In many ways, the Korean War, or the Forgotten War as it has become known, began at the end
of World War II. Our Soviet allies had promised us that, when the war in Europe ended, they
would join the war in the Pacific. And join they did on August 9, 1945…and not a moment too
late. The Soviets declaration of war on the Japanese occurred three days after we dropped the
first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the day the second bomb was delivered to Nagasaki, and six
days before the unofficial surrender of the Japanese. The Soviets and the United States
ultimately shared control of the Korean peninsula and over the next few years, administrative
commissions designed to equitably divide the peninsula failed and the relationship between
America and the Soviets turned cold.
On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean
People’s Army poured across the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea in the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea in the south. This
assault was the first military action of the Cold War.
After just a few weeks, American troops entered the war on South Korea’s behalf. As far as
American officials were concerned, it was a righteous fight against the powers of communism
itself. After some early back-and-forth across the 38th parallel, the fighting stalled and
casualties mounted with little ground lost or gained. Meanwhile, the United States government
worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans because the
alternative that the officials grew to fear was a wider conflict that included the Soviets and
China–or even, as some warned, World War III.
This was not an irrational fear. The means of war was changing. Becoming ever extinct from
the battlefield were the legends of World War II. Icons like the Sherman tank, the Mustangs
and Corsairs of the air, and conventional weapons, were being replaced with Pershing heavy
tanks, jet powered fighters and helicopters, and the threat of atomic weapons being brought to
bear in another war was on everyone’s mind.
Finally, in July 1953, the Korean War ended. In all, close to 5 million total soldiers and
civilians lost their lives throughout the fighting. And as we all know, the Korean peninsula is
still divided today.
One of the American soldiers that fought in Korea was Stanley L. Leininger. Private Leininger
was drafted in 1951. On September 15 of that same year, he was wounded from the blast of a
mortar shell near Chipyong-ni, Korea while stringing communication lines. Suffering from a
skull fracture, a compound fracture of the right leg and a broken back he was admitted to the
Tokyo Army Hospital on September 26. He was in a coma for 17 days, regaining
consciousness on October 2. Private Leininger was transferred to a hospital in Ft. Knox,
Kentucky and after weeks of therapy, he was separated from the Army with an honorable
discharge. For his service in Korea, Private Leininger awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge
Purple Heart, received the Korean Service Medal with one Bronze Camp Star, and the United
Nations Service Medal.
The son of the late Omer and Ila Leininger, Private Leininger was born on May 30, 1929, in
rural Huntsville. After graduating in 1947 from the East Liberty High School, he worked as a
tree trimmer. And upon being drafted a few years later, the Army asked Private Leininger what
he had been up to since high school and he told them he had been trimming trees, to which they
replied, “So you are good at working at heights right?” Hence Private Leininger’s job of
stringing communication lines.
As he recovered from his wounds, doctors told him he likely would never be able to fully bend
his right knee. When he returned home though, Mr. Leininger devised his own therapy. Twice
a day, his father’s dairy cows had to be milked and that required Mr. Leininger to kneel down to
attach the milkers to the cows’ udders. Kneeling just a little more each time he milked the cows
allowed him to, overtime, be able to bend that right knee.
After the war, he went on to marry Jean Kerr of East Liberty, raise four children, Dick, Bob,
John and Laura, and farm for 35 years between here and Zanesfield. As the years passed, he
was often in pain because of his injuries but rarely complained. Indeed, as Mr. Leininger gazes
down on all of us on this beautiful Memorial Day morning, he is no doubt cursing us under his
breath for giving him the reverence that he is due, but never sought. He was a lifetime member
of the Wood-Rosebrook Post of the American Legion and a member of the Disabled American
Veterans. Stanley Leininger passed away on October 5, 2014 at the age of 85.
His wife Jean, two of their children, Mr. Leininger’s sister Donna Smith, and other of his
extended family are with us today.
Our Hometown Hero this year is Stanley L. Leininger. He exemplified the dignified path that
many returning servicemen and women take – going quietly about the business of living
thoughtful and productive lives. In closing, I want to thank you all for being here as your
attendance ensures that veterans like Mr. Leininger will not, like the moniker of the Korean War
he fought in, ever be forgotten.