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Illinois and the Korean War, January 1953

60 years ago, 12 Illinoisans died in Korean War

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[January 02, 2013]  SPRINGFIELD -- The state of Illinois is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War by supplying information each month about the state's involvement in the conflict.

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, Illinois Korean Memorial Association, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, along with media partners the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Broadcasters Association, are sponsoring "Illinois Remembers the Forgotten War." For more information, visit or

Illinoisans killed in action in Korea,
January 1953
By county of residence
(Source: U.S. Department of Defense records)

Cook County:

  • Pvt. Charles R. Cook, Army, Jan. 14.

  • 2nd Lt.Donald F. Lambert, Marines, Jan. 8.

  • Pfc. Thomas G. Sykora, Army, Jan. 5.

  • Pfc. Marcial T. Vera, Army, Jan. 7.


  • Pfc. Otis C. Smith, Marines, Jan. 25.


  • Cpl. Thomas H. Cassens, Army, Jan. 5.


  • Pfc. William D. Waller, Army, Jan. 8.

Rock Island:

  • 1st Lt. Charles Overstreet, Army, Jan. 8.

  • Pvt. Edwin A. Rietz, Army, Jan. 3.

St. Clair:

  • Cpl. Philip H. Sawyer, Army, Jan. 8.


  • Pfc. George E. Hand, Marines, Jan. 15.

  • Pfc. Edward J. Tomlin, Marines, Jan. 17.

Key events during the Korean War,
January 1953

Although the war had been raging on the Korean Peninsula for 2 1/2 years, a single event at home on Jan. 20, 1953, changed the entire situation in Korea. On that date, Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as president of the United States and immediately began taking steps to fulfill his campaign promise to end the war in Korea. He nominated John Foster Dulles to replace Dean Acheson as secretary of state and Charles Wilson to replace Robert Lovett as secretary of defense. Both men would join the president in his efforts to end the fighting, something that would be realized following almost six months of some of the most desperate fighting of the war.

But the war seemed as intractable as ever as the new year dawned. The Communists still insisted that all prisoners held by U.N. forces be returned to their control, while Eisenhower adopted outgoing President Truman's pledge that no prisoner who did not want to be repatriated would be forcibly sent north.

On Jan. 25, just a few days after Eisenhower's inauguration, the U.S. 31st Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division launched Operation Smack, an assault on the Communist stronghold known as Spud Hill. The attack was supported by both tanks and airstrikes, but was still repulsed by the Communists. Casualties were heavy on both sides.

A newly arrived reporter who witnessed the fighting wrote a scathing criticism of the operation, accusing the Americans of staging the attack for visiting dignitaries. His report further eroded the American public's lagging support for the war, while also raising serious questions about the objectivity of the American press.

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Illinois Korean War Memorial

The Illinois Korean War Memorial is located in Springfield's Oak Ridge Cemetery, the same cemetery that contains the Lincoln Tomb. Oak Ridge is the nation's second-most visited burial ground, behind only Arlington National Cemetery.

Dedicated on June 16, 1996, the memorial consists of a 12-foot-tall bronze bell mounted on a granite base. At the circumference of the base are four niches, each with a larger-than-life figure representing a branch of the armed services. Inscribed on the base are the names of 1,754 Illinoisans killed in Korea.

The Illinois Korean War Memorial is administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and may be visited daily free of charge.

Korean War veterans oral history project
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

The oral history program at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum offers "Veterans Remember," a collection of interviews with Illinois residents about their wartime experiences, at the library's website, The interviews concern the experiences of Illinois veterans who fought in several conflicts, including the Korean War, as well as the experiences of those on the home front. Visitors to the website can listen to or watch the interviews in their entirety. Several of the interviews have transcripts, and most have still images as well.

Website visitors will need a computer capable of playing MP3 audio files or MPG compressed video files in order to listen to the interviews. The transcripts and still images are also accessible. Volunteers conducted and edited many of the interviews and developed the transcripts that accompany them.

Korean War National Museum

The Korean War National Museum, or KWNM, celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Korean War with a renewed focus on getting a world-class museum built now, in the lifetime of the Korean War veterans. Meanwhile, the Denis J. Healy Freedom Center, located at 9 South Old State Capitol Plaza in Springfield, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. The KWNM welcomes donations of photographs, documents, diaries and artifacts of those who served in the Korean War. To learn more about the KWNM, or to volunteer or donate, visit or look for the museum on Facebook.

Korean War booklet

The Illinois Korean Memorial Association, an all-volunteer organization, has published a booklet, "A Brief History of the Korean War," copies of which have been provided free of charge to public libraries, high schools and junior high schools in Illinois. Individuals may obtain a copy by sending a $10 check or money order to: Illinois Korean Memorial Association, P.O. Box 8554, Springfield, IL 62791.

Tax-deductible donations are welcome. All donations go to the book project and to the upkeep of the Illinois Korean War Memorial.

[Text from file received from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency]


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