It’s been called the “Forgotten War.” But Alan Lertzman, our speaker last week, is on a mission to make sure that it is not. As a member of the Korean War Veteran’s Association, he gives presentations on the history of the Korean War “so that there is better understanding of this important event in our history.”
Alan, who was accompanied by his wife Lynn, attended the Georgia Military Academy and was an Artillery Forward Observer during the war.
He started off by recapping the situation that led to the war.
After World War 2, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had to decide what to do with Korea, which had been part of the Japanese empire. They decided to divide it in two at the 38th parallel, with the north becoming a Soviet, and the south a U.S., zone of occupation.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea made a surprise invasion into South Korea. Their forces captured Seoul, and caused South Korean forces to retreat to a tiny area at the tip of the peninsula called the Pusan perimeter.
The United Nations voted to come to the aid of South Korea, and the first contingent of troops arrived in July. This was a milestone, according to Alan, as it was the first time the U.S. participated in a civil war in a foreign country.
The first few weeks there was a very high number of casualties–three times the number of D-Day, said Alan. However, the U.N. action prevented the North Koreans from capturing Pusan.
About this time, General Douglas MacArthur conceived a strategy that turned a losing war into a winning one. An amphibious assault was launched with 70,000 troops at Inchon Landing. The North Koreans were no match, and Seoul was recaptured.
However, MacArthur wanted to keep going toward China to eliminate the threat of communism. “China decided it did not want a democracy so close to its borders,” said Alan. In November of 1950, 300,000 Chinese crossed the border into North Korea and began attacking U.N. forces (mostly American). In 1951, the city of Seoul was completely demolished. President Harry Truman fired Gen. MacArthur.
Truce talks began and were held for two years. On July 27, 1953 an armistice was signed, but not a peace treaty–which Alan said means that the Korean War has not officially ended. All in all, 40,000 people lost their lives and 100,000 were wounded in this war.
Alan said that 100,000 North Koreans did not want to live under communism, so the U.S. Navy made room for these refugees on ships.
Alan gave examples of the brutality of this war. A battle at Chosun Reservoir was fought in horrific freezing cold. He said the Marines called it “Massacre Valley.” Alan said, “No words can describe the brutal, hand-to-hand combat I observed from my post at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill.”
On a lighter note, Alan showed some photos “taken with an old fashioned Kodak camera” of himself in military fatigues. “I hadn’t had a shower in weeks,” he said. “It felt so good to take one, and to have clean clothes. Even today, my wife teases me about the time I spend in the shower.”
On another note: The clock is ticking on the annual auction. Just four weeks from this Saturday. Please buy your tickets and get your donations in ASAP…Karl Hughes at Allegra needs some lead time to prepare and print the programs!
Terry Weldon, vice president and commercial loan officer at Premier Community Bank, was a guest at our meeting again last week. His application for membership in the club has been approved by the board and is now in the comment period. We look forward to welcoming Terry as the 73rd member of our club.