The Korean War, 1950-1953
Sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War, the "Forgotten War" in Korea began in 1950 when Soviet- and Chinese-backed North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded neighboring South Korea. The United Nations, and particularly the United States, rallied to support the independence of South Korea. Vicious fighting and numerous exchanges of territory eventually ended in 1953, when the warring nations declared an unsteady armistice and installed heavy defenses along the demilitarized boundary between North and South Korea.
During the war, Tennessee furnished, in addition to increased enlistments in the regular armed forces, units of the Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Army Reserve Corps, and Marine Corps — 10,500 officers and soldiers serving as fighter pilots, combat infantrymen, engineers, artillerymen, and members of support units.
Jack Knox's After Five O’clock Cartoons
Jack Knox served as the lead cartoonist for the Nashville Banner from 1946 to 1975. He published a collection of cartoons related to the Korean War commenting on "domino theory" Communist expansion, Soviet-US animosity, and the lack of materiel support for US soldiers in Korea.
Colonel Harry Ellery McKinney
McKinney, a West Point graduate, served in Korea from 1951-1952. He was a combat troop commander and later a senior advisor in the establishment of the Korean Military Academy.
About: October 21, 1951
Note I’m up to my usual tricks — can’t remember dates! And small wonder — for two weeks we’ve been fighting the hardest, cruelest fighting this regiment has experienced in it’s [sic] 16 months over here. To date, I have had 22 officers and 600 enlisted men killed or wounded. It is a tribute to . . . our medical corps that only 2% of the wounded die. If they can get medical men to the man or the man to the medics he usually has a fine chance. One officer went to his unit three days ago, was wounded today. He had four wounds before from World War II. This is number five and he is a badly shaken man. Another, ex-18th Infantry 1st Lieutenant has six Purple Hearts (wounds), two Silver Stars (heroism) and the Distinguished Service Cross, (second highest), reported in, and due to his wonderful record I put him in the 4.2 Mortor [sic] Company for relative safety. He was in a truck that hit a mine and was wounded again!
I’ve been under Arty [artillery] and Mortar fire, the first whistles a warning but the mortar doesn’t..it’s more terrifying. I’ve driven eight times over a road after it was swept for mines and later someone hit a mine. Two days ago I was over the same road and the lead jeep in my party of four jeeps, carrying three enlisted guards, hit a mine which made a large pop, kicked up dirt and scared hell out of us. But, only a little of the two and half pounds of TNT went off, and none was hurt. This was the only dud we have found. You can’t imagine what a feeling it is to cower in a ditch or fox-hole while 20 to 30 rounds or arty or mortar go off around you. The thing thats with me every minute is my dread of climbing these mountains — they’re really rough.
Just had a phone call. In action yesterday by one battalion where we had about 70 casualties, we killed 200, counted estimated 200 more and estimated as many more wounded. Since this fracas we have counted for the entire Regiment 776 Chinese dead, estimated 600 more dead and 1000 wounded. It is a terrible job to get the wounded down from the mountains. If its a litter case it take 4 men to carry one, and it may be a mile or two miles to a point where litter jeeps are located.
When our action started certain key officers were due for Rest & Recuperation in Japan for five days. I won’t let them go, and one of them, a terrific good soldier, was killed instantly. Of such thing is a commanders life made. There are difficulties too, veyond [sic] those in the States to be overcome. Every decision must be right as terrible consequences follow when wrong ones are made.
We’ve been fighting six days for certain terrain (just South of Kumsong [now part of North Korea]), which is high and therefore commanding. Tonight we stand on the threshold of a great victory or if the Chinese, can bring enough force on us, a disasterous [sic] defeat. In other words we’ve got them ready for the kill, every man knows his job tomorrow. If he don’t (the Chinemen [sic]) counterattack tonight, we’ll win the kill, and the territory we’ve fought so long to gain. The area contains a river roads to our rear and other advantages which will be useful for the Winter. We must get it, or else retire to better positions in the rear. This we will not allow to happen. Things worked out today so that it was too late to throw our final punch, but all is in readiness and I have just issued the order for tomorrows attack. You’ll certainly read of this one in the papers. . . .
I love you,
Korean War Newspaper Clippings
During the war local papers listed soldiers captured, wounded, or awarded medals. They also reported on domestic affairs, such as draft board delinquents and men returning home.
Correspondence from Airman Michael Sharp
The 1953 armistice did not end hostilities in Korea. To this day the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea is one of the most heavily fortified and guarded borders in the world. This letter from 1981 describes an incident near Kusan Airbase.
To assist veterans of the Korean War with the preservation of their history, the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) has launched Tennessee Remembers: Korean War Veterans. The goal of this project is to collect original documents, photographs, and memorabilia related to the in-country experiences of veterans during the Korean War.
Section researched and written by James Castro, Archival Assistant.