clock, everything stopped. It was bizarre. It was absolutely … everything went silent,” Fitch said.
At the time, Fitch said, soldiers didn’t expect the cease fire to last six hours – following more than two years of armistice talks – but it has lasted 60 years, although there has never been a formal peace treaty.
“They stopped firing at their side, we stopped firing at our side, and there hasn’t been any firing since,” Fitch said.
At Friday’s memorial service, the veterans took part in a wreath-laying, and South Korean Consul General Jin-hyun Lee thanked them by presenting them with commemorative coins.