HistoryLink Essay: Cease-fire agreement marks the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953.

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Cease-fire agreement marks the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953.
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On July 27, 1953, a cease-fire agreement between the United Nations and North Korea marks the end of the Korean War. Military activity in Seattle continues at Pier 91, which funnels troops and equipment enroute to the Far East. Technically a United Nations sanctioned police action, the war killed more than 33,000 Americans along with approximately 3.5 million Asians beginning in June 1951. The state of Washington counted 558 among the dead.

The end to hostilities did not result in tumultuous celebrations as happened after World Wars I and II. The cease-fire line was approximately the same as the demarcation line between North and South Korea when the war began in 1950. A Seattle Post-Intelligencer headline summed up the feelings of the nation with, "The Bitter War Which Nobody Won." In 2001, 37,000 U.S. troops were still stationed in South Korea to maintain the cease fire.

The day the armistice was announced, the family of Marine Sergeant Stanley R. West, age 29, was notified that he had been killed in action on July 17. West was probably the last Seattle area man killed in that war. The West family paid dearly for service in the war. West's brother lost a leg to a land mine and another brother received a serious back injury during a storm at sea.

Two King County men received the Medal of Honor in Korea. Marine PFC Walter C. Monegan, Jr. of Seattle was killed on September 20, 1950 after destroying several North Korean tanks with a rocket launcher. Army Master Sergeant Benjamin F. Wilson (1922-1988) of Vashon Island led a bayonet attack against Chinese forces on June 5, 1951 and then was wounded as he protected his men during a withdrawal.

One of the notable events in Seattle during the war was a visit by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) on November 13, 1951. The popular hero of World War II was commander of U.S. Forces in Korea from the beginning of the conflict until he was dismissed by President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972). MacArthur gave a speech at the University of Washington and then continued on a tour of the United States.

Military activity in Seattle continued as the Port of Embarkation loaded and unloaded ships almost daily. After two servicemen wrote to Mayor Allen Pomeroy expressing appreciation for the way they were treated in Seattle on their way overseas, the city and Greater Seattle Inc. instituted a Welcome Lane program. Returning servicemen and their families were met on the pier by the Barclay Can-Can Girls, dancers from the George Barklay Dance Studio. City Councilman Alfred Rochester (1895-1989) became the official greeter. He handed out cards signed by the mayor "extending the city's courtesies" (Seattle P-I) to each serviceman.

The end of the war did not result in any changes for the Boeing Co. Its contracts were geared to the construction of nuclear bombers, which did not figure in the conflict. Since January 1, 1953, the company had added 3569 workers and expected to hire 700 more before the end of the year.

U.S. Servicemen return home from the Korean War, March 15, 1951
Courtesy National Archives

Marine PFC Walter C. Monegan Jr. (1930-1950), Medal of Honor Recipient
Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense



Sharon Boswell and Lorraine McConaghy, "Centennials: Time to Crow a Bit," The Seattle Times, August 4, 1996, (seattletimes.nwsource.com/centennial); "The Korean War," Britannica CD 2000 Deluxe Edition, (Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2000); "Rosters of Local War Dead," HistoryLink Metropedia Library, (www.Historylink.org); Sam Angeloff, "Telegram Brings Grief to Family," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 26, 1953, p. 43; "The Bitter War Which Nobody Won," Ibid., p. B; "Gala Welcomes to Continue," Ibid., July 27, 1953, p. 5; Charles Russell, "2451 Korea Vets Land to Gala Welcome Here," Ibid., p. 15; "Truce No Halt to Program," Ibid., p. 3; "Korean Medal of Honor Recipients," U.S. Army Center for Military History Web Site, (www.army.mil/cmh-pg/mohkor2.htm).

By David Wilma, June 1, 2001

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