Korean War veterans share stories 65 years after start of war

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many local Korean War veterans are in Washington, D.C. on the 7th Central Valley Honor Flight.

This month marks 65 years since the start of the Korean War. It is still often called the Forgotten War. The young veterans who came back from Korea experienced almost no fanfare from extremely deadly combat.

Ken Eaton of Clovis wrote a book about his survival and escape three separate times as a prisoner of war. He and other vets are hoping their stories educate others on the sacrifice made 65 years ago.

Eaton, a decorated U.S. Army veteran penned his book decades ago. Missing Dog Tags: An American GI in North Korea explores the horrific conditions Eaton and other prisoners of war endured beginning in June 1950.

"You know, most people don't even know much about the Korean War," Eaton said.

Eaton grew up on a farm in Sanger and enlisted when he was just 17. He served in the Army for seven and a half years. Two and half of that was spent as a POW in unknown parts of North Korea.

His stories from the battlefield and the roughly 500 miles forced to walk in death marches are stunning. "If you could walk they'd make you come out and bury the dead," Eaton recalled. "We'd carry the guys up a canyon and just pile rocks on top of them. You couldn't dig the ground, we weren't strong enough anyway. It was skeletons burying skeletons."

Eaton fought the war in tanks on the front lines losing most of his company in battle. "They'd got behind us, overwhelmed it, closed off the valley and we couldn't get out," he said.

Eaton was captured and escaped the POW camps three times. His drive, he says, was hunger and survival. He'd even head into poor villages and steal or beg for food.

Eaton says he tried joining POW survivor groups but didn't feel like his war was respected or acknowledged the way he says it deserves.

In contrast, Tuesday morning about 20 of his fellow Korean War veterans departed from Fresno for the 7th Central Valley Honor Flight. "Theirs is the forgotten war, and they're almost as old as the World War II vets and it's important to do this before it's too late," said Honor Flight organizer Paul Loeffler.

They're joining dozens of World War II veterans who will tour the nation's capital and monuments dedicated in their honor. The honor flight gives priority right now to our WWII veterans. But more Korean War veterans are taking the trip as these missions continue. The honor flight returns on Thursday.

Eaton right now is working to get his book re-published with a wide distribution deal.

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