With all the talk of Korea these days, we should remember the “Forgotten War,” the war in Korea, which began June 25, 1950, 68 years ago. Nasty little thing, lasted only three years, easy to forget.
Except I will always remember my Faribault High School classmate David Kaul, killed at the Battle of Hoengsong Feb. 12, 1951. The United States suffered 1,900 casualties (726 killed) in that two-day battle. The North Koreans stripped the dead Americans of their cold-weather gear and left them on the field. The 7th Marine Division came across the scene of the battle a few weeks later. Because of the cold, the bodies were frozen and preserved. Some had their hands tied; some were shot in the head. Hard to forget a thing like that. David is one of 700 young men from Minnesota killed in Korea; in all, 33,652 American servicemen died fighting in that brutal, little “forgotten” war.
Elmer Dahn, from Le Sueur, Minn., (where I was a teacher for many years) was captured by the North Koreans on Dec. 2, 1950, during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. As best can be determined, he died sometime in March 1951, a prisoner of war. His remains have never been recovered. Elmer is one of 140 MIAs from Minnesota and 8,196 MIAs from the Korean War. Hard to forget him and his last days as a prisoner of war.
Korean War veterans came home, got work, went to school, got married. No welcome-home events. Easy to forget vets who melded back into society so quickly and with such little fuss. The years go on, the forgetting continues — no Ken Burns documentary to remind us, so we forget. The Korean War, forgotten by all — except those of us who were there.
Perhaps this year we can take a moment to remember the David Kauls, the Elmer Dahns, the 33,652 Americans killed in Korea and the 8,196 MIAs lying silent in unknown graves on the other side of the world.
If you happen to know a Korean War vet, one of those who made it home, let him know you have not forgotten. Do it soon, before it’s too late — they’re all in their 80s now.
James Tohal lives in Le Sueur, Minn.