Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

The Not-So-Forgotten War: Fodder for Your Reading on the Air War in Korea a Half Century Later*

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

The Not-So-Forgotten War: Fodder for Your Reading on the Air War in Korea a Half Century Later*

Article excerpt

SOME YEARS AGO, Clay Blair published a good book on US experiences in Korea titled The Forgotten War. It is forgotten no more-Blair helped revive that memory, as did the passing of the war's 50th anniversary. In 1950, we were feeling our way in a new, bipolar, and nuclear world. Today, the aspirant air strategist is also facing a new world. It is no longer bipolar, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threaten to spread, and the means and motivation for their long-range delivery again upset our sense of security. The Korean War truce took effect in July 1953-just 50 years ago. Perhaps it is an altogether proper time to look over the literature on that war to add to your fodder for professional study.

As with the previous articles in this series, we shall review three recent books on our subject and establish a rough outline of the air war in Korea to serve as a basis for your lifelong professional reading program. Col Rod Paschall, an experienced soldier-scholar, is the author of the first and will provide an introduction to our study. The second is a memoir by Lt Col Cecil Foster, an air warrior and Sabre ace with nine kills in Korea. Our final book is authored by Allan Millett, a retired Marine Corps colonel. This article will conclude with the usual 12-book sampler, which you can use to get a general overview of the subject and then further your efforts towards depth and mastery.

An air warrior-scholar can find a splendid, short summary of the Cold War's first armed conflict in Paschall's Witness to War: Korea.1 Its author is a soldier-scholar of the first rank, well qualified to produce such a work from the perspectives of both experience and study. A West Point graduate of the class of 1959, Colonel Paschall has had much experience in Asia, including tours in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Korea. Perhaps Paschall's most satisfying tour was as the commander of the Army's famed Delta Force, a position which lends great credibility to his status as a leading authority on special operations. While on active duty, he was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. He earned a master's degree from Duke University and taught military history at West Point. Although his writing is well organized and readable, an air advocate may take exception to some of the things he has to say.

Witness to War provides a good overview of both the land and air operations and is organized in a near-chronological fashion. Paschall provides his own descriptions and analyses and then adds the first-person accounts of combatants from all levels between private and general. These go beyond American experiences and include the accounts of South and North Korean soldiers. Paschall reveals the experiences of UN-affiliated guerrillas operating in North Korea as well as those of the North Korean POWs held in the south-their trials and the long repatriation struggle to determine their fate at the end of hostilities. He also lists the general sources he used for each chapter, which could serve as a recommended reading list. Although Paschall amply demonstrates the misery of the Korean War, he also stresses its secondary status when compared to home defense and the buildup in support of NATO.

Although Witness to War states that Korea was a "forgotten war," it denies that it was either futile or the "wrong war." In spite of its costs, Paschall insists that it was necessary to the development of the national-security strategies of containment and collective defense.2 In addition, the US refusal to coerce prisoners to go back to their communist world showed America at her best. That selfless act forced the United States to tolerate a considerable delay in concluding the truce. Insofar as Colonel Paschall deals with airpower, he does not denigrate it. Rather, he insists that airpower is most effective when used in conjunction with active ground operations, a stance which is compatible with Air Force doctrine. Airpower strategists have long recognized that interdiction works best when an active ground campaign imposes high rates of consumption upon the enemy, forcing him to depend on his lines of communication. …

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