With the historic meeting between North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump scheduled at a luxury resort in Singapore next week, the Korean War which claimed 740 Georgia lives is no longer the “forgotten war.”
Korea’s consul general Young-jun Kim said as much Tuesday, June 5, at a ceremony of the Korean War Veterans Association of Atlanta, held at the Korean Community Center in Norcross on behalf of the war’s 68th anniversary marking the invasion by 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army across the 38th parallel bound for Seoul, South Korea‘s capital city.
“The Korean War is not a ‘forgotten war,’ “ Mr. Kim said. “We have not forgotten the soldiers who are sitting here today. All of you made noble sacrifices to preserve freedom and democracy in Korea and sow the seeds of peace and prosperity on Korea’s barren soil.”
He also referred to the upcoming summit in Singapore, adding, “I strongly hope that we will witness substantial and meaningful results from this meeting, which would ultimately lead North Korea to the path of denuclearization and ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and the entire world.”
Among the more than 100 attendees was 86-year-old Rodney Rector, who at age 20 was assigned to man heavy artillery three to 10 miles behind the battle lines on behalf of the U.S. Army 1st Corps.
He told Global Atlanta that he felt “very lucky” to still be alive despite that his ear drums were “busted” and that he spent five months in hospital ships and Japanese hospitals before returning home to Georgia.
The veterans’ service was evoked by a collection of speakers from several associations and certificates of honor were distributed to members of the Korean War Veterans Association of Atlanta and the Korean War Meritorious Veterans League of Atlanta.
Retired Col. Ben Malcom, 89, also attended the “68th Anniversary of the War Ceremony” and told Global Atlanta that he remains an active racket ball player and lecturer.
During his 29 years of service in the U.S. Army, he also fought in Vietnam and commanded a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, N.C.
He is recognized for his role as a founding member of the U.S. Army Special Forces who in conjunction with CIA operations and North Korean guerrillas fought behind enemy lines. The partisan groups, which he trained at a clandestine camp on an island off western North Korea, numbered only in the hundreds at the beginning of the war. But by its end three years later there were 22,000 partisans fighting in North Korea on behalf of the U.S. and United Nations operations.
Col. Malcom’s role in the top secret operations is described in detail in his book “White Tigers-My Secret War in North Korea,” which he couldn’t complete until these secret activities were unclassified in 1990. The History Channel also has released a one-hour documentary film recounting his experience with North Korean guerrillas being supplied by the Special Forces and CIA operations.
His final position on active duty was as Garrison Commander of the three U.S. Army installatios Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem in Georgia and Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico.
The memory of Medal of Honor recipient Gen. Ray Davis, after whom Chapter 19 of the Korean War Veterans Association of Atlanta is named, was evoked by a poster with his photograph and citation from the Congressional Record on a platform at the front of the luncheon hall.
During his retirement, Gen. Davis was often called upon to recount his experience in the Korean War, which he would call the “forgotten war.” But on Tuesday, Mike Roby, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service, in his remarks said that the “forgotten war” has turned into a “war of remembrance” that sends “a clear message on a road of victory.”
“The Republic of Korea remembers the sacrifice and dedication of you and your colleagues,” Mr. Kim, the consul general, said in his remarks. “The memory of respect and gratitude will persist within the heart of the Korean people in the future.”
He also referred to Korea’s emergence as an important economic power. “Thanks to the sweat and blood you shed on the Korean peninsula, Korea, once one of the poorest countries in the world, has emerged as the 10th largest economy in the world and the sixth largest trading partner with the United States.”
“Once a recipient of foreign assistance, Korea has transformed into a donor country in the international community,” he added. “As you witnessed at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games earlier his year, Korea has also become a strong country in science, technology, sports and culture. Moreover, democracy has been fully restored and is deeply rooted in its soil. In this regard, you deserve to share the same pride the Korean people have kept in their hearts for these achievements.”
Mr. Rector recounted for Global Atlanta how amazed he was by the the development he saw on his recent visit to Seoul more than 60 years after his tour in the war. “There was total devastation when I left,” he said. “Seoul was decimated. There wasn’t a bridge over the Han River (which runs through the city.) Now there must be 15-20 bridges.”
In addition to Mr. Kim, Mike Roby of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service; David Shim, president, Korean War Meritorious Veterans League of Atlanta; Gordon Sherman, president, Korean War Veterans Association of Atlanta; and Urban Rump of the Korean War Veterans Association of Atlanta, all spoke at the ceremony.