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July 27, 2013

Local Korea vets reflect after 60 years

July 27 marks the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire that brought an end to fighting in the Korean War. Several area veterans from the war, which started June 25, 1950, and one who served on another front during that time, shared some thoughts about the milestone.

Masonville resident John “Jack” Thomas said he was 19 or 20, living in Valley Stream, when he enlisted in the Army in 1951. He served in the 31st Regiment of the 7the Infantry Division. It was part of the United Nations forces that were sent to the peninsula after North Korea invaded the South.

He served on the battlefront until he came home at the end of 1952. “It was a very bloody war,” he said. He can never forget the severe winters when the temperature would drop far below zero. Surviving the cold was difficult to do. The troops were not outfitted properly for such harsh weather.

He hoped the anniversary “wakes up a few people to what veterans have gone through, and the lives that were lost.”

He recalls being very disappointed when he learned of the cease-fire. The 7th Infantry was put on alert in 1952 to be part of an invasion force.

“I was young and excited about doing it,” he said. The leaders were planning on taking troops by ship from Inchon in South Korea to invade North Korea at the Yalu River. “It was our thought this would unite the country,” Thomas said.

That plan was called off without explanation, he said, but today he’s glad that occurred.

“We don’t know how many thousands would have been killed,” he said. “I am very proud of what we achieved,” including stopping the spread of communism and helping the South Korean people.

He was a teenager when World War II ended and he remembered the proud feeling of welcoming soldiers. There was no similar homecoming for veterans of the Korean War, he said.

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