TRIBUTE TO 1ST MARINE DIVISION KOREAN WAR VETERANS
by Commandant of the Marine Corps at 1st MarDiv Assn. Banquet,
29 July, 1995, Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.
In 1950, when the nation called, the reaction of the 1st Marine Division was to march to the sound of the guns. The nation called and you saluted….In fact, you didn’t even blink an eye. You marched with an unmatched determination to do whatever it took. And that mindset was critical—because it was the belief of many people that the task before you simply could not be done… They considered it impossible to throw together a combat force in the span of two weeks and rapidly embark them on ships to deploy half-way around the world. Experts said that no force could rush into a theater teetering on the brink of collapse, engage a numerically superior enemy and stop his advance. Authorities on military operations advised that it was suicide to conduct an amphibious assault—an assault targeted at an area with the second greatest tide change in the world. And nay-sayers declared it was hopeless to attempt any operation where reservists, just called to active duty, comprised over half the strength of some units. They said it couldn’t be done, that it was impossible.
What they didn’t realize was that Marines DO the impossible.
The 1st Marine Division did it with units fielded by sweeping every spare body and weapon from stations around the world. You did it through the fierce house-to-house fighting in Seoul. You did it in the most brutal conditions—across the roughest terrain and in the harshest weather on earth. You did it despite the efforts of three Chinese armies to surround and destroy you.
Your courage—displayed from Pusan, to Inchon, to Chosin—was much more than just bravery in the face of the enemy and the elements. It was also bravery in the face of the "impossible." The tremendous odds against you, the extreme hardships you endured, and the enormity of your missions would have stopped anyone else…anyone less resilient…anyone less versatile…anyone less courageous than United States Marines…To those who said it was impossible, you showed that for Marines, all things are possible.
The lesson we have learned from you is never to listen to those who say it cannot be done—for you proved them wrong time and time again. You have left a legacy of flexibility, of tenacity, and of courage—a legacy that will endure forever…In addition, you left a more tangible legacy…YOU secured a Marine Corps for the future.
Your magnificent performance against formidable odds served as the catalyst for congress to acknowledge that ‘THIS NATION WANTS A MARINE CORPS; THIS NATION NEEDS A MARINE CORPS and THIS NATION WILL HAVE A MARINE CORPS, ONE THAT IS SET IN LAW." Like the faces carved in the stone of your monument, your accomplishments compelled our national leaders to carve into stone our role as a force-in-readiness…A role which charges us to be most-ready when the nation is least ready…to be always at a high state of combat readiness…in position to hold a full scale aggression at bay—no matter the clime, no matter the place, no matter the foe. At a time when defense experts and others conspired to "merge us out of existence," you not only forestalled aggression on the Korean peninsula, you prevented our demise at home…you guaranteed us a future. Your most enduring legacy IS the MARINE CORPS itself.
Today, this nation remains ever thankful for the Corps preserved by your service in Korea. Recall the faces of the American students in Grenada, their gratitude and relief echoes in their simple statements, "Thank God for the Marines." Sentiments echoed around the world, as this same Corps of Marines fed starving Somali children, gave a homeland back to the people of Kuwait, helped restore democracy to the people of Haiti and who performed a daring, dawn rescue of an Air Force Captain by the name of Scott O’Grady. America’s Corps of Marines carries the legacy of the Marines of Korea, ready to answer any call—no matter what the mission, no matter the odds, no matter what others may say, although your contributions began on the razorback hills of Korea, they have been felt around the globe, by all mankind, wherever Marines have answered the call.
The Korean War Memorial we dedicated is a visible acknowledgment of your selfless contributions. Sprung from your sacrifices, the future of our Corps will be launched from your legacies; the Corps you have deeded us will remain prepared to meet the challenges of the future. Whenever the nation calls to Send in the Marines—we will respond and we will succeed—because our course has been set by you—through your extraordinary performance and selfless devotion to duty in the mountains and on the shores, in the dust and in the snows of a far off country named Korea.
General C.C. Krulak
Commandant Marine Corps