To Acknowledge a War: The Korean War in American Memory

By Paul M. Edwards | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Some of the Controversies

"We're still attacking and we're going all the way to the Yalu. Don't let a bunch of Chinese laundrymen stop you."

Gen. Charles A. Willoughby

Histories of the Korean War often move through the narrative with such generalizations that they miss as much as they reveal. In most cases this is due to the lack of substantial monographs and in-depth studies upon which to draw for the less-known facts and consideration of the controversial areas. The political factors that directed events often made the actions that is taken seem unreasonable. Often unidentified expectations and poorly defined agendas contribute to the difficulty in understanding. Because is it was not always clear what we wanted then, there is often a controversy now about what happened.

Thus many issues remain unmentioned or are simply dropped on readers with little information or analysis. Likewise, there are many issues about which there continues to be disagreement. This American war was fought without congressional authority and stopped without victory. It began unexpectedly and ended in a cease-fire. The end solved few of the original concerns. The following are some questions often asked; they are representative of the issues still being argued.


WAS THE KOREAN WAR LEGAL?

Probably not! It was not identified as a war until late in the 1950s, when Congress so designated it. In the most obvious use of the term, it was not legal: that is, it was not constitutional. Authority for U.S. entry into the Korean War amounted to a quick decision, based on an appeal to tradition. It was an important moment in history: President Truman's decision established a prerogative that has been used by American presidents ever since. Truman felt he had every right to send troops to fight--if not by the authority given him as commander-in-chief, then perhaps on the authority of the United Nations. But the charter of the United Nations does not, nor did it then, supersede the

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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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