In this space on Sunday this newspaper rubbed salt into the wound of surviving veterans of the Korean War. For that we apologize — and to the extent it is possible, we will now try to make appropriate amends.
Sunday’s Our View, titled “Honoring our fallen heroes,” was well intentioned but poorly executed. It was basically our plea to readers to remember the sacrifice of all our service men and women who have died while defending this country on this past Memorial Day weekend; that number is now at 1.3 million and growing.
As part of the Our View, we briefly highlighted this nation’s deadliest wars, including the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, which is our longest conflict and is continuing. Omitted, if you haven’t figured it out, was the Korean War.
That omission did not escape a reader, Norman Prevatte, an 83-year-old veteran of the Korean War. He dropped by our office on Tuesday morning and — politely we should add — reminded us that we aren’t the only ones to forget what has become known as “The Forgotten War,” but offered that much of this country shares in our culpability.
Our soldiers, it has been said, don’t get to pick our wars, they only get to fight them.
Why is the Korean War so poorly remembered?
It was sandwiched between World War II, perhaps this nation’s finest moment, when we liberated Europe from Hitler and defeated imperialist Japan, and Vietnam, perhaps our nation’s worst moment as too many Americans never understood our interest in Southeast Asia, and we fought that war with one arm tied behind our back, which led to an inglorious retreat and defeat.
The Korean War just isn’t part of the conversation — but it was plenty real, especially for the 36,000 Americans who died there on that peninsula . Another 92,000 of the approximately 1.7 million U.S. soldiers who served in that war were injured.
The 37-month Korean War is not unlike the Vietnam War in that it was an undeclared war, the first for the United States, and most Americans did not understand our interest beyond it was a battle against that big Red Machine, Communism. It also ended essentially in a stalemate.
The years will only make our nation’s collective interest in the Korean War more murky, but it should never absolve us from recalling and honoring those who died there while wearing an American uniform. We failed in that duty on Sunday.