Korean War veterans hail release of remains to US by North

July 27, 2018 - 4:05 pm

EVENDALE, Ohio (AP) — Korean War veterans had something extra to celebrate Friday as they marked the 65th anniversary of the armistice that ended combat.

Scores of veterans from all military branches gathered at the GE Aviation plant in the Cincinnati suburb of Evendale to commemorate the July 27, 1953, cease-fire. They were delighted at news that a U.S. military plane made a rare trip into North Korea to retrieve 55 cases of what are believed to be remains of their fallen American comrades.

Navy veteran Robert Jacobs, 89, called it "a marvelous thing."

Veterans said they hope the remains, once identified, will help families at least have closure from the loss of loved ones, with military burials and awarding of service awards.

It was the latest in a year of major developments in U.S.-North Korea relations including a summit meeting. President Donald Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for "fulfilling a promise" from their June meeting in Singapore.

"The Koreans, the North Koreans anyway, are hard to deal with, as previous presidents have found out," said Air Force veteran Paul Coyne, 86. "So I think he's trying, and that's all you can do in that situation. Let's hope it works."

Jacobs praised Trump as "a fantastic president" who's doing the smart thing by talking to U.S. adversaries in an effort to gain a permanent peace agreement.

"The war between the North and the South will go on for many years," Jacobs said. "But at least they're talking ... And eventually, maybe not in my lifetime, they'll get together and have a united Korea."

William Becker, 91, a Navy veteran, also praised Trump's efforts, saying it's important to have talks that could lead to peace, including between the Koreas.

"They're all Koreans," Becker said. "Just like we were when we had a Civil War, we were all Americans ... And hopefully they can come to peace with each other."

About 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea. The war killed millions, including 36,000 American soldiers.

"But knowing what the terrain looked like in Korea, I doubt seriously if they'll every get every one of them back," Jacobs said. Unfortunately ... the war was terrible. They were lost, buried, nobody ever marked their graves."

GE displayed jet engines that have powered fighter planes. The Korean War was the first to utilize jet fighters in air-to-air combat.