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Korean Conflict Records at the Pennsylvania State Archives

Often referred to as the "Forgotten War," the Korean War was the first armed conflict of the Cold War. Following World War II, the Korean Peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel. The North was governed by a communist regime that was supported by China and the Soviet Union, while the South was more capitalist-leaning and was supported by the United States. In June 1950, backed by Soviet support, North Korea invaded South Korea in an attempt to unite the peninsula. The United Nations, largely backed by the United States, responded in an effort primarily to stabilize the region, but also as the war drew on, to unify the peninsula under the auspices of democracy. However, after China militarily entered the war in support of North Korea in October 1950, the war essentially reached a stalemate along the 38th parallel. After three years of fighting, the two sides signed an armistice in July 1953 that ended the conflict and maintained this original boundary. During the war, United States forces suffered approximately 33,665 casualties and over 8,000 were listed "missing in action."

Records relating to Pennsylvania's involvement in the Korean War at the Pennsylvania State Archives take many different forms. They include military personnel records, records of services to veterans, and materials in various manuscript groups.

1. Military Personnel Records
In 1973, a major fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis destroyed approximately eighteen million official military personnel files, including most of the records from the Korean War era. As a result, searching for information related to veterans of the Korean War is a very difficult task. However, the Pennsylvania State Archives does provide a few options.

  • RG-19 Index to Korean War Bonus Files, 1955-1966       
    These records provide an index of those who were recipients of the Korean War bonus, and therefore an index of Pennsylvanians who served in the Korean War. While they are the most complete records of Korean War veterans in the archive, they are not fully inclusive as some veterans may not have applied for the bonus. They provide the veteran's name, serial number, and number of months of domestic and foreign service. A serial number is necessary to search these records.
  • RG-19 Korean War Troop Rosters, 1949-1952
    These rosters include a listing of all Pennsylvania National Guard units inducted into federal service during the Korean War. Includes an alphabetical listing of inductees compiled in 1952.
  • RG-19 Master Card File of Officers in the Pennsylvania National Guard, [ca. 1934-1985]
    A record of 3" x 5" index cards identifying the names of officers who served in the Pennsylvania National Guard from 1934-1985.
  • RG-19 Unit Histories, 1891-1997
    Published and unpublished histories of units of the Pennsylvania National Guard, many associated with the 28 th Division. Some of the more prominent units include the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, 109 th Infantry Regiment, 109 th Field Artillery, 8 th Infantry, and the 51 st Field Brigade. The files contain orders, personal memoirs and battle reports, maps, photographs, pamphlets and publications, rosters, and personnel and officer information.
  • RG-19       Grave Registration Card Files
    Burial cards filed with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Not all the records have been processed and organized. Information includes name, date and place of birth, date and place of enlistment, rank, date and place of discharge, date and place of death, and burial location.     Accession #4658, 4478, 3227, 3669, 3179, 3185
  • RG-10       Medal of Honor Recipients-Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (PA Council on the Arts)
    Limited edition publication that details the history of the Medal of Honor and provides sketches of all Pennsylvania recipients from the American Civil War up to and including the UN Operation to Somalia.     Accession #2370

2. Records of Services to Veterans

  • RG-19 Veterans Organization Files, 1950-1994
    Minutes and proceedings of various state veterans' organizations.
  • RG-19 Bonus Administration files for the Korean War
    Administrative files created when Pennsylvania began paying bonuses to its veterans for their honorable service in the Korean War. Includes correspondence, forms, news releases, newspaper clippings, newsletters, statistics, and copies of related legislation.
  • RG-25 Records of the Pennsylvania Veteran's Memorial Commission, 1988-2005
    This commission was created to construct a permanent memorial to veterans on the grounds of the Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetary. Even though it's not directly related to the Korean War or era, Korean War veterans are buried in the cemetary and a number of veteran's organizations contributed funds to the construction of the memorial. These records are currently unprocessed.    Accession #4575

3. Manuscript Groups
Manuscript groups are collections of personal, nongovernmental papers available for research at the Pennsylvania State Archives. Those related to the Korean War may provide a valuable and more personal insight into the issues confronting the nation at the time.

  • MG-206 Governor John S. Fine, 1951-1955
    Pennsylvania governor during the Korean War, Fine's personal papers contain newspaper clippings, research materials, a copy of the governor's report of Korea given at the 46th Annual Governor's Conference, casualty numbers for the United States and the United Nations, correspondence, files relating to Dwight D. Eisenhower, and files concerning veterans and the establishment of the Korean War Bonus.
  • MG-272 Pennsylvania Military Museum Collection, 1789, 1856-1970, and undated
    • Daniel B. Strickler Collection
      Most of the papers deal with training and specific troop movements of the 28 th Division. This includes details of the preparations for the overseas movement of troops of the 5 th and 7 th Army (1951). Specific movements that are represented include the "Exercise Keystone" and "Alice Maneuvers," both with orders from Camp Atterbury, Indiana. Also included in this collection are publications, orders, and photographs.
    • 28 th Division History Collection
      Although most of this sub-collection deals with the 28 th Division in World War II, there is a series of scrapbooks and newspaper clippings of the 28 th Division covering part of the Korean War era (August-November 1950).
  • MG-356 Daniel B. Strickler Collection, 1916-1919, 1943-1957, 1967, and undated
    Included among the collection are newspaper clippings, especially those concerning the September 1950 train wreck involving members of the 190 th Infantry, military files, maps, photographs of Eisenhower, General Omar Bradley, President Rhea and others, orders, rosters, and publications. There is also a collection of records related to Lieutenant Strickler at the Lancaster County Historical Society.

4. Other Resources
Several other archival institutes and historical societies house military personnel and other collections related to the Korean War.

  • State Library of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, PA)
    Secondary source publications, such as unit histories, can be found at the State Library.
  • Military History Institute (Carlisle, PA)
  • National Personnel Records Center (St Louis, MO)
    Houses military personnel files that have been reconstructed or survived the 1973 fire.
  • National Archives (College Park, MD)
    Contains numerous online databases that provide military personnel information, such as:
    • Records of Military Personnel Who Died as a Result of Hostilities During the Korean War, 1950-1957
    • Records on Korean War Dead and Wounded Army Casualties, 1950-1953
    • Records of American Prisoners of War During the Korean War, 1950-1953
  • Department of Defense
    Includes two databases of missing personnel and aircraft loss from the Korean War. There are also a number of maps depicting POW camps in North Korea, POW march routes, UN cemetaries, and US Air Force K-Sites.

If you need further assistance, you may contact an archivist at ra-statearchives@pa.gov