Illinois and the Korean War, April 1953
The State of Illinois is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War by supplying information each month about the state’s involvement in the conflict.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Illinois Korean Memorial Association, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum are sponsoring “Illinois Remembers the Forgotten War” along with media partners the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Broadcasters Association. For more information, visit www.Illinois-History.gov or www.veterans.illinois.gov.
Illinoisans killed in action in Korea, April 1953
By county of residence
(Source: U.S. Department of Defense records)
Alexander Sgt. James L. Diggs, Jr., Army, April 10.
Christian Pvt. Ronald J. Vecchie, Army, April 19.
Cook PFC Charles W. Berg, Army, April 15.
PFC Jared W. Fox, Army, April 16.
PFC Carl T. Franke, Jr., Army, April 20.
Pvt. Roy Ray, Jr., Army, April 27.
Sgt. Harold F. Rice, Marines, April 10.
Cpl. Walter D. Schmid, Marines, April 9.
Sangamon PFC James E. Gordley, Army, April 1.
Tazewell 1stLt Robert E. Varney, Army, April 5.
Williamson Cpl. Richard W. Parks, Army, April 16.
Key events during the Korean War
A name that became synonymous with the Korean War, Pork Chop Hill, was again the site of savage fighting in April 1953. As they had done in November 1952 and March 1953, waves of Communist forces attacked the nondescript hill on April 16 in an attempt to dislodge the United Nations defenders, which included the 17th and 31st Infantry Regiments of the United States 7th Infantry Division. American forces were hit hard and suffered heavy casualties, but were able to hold their ground due largely to an astounding barrage of 77,349 artillery rounds that rained down on the Communist attackers during the two-day battle. But the worst was yet to come for the defenders of Pork Chop Hill, as both sides would soon learn that summer. The struggle for what was essentially a meaningless piece of terrain had become a test of wills for both sides.
An encouraging sign occurred between April 20-26 as sick and wounded prisoners of war were exchanged by Communist and United Nations forces in what was called “Operation Little Switch.” During the prisoner exchange at Panmunjom, the site of the peace talks, the United Nations turned over 5,194 North Korean soldiers, 1,030 Chinese soldiers, and 446 civilian detainees. The Communists turned over 149 Americans, 461 South Koreans, 32 United Kingdom soldiers, 15 Turks, six Colombians, five Australians, two Canadians, and one each from the Philippines, South Africa, Greece and the Netherlands.
On April 26, the final day of Operation Little Switch, armistice talks resumed at Panmunjom after a six-month hiatus. Ironically, during the next several months, the government of South Korean President Syngman Rhee would prove to be the biggest stumbling block as the two sides tried to hammer out an end to the war. Rhee skillfully engineered public support for a unified Korea, to include a parade on April 10 by 50,000 students in the port city of Pusan demanding “Unification or Death.” Rhee sought nothing less than a reunited Korea, with himself in charge.
Illinois Korean War Memorial
The Illinois Korean War Memorial is located in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery, the same cemetery that contains the Lincoln Tomb. Oak Ridge is the nation’s second most visited burial ground behind only Arlington National Cemetery.
Dedicated on June 16, 1996, the memorial consists of a 12-foot-tall bronze bell mounted on a granite base. At the circumference of the base are four niches, each with a larger-than-life figure representing a branch of the armed services. Inscribed on the base are the 1,754 names of Illinoisans killed in Korea.
The Illinois Korean War Memorial is administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and may be visited daily free of charge.
Korean War Veterans Oral History Project
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s Oral History Program offers “Veterans Remember,” a collection of interviews with Illinois residents about their wartime experiences, at the Library’s website, www.alplm.org/oral_history/home.html. The interviews concern the experiences of Illinois veterans who fought in several conflicts, including the Korean War, as well as the experiences of those on the home front. Visitors to the website can listen to or watch the interviews in their entirety. Several of the interviews have transcripts, and most have still images as well.
Website visitors will need a computer capable of playing MP3 audio files or MPG compressed video files in order to listen to the interviews. The transcripts and still images are also accessible. Volunteers conducted and edited many of the interviews and developed the transcripts that accompany them.
Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs
The mission of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs is to empower veterans and their families to thrive. The department does this by assisting them in navigating the system of federal state and local resources and benefits; by providing long-term health care for eligible veterans in the state’s Veterans’ Homes; and by partnering with other agencies and non-profits to help veterans address education, mental health, housing, employment, and other challenges. http://www2.illinois.gov/veterans. Follow them on: www.twitter.com/ILVets or www.facebook.com/illinois.veterans.
Korean War Booklet
The Illinois Korean Memorial Association, an all-volunteer organization, has published a booklet, A Brief History of the Korean War, copies of which have been provided free of charge to public libraries, high schools and junior high schools in Illinois. Individuals may obtain a copy by sending a $10 check or money order to: Illinois Korean Memorial Association, P.O. Box 8554, Springfield, IL 62791.
Tax deductible donations are welcome. One hundred percent of all donations go to the book project and to the upkeep of the Illinois Korean War Memorial.