‘The Forgotten War,’ remembered

Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum to host Korean War program Feb. 6

By: Brian Louwers | C&G Newspapers | Published January 22, 2016


WARREN — In the summer of 1950, less than five years after the guns of World War II fell silent in the Far East, armed conflict erupted on the Korean peninsula.

The Korean War, also known in the United States and Canada as “The Forgotten War,” would eventually result in more than 36,000 American combat deaths. More than 100,000 Americans were wounded. Theater-wide, the numbers were staggering, with more than 5 million people killed, nearly half of them civilians.

On Feb. 6, the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum in St. Clair Shores will host a Korean War program focused on the events leading up to the outbreak of hostilities and the war’s bloody engagements. The staff will share artifacts from the period, and visitors will hear firsthand accounts from veterans who were there.

“It was the first active engagement of the Cold War,” Museum Historian James Bertolino said. “The armistice signed in 1953 that remains in effect today reminds us that we must remain vigilant against the forces of tyranny and oppression.”

Museum Director John Lind said one of the many fascinating things about the Korean War was how it started and escalated. 

“It was basically an American defeat,” Lind said, pointing to the massive Chinese offensive that pushed down the Korean peninsula in November 1950. “The only thing that staved off a complete disaster was the superiority of American firepower, airstrikes and the U.S. Marines, who fought to the bitter end in a dogged defensive maneuver.”

Bertolino said the war saw the world’s militaries take steps forward in the technology of taking and saving lives. Jet aircraft would soon trump propeller-driven planes, while helicopters lifted casualties from the battlefield to Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH), set up behind the front lines.

Places like the Chosin Reservoir, Suwon, the Yalu River and “MiG Alley” became etched in military history.

“We must never forget those that never made it back, including Cpl. John Toth, of the 9th Infantry Regiment,” Bertolino said.

Toth, of Roseville, was killed in action on Aug. 16, 1950, when his unit’s position was overrun by an enemy force attacking in far greater numbers. A telegram informing loved ones of Toth’s death was recently given to the museum as a donation, along with the Purple Heart he was awarded posthumously.

“The position was held and the enemy finally beaten. He died bravely in defense of the principles we all hold dear, and which will ultimately triumph in a peaceful world,” Bertolino said. “He would posthumously be awarded the Purple Heart. We have his story and many like it at the museum.”

The Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum’s Korean War program will begin at noon on Feb. 6. The cost of admission is a $5 donation to the museum. Korean War veterans attend for free.

The museum is located at 22960 W. Industrial Drive in St. Clair Shores. For more information, call (586) 604-5393.