To Acknowledge a War: The Korean War in American Memory

By Paul M. Edwards | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
The Wrong War

The Korean War is an unattractive task which most Americans are more than happy to have slip through the cracks of history.

Joseph Goulden

When considering Korea, Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur told members of his staff in 1947 he did not want any part of the messy situation there. That same year, Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge, the military governor of Korea during the occupation, expounded to the Joint Chiefs of Staff expounded on his frustration: "I have always been aware that Korea has been low on the agenda, but it may soon reach the point of explosion." The Department of State and the Department of Defense carried on endless discussions about Korea and never came to any good solution. The question became more disturbing when Mao Tse-tung was able to centralize China under communists control, having defeated America's favorite nationalist, Chiang Kai-shek. In the end, the need for economy ruled supreme, and it was considered necessary to reduce the cost of maintaining men in, and providing economic aid to, Korea.

In expressing his concern about an expanded Chinese involvement in the Korean War, Omar Bradley, General of the Army and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared that a war with China would be "the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy" [ Goulden 1982:xv]. This quote is often used to describe the Korean War; though not directly concerned with Korea, it does provide a good description of the feeling many shared it.

It is not difficult to acknowledge that Korea, either the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North) or the Republic of Korea (South), is not a very good place for a war. It was also not a place with which Americans identified. While the United States had had an early connection with Korea, including an "invasion" in 1870, it was not highly valued by America or Americans. There were few Koreans living in America, and the United States had never done much to understand or appreciate the Korean culture.

"Yellow peril" legislation had prevented many Koreans from emigrating to

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To Acknowledge a War: The Korean War in American Memory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Military Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Long Silence 15
  • Chapter 3 - Naming the War 27
  • Chapter 4 - Who Is to Blame 41
  • Chapter 5 - Some of the Controversies 53
  • Chapter 6 - Leaders and Scoundrels 75
  • Chapter 7 - Operations 89
  • Chapter 8 - The United Nations Force 103
  • Chapter 9 - Revising the Revisionists 121
  • Chapter 10 - The Fighting Just Stopped 135
  • Chapter 11 - The Wrong War 147
  • Bibliography 155
  • Subject Index 163
  • Military Unit Index 173
  • About the Author 177
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