Korean War remembered in Veterans Day ceremonies in Cumberland, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth
CUMBERLAND — The wintry temperatures of Monday morning's Veterans Day ceremony was offset by the warmth of the crowds that met veterans of the Korean War, who were paraded from town to town to be recognized for their efforts six decades ago.
After assembling at the AmVets hall in Yarmouth, veterans from that town, Cumberland and North Yarmouth were bused to the veterans memorial at Moss Side Cemetery in Cumberland for the first of three ceremonies, then to Village Green in North Yarmouth and finally to Yarmouth Town Green, where the last ceremony was held.
State Rep. Steve Moriarty, D-Cumberland, gave a speech in his town, as did attorney Thad Day in North Yarmouth and Cumberland resident Bill Green of WCSH-TV in Yarmouth.
Each ceremony included recognition of the Korean War veterans, presentation of a wreath, reading of names of deceased Korean War veterans, and the playing of taps. A luncheon for the vets followed at the AmVets hall in Yarmouth.
Nearly 100 flags, showing the names of living and deceased Korean War veterans from Cumberland, dotted the grass near the Moss Side Cemetery monument.
Smiling out at the sea of more than 200 veterans and community members who crowded into the cemetery, Town Manager Bill Shane said he had not been sure what kind of turnout the event would have, "but this is fantastic."
Starting in 1950, just five years after the end of World War II, the Korean War ran three years and claimed about 1.2 million military and civilian lives on both sides, according to a resolution read recently at a Cumberland Town Council meeting. More than 36,000 American soldiers and sailors were killed, and more than 8,100 are missing in action. More than 300,000 American military personnel were sent to the Korean Peninsula during the conflict.
"At the mid-point of the 20th century the world was in a dangerous and unstable
condition," Moriarty said during his speech. "The economies of Europe were a shambles following the devastation of the 1940s. Our war-time alliance with the Soviet Union had collapsed, to be replaced by a cold war that split nations into opposing armed camps and left the globe in a state of tense co-existence."
Following the invasion of Democratic South Korea by Communist North Korea, the U.S. entered the fray to defend the south. The U.S. supplied about 90 percent of the troops who supported the United Nations, Moriarty said.
"It was the hottest period of the cold war, and the conflict was a violent and deadly beginning to the second half of the century," he remarked. "Unfortunately, it would not be the last such conflict that the world would experience in the following decades."
Moriarty's comments reflected the tensions that continue to this day between the two Koreas. But he noted that the Americans who gave so much of themselves accomplished much 60 years ago.
"You stopped the spread of Stalinism," he told the white-haired audience members being honored Monday. "You saved South Korea. You saved the newly democratized country of Japan, and other countries on the eastern rim of Asia. Your courage under the most difficult conditions showed the world that we would not retreat or be intimidated by power-minded dictators."