Firing stops in Korea, GIs in front line start moving back

By EARNEST HOBERECHT  |  July 27 1953
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SEOUL, July 27, 1953 (UP) - The shooting in the Korean war ended at 10 o'clock tonight Korea time.

The uncertain and uneasy quiet of a negotiated truce settled over the Korean battle lines.

The armistice documents ending the bitter, stalemated efforts of the Communists to seize all Korea by force were signed at 10:01 a.m. today in the truce village of Panmunjom.

Exactly 12 hours later, official orders for a ceasefire were broadcast to troops on both sides of the battle lines. The war was over after 37 months.

The last Red artillery shell of the war burst on the eastern front 10 minutes earlier. South Korean troops on the central front continued a rattle of small arms fire almost to the moment of the deadline.

Then the strange silence of the cease-fire settled over the moonlit lines.

Front-line UN troops, after destroying their bunkers and fortifications, began moving back after 1 1/4 miles in the first step of an agreement with the enemy to form a 2 1/2 mile buffer zone between the two armies.

The communists also will fall back 1 1/4 miles. These withdrawals must be completed by Thursday night.

But the end of the military phase of the long and costly United Nations collective efforts to end aggression must be followed by a delicate political conference to start within 90 days. And this will in the end determine whether the truce will last, whether the ceasefire can be extended into a genuine peace for Korea.

The truce and the cease-fire wrote the end to a "political action" which developed into one of the longest and most costly wars in American history.

It was entered upon under a United Nations pledge to halt aggression and it ended almost where it began - in a specially constructed "peace pagoda" in the little mud hut village of Panmunjom just below the 38th Parallel.

As war merged into truce, American warplanes turned back to their bases with bomb loads still undropped and Allied soldiers dug in, alert against a surprise last-minute Communist attack but under orders not to start a fight of their own.

Sometime this week the first of 12,763 Allied prisoners held by the Reds may be on their way home. Approximately 3,300 of the prisoners are American.

The war began with a surprise Communist attack against the South Koreans on June 25, 1950.

The war had taken 24,965 American lives and had resulted in 101,368 wounded and more than 10,000 others captured or missing. It had cost the United States around $15,000,000,000.

As the truce went into effect, one of the first newly created bodies to go into action was the Military Armistice Commission, charged with overseeing the truce and watching for violations. It is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Tuesday. It is composed of 10 members from each side. The UN side is headed by Lieut. Gen. Blackshear M. Bryan, former commander of the 24th Division.

The war ended on a somber note.

In Washington, President Eisenhower offered "prayers of thanksgiving" for the truce, but he also warned that "an armistice on a single battleground" is not "peace in the world."

Two ceremonies attended the signing of the historic truce documents.

Three hours after the Allied and Communist negotiators had signed the bulky documents in the ceremony at Panmunjom, Supreme Commander Gen. Mark Clark signed in a special ceremony at nearby Munsan.

Looking on was South Korean Gen. Choi Duk Shin, personal representative of President Syngman Rhee who opposed and almost scuttled the truce and still opposes it.

The South Koreans boycotted the Panmunjom ceremony.

The Panmunjom signing was carried on with clock-like precision and in stony silence.

Lieut. Gen. William K. Harrison, chief UN negotiator, signed for the United Nations.

North Korean Gen. Nam Il signed for the Communists.

Neither spoke to the other.

The ceremony lasted 10 minutes. At the end, at 10:11 a.m., when he had finished signing his papers, Nam Il glanced anxiously at his watch and then for a moment locked eyes with Harrison.

Then he got up and strode stiffly from the building.

Harrison left a few moments later, stopping briefly to shake hands with a United Nations officer.

Harrison showed no elation.

Clark signed nine copies of the three-language armistice accord, and nine other copies were dispatched to the Red commanders - North Korean Marshal Kim Il Sung and Chinese Gen. Peng Teh-huai.

The Communist leaders had refused to attend a joint ceremony with Clark at Panmunjom unless the free press, all South Korean and all Chinese Nationalists were barred.

A proclamation from Kim and Peng, broadcast by Peking Radio, claimed the armistice was a "glorious victory" for the Communist forces and opened the way toward "settlement by peaceful means of the Korean question."

In contrast, Clark warned that the armistice does not guarantee either peace or early UN troop withdrawal from Korea.

"It is my fervent hope," he said, "that this suspension of the fighting will lead to peace. But experience has taught us that we must be prepared for any eventuality."

Clark added:

"Although the thunder of the guns dies down and a welcome silence descends upon the battlefield, the conflict will not be over until the governments concerned have reached a firm political settlement."

Eighth Army Com. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor told his Allied ground troops that the armistice demonstrated that the "Communists have been forced to renounce their attempt to conquer Korea by force."

The conference to reach the "political settlement" mentioned by Clark must start, under terms of the truce, by Oct. 26.

Rhee has promised to give the conference a chance to succeed and he underlined his promise by sending Gen. Choi back to Munsan today.

Rhee has indicated he thinks 90 days are sufficient for the conference to solve the reunification of Korea.

Harrison estimated it would take about a day to get all signatures on the necessary documents.

He said the UN and the Communists would exchange documents tomorrow morning. Clark will sign tomorrow the set of papers being signed today by the Communist commanders.

He said the final signing would probably be in Gen. Taylor's headquarters in Seoul, and "there will be no ceremony."

A United Nations honor guard, resplendent in its vari-colored uniforms, greeted Harrison on his arrival at the "Peace Pagoda" today. Representatives of the United Nations fighting in Korea also were in the armistice hall. More than 100 newsmen were present.

The military men from 10 Allied and Communist nations present eyed one another coldly. There was none of the jubiliation of victory or despair of defeat.

Seated with Clark at the table were Taylor, Gen. O.P. Weyland, Far East Air Force chief; Lieut. Gen. Samuel Anderson, Fifth Air Force commander; Vice Adm. Robert P. Briscoe, Far East naval commander, and Vice Adm. J. John Clark, commander of the Seventh Fleet.

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