To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the conclusion of the Korean War, the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs (MPVA) and The Korean Veterans Association (KVA) celebrated by hosting a Revisit Korea program for Korean War veterans who had served on Korean shores from 1950 – 1954. I was privileged to be among the 150 veterans and family members in this group because Calvin, my husband, served with the US army and fought for South Korea freedom. It was a very memorable and moving experience for all of us attendees.
All of the veterans had long forgotten memories brought to mind as the Korean government expressed over and over its appreciation of the armed forces from America and UK who came to save their country from the invading Red Army. This Korean War Vets Appreciation program has been in existence since the 1970s, according to the Mr. Kap-Chong Chi, Chairman of the UN Korean War Allies Assn., Inc. who served as a war correspondent. During the following periods when he became active in government office, he suggested to the President that an appreciation program would be a nice gesture to thank the overseas forces who aided the Korean army to win this war.
Since then, for the past 30 years, thousands of Korean War veterans have had the opportunity to return to Korea as guests of the Korean Veterans Assn. and have been able to revisit the battle sites and attend memorial ceremonies. Our trip came at an opportune time as September was a turning point in many of the important battles to Korea’ s victories. At Incheon, the Veterans were applauded as they entered their honored seats at the 60th Anniversary Victory Ceremony for the Incheon Landing Operation. As the large crowd of not only our American veterans but also veterans of the Korean Army watched, a simulation of the Incheon landing was performed showing how the American forces entered in a surprise mission that caught the enemy off guard and started pushing the enemy back north. During the program, we saw how the helicopters first arrived with sonar equipment dropped into the water to uncover hidden submarines or hidden mines. Next came the mine sweeper boats followed by paratroopers dropped from helicopters, and mortar fire from the ships in the bay to cover the landing forces emerging from landing crafts under a smoke screen. It was quite a realistic scene showing us the progression of the invasion that the American forces participated in.
One day our tour took the vets up to the 38th parallel where we could see the soldiers on the North Korean side, standing erect in front of an official looking building and at times holding up binoculars to look at us tourists on the south side of the US army base. We were shown the briefing rooms of the military which really looked like a Quonset hut painted blue. Camp Bonitas is the camp where American troops are now stationed to insure no damage is done to the buildings or infiltration by the North Koreans. A memorable meeting was held at the War Memorial cemetery with an ash ceremony by both Korean officials and representatives of the visiting American veterans.
Officials of the city of Daegu also hosted a re-creation of the battle the Americans participated in to save their city during the war period of 1950 – 1953 in front of an audience of many locals wanting to remember the fallen heroes and pay respects to the veterans who fought in that operation. The American ex servicemen were again introduced and thanked publicly by officials of Daegu during the ceremonies. Korea, I learned, is the only country that has annually hosted Korean War veterans for a visit to their country in appreciation for their service to the Korean people. It is certainly a commendable gesture for the Korean government and veterans association to continue annually. I also applaud former Colonel Warren Wiedhahn and his son Jaimie Wiedhahn for establishing Miltours which organizes tours annually for veterans to visit former battlefields they may have participated in within Korea, Vietnam and Europe. On the tour I just completed, they very efficiently handled and serviced the aging veterans and their families.
Some of the wonderful families and veterans we met in our tour included the following: Wilson Fong, Bert Why, Ted and Sue Hirabayashi, Brooks and Cathy Outland, Kew and Kyung Chai, Leonard and Marsha Fahrer, Darold Calloway, Jack and Kathaleen Davis, Richard Finney, tour leaders Un Son Lauri and Sunny Lee, James Bridges, Tim and Susan Kee.
Thank you Korean Veterans Association for your generous and kind hospitality to those who served in the Korean War. As your officials so well put it, these soldiers came from foreign shores, many not even knowing where the country of Korea was and yet fought bravely to help the Korean people remain a free nation. Even though it may have been 60 years since they were acknowledged and recognized for their service, it was a wonderful memorable time for all those whom we were privileged to be associated with.