Korean War veterans and prisoners of war reflect on their service on war’s 71st anniversary

Military

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — It is sometimes called “The Forgotten War,” but those who fought in Korea still remember every detail.

“I was a demo man, a demolitions man,” explained Dick Earle. “We’d swim up and down rivers looking for bridges that hadn’t been found, then we’d blow up the ones we found.”

Earle served in the Navy during the Korean war working to disrupt enemy supply lines.

“It was a pleasure to serve,” he said.

For those who were captured, the memories are painful. Lawrence Wilson worked helping the wounded until he was captured.

“I was a prisoner two years, four months, and 18 days,” he noted, recalling the grueling journey to a camp for prisoners of war.

“As we headed north, it was in circles going around every village, mainly to show a big, bad American could be captured,” he recalled.

Contaminated water made him sick.

“The average weight of a prisoner of war is around 90 pounds — you’re skin and bones,” he said.

Even after his eventual release, it was hard to go home to a family he hadn’t seen in so long.

“It’s like meeting a stranger and starting all over again,” he said. “I had a little boy who was born in March of ’51, and he was around 3-years-old when I first met him,” he remembered.

While most people will never fully understand his experiences, Jake Roth does. He, too, was captured in Korea and vividly remembers the day he was nearly killed.

“He put his gun between my eyes and pulled the trigger twice,” he said of his captor.

The gun didn’t fire, but his captors beat him and held him as a prisoner.

“I was just lucky to be alive after 37 months,” he said.

Seven decades later, their memories haven’t faded and neither has their hope that the service and sacrifices of so many won’t be forgotten.

The U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville is hosting the Traveling Korean War Memorial. It will be open through Monday at 4:30 p.m. at the museum’s Parade Field.

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