Museum marks truce ending Korean War

Saturday, July 26, 2003

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the truce at Panmunjon that ended open hostilities between North and South Korea. The so-called "forgotten war" was a major turning point in American military policy, said Dr. Frank Nickell, a Southeast Missouri State University history professor who teaches a class on the Korean War.

Because the outcome was inconclusive, the United States became committed to a policy of containment, he said. "The policy made the Korean War the catalyst for the Cold War position we took internationally."

Nearly 2 million U.S. men and women served in the Korean War. More than 54,000 of them died in three years of fighting, nearly as many as died in Vietnam over nine years. Sunday, the Stars and Stripes Museum invites all veterans of the Korean War to be guests of honor at an open house and ceremony commemorating the anniversary. Veterans will sign a special register and receive a badge of recognition and special tours of the museum.

The speaker will be Jeremiah Crise, a Korean War veteran who flew an F-86 Sabre-jet that dueled with Russian-built MIG-15s during the war.

Crise's outfit, the Air Force's 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, was responsible for shooting down 312 MIGs during the war. Other members of the 51st included Buzz Aldrin and John Glenn.

Now a Chicago businessman, Crise has returned to South Korea a number of times. He is the first vice president and chairman of the building committee for the National Korean War Veterans Museum and Library to be built in Tuscola, Ill., 20 miles south of the University of Illinois. Besides exhibits and a war machine gallery, the 70,000-square-foot museum will include an 11-acre replica of a Korean War battlefield frontline.

The museum's slogan is "The Forgotten Victory."

War's start

The war began when the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea on June 25, 1950. When the capital of Seoul fell three days later, President Harry S. Truman sent in U.S. ground troops.

The Korean War laid the groundwork for the United States' pursuit of its interests in the world during the last half of the 20th century, Nickell said.

The Korean War also drew the United States into a more active role in Asia. "It set us up for the willingness to go into Vietnam," he said.

Fifty years after the truce was signed, U.S. and South Korean troops continue the face-off against North Korean soldiers at the 38th parallel. The end of the Cold War was heralded when the Soviet Union broke up, but Nickell said "It still goes on in Korea."

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