Remembrance Day is the day set aside to honour our armed services people – those who serve now and those who served in the past. We remember their deeds in foreign lands and the services they provide at home. We remember events and battles of World War I and World War II. We pay tribute to our armed forces contributions in the Congo, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and other United Nations and NATO assignments. We are also thankful for their deployment in Canada at times of emergencies and natural disasters. However, there is one theatre that is not as often remembered among the many accomplishments of our armed forces: the Korean War (1950 – 1953).
In 1910, Korea was annexed by Japan. Following Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, Korea was divided into two zones: the north – controlled by the Soviet Union, and the south – controlled by the United States. Attempts to form one united Korea failed and on June 25, 1950, armies from North Korea attacked South Korea. At that time, the Soviet Union was boycotting the United Nations, and this enabled the UN Security Council to sponsor and dispatch armed forces to repel the invasion. Twenty-one countries responded with armed contributions. This was the first time the UN attempted to provide collective security to an invaded country.
Canada deployed 30,000 troops – infantry, navy, and air force – the third largest contribution to the United Nations forces. (The United States and the United Kingdom each provided more troops.) Canadian casualties were 516 dead and 1,212 wounded. The action confirmed Canada’s commitment to the idea of a United Nations capable of maintaining peace in a hostile and divided world. It also ensured Canada’s contribution to further efforts to use our armed forces in extreme cases that threatened world security and peace. And, most importantly, the Korean War confirmed that the United Nations could play an essential part on the international scene.
And so, as we remember with pride and thanks for the past and present efforts of our armed forces, let us give attention to those who fought in the Korean War and demonstrated Canada’s continued willingness to work for a better world free from threats of invasion and unjust wars. It is the least we can do for their sacrifice. It is also a time to remember Canada’s contribution to world peace as demonstrated by our actions in the Korean War.