Korean War Veteran honored

Dianne Edmondson and Bill Wright

In June, Robson resident and well-loved patriot Watson Crumbie traveled with his son to Seoul, South Korea at the invitation of South Korean President Moon Jae–in, with all expenses paid by the South Korean government. Watson and three of his fellow Marines, who fought in sub-zero weather in the 1950 battle of Chosin Reservoir against superior numbers of North Korean and Chinese forces, were honored in ceremonies by the South Korean leadership. They expressed to the Marines their nation’s extreme gratitude for the Marines’ sacrifice and determination in the fight against the communist forces. In particular, President Moon expressed his thanks to the Marines for the thousands of Korean civilians including his parents who were evacuated along with US Forces from Hungnam to Pusan to escape the advancing communist forces. This brutal military operation was the subject of a 2010 History Channel presentation and Watson was one of the several survivors who was featured in the documentary, which is rebroadcast periodically. According to reviewer Randall Anderson, “At Chosin Reservoir, 16,000 Marines of the 1st Marine Division were surrounded by 120,000 hard core Chinese troops. They had to fight their way 60 some miles on foot to the Port of Hungnam. While boarding US Navy ships, 98,000 North Korean refugees sought help to escape the communist tide, otherwise facing certain execution as others had. The Navy and Marines saved the 98,000, relocating them to South Korea. Today there are 1,000,000 free descendants of the 98,000 rescued, not to mention a free democratic country today…60 years later.”

Newsweek magazine has just reported that, “According to Pentagon officials, the 55 boxes (returned in early August to Hawaii) may well contain the remains of troops killed at the iconic Battle of Chosin Reservoir… About 6,000 Americans were killed or went missing in the face of an overwhelming Chinese assault.”

Watson said they were wined and dined all day every day during Watson’s first trip back to Seoul since the war. At one of the banquets the South Korean Prime Minister sought out Watson and shook his hand. He and his fellow Marines received many honors, gifts and appreciation from a grateful nation. Watson said, “I was never so humble seeing the little children wave our flag and sing ‘We thank you’, knowing that I played a part in their freedom”. Watson traveled to the National Cemetery which is a national shrine with the name of everyone killed in the war engraved in bronze, the headquarters of the 2nd Army, the Korean Marines, the 8th Army, the 2nd Navy and the ROK Army. At each stop they were welcomed with a band and awards. They traveled to the DMZ where they learned that the battle of the Chosin Reservoir is considered the pivotal battle in the Korean War. Watson noted that when he left Seoul in 1950 it was rubble with all three of its bridges across the Han River destroyed. Today, Seoul is a thriving metropolis of 25 million with 26 bridges across the Han.

With great sadness, Watson also reported to us that his wife Margaret Anne recently passed away and was buried at DFW National Cemetery. The Crumbies had moved to the Houston area about a year ago to be nearer their children.