Netherlands Defense Attaché Honor Soldiers Who Fought the Korean War
(Washington, D.C.) — The Netherlands Defense Attaché held a wreath-laying ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on July 28 to pay tribute to the Netherlands forces who fought in the war.
The ceremony came 59 years and one day following the signing of the armistice that ended the fighting.
“The freedoms enjoyed by many citizens in our societies are only possible through the voluntary risks taken and sacrifices made by soldiers,” said Air Commodore Tom de Bok, the Netherlands Defense Attaché.
“We have to keep investing in our capabilities to safeguard those freedoms, not only within our own borders and not by ourselves,” he said. “But rather in coalitions and alliances willing to come to the rescue of those who need protection, and to preserve freedom and prosperity for all.”
The attack by communist North Korea on South Korea in June 1950 marked the beginning of the Korean War. At the request of the United Nations, the Netherlands decided to deploy an infantry battalion.
The first rotation of the Netherlands Detachment United Nations Korea (NDVN) had 636 soldiers who embarked on a ship for Korea in October 1950.
By the end of 1954, the last soldiers returned to the Netherlands. Between 1950 and 1954, more than 4,700 Dutch soldiers were deployed, and 123 died in Korea. Three soldiers went missing in action. Also, several Dutch navy ships took part in the UN-operation.
The armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, though formally the conflict has not been resolved to this day.
“For me the significance of Korea is that it was a successful mission under the UN flag,” said Col. Arie Ooms, the Netherlands Military Attaché and Assistant Defense Attaché. “It also has significance for the Netherlands and the US because the Netherlands detachment was an integral part of an American unit (38th Infantry regiment 'Rock of the Marne,' 2nd Infantry Division).”
The Presidents of the United States and the Republic of Korea dedicated the Korean War Veterans Memorial in 1995.
The memorial is in the form of a triangle intersecting a circle — symbol for the Korean Peninsula. The right wall is a granite construction with more than 2,500 pictures sandblasted in it — representing the troops who were engaged in the war. The left lower wall contains stones with the names of the 22 member states of the United Nations that contributed troops.
In the triangle there are 19 stainless steel statues, each larger than life at more than 7 feet tall. An intersected circle is called the Pool of Remembrance. One side of the wall contains the text: Freedom Is Not Free.
“Those words, ‘Freedom Is Not Free’ express gratitude for the service of members of the military,” said Air Commodore de Bok.
The Dutch soldiers of the NDVN Korea were part of the Infantry Regiment Van Heutsz. The traditions of this Regiment are being carried on by the Royal Netherlands Army 12th Infantry Battalion (Air Assault).
Normally, every year on the date of the truce-signing, the 22 participating nations in the UN-operation lay wreaths at the Korea War Veterans Memorial.
During the ceremony, a detachment of the 12th Infantry Battalion was present as the NDVN Korea Colors Guard. Two US Presidential Citations are attached to the flags of the NDVN Korea.