Mo. Digital News
Missouri Digital News
Mo. Digital News
Missouri Digital News
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By Mark D. Hughes
«RM75»«FC»COL25.MDH - Missouri's Role In Korean Conflict Must Never Be Lost in History
On June 25, 1950, an estimated 25,000 troops of the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th Parallel, invading the Republic of South Korea and triggering the first military action of the Cold War.
The battleship USS Missouri, on whose decks World War II had ended fewer than five years earlier, was already on its way to support U.N. troops on the Korean coast. Missouri's own President Harry S Truman, who had authorized the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that brought that war to an end, vowed that the United States would not let South Korea fall to the unprovoked communist invasion.
And so, 66 years ago this month, began an armed conflict in which more than 5 million people -- including 40,000 U.S. troops -- would be killed, Another 100,000 U.S. troops would be wounded and nearly 8,000 would be listed as missing in action.
The battleship Missouri -- The Mighty Mo -- would be the heavy hitter of naval support throughout the three years of armed engagement in Korea. The ship was called into action for two separate tours in that conflict. In September, 1950, the battleship fired support for the landing at Inchon, an amphibious invasion of 75,000 troops involving more than 250 vessels. The invasion led to a decisive victory for America and her U.N. allies and led to the recapture of South Korea's capital, Seoul.
In October, China entered the war, trapping American and U.N. forces at the Chosin Reservoir. Poorly equipped and without winter gear, troops suffered bitter sub-zero temperatures, On Dec. 23, the USS Missouri began firing support for those troops trapped at Chosin, continuing to shell until the evacuation was completed three days later.
The Missouri continued coastal bombardments until March 1951, when it was relived of duty, The great battleship was recalled for a second tour of duty in October, 1952 to fire support for troops ashore. It continued to engage enemy targets and supply lines until March, 1953. A model of the Missouri is featured in the Missouri Capitol, along with the ship's massive bell.
While the USS Missouri engaged in battle, the president from Missouri faced a unique battle of his own. The Korean war began as a defensive rescue -- to drive the North Korean forces out of South Korea. The entry of China into the war -- and with the Russians supporting both communist countries militarily --the conflict risked escalation the Truman administration wanted to avoid.
The allied commander, General Douglas MacArthur, had led troops to victory in World War II. MacArthur wanted full-scale war with China. MacArthur wrote a letter declaring that "there is no substitute for victory against international communism to the House Republican leader, who supported the general's position, The letter was leaked to the press, Truman fired the popular general for insubordination in March, 1951
Thousands of Missourians served in the military during the Korean conflict. Tragically, approximately 900 Missourians were killed in that engagement. Three of those Missourians who gave their lives displayed valor that earned them the Congressional Medal of Honor
In 2003, the Missouri General Assembly established a special award to honor Missouri veterans of the Korean conflict. The medals are awarded by the Missouri National Guard. More than 17,000 of the Korean War Medallions have been awarded.
Armed engagement in the Korean conflict lasted three years and was ended by a truce signed in July, 1953. But the truce did not end the hostilities. For the last six decades, U.S. troops have remained in south Korea, along a demilitarized zone that separates the free south from the communist north. For 66 years, those troops have served to make good on a promise made by Missouri's President Harry S Truman that South Korea would not fall to an unprovoked communist invasion -- a promise that continues to stand to this day.
[After a career in journalism, Mark Hughes became a top, non-partisan policy analyst for Missouri government including the state Senate, state Treasurer's Office and the utility-regulating PSC. He has been an observer and analyst of state government since the administration of Gov. Kit Bond.]
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