'Freedom Is Not Free': America Salutes Korean War Veterans

Article excerpt

The 1.5 million Americans who served in Korea between 1950 and 1953 and the more than 54,000 who died there saw some of the cruelest warfare - and took part in some of the most heroic action - in American history. But for more than four decades after the end of the war, there was no monument in Washington to commemorate their service. "Back in 1953 a lot of people didn't think about it - about building a memorial" says Richard Adams of Caruthers, Calif., past president of the 15,000-member Korean War Veterans Association.

The Korean war was not popular with Americans, who only five years earlier had been embroiled in a far larger conflict, World War II. Veterans "came back and went on to college and didn't give the war a thought," wanting to get on with their lives, says Adams.

Times change, however, and on July 27 - the 42nd anniversary of the Korean armistice - the Korean War Veterans Memorial will be dedicated. The monument is the result of intense pressure and lobbying from veterans' groups; its $18 million cost has been raised entirely from private sources.

Hostilities broke out on the Korean peninsula on June 25, 1950, Adams' 18th birthday. He already was in the Army, stationed in Japan, when troops from communist North Korea invaded noncommunist South Korea and came close to occupying the entire country. The United Nations responded by sending troops from 21 nations to defend the south. But the United States sent the lion's share of men and war materiel, a fact that has raised controversy concerning the memorial: Many veterans argue that the U.N. role, mentioned on the memorial, should have been down-played.

China and the Soviet Union aided North Korea. At the war's end, no peace treaty was signed - there was but a cessation of hostilities - and no peace treaty has been signed to this day, a fact that remains a source of unrest. …