July 27 will mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. As a veteran of that war, I look back at all those years with mixed feelings.
WWII Was The Good Vs Bad War The strongest statement from that war and all the wars since can be summed up in three words: We never learn! World War II was an understandable challenge with clearly-marked opponents. We, the Allies, were the good guys. The enemies, Germany and Japan, were the bad guys. The bad guys attacked us in 1941. Whatever it took to win, we did it by 1945, and the world was once more at peace…or so we thought.
That euphoria lasted only about two years. Our former allies, the Soviet Union and Communist China, suddenly became new enemies, and we were soon in the infamous Cold War. Then, it happened just five years after the end of World War II, in June 1950. Communist North Korea, loaded down with Russian and Chinese armaments and encouragement, attacked South Korea.
MacArthur To The Rescue It looked as if it would be an easy victory for North Korea until American President Harry Truman decided to intervene. Commanded by World War II victor, General Douglas MacArthur, the Americans, with help from United Nations forces, stepped in and beat the North Koreans back in full retreat.
Almost Victory And The Stalemate MacArthur’s Marine and Army ground forces captured the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and continued north to the border with China on the Yalu River. It appeared it was just a matter of a few weeks before the war would end. Then, in autumn of 1950, as many as 100,000 Chinese “volunteers” swept across the border, and the fighting continued for nearly three more years.
You Are Hereby To Report…. I’d just completed my junior year in college when the Korean War started. However, I was a member of the Naval Air Reserve, and it was just a matter of time before my unit was activated. It happened a year later, and I then served six months aboard an aircraft carrier and 18 months at a Naval Air Station.
Was It All Worth It? I lost two years of what could have been the start of my post-college career. Far worse, more than 50,000 other Americans lost their lives in Korean War combat. Then, a decade later, the U.S. put troops in a similar war, this time between North and South Vietnam. Almost 60,000 Americans died in that war’s battles. Its conclusion was even more shameful than the end of the Korean War. The U.S. just gave up after ten years of fruitless effort, pulled out and left South Vietnam to be taken over by the victorious North Vietnamese.
Those Who Do Not Learn From The Past… In 1990 and again in 2001, the U.S. got involved in other foreign wars, in Iraq and then Afghanistan. Thousands of Americans have died in the continuing conflict…so far.
Conclusion Unlike the happy celebrations when WWII was won, the 60th Anniversary this month of the end of the Korean War is not to commemorate a victory. It was a makeshift stalemate from the very beginning. Considering Communist North Korea’s isolation and continuing threats to this day, I think the only benefit, if any, is that there is no actual combat going on with South Korea…yet.
I can look back more than the six decades and the seemingly never-ending wars the U.S. has been drawn into. Realistically, though almost constantly involved in outbreaks around the world, the U.S. hasn’t won a war in nearly 70 years.