Remembering the Forgotten War

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Remembering the Forgotten War

Originally posted at Hard Corps Wife:

Today is the 60th anniversary of start of the Korean War. It’s now come to be remembered as America’s Forgotten War, a sad statement in and of itself, considering the tens of thousands of lives we lost in that war. Here’s a quote to remind you of how bad it was in Korea, courtesy of Blackfive:

“The thing that bothered me worse than anything that winter was the cold. I’d always gone through life bitching about it being too hot or too cold; during the pullback from the Yalu, I decided I would never complain about the heat again if I could only just get warm. And the thing you had to realize, with life expectancy being what it was on the battlefield, was that chances were you weren’t going to live until spring anyway. You had to realize that you might never get warm again.

– Col. Allan D. Bell, Jr. USA, Ret.
G/27th Artillery Forward Observer
Korea, 1950-51

Some poignant thoughts from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield:

Sixty years ago today, North Korean soldiers crossed the 38th Parallel and began the Korean War – what has come to be called America’s Forgotten War. Oddly, by naming it the Forgotten War, it began to be remembered, and that raises the larger questions of why we forget or remember events in our lives and in our history.

Do we forget because it’s too painful to recall? Perhaps it’s because the forgotten events simply have no meaningful place in our lives. After all, nothing is simply remembered for its own sake. With nothing to attach to in our ongoing lives, nothing can be remembered.

On the other hand, we are always free to create pegs in our current lives upon which to hang memories that we hope to preserve. But that just begs the question of why we feel compelled to create those pegs.

Ultimately memory is not simply a fact or reality; it is something to be created and pursued. And in many ways, so is forgetting, which brings me back to Korea. Why is it that a conflict that dragged on (why, by the way, do conflicts always “drag on”?) and ultimately cost 2 million lives, including the lives of 54,000 U.S. military personnel, went largely ignored and mostly forgotten for so many years? And why now are we returning to try and recall it with everything from national memorials to TV shows and books about “America’s Forgotten War”?

Could it be that with fewer and fewer World War II veterans around, we need new faces to fill out the picture of our nation’s past? Is it that the squeakiest wheel really does get the grease? Could it be that poised between the heroic victors of WWII and the angry voices about Vietnam ─ the quiet soldiers who fought an ambiguous conflict with an ambiguous ending, at a time when ambiguity was discouraged even more harshly than today ─ neither they nor we knew how to remember what happened?

The Korean War has been overshadowed by the simple fact that it was sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War. It’s easy to overlook. My grandfather served in the Navy during the Korean war, and fought on the ground there. We owe it to those heroes who fought so valiantly and especially to those who gave their lives to not forget them.

It’s not so much to ask, really. To remember. Something so little, yet so difficult to do.

Remember Korea today, and especially remember the heroes who fought there.

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  • fozzy says:

    Maybe it’s forgotten because there was no real resolution to the war. After all those American lives sacrificed, and 60 years of America standing guard, the monsters are still in charge in the North, and the South is ungrateful and resentful.

  • Badger Nation says:

    Apropos to this week’s events, Korea was the scene of a serious chain of command incident where General MacArthur overrode Washington and tried to negotiate with the enemy and China on his own accord.

  • 1903A3 says:

    My Dad was in the Navy serving on an LST when they went ashore at Inchon.He was was also there when they picked up they troops and refugees at Hung-nam.I called him last night to thank him and tell him that I was proud of him.Twenty five years later,he retired.All my brothers except one served,but my years of service will never hold a candle to his. 🙂

  • soxfan4life says:

    I was there in 95, certainly didn’t face the hardships they suffered in the war by any means, but they certainly are right about the cold. I was born and raised in New England and the winter I spent in Korea was the coldest in my memory bank.

  • Pug Mahon says:

    The Cold is only bearable when you know that soon you’ll be warm. I cannot imagine the frozen hell our men faced in Valley Forge, Bastogne, Korea, and the high mountains of Afghanistan.

  • Big Mo says:

    Thanks for posting this. Big Hollywood is highlighting several films from the Korean War.

    My wife’s grandfather and his two older brothers were in WWII, but their baby bro was too young. He went to Korea instead as an aircraft mechanic. He’s still doing well today, tho his bros have all passed on.

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