In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw sings the praises of the men and women who saved the world in the Second World War. And rightly so. Less than a decade later, many of these same men and women were called to duty once again on the Korean peninsula. As we commemorate today the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, many among us find it hard to contextualize the threat of communism in a world dominated now by wars against a different kind of enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, let’s contextualize.
With the end of the ”war to end all wars”, precipitated by the explosion of two atomic bombs, nuclear technology quickly spread to the Soviet Union, a former ally, and to the new decidedly Communist China. The Soviet Union had held on to much of Eastern Europe and put up a wall in Berlin to keep its citizens inside. The Chinese had executed a purge of its intelligentsia and driven its citizens into decades of isolation. The Cold War was on.
When North Korea (read Communist China) invaded South Korea, the United States responded to the invasion by sending forces to repel the invaders. For the first time in history, two nuclear powers were waging conventional war over property belonging to others. The United States saw this conflict as necessary to beat back the forces of communism. We would do the same thing a decade later in a small country call Vietnam. As far as we were concerned, this was a line in the sand that had to be held firm.
In the end, there was a truce signed and a border established. The cost? Hard to believe, but we lost over 50,000 killed, hundreds of thousands wounded and many missing, still. Many have referred to it as the “forgotten war”. Many of these WWII veterans who came home to try to forget what they saw in Europe, North Africa, Italy and the Pacific came home again to resume normal lives. As the war in Vietnam ramped up in the 1960’s, these losses in Korea were set aside in our memories. To this day, we have paid inappropriate attention to it, its outcome and its benefits for the Korean people. We have overlooked these veterans and their sacrifice. We have forgotten the price of liberty, and that is why we have forgotten this war.
On this anniversary of this “forgotten war”, we must remember again the sacrifices of those who fought in Korea. We must remember for their sakes and for liberty’s sake. Let us honor those, now in their seventies and eighties, who answered the call of the world to beat back the forces of evil without complaint and now, without much fanfare. Their efforts matched those of the warriors of WWII, sometimes without our praise. Their sacrifice is worthy of note this day, and every day. One tangible way to show our honor and respect is to support the construction of the Korean War Memorial in Springfield, Illinois now in its concept stages. Here’s the link to their website for more information.