Black Military Veterans of the Korean War Honored in Philadelphia

4798 After suffering a series of setbacks in the early days of the Korean War, U.S. officials were anxious for a victory.

Wearing a cowboy hat, a veteran of the Army's 24th Infantry Regiment watches a video about the African American experience in the Korean War.
They got it on July 21, 1950, when the Buffalo Soldiers of the Army's 24th Infantry Regiment, which had just arrived in Korea, retook Yechon in a counterattack.

Though the victory was short-lived, U.S. Rep. Thomas Lane of Massachusetts stood before the House and praised the black troops "who believed not only in the United States as it is, but in the nation that it will become when intolerance is also defeated."

On Monday, the Department of Defense honored 35 Korean War veterans of the regiment in a ceremony in Willingboro marking both 60th-anniversary commemorations of the Korean War and African American History Month.

Col. David J. Patrick, who presented the veterans with certificates of appreciation, noted that black people had fought for the American ideals of liberty and freedom since the Revolutionary War, "even when those principles were denied them."

"Ours is a debt we can never fully repay," he said.

When the 24th Regiment sailed from Japan to Korea just after the war broke out in June 1950, two years had passed since President Harry S. Truman ordered the military desegregated.

"The army was still segregated," said Jim Thompson, 81, of Willingboro, commander of the Northeast chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers. "Truman issued his order in 1948. It hadn't happened and it wasn't going to happen."

But the war would change that.

Yechon was a cakewalk compared with what was to follow, as the 24th battled from one end of the Korean peninsula to the other.

The regiment was the most decorated of the war, Patrick said, with two posthumous medals of honor, 24 distinguished service crosses, 185 silver stars, and 1,500 bronze stars.

Joseph Davis, 80, of Willingboro, was shot in the mouth, arms, back, and legs in an ambush in late November 1950, when Chinese forces poured across the Yalu River and joined the war on the North Korean side.

"That was coldest place I've ever been in my life," Davis said. "I was lucky they sent me back to the States."

Source: | Joseph A. Gambardello
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