There was no doubt on any military-oriented calendar I checked about today being an exact date in military history. You can take this one to the bank. The VFW calendar says today is also National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day.
On this date and month 60 years ago, in 1953, a truce ended the fighting of the past three years in the Korean War. That truce might be in jeopardy, however, as the new young leader of North Korea repudiated the treaty a few months ago.
For whatever that attempt is worth, the 37 months of shooting ended in the Land of the Midnight Calm 60 years ago today. Those bloody months had cost the U.S. 27,704 killed in action and 77,596 wounded.
But now for a bit of a mystery. The official U.S. Army history book, American Military History, lists U.S. missing in action as of 1953 at 4,658. The 2013 VFW calendar puts the figure today at 7,900. I can't understand how it could have risen by 3,242 people since 1953, but that's what the figures say.
The fighting ended but U.S. and other foreign troops remained in South Korea. Young 2nd Lt. John Reichley had his first assignment there, 10 years after the fighting ended. We went 40 days without running water as engineers installed new water pipes, meaning all water we used came from 5-gallon cans.
But that minor deprivation did not deter this young lieutenant from remaining in the Army for a career. What's a little water from a 5-gallon can?
When the other lieutenants were watching ball games on weekends, going to Seoul, or pursuing other pursuits, I hitched rides into the DMZ on any vehicle I could find going there. Our camp was just south of the Chorwan Valley, and every time I went north toward the DMZ there were dug-in South Korean tanks facing north, inoperable except for the guns.
On several visits I went to South Korean "show positions" that overlooked the DMZ into North Korea, where English-speaking junior officers were always glad to give a briefing.
I visited the Truce Village of Panmumjom twice, the only time I ever saw North Korean soldiers in uniform. That is where officials still meet to discuss whatever business needs to be discussed between the two sides.
Neutral countries were chosen to be stationed on both sides of the DMZ at Panmumjom, Switzerland and Sweden with the United Nations, and Czechoslovakia and Poland with North Korea. For many years all four nations have sent students to CGSC.
Before I run out of room, a plug for an upcoming event if I may. On Oct. 19, those patriotic librarians across the river will host the 17th Veterans Salute. Each year a theme is chosen, one that is meaningful to that year.
Page 2 of 2 - The theme for the 2013 Salute will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the truce that ended the fighting in Korea. It's a long time off, but times are busy for everyone these days, so mark your calendar now.
This year's Salute, about which you'll read much more as time draws nigh, will again be at the Mid-Continent Public Library in Smithville. There is plenty of parking (free), 50 tables of historical displays inside the library, several with artifacts from the Korean War (including members of area Korean War veterans groups) (free), static displays of vintage military vehicles outside (free), and plenty of camaraderie all day long. It will be from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and no one will have to spend a dime. Lots more later.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.