Column: Saluting the veterans of the nation’s ‘forgotten war’

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2003

Tomorrow night Leo Carey Post 56 of the American Legion will be honoring

area veterans who served in Korea.

The basis for this special occasion is the 50th anniversary of the truce which ended this brutal three-year war on July 27, 1953.

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During the 37 months of warfare on an Asian peninsula called Korea, the U.S. battle casualties totaled 33,686 dead and 103,284 wounded.

American involvement in Korea actually started in the fall of 1945 when units of the U.S. Army went to this part of the former Japanese Empire after the end of World War II to liberate the people of this former kingdom. An agreement was made with the Soviets to divide the peninsula at the 38th parallel.

The result by June 1950 was two separate nations – Communist North Korea and the Republic of (South) Korea. When the north invaded the south, our nation became involved. This war went from near victory for the north, the Inchon landing, our forces crossing the 38th parallel and near defeat for the north, Chinese intervention, a retreat to the south, then a move by the U.S. and its allies back to about the 38th parallel and a two-year stalemate until the truce was signed in 1953.

Freeborn County’s contribution to the armed forces during the Korean War period (1950-53) was more than 710 individuals and two military units which were recalled to active duty. And as a result of this war, 11 county citizens lost their lives.

The figure of 710 is based on a statewide estimate made in 1989 of members of the armed forces who served during the Korean War era. This information was furnished by the Freeborn County Veterans Service Office in 2000.

Some of the personnel who served during this era were also veterans of World War II which had ended just five years earlier. Others enlisted in the armed forces or were drafted through the Selective Service System. Still others were members of the military reserves or Army National Guard which were recalled to active duty.

In September 1950, Battery B of the 793rd Field Artillery Battalion with about 44 members left Albert Lea and went to Camp McCoy, Wis. This battalion was organized after World War II as a part of the U.S. Army Reserve and consisted mainly of men from the Faribault and Twin Cities area. Battery B remained at Camp McCoy until 1952, but many of the unit’s members served elsewhere in the world – including Korea.

After World War II, Albert Lea’s Company G of the 135th Infantry Regiment was reorganized as an Army National Guard unit and became a part of the new 47th “Viking” Division.

In late 1950, six national guard divisions were recalled for active duty. One of these units was Minnesota’s “Viking” Division.

Company G reported for duty at Camp Rucker (also called Camp Rupture), located between Enterprise and Ozark, Ala., in mid-January 1951. During the two years of active duty, the unit’s history says, “Rather than go to war as a unit, the division trained its own troops, and other recruits brought in from throughout the United States. From here, after being trained, they were sent to other units in the United States, West Germany, and Korea.”

In 1947, local posts of the American Legion Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars dedicated a memorial at Graceland Cemetery to honor the Freeborn County men who died during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. Eleven more names were etched on the memorial because of the Korean War. They are: Roger D. Ackland, David Dudley, Richard D. Grabow, Daniel E. Healy, Sylvester L. Jensen, Ronald L. Lien, Mildon H. Loge, Marlin 0. Madson, Dale D. Monson, Gerrit R. Spiering and Edward A. Tews. (And as a result of the Vietnam War, 21 more names have been etched into this memorial.)

(Tribune feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.)