This year has been designated as the “Year of the Korean War Veteran.”
Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney made the announcement Jan. 8 at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. He was joined by Senator Yonah Martin, representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion, the Korea Veterans Association of Canada and Korean Veterans.
“It is our duty today to pay tribute to more than 26,000 Canadian men and women in uniform who came to the aid of South Koreans during the Korean War,” said Minister Blaney. “And, in particular, the 516 Canadians who gave their lives in service to defend the values of peace and freedom on the Korean peninsula.”
The Year of the Korean War Veteran coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and South Korea.
The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, and active fighting ended on July 27, 1953, with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement. Approximately 7,000 Canadians continued to serve in the tense theatre of operations between the signing of the Armistice and the end of 1955, with some Canadian troops remaining until 1957.
Approximately 1,000 Royal Canadian Air Force personnel were involved in the conflict. Most, about 800, were from 426 (Transport) Squadron (at that time located at RCAF Station Lachine, Que.), while the remainder were fighter pilots, flight nurses, a cadre of supply, technical and photo intelligence personnel, and a Judge Advocate General.
Twenty-one RCAF volunteer fighter pilots were sent to Korea for F-86 Sabre combat duties and they served in small scheduled groups starting from March 1952, until November 1953. Flight Lieutenant Omer Levesque, who was on exchange with the United States Air Force (USAF) when the war broke out, was the first RCAF combatant in the war.
Canada’s fighter pilots flew with the USAF’s 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing (FIW) at Kimpo (approximately 24 kilometres northwest of Seoul) or the 51st FIW at Suwon (approximately 32 kilometres south of Seoul).
“The Korean War, Canada’s third bloodiest conflict, commenced in 1950,” said John Bishop, National President of the Korea Veterans Association of Canada. “The 60th anniversary of the ceasefire will be remembered by all those who served in Korea.”
During the event, Minister Blaney also launched and demonstrated an interactive website feature, Land of the Morning Calm, which is now available at www.veterans.gc.ca. This feature presents Korean War history and archival footage, interviews with Korean War veterans and an interactive history calendar. The feature is presented in broadcast style, complete with news anchor and video footage.
The names of the 516 Canadians who died in service during the war, including the nearly 400 Canadians who lie at rest in the Republic of Korea, are inscribed in the Korean War Book of Remembrance, which is on display in the Peace Tower in Ottawa.
For more information on Canada’s role in the Korean War or the Year of the Korean War Veteran, please read “Canada remembers the Korean War 1950–1953” on the Veterans Affairs Canada website.
-Carl Mills, Veterans Affairs Canada
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