In 1998, Congress declared July 27th of each year until 2003 “National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day” which the President would proclaim annually, to honor those who died during the Korean War (1950-3). 1.8 million Americans fought. 36,574 died and over 7,800 are still missing. As of 2013, there are more than 28,000 Americans still in South Korea. While Congress only mandated marking “National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day” through 2003, the tradition continues, with Florida governor Rick Scott was one of those who proclaimed “National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day” in 2017.
Of those who went to fight, Hallie Duncan of Hannibal, Missouri and Jimmy Bruce of Belham, Kentucky were declared Missing in Action (MIA) in the winter of 1950. In 2003, Sergeant Jimmy Higgins’s and Sergeant Hallie Clark Jr.’s remains were returned to the United States and buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Since 1996, the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii (CIL-HI) has recovered more than 40 sets of remains from Korea.
The Korean War was began on June 25, 1950 when the North Korean army invaded South Korea. Some of the first troops to arrive in Korea were those who were part of the Occupation Force in Japan. Some, such as Curtis Morrow were sent directly to Korea from the United States. Morrow served in the last all-black unit of the Korean War. President Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948, but it was not until during the Korean War that integration actually happened. Morrow detailed his experiences in his first book, What’s a Commie Ever Done to Black People? A Korean War Memoir of Fighting in the U.S. Army’s Last All Negro Unit.
The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, which is now officially called Armistice Day, when the tri-lingual Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in Panmunjom. Over the next two years and seventeen days, 155 meetings marked the longest armistice.
On June 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation that replaced the word “Armistice” with “Veterans,” making November 11 Veterans Day, during which most Americans now observe the Korean Armistice.
Forty-two years after the Armistice, on July 27, 1995, the Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated. It is located near the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The memorial commemorates the 5.8 million Americans who served, and is divided into four parts. The nineteen statues are composed of fourteen Army, three Marine, one Navy, and one Air Force members. The Mural Wall is made by the Cold Spring Granite Company in Cold Spring, Minnesota. It has forty-one panels which measures 164 feet, with more than 2,400 photographs of the Korean War. The last part is the Pool of Remembrance, a reflective pool encircling the Freedom Is Not Free Wall and Alcove. At the base of the Alcove are listed those who were killed, wounded, went missing, or were taken prisoner during the war. Beside the Mural Wall, is the United Nations Wall, listing the twenty-two nations who sent troops to aid the United Nations efforts.
The Korea Society, founded in 1957, when General James Van Fleet and a group of prominent Americans established the first nonprofit organization in the United States, to promote good relations between the United States and Korea. The U.S.-Korea Society in New York and the U.S.-Korea Foundation in Washington DC merged in 1993 to become the Korea Society. The Society hosts an annual ceremony to honor Korean War Veterans at the New York Korean War Veterans Memorial in Battery Park in lower Manhattan in 2016.