Nov 11, 2013
05:39 AMConnecticut Today
Veterans Day Marks 60 Years From End of 'Forgotten War' in Korea
Korean War veteran and former U.S. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Gandolfo remembers carrying one of his soldiers who had been wounded by shrapnel during the Battle of the Hook, down a mountain in 1952and being told two weeks later that the man hadn’t made it.
Almost 60 years later, Gandolfo, of Canaan, attended a Korean War veterans event in Missouri and noticed a man in a wheelchair who was trying to get his attention. The man pointed at him and said: “I know you, you’re Sergeant Badass!” Gandolfo didn’t recognize the man and asked for his name. The man was Roy Hines, the same soldier he had carried to safety after reoccupying the mountain from North Korean control and was told had died from his injuries.
To this day, Gandolfo still gets emotional when he tells the story.
“I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘It can’t be you.’ The last time I saw him, he was shot up with shrapnel,” said Gandolfo. “I carried him down the mountain and they [the doctors] told me he had died a couple of weeks later. I took the loss hard, but all this time, he was alive in Missouri.”
It’s stories like this that Korean War veterans are remembering this Veterans Day, particularly with 2013 being the 60th anniversary of the end of one of the bloodiest wars in history. Despite the huge losses—Gandolfo said there were more than 40,000 Americans killed and a quick internet search shows over four million total civilian and military casualties—Korean War veterans said that the war is forgotten by many and not even considered a war by some, but rather called a conflict.
“It makes me burn when I see in the paper with an obituary or article, [whoever] served in Korean conflict,” Gandolfo said. “It was a war. Congress had declared war.”
In hindsight, Gandolfo said that not much was resolved in Korea at the war’s end. The 38th parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea, remained stationary after Truman ordered American troops to stop their advance. However, progress was made in that North Korea’s spread of communism was halted.
Former Navy soldier Rene Richards, of Torrington, echoed those sentiments and remembers how poorly he and other Korean War veterans were received upon returning home.
“What I do feel bad about is every time something is mentioned with veterans, those who were in Korea are forgotten,” Richards said. “We lost thousands over there. There was no response when returning home to America—no ‘good job’ was said or anything upon returning. We were fighting another country that America didn’t give a damn about.”
Daniel C. Thurston Jr., commander of Torrington’s American Legion Post 137, said the war was about preventing the spread of communism and the Korean veterans who fought to achieve that sacrificed a lot to allow Korea the chance for freedom, something South Korea has taken advantage of. Thurston said people should take time this Veterans Day to remember all of the nation’s veterans.
“It’s important from a general standpoint to remember vets this weekend,” Thurston said. “Veterans who have served have put their normal lives aside to protect the constitution and all of the freedoms we enjoy.”