Washington & the Korean War

Top: Soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, in action in Korea. U.S. Army photo

Middle: A 92nd Bombardment Wing B-29 from Fairchild Air Force Base at Spokane drops its bombs on enemy troop concentrations in 1950. U.S. Air Force photo

Bottom: Forgotten War honorees gather at the Korean War Memorial on the Capitol Campus in the summer of 2017. Ben Helle photo

Washington State supplied manpower and all manner of materiel in the Korean War. The first stateside troops, from Fort Lewis, arrived at the Pusan Perimeter in late July 1950 as communist forces advanced. In a “stand or die” posture, the Second Infantry Division helped reverse the course of the war.

President Truman called up Marine Corps Reserves from Aberdeen to Atlanta. At Bremerton, the Naval Shipyard doubled its workforce and reactivated aircraft carriers. U.S. Air Force and Canadian units based at McChord Air Force Base airlifted supplies and troops. B-29 bomber crews based at Spokane deployed for combat.

Madigan Army Hospital sent some of the first nurses. It became a major stateside treatment center for badly wounded soldiers.

An estimated 122,000 Washingtonians fought in Korea; 472 never returned. In all, some 7,800 American soldiers remain MIA.

After the conflict, North Korea became an isolated dictatorship. South Korea emerged as a global manufacturing power and one of our state’s leading partners in international trade. More than 100,000 people of Korean ancestry eventually settled in Washington. For many of them and thousands of other families here, “the forgotten war” will be long remembered.