June 27, 1953, was the day a silent, brusque signing of an armistice treaty ended a bloody stalemate in Korea after 37 months.
President Obama will lead the nation in commemorating the moment at a morning ceremony, called Heroes Remembered, at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington.
The Korean War began as a United Nations police action, pitting U.S. forces and allies against communist North Koreans, backed by China and the Soviet Union. The police action, the Korean conflict, did not become the Korean War until a congressional designation in 1998.
Historian James Wright, writing in the July issue of The Atlantic magazine, reminds us the reference to a Forgotten War dates back decades, and is not about contemporary lapses of memory. Ambivalence over entry into the conflict, its bloody path and its amorphous ending in a military and diplomatic tie shoved it aside. The war is fresh in the minds of those who lost loved ones and colleagues among the 36,574 U.S. troops killed in fighting. Other military and civilian losses soared into the millions.
The Korean campaign, as Wright points out, established a pattern repeated over the next six decades, of undeclared wars, inconsistent or unclear military goals, affiliations with undemocratic regimes, undependable military allies, and little political and domestic consensus on the missions and investment of young lives.
The inconclusive end of the Korean War rankled military leaders. Many in the country wanted to move on.
The legacy of the war, which includes a commitment of 28,000 troops in South Korea, is the bravery of the men and women who answered the call to duty. They served with distinction, and their service is not forgotten.