Answer Man: Korean War had many bumps in road to peace

News-DemocratJuly 24, 2013 

Q. I recently saw the "M*A*S*H" episode in which the 4077th receives a message saying a cease-fire had been reached and the Korean War would be ending. After a wild celebration, they learn the report had been erroneous. But that reminded me: How did the war end? I've been told that the two sides simply agreed to end the conflict if no shooting occurred within a certain number of days. -- L.W., of Maryville

A. Looks like they don't call it the "Forgotten War" for nothing.

Those even somewhat familiar with World War II can probably tell you, for example, that Japan surrendered aboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945. But it appears many no longer remember the torturous armistice talks that went on for months in Korea before a formal treaty was signed in 1953. So, a brief history lesson seems in order:

It was, some historians say, a recipe for disaster when, during the immediate aftermath of World War II, the U.S. agreed that it would accept Japanese surrender south of the 38th parallel in Korea and Russia could do the same in the north. Later, however, Russia indicated it would accept a reunified Korea only if it were Communist.

This, of course, was unacceptable to the U.S., so the 38th parallel became an increasingly contested barrier between the two sides. Nevertheless, the U.S. pulled its forces out in June 1949, which led to a full-scale invasion by the North Koreans on June 24, 1950.

In just days, the United Nations condemned the action and pledged troops to aid the U.S. retaliation. But after the North Koreans were forced out in just a couple of months, the Chinese entered the fray and, by December, had stormed into the south, recapturing Seoul.

After six more months of bitter fighting, Russia's U.N. delegate hinted that a treaty might be possible, so, on July 10, 1951, negotiations began near Panmunjom. But after more than a year of talk, the two sides could not agree on repatriating each other's POWs. With a U.S. presidential election looming, the talks were recessed in October 1952.

The war dragged on. Then, in March 1953, Russian dictator Joseph Stalin died, and his successor, Georgi Malenkov, seemed more conciliatory. Less than five months later, on July 27, the two sides signed a formal armistice at Panmunjom. It required both sides to withdraw at least one and a half miles from the existing battle line, which was essentially the 38th parallel.

In three years, the U.S. had suffered 36,500 dead, 8,200 unaccounted for and 103,000 wounded, making this "police action" our fifth bloodiest conflict. Some estimate that 2-3 million Chinese and Korean soldiers and civilians died from bullets, disease and famine. In 1954, talks in Geneva, Switzerland, to reunify the country failed, so today, 60 years later, a tenuous peace remains.

Q. My nephew has suffered several flat tires recently. I told him to consider going with a six-ply tire, but he just kind of looked at me as if I had come from another world. Do they still rate tires by plies? -- F.A., of Belleville

A. He apparently gave you the same look that I gave my dad when he talked about crystal radio sets.

Apparently, the concept of plies has been retired, so to speak, in favor of a load-bearing rating, according to Mike Corrigan at Meckfessel Tire and Auto in Belleville. He said today's typical passenger car tire is referred to as a four-ply and should do the trick if the tire is appropriate for the weight of your vehicle and you don't allow the tread to become too worn. Knock on wood, I haven't had a flat in 14 years with my present car.

"I know I've never tried to sell a tire based on that it was going to get fewer flats because it's a thicker tire," Corrigan said.

Now if you are driving something larger like a pickup truck, you might want to consider a load rating of C (equivalent of six-ply), D (eight-ply) or E (10-ply).

"But it's not necessarily 10-ply," Corrigan said. "It can hold the weight of what used to be a 10-ply tire. So it might actually be four or five plies along with the steel belt or other exotic material in there that can hold the same weight with fewer plies."

For an in-depth education on all those strange letters and numbers on a tire, I'd recommend "How to read your tire" at, which goes into everything from an inflation guide to speed symbols.

Today's trivia

Can you name the two modern-era Major League Baseball players who won seasonal batting average titles without hitting a single home run?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: Over a three-week period, newly crowned Tour de France champion Chris Froome covered 2,115 miles in just under 84 hours for an average speed of 25.2 mph. The top average was 25.9 mph, but that pace was set in 2005 by Lance Armstrong, who has since been disqualified of all titles. And, if you think zooming around in a roller coaster is scary, consider this: Sean Yates reportedly holds the Tour record for downhill speed -- about 75 mph.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or or call 239-2465.

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