Editor’s note: Tuesday marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week dedicated what he called a “magnificent” permanent display in the Pentagon to honor veterans of the Korean War.
“We not only acknowledge you, we thank you,” Hagel said to Korean War veterans who attended the dedication of the display, located on the first floor of the Pentagon’s “A” ring. “We assure you that through this dedication today, your efforts and your noble cause will live on. You have helped shape history in a unique and magnificent way.”
The exhibit comprises a collection of photographs, videos, weapons and other artifacts of the Korean War. It also highlights the advancements of women, medicine and technology and the integration of African-Americans into the U.S. military.
“The Korean War has been known in this country too long as ‘The Forgotten War,’” Ahn Ho-young, South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, said at the dedication ceremony. “We should change it to ‘The Forgotten Victory.’”
Since the war, South Korea has made significant economic progress and a transition to democracy, Ahn said, and has an important role in global issues.
“[The war] was a victory and must not be forgotten,” he added.
Echoing Ahn, Hagel said the South Korean people have come far in many ways.
“I know of no other nation that has done as much in such a little bit of time to improve their people and the region, and I know of no country [that is] a better ally to the United States than the Republic of Korea,” the secretary said. “We are grateful for this relationship, [and] … what anchors it … is that special bond of people wanting a better life, who are willing to risk anything for it.”
Referencing his recent trip to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit, Hagel emphasized how the 60-year bilateral relationship between the United States and South Korea was evident in the two nations’ relationships with Japan, the Philippines, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Chinese and European allies.
“This special relationship is bigger than just the Korean Peninsula or the North Asia region,” the secretary said. “It has affected the world.”
The secretary said he is particularly proud of the Americans who left their cities and towns and “went far away to a very bloody conflict in a distant land, where very few knew a lot about the Korean Peninsula.”
Yet when the veterans returned home to the United States, he added, little acknowledgment of their service awaited them.
“Very few people knew where Korea was,” he said. “But … it was just as important in any conflict we’ve been in. The Republic of Korea still plays a key role as a very key ally in maintaining peace, stability and security in that part of the world.”
Hagel offered his gratitude to Korean War veterans on behalf of the Defense Department’s men and women.
“We acknowledge your service, everything you’ve done, what you mean to this country [and] the world, and the model you’ve provided for our young men and women for generations to come,” Hagel told veterans. “It will be evidenced by this great display that we are dedicating today.”