Excerpted from Bakersfield.com
July 27, 2022
By Steven Mayer
Some have called it “the forgotten war.” Others have named it “the forgotten victory.”
Several dozen military veterans, elected officials and everyday residents joined together Wednesday morning to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
Standing before the Korean War Memorial at Jastro Park in downtown Bakersfield, Mike Sabol, president of the Korean War Veterans of Kern County, thanked everyone for coming and thanked the larger community for its consistent support and respect for veterans.
Hyejin Kim, consul from the Los Angeles office of the consulate general of the Republic of Korea, told the crowd she was honored to be there.
“I appreciate the Korean War Veterans of Kern County and the Bakersfield community who erected this memorial in 2006, and (who continue) to manage and preserve this memorial to honor our service members who served during the Korean War,” Kim said.
The memorial, she added, “symbolizes the firm cooperation and friendship between Korea and the U.S.”
Seven decades after the war that succeeded in halting the invasion by communist North Korea, South Korea now boasts the 10th largest economy in the world, she said.
It couldn’t have happened without intervention from free nations.
“Once again, on behalf of the Korean government and people, I want to extend my utmost gratitude to the Korean War veterans, their friends and their family members,” Kim said.
“Your courage is not only an inseparable part of American history, but also Korean history.”
Speaker after speaker lauded those who served — and honored the Kern residents who did not come home from the war. Two floral wreaths were laid near the memorial, which bears the names of the local Americans who died there.
But Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, reminded those present that the largest losses by far were suffered by the Korean people.
“When the armistice was signed July 27, 1953, bringing the Korean War to an end, about 5 million lives (had been) lost during this three-year period,” Fong told the gathering. “Half of those casualties were Korean civilians.”
Tens of thousands of Americans — most estimates are close to 36,500 — were killed in action. Many more were wounded.
“Today we have the opportunity to honor and recognize those United States soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the American ideals of democracy and freedom — those ideals that are now instilled in South Korea,” Fong said.
“We especially remember the almost 70 men from Kern County whose names are etched on this monument,” he said. “And we have the privilege of reading them aloud today.”
Indeed, as the gathering stood in silence, Ulyses Rodriguez of the Kern Veteran Service Department read the names of the fallen.
Names like Adams and Astley, Boese and Borunda, Garcia, Tucker and Whittaker; men of enlisted rank, from private to corporal to sergeant first class; and officers, too, were lost to the fire of war, including five captains and a lieutenant colonel.
Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh spoke of America’s resilient spirit, made possible, she said, through the selfless sacrifice of such men.
And state Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, a veteran herself, said how proud she is to be part of a community that honors and celebrates its veterans — and still remembers those who could not come home.
She thanked the Korean War veterans for the freedom they defended.
“You guys put your life on the line,” she said, “and you went to a foreign country to make sure freedom exists.”
One of those veterans was Arthur Gentry, now 92, who fought at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, one of the bloodiest battles of the war, which took place deep in North Korean territory.
“It didn’t wind up being what it was supposed to be,” Gentry, who was serving as a U.S. Marine, told this reporter in 2019.
On Nov. 27, 1950, Communist China entered the war when Chinese soldiers surprised U.S. troops, initiating a brutal battle in frigid weather that would change the course of the war.
At about 10:30 p.m., Gentry recalled, many troops on the ground were caught sleeping, literally, when the attack came.
“We didn’t have our boots on,” Gentry said. “That’s why so many got frostbite.”
“Wave after wave were coming in,” he remembered of the more than 120,000 Chinese who joined the North Koreans.
Over a period of weeks, United Nations forces were able to withdraw to the port of Hungnam, where American warships and hospital ships were waiting.
Gentry still remembers coming out of the mountains and seeing the harbor in the distance filled with friendly forces.
“That was a glorious sight,” he remembered.
“After 15 days and 78 miles, we’d made it,” he said. “As we were coming down, somebody started singing the Marine Corps Hymn — and we all just began to march.”