Paul Smith sat at a picnic table in West Toledo yesterday and remembered how, more than a half-century ago, he had to convince his mother that he needed to join the Marines. He was 19 at the time.
“I went in because of the Korean War,” he said. “I figured it was my duty.”
At the GM Powertrain/UAW Local 14 Family Park, Mr. Smith and hundreds of other veterans and their families commemorated the 50th anniversary of the end of the war yesterday.
Mr. Smith, a member of the Lou Diamond Detachment of Marines, displayed a framed collection of letters and photographs, including the telegram sent to his parents after he was wounded in his right arm and leg. He also had a photo he sent home to prove to his family that he was all right; he paid someone a dollar to take the photo.
“They got the telegram first,” he said.
Veterans and their families viewed displays of Korean War-era military vehicles and other equipment, watched performances by singers and drummers, and solemnly listened to the readings of names of area men killed or missing in action in the war.
After each name, a bell rang, and family members placed small American flags at the base of flagpoles for each branch of the military.
Franklin Schultz of Toledo carefully bent to put a flag in the grass for his younger brother, Robert William Schultz, a Marine who was 25 when he was killed.
As Mr. Schultz rose, he stepped back and saluted the Marine flag waving in the stiff breeze.
Later, a symbolic flame was lighted in front of the flags. Army veteran Henry Bahler of Holland stood in front of it with his family, taking pictures. He operated radios and radar from 1950 to 1952.
“It was a bloody, bloody war,” he said.
The back of his wife's T-shirt gave the number of Americans killed and missing: 36,570 and 8,100, respectively.
Many of those present remembered people who were killed, wounded, or captured.
Harley Coon, the national president of the Korean War Veterans Association and a former POW, told the assembled veterans and families a little of what being a POW was like.
“Survival as a prisoner of war is something that unless you've been there, you'll never understand,” he said.
Mr. Coon was captured at age 19 in Ipsop, Korea, on Nov. 27, 1950. He was released on Aug. 31, 1953, after 33 months and 4 days.
Congress established a Korean War commemorative period from June 25, 2000, the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the war, through Nov. 11, 2003, to thank and honor the veterans and their families. Many events have been held nationwide.
Yesterday's commemoration, presented by GM Powertrain Toledo-UAW Local 14, and Chapter 131 of the Korean War Veterans Association, attracted several hundred people to the park. It was the second such event in Toledo. In 2000, more than 5,000 people attended.