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From left, Lt. Col. Clay Janssen, Maj. Robert Burmaster and Maj. Gordon Williams – members of the U.S. Special Operations Command Korea – lay flowers on a memorial Tuesday in the Seoul National Cemetery. The memorial is for members of the Federation of Partisan Forces Korea who died conducting guerilla warfare against communists in the Korean War.

From left, Lt. Col. Clay Janssen, Maj. Robert Burmaster and Maj. Gordon Williams – members of the U.S. Special Operations Command Korea – lay flowers on a memorial Tuesday in the Seoul National Cemetery. The memorial is for members of the Federation of Partisan Forces Korea who died conducting guerilla warfare against communists in the Korean War. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

SEOUL — Tucked onto the side of a steep hill in Seoul National Cemetery is a memorial to a group of warriors who’ve gone without official recognition for decades.

On Tuesday, about 300 of those veterans gathered to honor their fallen Korean comrades and, for the first time, the U.S. and British military forces who helped train, equip and send them into battle against the North Koreans after the June 25, 1950, invasion.

Federation of Partisan Forces Korea president Park Sang-joon said that his organization decided to pay honor to the fallen on May 22, instead of the usual June 6 South Korean Memorial Day. The cemetery is too crowded that day, he said.

And thanks to the work of retired Col. Douglas C. Dillard — the American officer who tracks the Korean War-era 8240th Army Unit veterans — the Koreans were able to post a banner featuring 12 Americans and two Brits who were killed working with the partisan forces during the war.

Federation members say that neither South Korea nor the United States will recognize them for their bravery in fighting North Koreans and Chinese during the war.

When Korea was divided at the end of World War II and the communist Kim Il Sung took charge of the north, many anti-communists fled the country to islands in the waters off the west coast. Armed with ancient weapons and small boats, they waged guerrilla warfare against the communists.

When the Korean War began, the 8th U.S. Army organized them into the 8240th. At its peak, nearly 40,000 Koreans — including 300 Allied forces — fought with the 8240th. About 4,000 of those Koreans remain alive today.

They say the only organization that has stuck by their side throughout the years is the U.S. Special Operations Command Korea - who came in force to Tuesday’s event, clad in dress uniforms.

Their relationship dates back to 1953, when members of the very first green beret graduating class worked with the partisan forces on the peninsula.

Brig. Gen. Simeon Trombitas, SOC-KOR commander, told those gathered at the cemetery Tuesday that his troops were honored to be invited.

“It honored and humbled us to be in your presence,” he said. “You have our deepest honor and gratitude.”

After the ceremony, he gathered his joint forces command around the base of the monument with its empty helmet perched on an upside-down weapon, and briefed them on the importance of the nearby veterans.

“We fight the same way today,” he told his troops, urging them to thank the veterans “for their sacrifice.”

“I definitely thank you for yours,” he told them.

After the Korean War, the U.S. military gave control of the partisan forces to South Korea. South Korea transferred the men into their military but immediately discharged them.

Organization leaders have told Stripes that they fought for official U.S. and South Korean recognition, but their efforts have slipped through the cracks.

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