It began on June 25, 1950, the first military action of the Cold War.
An invasion force of the North Korean Peoples Army, numbering close to 100,000, crossed over the 38th parallel, a boundary that separated the Korean peninsula - north from south. The United Nations, with the support of the United States as the primary force, came to the assistance of South Korea. Meanwhile, North Korea found support from of both China and the Soviet Union.
Known by many as “the forgotten war,” American officials believed it to be a war of communism on an international scale itself.
By July 27, 1953, when the treaty had been signed, more than five million soldiers and civilians, including 34,000 Americans, had lost their lives.
Ron Chandler, Post Adjutant for the American Legion Post #163, said it was important to remember those who had served in the Korean War some 66 years ago last Wednesday.
That said, Post #163, who has 40 Korean War veterans on their roster, recognized them at a special gathering, complete with a dinner and dance which included entertainment by the Fabulouse '50s band.
“As with all veterans of the great wars, the American Legion will never forget our Korean War veterans,” Chandler said. “I can personally relate to those that attended our event to honor them since my father fought in both WWII and the Korean War. We will never forget any of our veterans and we honor their families as they too sacrificed for our nation.”
Just a kid
Bill Jackson, who moved to Parker County in 1994, said he entered the service in 1948, at the tender age of 17.
“I didn’t get along well in school, and truthfully I didn’t get along real well with my parents,” Jackson said. “So, my dad signed for me when I went in at 17.”
Jackson joined the Navy and found himself aboard the USS Duncan, a Gearing Class destroyer, where he said he learned a lot as a machinist mate.
“I worked in the engine room and loved it,” he said.
The Duncan, (DDR - 874), was also known as "Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast.” Jackson said the destroyer was equipped with five inch guns and torpedoes.
“We didn’t see any fighting except from the ship,” he said. “Of course you could hear the guns fire, and about a half minute later you’d see where they’d hit, as they struck their target.”
He said he remembered one time when they were firing at a train.
“It ran into and a tunnel and never came out,” he said. “He got in there and hid.”
On another occasion Jackson recalled the Duncan taking on fuel from an aircraft carrier.
“We had lost the steering on our ship,” Jackson said. “When we went to pull away we gave one screw (propeller) more torque than the other. The only problem was they got it backwards and gave to much power to the wrong propeller. We pulled right into the side of the aircraft carrier.”
Jackson left the service in 1952 to work for Mobile Oil.
Curtis McKee, who has lived in Weatherford for the last seven years, also entered the fray in Korea at 17-years-old.
“I was to young to fight in World War II,” McKee said. “The reason I joined when I did was I had been skipping school a lot.”
He said when he was a youth, truancy officers where serious about student attending classes.
“I was with a friend and we were walking down the street when we saw the truancy officer coming,” he said. “So we quickly stepped into a business and it happened to be a recruitment center.”
McKee said he decided to speak with them. After visiting with the Navy recruiter he decided that’s what he wanted to do.
“So the recruiter said he needed me to go to school and talk to them,” McKee said. “The principal was a retired Navy man so he thought it was a good idea.”
But the biggest challenge McKee had awaited him at home - his mother.
“Eventually mother and I went to the school and the person in charge of attendance asked me if I thought I could get into the service - as sick as I’ve been,” McKee said. “My mother spoke up and said ‘oh, he’s missed only one day.’ The principal said ‘oh no, Mrs. McKee your son has 30 unexcused absences.’”
McKee found himself aboard the USS Kearsarge, an aircraft carrier working as a boiler-man.
“It was a tough job, that’s where I got asbestos in my lungs,” he said.
McKee was in the Navy for three years, one month and 29 days before becoming a civilian again and working for the State of California.
“After I got out I met this girl, and my brother was running around with her sister - they were getting into trouble,” McKee said. “So I suggested he join the Air Force, that it was more ‘family oriented’ than the Navy. He said to me, ‘if it’s so good why aren’t you in it.’ So we both went down and enlisted.”
McKee stayed in for 23 years retiring in 1975. During his time in the Air Force he worked as part of a missile launching crew and worked at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. He also has lived in Germany and Japan.
McKee, following his retirement from the Air Force, became a teacher and taught school for 14 years. Today he is 81 and continues to hear from students regularly.
“Texas is a great place to live for veterans,” he said. “I get thanked regularly for my service. Being in the military was a very positive experience for me, it just keeps on giving.”