How many have heard that adage? To those of us who attended high school in the forties, it was the sentence that was used to teach us how to type. WW II was raging in both Europe and Asia at the time. In addition to teaching us typing, it was used to remind us that we needed to support America in the war effort by buying War Bonds and teach us that we might one day be called upon to serve in the Armed Forces, or support the war effort in some other way. I edged up to about 30 words per minute. I dropped out of school at the age of 16 and enlisted in the Army on July 17, 1950, just after the start of the Korea War. Of course, it was not called a war, but a “Police Action” by then President Truman. It was later that it was dubbed “THE FORGOTTEN WAR” by U.S. News & World Report - Oct. 1951. Technically it was not a war. No declaration of war was ever voted on by Congress.
Nevertheless, I can assure you that it was not a “Police Action”, no riots were taking place nor rocks being thrown. Upon enlistment at age 16, my intention was to serve my country in Korea, however, the Army had different ideas about where they wanted me to serve. I was not deployed to Korea until January 1954, thus I only witnessed a few violations of the Truce, which was signed on July 27, 1953, but I did witness the results of the first 37 months of the conflict and the harsh weather conditions under which it was waged. And I did suffer some frost-bite.
It was also an extremely costly conflict in terms of the numbers Killed-in-Action (KIA) , Missing-in-Action (MIA), and Prisoners-of-War (POW). We lost 37,500+ KIA, 8,000 MIA, and an undetermined number of POW’s, which was a death sentence for a huge percentage of them. We also had 103,000+ Wounded-in-Action (WIA). As I stated earlier, the real shooting conflict lasted only 37 months. To get a greater number of casualties on a per month basis, you would have to go all the way back to the Civil War to get them. Now, of course, WW I, WW II, Vietnam, etc. had many more total casualties, but they were much longer wars. Now, please don’t misunderstand, I’m not implying that Korea was a worse war than the other wars. All wars are terrible. In fact, it was General Sherman that said; “War is Hell” when he was in the process of burning Atlanta.
Just recently, I had the privilege and honor of attending a meeting that included American heroes who were POW’s during the Korean War, the “FORGOTTEN WAR,”one for 27 months, Frank Tooley of Greer, SC, and one for 34 months, Lt. William H. Funchess of Clemson, SC. He (Funchess) spoke for about 30 minutes about his experiences during his captivity. There was total silence during those 30 minutes. The men and women sat there in total raptness, hanging on to every word. I think I did witness a few with teary eyes, mine included.
No one who didn’t witness these atrocities can understand or believe the cruelty and viciousness of the North Koreans and the Chinese. He related one story about his experience in Camp 5 that really horrified me. As stated earlier, it was/is extremely cold in Korea. I witnessed 38 degrees below zero, with temperatures not getting above 20 degrees below zero for days and weeks on end. He said that those who died in those unheated mud and straw huts were stacked up in the camp area like cord wood. They were frozen stiff, of course. The other POW’s had to load them on trucks and they were carried across the river and placed on the side of a hill. They were not buried, just covered up with snow. In the spring when the snow melted, dogs and buzzards were seen feasting on the remains. What a disgusting thought. I can’t imagine witnessing such horror.
Many of us in this “FORGOTTEN WAR” , questioned if was it worth it? For a long time we couldn’t decide. However, when you really analyze it, it definitely was worth it. It should be remembered as the “FORGOTTEN VICTORY”, as opposed to the “FORGOTTEN WAR.” The strategic value of this victory can not be overstated. We stopped the spread of communism in Southeast Asia and kept South Korea free. It also served notice to the despot dictators of the world that America was not going to idly stand by when they tried to take over free democracies. That was the beginning of the Cold War, and we all know how that ended.
South Korea, with 50.4 million people (2010 census), in a relatively a short period of time, became the 11TH largest economy in the world and began providing Foreign Aid to other countries rather than receiving it. South Korea already has a WALL OF REMEMBRANCE for American soldiers in Seoul, South Korea, paid for by South Koreans. In addition, South has committed to providing considerable funding for our WALL OF REMEMBRANCE in D. C.. People say all the time that foreigners hate Americans. I can assure you South Koreans don’t hate Americans. They are grateful for America’s sacrifices in the war to keep them free.
All of the above is written as a lead-in to what I really wanted to say. We didn’t have a Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA) until 1986, 33 years after the Truce was signed. We didn’t have a National Memorial until 1996, and didn’t get approval for a WALL OF REMEMBRANCE for the Korean War KIA’s, MIA’s and POW’s until October 2016. The “FORGOTTEN WAR” unfortunately continues to be “FORGOTTEN” by America 66 years after the Truce was signed. I say “FORGOTTEN”, but sadly our younger generations can’t forget it as they have never been taught about the Korean War. Most educators will probably oppose this suggestion, but all students should be required (I was) to take at least one year of American History in High School, and learn why those wars were fought and the importance of remembering those that gave all of their days so they could enjoy freedom, which far too many take for granted.
In 2016, the Foothills Chapter #301 of the KWVA, appointed a Fund-Raising Committee, to raise the funds to have the names of the 576 South Carolinians that were KIA, MIA’s and POW’s engraved in a WALL OF REMEMBRANCE in D. C. I was asked and given the honor of chairing the committee. The goal for SC is $200,000.00. We have raised $133,000.00 thus far. For the most part, the pre 1955 generations have been very supportive and generous, but the younger generations, not so much, but that is understood as they know little if anything about the Korean War..
I DO NOT WANT TO BE PERCEIVED AS BEING UNAPPRECIATIVE. We appreciate every dollar that has been donated. I have tried to write thank you notes to all who have donated. I apologize if I have missed anyone. We have received donations from $1.00 to $5,000.00.
The average age of those fighting in the war at the beginning was between 19 -20 years. Can you imagine the number of 16, 17 and 18 year olds who were over there? We know of one 14 year old. The average age of surviving Korean War Veterans today is 88+ years old. Most of them can’t get out and do much anymore. However, the SC KWVA Foothills Chapter #301 members have worked exceedingly hard to raise these funds. We have knocked on doors, held fundraisers, set up at Walmart and numerous other businesses, spoken to veterans and civic groups all over SC. We have spent untold hours and days preparing 20 or more requests for grants, but none thus far has awarded KWVA any funds. I know there are many charities out there and all of them are worthy of grants. But, if it were not for those who stepped up and defended America and their freedoms, many dying in the process, these groups most likely would not even be allowed to exist today. I guess, to put it bluntly, they don’t, in veterans eyes, have their priorities in the proper order.
What concerns me even more is the lack of support of our elected officials, especially state level officials, many of whom I served with. We promised donors that we would not, and we have not, divulged the names of any contributors, except for those that have given their permission. They are: Senators Wes Hayes, York, Larry Martin, and Rex Rice, Pickens, Dwight Loftis, Greenville, and Tom Corbin, Greenville & Spartanburg, Representives Sylleste Davis, Berkeley, Mike Burns, Wendy Nanney, Garry Smith, and Tommy Stringer, Greenville, Gary Clary, and Neal Collins, Pickens, Christopher J. Murphy, Dorchester, and Bill Chumley and Rita Allison, of Spartanburg. If every member of the State Legislature had sponsored just one (1) KIA (it is legal to use campaign funds for this purpose), we would have met SC’s goal of $200,000.00 long ago.
County Councilmen that have donated are: Butch Kirven, Mike Barnes, and Dan Tripp, of Greenville, and Bob Walker, of Spartanburg. Greer Mayor Rick Danner is also a contributor and supporter.
I requested a meeting with Lt. Governor Pamela Evette and she eagerly accepted and moved my request to the top her incredibly busy schedule. I, along with several Legislators, met with her and she not only contributed, but enthusiastically supports the WALL OF REMEMBRANCE project. She stated that she has, on several occasions, discussed veterans issues with Governor Henry McMaster and that our state is fortunate to have a governor so supportive of veteran issues.
We like to tout the fact that South Carolina is rated the most Veteran Friendly state in the United States. I applaud the Legislature for that. However, those rankings are derived from what the “STATE” does for veterans with taxpayer money, not what Legislators themselves do for veterans. If State Legislators were rated on their individual support for veterans, I’m afraid SC would be very low on the totem pole, if not the lowest.
These 576 men “STEPPED-UP TO AID THEIR COUNTRY” when needed and paid the supreme price. Now, it is our turn to: “ STEP-UP AND COME TO THEIR AID AND RAISE THE FUNDS NECESSARY TO HONOR THEM IN THIS MANNER”, albeit it is decades late in coming.
I think it was Calvin Coolidge who said; “A NATION WHICH FORGETS ITS DEFENDERS WILL ITSELF BE FORGOTTEN.”
We are requesting all who believe as we Korean War Veterans believe, to consider making a tax deductible contribution to: KWVA FOOTHILLS CHAPTER #301. In the “FOR AREA”, please write: WOR or WALL OF REMEMBRANCE.
Mail the checks to: KWVA FOOTHILLS CHAPTER #301, FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE, P. O. BOX 6903, GREENVILLE, SC 29606-6903.