How to Remember the Forgotten War

By Weintraub, Stanley | American Heritage, May 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

How to Remember the Forgotten War

Weintraub, Stanley, American Heritage

The Korean conflict erupted fifty years ago this June. Many Americans still believe that it began in debacle (which is true) and ended in a humiliating compromise that changed nothing (which is not).

ONLY BY COINCIDENCE does the fragment of a map of Korea along the fateful thirty-eighth parallel that is part of the jacket art for my book MacArthur's War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero include the town of Chunchon. That was as far north as I got during the war. My commission as an Army second lieutenant had come on April 18, 1951, exactly one week after President Truman dismissed Douglas MacArthur as commander in chief in the Far East. As I prepared to go on active duty, MacArthur's four-engine, dramatically named plane, Bataan, was about to touch down in San Francisco. Just after noon the next day, speaking to a joint meeting of Congress, the general delivered his farewell to military service, quoting a line of a nineteenth-century ballad, "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away." And like that old soldier, he declared in his slow, mesmerizing voice, he too intended to just fade away.

Actually, he intended to propagandize for a widening of the war and to run for President. Had the occasion been a quadrennial party convention, he might very well have been nominated by acclamation. Overcome listeners sobbed; some raced to their telephones to shout imprecations at the White House switchboard. The Republican representative Dewey Short, of Truman's home state of Missouri, announced, "We heard God speak here today, God in the flesh, the voice of God." At my Philco I thought I had managed a triumph of timing: I would don my khaki just when MacArthur's replacement would wind down the war.

I hadn't wanted to soldier as a private if I could do better. I had been a year too young for the draft when World War II ended and knew I'd be high up on the list for the next call-up. I aspired to be an officer and a gentleman, but neither the Navy nor the Air Force wanted me: I had no college math. The Army wanted to know if I was a scientist. A special regulation left over from the last war authorized direct commissioning of scientists; the recruiting officer at the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia was very positive on that point. I tried a dumb question on him: "Does a Bachelor of Science degree qualify someone as a scientist?"

"Why, sure," he said, handing me the application form. Armed with my B.S. in education, I received my ticket to Korea. I was also far from the only green second lieutenant.

ALTHOUGH each war reminds Americans yet again that neglecting our readiness is more costly than investing in it, we do it every time. Before World War II engulfed the United States, George Patton on maneuvers in Louisiana had to go to a Sears, Roebuck store and pay from his own pocket for bolts to keep his tanks operating. After the war many tanks were junked where they were, and newer weaponry hardly existed when the Korean War began. For many months the war was fought with what hardware had survived from the last one, and troops on Occupation duty in Japan--the first to cross to Korea--tended to be far more knowledgeable about whorehouses than howitzers.

MacArthur's shogunate in Japan--his reward for turning defeat in the Philippines into glorious return--had been an inspired decision by Washington. The imperial MacArthur style was, for the Japanese, a nearly seamless transition from rule in the name of the emperor. Five years into his routine, running the Occupation from the Dai Ichi Building, across a street, a moat, and a stone wall from the Imperial Palace, he knew about as much of Japan, and the state of his Occupation army, as the Great Oz might have. He never left Tokyo to inspect his divisions. He never materialized at field exercises, where pampered and poorly trained garrison soldiers often could not figure out how to break down a rifle, dig a foxhole, or maintain themselves in any way without paid indigenous assistance.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

How to Remember the Forgotten War


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.