Veterans Day 2017 – A Message from Seoul

ROK Marines

Today, in tribute to all veterans and in honor of my grandfather, Colonel Edward H. Forney, USMC, I'm posting a speech he made at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Seoul, South Korea on November 10, 1958. Col. Forney was the senior US Marine Corps advisor to the ROK Marine Corps from 1957-’59 and as the senior Marine officer in Korea gave the following address to his Marines, their wives, and the special guests gathered to celebrate the 183rd birthday of the Marine Corps.

Members of the United States Marine Corps, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honor to be present tonight and participate in the anniversary of the founding of the the Marine Corps 183 years ago today.

From the time of the founding of the Marine Corps by the Continental Congress on 10 November 1775 the Corps has maintained a long and proud history of heroic accomplishment symbolized by that famous motto, “Semper Fidelis.”

Marines with their traditional esprit de corps in peace and war have been the “First to Fight,” and they have always distinguished themselves by their fighting skill, courage, gallantry and determination.

The history of the Marines in France during World War I is a glorious record of achievement which won world wide acclaim and admiration and was appropriately recognized by many awards and the highest decorations and honors that a grateful nation could bestow on those heroes.

Who can forget the inspiring record compiled by the Marines during World War II by such decisive actions at Guadalcanal, Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Many historians record the capture and holding of the airstrip at Guadalcanal as the turning point in the war. 

The same brilliant record was maintained in Korea, both in the air and on the ground. Many a white cross in the cemeteries of this country record the names of of the gallant Marines who made the supreme sacrifice so that freedom might live.

More recently in the Suez and Lebanon the Marines have been alert and ready and have been the stabilizing influence in the support of United States policies.

Throughout your long and distinguished history you have maintained a glowing record of heroic achievements, so on this 183rd anniversary of the establishment of the Marine Corps, I salute you on behalf of a grateful nation, extend a heartfelt congratulation, and offer best wishes for continued success and outstanding service to our country.

Colonel Edward H. Forney


Col. Forney (middle) and his wife, Inor, at the Marine Corps Ball, Seoul 1958. (Photo credit: Forney collection)


Last night Jodi and I went to the 242nd birthday of the Marine Corps at the luxurious Walkerhill Hotel in downtown Seoul. Although the evening was more extravagant and larger than the one held in 1958, the ritual itself - the color guard ceremony, cake cutting, recognition of the oldest and youngest Marine, and tribute to our fallen Marines - was almost identical to the one Col. Forney led 59 years ago.

Colonel Forney would have been proud of the ceremony and the US and ROK Marines gathered there. The two services have trained and fought together since the Korean War and, as MajGen Lukeman, the Commander of US Marine Corps Forces Korea, said, "We have the same DNA."

Col. Forney would have also echoed the words of General Robert Neller, the current Commandant of the US Marine Corps, who said in his message to Marines around the world, “The American people expect a Corps of men and women who are committed, selfless, willing to sacrifice, who epitomize honor, courage, commitment, virtue, and character.”

Some things, thankfully, don’t change. Semper Fidelis!

Ned with Mr. John Lee, who was an interpreter with the 1st Marine Division at the Battle of Chosin (Photo courtesy of Ned Forney).
Many of the Korean women wore hanbok, traditional Korean dresses (Photo courtesy of Ned Forney).
The Marine Birthday Ball program designed by Inor Forney, Seoul 1958. (Photo courtesy of Forney collection).
Cover of the program for the 2017 USMC Birthday Ball in Seoul. (Photo courtesy of Ned Forney)

Top picture: Ned with John Lee and ROK Marines (Photo courtesy of Ned Forney)