Why America Fights: Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq

By Susan A. Brewer | Go to book overview

4
War in Korea

“The Front Line in the Struggle between
Freedom and Tyranny”

The future of civilization depends on what we do.

President Harry Truman, 1950

Someone gave old Harry the wrong dope on this war. He can find someone
else to pin his medals on.

GI in Korea, 1950

THE KOREAN WAR WAS A LIMITED WAR with far-reaching consequences. The U.S. government viewed North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in 1950 as part of a communist plot to achieve global domination. Acting on the belief that the Soviet Union ordered the attack, President Harry Truman sent U.S. forces to Korea to contain the spread of communism. Korea, he declared, had become “the front line in the struggle between freedom and tyranny.” Despite Truman’s clear public pronouncement of Korea’s significance, the president and his advisors feared that Korea wasn’t the real front line. They worried that the war there might be a distraction intended to draw the United States away from the real target in Europe or the Middle East. Therefore, wary of possible Soviet aggression elsewhere, it designated Korea a limited war. Meanwhile the U.S. government tripled the military budget; committed to supporting anticommunist forces in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan; and rearmed its recent enemies, West Germany and Japan. The United States geared up to fight a global Cold War.

To win the support of the American people for this ambitious policy, the Truman administration set out to, in the words of Secretary of State Dean Acheson, “bring the whole story together in one official narrative.”1 Following

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