48 Stars and Stripes Original Korean War Flag Artifact

48 Stars on American flag from the Korean War carried by Lieutenant Leroy M. Duffy, USMC. (Photo by Ed Berti)
A note from the family who donated the artifact. (Ed Berti)

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when communist North Korean forces advanced and invaded into South Korea following a series of clashes along the two nations borders.

However, as a product of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, Korea had been split into two separate states.  Both governments claimed to be the legitimate government of all Korea, while neither accepted the border.  The border clashes escalated into all out warfare when the North Korean forces supported by the Soviets and China made their aggressive move in June 1950 and crossed into the South in a sudden attack with overwhelming force.

The United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea and authorized the formation and dispatch of UN forces which included 21 nations and the United States which provided 90% of all military forces in the conflict.

Two months into the war, South Korean and U.S. led forces were on the verge of defeat, corned back into a small area in South Korea known as the Pusan Perimeter.  However, American Commander, General Douglas McArthur designed a major successful counter-offensive launched in Inchon and was able to cut off thousands of North Korean troops.  This action gave the allies exactly what they needed a major victory that drove the enemy back to North Korea.  To save the retreating North Koreans, the Chinese sent in heavy forces to cross the Yalu River which borders China to the North to enter into the war.  This intervention forced the UN forces to retreat back to the South.

The ground fighting continued for 3 long years to a stalemate, it became a war of attrition with the front line close to the 38th parallel.  American air superiority controlled the skies with a massive bombing campaign.  While Jet fighters confronted one another for the first time in warfare, the North Korean pilots where no match for the American fighter pilots, so the Soviet pilots in defense of their communist allies began to play a significant role.  The United States still controlled the air over Korea.

The fighting ended on July 27, 1953, when an armistice was reached and signed.  The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone which separated North and South Korea, and allowed the return of prisoners of war.  However, no peace treaty was ever signed, and technically through today the two Korea’s are still at war, engaged in frozen conflict a stalemate separated at the 38th parallel.  In April 2018, the leaders of the two nations met for the first time since the conflict at the demilitarized zone, and they agreed to sign a treaty by the end of this year to formally end the Korean War.



The 48-Star American Flag in our featured photo flew in Korea from September 1950 until April 1951.  This flag was flown at Inchon during the landing, Wonsan,  Seoul, Majon-mi and Koto-ri.  Old Glory was carried by platoon leader Lieutenant Leroy M. Duffy, “C” Company, 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division.  Duffy eventually retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel from the USMC.  The flag was donated by the Duffy family in his honor to The Marine Corps League #750 Charlotte, North Carolina who are the keepers of the flag.

American Legion Post 235, Matthews, North Carolina honorary historian and veteran John Ellis provided the flag for this story including the history behind it.  “The dirt on the flag is from Korea, the 48 stars represents how many states were within the United States at the time of the conflict,” said Ellis.  This is truly an historical artifact from the war.




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Ed Berti
Ed is retired and remains active as a freelance writer, local journalist and independent contractor. He is engaged in print and electronic media writing stories covering business, sports, hometown news and veteran’s affairs including articles of interest to various media outlets. Ed is a graduate of Wagner College where he earned an MBA and holds a BBA from Pace University.
Ed can be reached at ed@minthilltimes.com, eberti7777@gmail.com and linkedin.com.