The Long Silence
Not until America began to realize the magnitude of the mistake
it had made in Vietnam would it be able to put Korea in perspective. Richard Severo
Historian Joseph Goulden once identified the Korean War as an unattractive subject. Since it ended, he acknowledged, it has become a period in American history that most Americans have been very happy to see slip through the cracks of history. In many respects he appears to be right. But the silence associated with the war represents more than simply forgetting. It is also a sign of rejection.
The cease-fire documents that ended the fighting in Korea were signed on July 27, 1953. The more than forty-five years since that event have been characterized as a long and awkward period of silence about the war. Over the years, the lack of attention has been exaggerated by the common acceptance of the term "forgotten war" to describe an event that has suffered many misnomers. This term, usually credited to General Matthew Ridgway, has been used so often it has become a name as well as a description.
During World War II, the American people clearly understood the goals and expectations of the war they were fighting. In the simplest terms, the war was fought in Europe to defend democracy, and in the Pacific in the pursuit of revenge. Most Americans saw World War II as a good war. The war clearly was politically necessary and morally valid. The principles involved were basic, and the United States was not only justified but obligated to meet and defeat the enemies of mankind.
The conflict in Vietnam was seen by many Americans from the opposite view point. The goals in Vietnam were never clearly defined. American involvement was to be the cause of considerable disruption in the political core of the United States. This war was seen by many as an act of imperialism and, under the best of circumstances, as morally and politically corrupt.
The Korean War was chronologically located between World War II and