It was 67 years ago today that the end came for a war that still hasn’t really ended.
The Korean War began June 25, 1950, and ended just over three years later. There were 36,000 Americans killed in the war and more than 100,000 wounded. Many more Korean and U.N. personnel also were casualties.
And yet, no peace treaty has ever been signed. The armistice that was agreed to on July 27, 1953, is all there’s ever been. South Korea never signed even that. U.S. troops continue to be stationed in Korea, guarding against North Korea trying again to reunite the peninsula.
According to figures from the U.S. Census, about 2,900 Korean War-era veterans live in The Villages.
Maj. Gen. John McWaters, of the Village of Bonnybrook, was an enlisted man serving in the 13th Combat Engineer Company when the armistice was announced.
“There would be no more killing, no more shooting,” he said.
McWaters said the liquor began to flow freely in his unit.
“Everyone was happy,” he said. “Even Alex, our German shepherd dog, was happy.”
According to McWaters, now the commander of the Korean War and Korean Defense Veterans Association in The Villages, there were two sticking points before an armistice could be agreed upon. One was the exchange of prisoners, and the other was which side would get a fertile agricultural area north of the 38th parallel, where the demarcation line between north and south was before the war. South Korea ended up with the agricultural area, which feeds much of that country to this day.
As for the prisoner exchange, McWaters was able to witness part of it. His commander wanted to watch, so McWaters drove them up to the area where the exchange was taking place. McWaters said the trucks carrying North Koreans and Chinese had clothing flying out of the back. Those soldiers had been told not to bring anything from the south back to North Korea.
Each prisoner on both sides was asked if they wanted to return to their home countries. About 22,000 prisoners from the north opted to remain in the south; 21 Americans stayed in North Korea.
“There was no end to it,” McWaters said.
Senior writer Steve Straehley can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5228, or email@example.com.