EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard As former editor for the Marinette EagleStar, Larry Ebsch is still writing for the EagleHerald and helping at the Michael J. Anuta Center as it his hobby and life-long passion. (picture taken 12-20-11) (Color reprints: www.ehextra.com)
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard As former editor for the Marinette EagleStar, Larry Ebsch is still writing for the EagleHerald and helping at the Michael J. Anuta Center as it his hobby and life-long passion. (picture taken 12-20-11) (Color reprints: www.ehextra.com)

Seventy years ago today — (Sunday) June 25, 1950 — North Korean troops stormed across the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea. The assailment triggered a bitterly-fought war that lasted 36 months before an armistice ended the hostilities.

The North Korean military was well equipped to inflict pain and suffering on an impoverished and hapless country smaller than its rival. The Republic of Korea (ROK) lacked the military strength of the invaders. The United Nations asked for troops to restore peace.

President Harry Truman ordered Air Force and Navy personnel to Korea on June 27. Three days after that Truman approved ground forces and airstrikes against North Korean forces. The war intensified.

The surprise assault by North Korea came only five years after World War II had ended with the surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945. Life was in turmoil on the U.S. homefront. A steel strike idled 750,000 workers and 400,000 mine workers in 1946. The Communist Party was active worldwide. General Douglas MacArthur took over supervision of Japan in September 1945. The Marshall Plan, named for General George C. Marshall who proposed it, was rebuilding European countries after the devastating impact of WWII.

In 1949, unemployment was high, the economy was in rough shape and the federal minimum wage was 75 cents an hour. Many young men coming out of high school enlisted in one of branches of the military. The military draft was still in affect. Most of the U.S. troop strength for the Korean War came from the ranks of the military draft.

The North Korean Army drove deep into South Korea territory before Gen. MacArthur was able to put together a force that stymied the invaders and turned them back to the 38th Parallel and eventually into North Korea. In fact, U.N. troops had the North Koreans on the run until Communist China sent more than 200,000 troops to help their neighbors.

Korea-cease fire talks began in July 1951 and lasted two years. Fighting ended July 27, 1953. 

The M&M area provided scores of men and women to the U.S. military machine during the 36-month conflict. Overall, 5,720,000 troops served in the various U.S. military branches. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 33,739 died in combat, and 103,284 were wounded.

The U.S. military awarded 146 Medals of Honor to Korean War veterans; issued 715 Distinguished Service Crosses (second highest award); and 10,061 Silver Stars (third highest award).

Today, South Korea is a major player on the world’s economic stage. It is a beautiful and prosperous country. Americans drive South Korean-made automobiles. They have South Korean-made television sets and other electronic gadgets. South Korea has hosted two Olympic Games. It is a favorite visiting place for tourists. It has produced some of the top amateur and professional golfers, men and women, in world competition. South Korean athletes excel in other sports.

The U.S. military veteran who fought in the war can take pride in watching the tiny country grow and prosper. In the meantime, North Korea, which still has a strong military presence, continues to struggle in many other ways under a Communist dictatorship.

For the American veteran, the memories still echo 70 years later.