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Oklahoma Memories

45th Goes to Korea

2010-06-28

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"Of the nations of the world, Korea alone up to now is the sole one which has risked its all against Communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description."

That was General of the Army Douglas McArthur addressing Congress after he had been removed from his command by President Harry Truman.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Seems like current news - a field commander of U.S. troops oversteps his bounds and is relieved of his command by the commander in chief.

It was sixty years ago last week that troops of North Korea in the dark of the night crossed the 38th parallel invading the Republic of South Korea. It was a surprise attack catching the few U.S. troops in South Korea off guard. General Douglas McArthur was commander of U.S. Forces in the Far East. By March 1951, Oklahoma's 45th Infantry Division was mobilized for duty in the Far East.

Among the soldiers in the Oklahoma National Guard unit was Colonel George Fisher of Oklahoma City. He was the 45th Division's Civil Affairs Officer. Fisher said that when the 45th arrived in Japan they were short of all kinds of equipment.

"They couldn't supply us with anything. Oh, when we first got to the islands, they sent 40-some tanks. We didn't have any tanks for our tank battalions until those got there."

Following additional training on the island of Hokkaido in Japan, the 45th shipped out for Korea. Once there Fisher was given a group of South Korean police officers that no one seemed to know what to do with; Fisher had an idea.

"I found that I had 380-some odd Korean security police in two companies and about 100 Korean national police in another company. They had been gravely misused or not used at all, and we set to work creating a place where they could live and got them out on the lines in the night. We picked up enemy agents who came through."

The 45th Division was involved in a number of battles in the Korean War, including Pork Chop Hill among others, finally returning home in 1952 and '53. In April 1951 Truman relieved General McArthur of his command and for the first time in 15 years, since 1937, McArthur and his family set foot on American soil. Days after their return to the U.S., McArthur was invited to speak before Congress and closed with this famous line.

"...that old soldiers never die; they just fade away. And like the old soldier in that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Goodbye."

It was 60 years ago this month the forgotten war began. The 45th Division continued their march into history. The interview with Colonel George Fisher is part of the oral history archives at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.