Vet Recounts Forgotten War

000622_James Brady Korean war veteran, author CBS

The recent historic Korean summit may signal that the first shooting conflict of the Cold War is finally nearing an end.

This Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, in which 1.8 million Americans served, many of them now forgotten heroes.

It was called a conflict. It was called a police action. But make no mistake about it, Korea was a war.

CBS Evening News Anchor Dan Rather talked with one veteran who lived to tell many tales of combat in a hard, cold land.
Author James Brady, a Korean War veteran says, "Korea was on and off in 37 months, just over three years and almost as many guys were killed in Korea in that time as were killed in the decade plus of Vietnam."

It was a brutal war, fought mostly by ground troops in sub-zero cold in winter, tropical swelter in summer.

Almost 37,000 thousand Americans were killed in the United Nations mission to defend South Korea after it was invaded by troops from the communist North.

Brady was a marine rifle platoon leader in Korea. He's written two books about his experiences.

Brady says, "The United States almost lost the Korean War twice in the first year."

The North Koreans were backed by two communist giants: the Soviet Union and China. The Cold War suddenly became hot.

Brady says, "The great powers of the world, Russia and America, were banging heads at that point and suddenly a forest fire started here in this little country and we went over and we put it out, and therefore World War Three never happened."

The fighting stopped when a truce was signed in July, 1953.

The Korean War veterans came home quietly.

Brady says, "We didn't have parades but neither were we spit at as happened with Vietnam."

But the conflict has never officially ended, and 37,000 U.S. troops still stand guard at the border of the two Koreas. Last week, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope for a lasting peace, when the leaders of North and South Korea met for a first-ever summit.

Brady says: "It's about time that a fifty-year-old truce become a real peace. I’d love to see it happen but I’m a little bit skeptical."

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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