The Korean War has long been known as “The Forgotten War”, and with good reason…despite the fact that nearly every day we see news coming from the peninsula about North Korea’s nuclear program or tensions between the North and South, few Americans seem to know anything about the war we fought there from 1950 to 1953. It wasn’t a minor event…the United States suffered 36,940 men killed in action. I don’t believe there are any hard numbers on the losses inflicted on North Korean and Communist Chinese forces, but they are estimated to be around 900,000 killed, and an estimated 2 million civilians are thought to have died in the conflict. That’s not a minor “Police Action”, that’s a major war. It was also the first “proxy war” fought between the United States and the Communist powers of the Soviet Union/China, and the first real attempt at containing the spread of Communism. Also often forgotten is the fact that this was a U.N. action, and a total of 16 other countries fought beside the U.S. in Korea, although in relatively small numbers compared to the U.S. Countries as diverse as Ethiopia and Columbia had troops there. If you’re interested in learning more about the Korean War, I’d suggest the excellent book “The Darkest Summer” by Bill Sloan. It’s a great book, fast paced and easy reading. It discusses the historical, political, and global context of the war, which makes understanding how it fits into modern history very easy.
My Grandfather is a decorated Marine Corps veteran of WWII and Korea, where he was the commander of Company A, 1/5 Marines from the time they landed at Pusan until after the battle for Chosin Reservoir. He’s still very much involved with Veteran’s affairs, and one project he’s been working on is getting a book written by an officer in the Korean Army (ROK) translated into English and published in this country. The book had more than 50 images in it, all of which would need to be reproduced for the new book…problem is the quality of them wasn’t that great, and trying to reproduce them again would further degrade them. I offered to help out by trying to find better copies of the originals, and try to restore them to the point they could be published again. Good news is I was able to find good copies of all the images…bad news is they were all printed 50 years ago using the halftone process (for more information on halftone, see here) In order to get them ready for publication, I had to take a series of steps to enhance them, and remove the pattern left by the halftone printing process.
Here’s one example–
This is a screen shot of one of the images, zoomed in 100%. You can see the track that was blown off a North Korean tank, and a group of Marines in the background examining the damage to a pair of other tanks. The image on the left is the unprocessed original, on the right is the restored image. Click on the picture for a larger view. A process using a Fourier Transform was used to remove the pattern…something that will probably only be familiar to any math wizards out there. Notice how the dot pattern is completely gone, revealing a much more detail. A lot of other processing was also necessary, and the difference is pretty remarkable. Some images came out better than others–it really just depends on the quality of the original. They’re all much better than what he had to start with.
As I’ve said before, photographic restoration isn’t really my specialty, but this was really an interesting and rewarding project that I was glad to be a part of. Below is a set of the finished images.
Casualty of the Naktong. A wounded Marine being evacuated through a rice patty. There’s a South Korean laborer bringing up the rear. This is one of the few images I was able to find as a scan from an original print at the National Archives.
The Inchon Invasion. Looking much like the images we’ve all seen of the D-Day Normandy Invasion, Marines in landing craft are heading for “Blue Beach”. They had ladders with hooks on the top to be used in scaling the sea wall at the end of the beach.
Marines of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in San Diego prepare to board ship for the trip to Korea.
Crossing the Han river. U.S. Marines and Korean Marine Corps (KMCs) ride amphibious tractors (AMTRACS) across the river. Hill 125 is on the far shore.
The Marines get their first look at Korea, as the U.S.S. Pickaway docks. A tug is nudging it into place. My Grandfather was aboard when this picture was taken.
U.S. Navy Hospitalmen R.E Rosegoom and Frank J. Yasso give first aid to a wounded North Korean (NKPA) prisoner or war.
The battle for Chosin Reservoir was some of the most brutal fighting of the war. It was here that 30,000 American troops were surrounded by an estimated 60,000 Communist Chinese troops of the PVA 9th Army. A cold front from Siberia had descended on Korea, and temperatures dropped to a bitter -35* Fahrenheit. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, the Marines fought their way out of the encirclement.
Here, exhausted Marines huddle by the roadside during a halt in the Yudam-ni breakout from Chosin.
Another image of the Marines during the breakout, this one from Hagaru. It’s hard to imagine just trying to survive the conditions, let alone go into combat in them. When vehicles became crippled, they were simply pushed to the side of the road and left behind. Most of the Marines were on foot, and it was only the lucky few that didn’t suffer at least some frostbite.
Close air support–an F4U Corsair prepares for takeoff from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Sicily (CVE 118) armed with eight 5″ rockets and a 500 pound bomb. The Marines perfected air/ground fire support, and the gull-winged Corsairs were always a welcome sight to troops on the ground.
I’d also like to extend a special “thanks” to my Grandfather, and all American Veterans for your service.