SEOUL — With a mixture of pride and sorrow, US veterans Wednesday recalled the battles of decades ago as they visited South Korea to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.
Seoul has invited a total of 300 former soldiers or family members from nine of the countries which fought for the South as part of a United Nations force during the 1950-1953 conflict.
US-led troops from a total of 16 nations battled the North Koreans and their Chinese allies, while five more countries sent medical units.
The US veterans paid tribute to the dead at Seoul's national cemetery before visiting the war memorial and museum.
Joseph Darrell Brassfield, 86, from Olympia in Washington state, was a lieutenant-colonel in the 1st US Cavalry Division.
He recalled the moment when his outnumbered unit faced Chinese troops who crossed the Yalu River border to frustrate the UN advance.
"There was a firefight all night long and we took many, many casualties. On the following day we attacked, and the day after that, we attacked again. But we couldn't get through," Brassfield told AFP.
"When you get into a situation like that, when you have a duty to perform, you don't have time to be afraid. Do what you can because you know your life depends on doing the best job you can."
Timothy Whitmore, 75, from Suffolk City in Virginia, served as a medic during the war and remembers above all the suffering of young Korean civilians.
"What touched me more than anything were the Korean people... and the absolute bravery and determination of the people, particularly the children," said Whitmore, sporting his medals on the chest of his white uniform.
"They were so in need of everything, many of them wandered in packs. They had nothing. They were so gutty. They were brave little people."
Whitmore spent most of his 1952-1955 service in the country at military hospitals in the southern city of Daegu.
"All bad. All bad. All bad," he said, recollecting an unending line of wounded soldiers waiting for treatment.
Whitmore, leaning on a walking stick, bent forward to find the name of his friend Richard T. Shea Jr on the list of war dead at the memorial.
Shea died during the 1953 battle for Pork Chop Hill, one of the fiercest of the war.
Alfred Otto Poeppel, 80, from Sequim City in Washington state, remembered the bitter cold of the Korean winter in 1952 and 1953.
But he proudly added: "We kept the Chinese back."
Poeppel fought in the bloody Punchbowl battle and lost 10 close friends.
"I got overwhelmed" recalling the conflict, he said. "I got teary eyes for a moment."
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