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Tuesday, September 19, 2000

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Korean War veteran Bob C. Freitas, left, and PFC
Glenn Hill bow their heads in prayer at the start of
ceremonies that marked the 50th anniversary of the
Korean War today at the Kaneohe Marine Corps base.

S. Korean official
praises vets

By Harold Morse

War and peace on the Korean Peninsula over the past half-century took center stage in sunset ceremonies yesterday aboard the battleship Missouri, itself a Korean War veteran that earned five battle stars in Korean waters.

"Without your sacrifice, the Republic of Korea might have disappeared from the world atlas," said Gabriel Oh, vice consul general of the republic, more commonly called South Korea by outsiders.

He lauded United Nations troops who drove invaders back across the 38th Parallel and the naval armada -- including the Missouri -- that evacuated 100,000 refugees in late 1950 from Hungnam, North Korea. "Your sweat and blood kept Korea free and provided some of the foundations for Korea nation building."

It paved the way for a South Korean economic miracle and democratization, he said. "Today, I can proudly say that Korea became an evangelist of democracy."

About 150 Americans who served in the 1950-53 Korean Conflict paid respects to fellow veterans living and dead, along with about a dozen from South Korean forces who served in that war alongside not only their American allies but troops of 15 other nations that made up the United Nations Command.

Hope was seen in the recent diplomatic thaw on the Korean Peninsula with positive signs of eventual reconciliation of north and south so long bitterly divided.

"The Korean War was hard and brutal, fought under conditions as hard as any war that had been fought," said Herschel Gober, acting U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

"I had a brother who served in Korea," he said.

That brother took part in the Inchon landing of Sept. 15, 1950. The Inchon landing, made amidst the dangerous, fluctuating tides there, relieved pressure on men defending the Pusan Perimeter farther south and liberated Seoul, Gober said. "The timing of the operation had to be perfect, and it was."

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when communist-ruled North Korea invaded South Korea. It ended on July 27, 1953, when the United Nations and North Korea signed an armistice.

About 125 Hawaii veterans attended. About 25 mainland veterans returning from events in Korea marking the 50th anniversary of the Inchon landing were there.

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