Korean War veterans stand to be recognized by President Barack Obama and the audience during a July 27 ceremony in Washington that marked the 60th anniversary of the war's armistice. (Photo by Marty Callaghan)

Korean War armistice marks 60th year

The Korean War has lasted for 63 years. When it began on June 25, 1950, the schools in America were still segregated, a polio vaccine did not exist, outer space was void of satellites, and all the Beatles were in grade school. Disneyland was still in the future. So was color television and "M*A*S*H."

Indeed, the Korean War has lasted a very long time – technically. But the raging combat ended 60 years ago today with the signing of an armistice. For three years, armed forces from the United States, South Korea and United Nations allies had battled Communist invaders from North Korea and China – well-supplied by the Soviet Union.

When Communist troops from North Korea attacked across the 38th parallel, they drove back U.S. and South Korean troops until they were confined to the area around the port city of Pusan.

When Gen. Douglas MacArthur led an amphibious landing of U.S. and South Korean troops at Inchon in September 1950, the tide began to turn for U.N. forces. North Korean troops retreated northward until Communist China reinforced them in October 1950.

From that point on, the battle line in Korea essentially see-sawed back and forth until the fighting ended.

The sacrifices and struggles of American forces in the Korean War was remembered and honored during a July 27 ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington; President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel shared their words with several hundred Americans who gathered to thank those who served in Korea.

Many veterans service organizations, including The American Legion, and Department of Defense representatives presented wreaths at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The ceremony also recognized the 22 United Nations allies that provided combat troops, medical teams and other support during the war.

Addressing a crowd that included many Korean War veterans, Obama said “Korea taught us the perils of when we fail to prepare. After the Second World War, a rapid draw-down left our troops under-equipped. So that in the early days of Korea, their rockets literally bounced off enemy tanks.

“Today, as we end a decade of war and reorient our forces for the future, as we make hard choices at home, our allies and adversaries must know the United States of America will maintain the strongest military the world has ever known, bar none – always – that is what we do.”

In his remarks, Hagel said the United States “forged a lasting partnership with the Republic of Korea, one that has endured for more than six decades, because of our shared values and shared sacrifices. And we built trust with allies in Europe, Asia and Africa.”

Hagel said the Korean War “teaches us an important lesson – that alliances and international institutions are extensions on our influence, not constraints on our power. They are critical to our long-term vision of peace and stability, especially in the Asian Pacific.”

More than 28,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serve in Korean today, a legacy of the military commitment made to the Republic of Korea more than six decades ago.