On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, which was the boundary between the Soviet-backed People’s Republic of Korea to the north, and the pro-western Republic of Korea to the south. By July, American troops had entered the war on South Korea’s behalf after the United Nations Security Council decided to dispatch UN forces. Twenty-one countries eventually entered the conflict with the United States providing 88% of the UN Forces. Although it was called a “Police Action” by President Harry Truman, I am sure those who shed their blood on the battlefield, and the families of those who were killed in action, knew it only as a war.
After numerous advancements and retreats by both sides, many consider this war to have ended in a stalemate. At the end of the on July 27, 1953, the Korean Demilitarized Zone remained at the 38th parallel.
The Korean conflict is often referred to as “The Forgotten War” since it rarely received the attention, both during and after the war, on the scale of World War II or the controversial Vietnam War. Nonetheless, there were tremendous sacrifices and losses during the conflict. Buried in the Presidio National Cemetery are 2,273 Americans ‑ many from the city and Northern California ‑ who served in that war.
Including those buried in the Presidio, other numbers to reflect upon are:
- 36,574 dead
- 103,284 wounded
- 7,926 MIA
- 4,714 POW
Now, those who made the ultimate sacrifice in this conflict, and the veterans who served are no longer forgotten ‑ at least not here in San Francisco.
After more than six years of planning and fundraising by a distinguished group of veterans of the United States and the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, there was finally a ground-breaking on December 1, 2015 for the Korean War Memorial in the Presidio of San Francisco. This group established the Korean War Memorial Foundation, and they spearheaded the cause in establishing a memorial. This memorial would not have been possible without the generosity of thousands of individuals and organizations who believe in freedom and who refused to let the sacrifices made by so many remain forgotten in our great city.
The SFPOA contributed early on to this memorial, and I was honored to attend the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday August 1, 2016. Further proving that we have not forgotten, there was an overflow crowd in attendance on that day. We heard from many veterans including KWMF Officers the Honorable Judge Quentin Kopp (Ret.), the Honorable Pete McCloskey former U.S. Congressman, Man J. Kim, and John R. Stevens just to name a few.
The ceremony was held on the edge of the Presidio Cemetery at Lincoln Boulevard and Sheridan Avenue. It was very touching and moving. The location of the memorial with San Francisco Bay and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge as backdrop was ideal and poignant since so many soldiers departed for this war by sailing through the Golden Gate. The inscriptions and images along the 10-foot black stone wall of the memorial tell a story of those who served and suffered.
I fear that my words in this article fall short and cannot fully describe the sanctity of this site. You must go there and be on the grounds of the memorial in order to capture the full experience. You will not regret doing so, as you will have demonstrated that those who have served and sacrificed in the Korean War have not been forgotten.