Wrong Turns In Korea

Miscalculations and blunders by world leaders precipitated the Korean War 60 years ago

On its 60th anniversary, the Korean War looks much like Vietnam, a pointless conflict that gained nothing for those who began it: North Korea’s Kim Il-sung and South Korea’s Syngman Rhee, with the consent of the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin and China’s Mao Zedong. Yet it was far worse than that: The bloodletting in that corner of northeast Asia was an exercise in human folly that cost all sides in the fighting nearly 4 million lives lost, missing, and wounded, not to mention the devastation of the peninsula from Pusan in the south to the Yalu River in the north. Not a single northern or southern Korean city escaped the ravages wrought by modern warfare. Public buildings and private homes were turned into piles of rubble, while thousands of refugees fled from the scenes of battle.

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1951 50 Years Ago

TRUMAN DISMISSES MACARTHUR

On April 10 in Washington (April 11 in Asia), President Harry S. Truman removed Gen. Douglas MacArthur as the Army’s supreme Asian commander, replacing him with Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway. The move, announced at a hastily summoned news conference at 1:00 A.M., after word had begun to leak, was no routine personnel change, for after spending 52 of his 70 years in the Army, MacArthur was as feared as he was revered. In World War I, MacArthur had commanded a brigade, been wounded twice, and received seven Silver Stars.Read more »

Half A Million Purple Hearts

Why a 200-year-old decoration offers evidence in the controversy surrounding the Hiroshima bombing.

Early last year, just as NATO was stepping up its bombing campaign in Kosovo, the news broke that the United States was manufacturing 9,000 new Purple Hearts, the decoration that goes to American troops wounded in battle and the families of those killed in action. To the media, this seemed a clear indication that despite its pledge not to send in ground forces, the United States was planning to do just that.

 
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Chosin

Fifty years ago in the frozen mountains of Korea, the Marines endured a campaign as grueling and heroic as any in history

The deeds of our heroes are based, all too often, on the arrogance of higher authority. The list is long: Xenophon’s Ten Thousand, the Light brigade at Balaklava, Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, the British infantrymen at the Somme in 1916. Fifty years ago, the United States Marines at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea joined this list. • Marines tell this story alongside those of Belleau Wood, Tarawa, and Iwo Jima. The scene is quickly set. On June 25, 1950, the armies of the People’s Republic of [North] Korea invaded South Korea.

 
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How To Remember The Forgotten War

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.

 
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My Father And I And Saburo Sakai

Half a century after his father’s death, he struck up an extraordinary friendship with a man who had been there

My quest began sometime shortly after World War II. I was a young boy when my maternal grandfather told me the story of how my father, Lt. Col. Francis R. Stevens, had been killed in the skies over New Guinea. In the spring of 1942 Dad was assigned to OPD, Operations Division in the War Department, what Col. Red Reeder, who replaced Dad a few months later, referred to as General Marshall’s command post. Gen. George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, was concerned that he was not getting a clear enough picture of Gen.Read more »

My Search For Douglas MacArthur

An overheard remark sent the author off on a years-long quest to discover the truth about a man whose power to inspire both rage and reverence has only grown after his death

In the Summer of 1958 I joined the army straight out of high school and two years later found myself, by now an Army journalist, flying into the Philippines. Strapped into a bucket seat aboard a C-54, I was seated next to a pair of sergeants, both of them combat veterans of World War II. As the plane began its descent toward Clark Field, the two NCOs started talking about the disastrous Philippine campaign of 1941–42.

The Little Diplomat

As a ten-year-old boy, the author had a role to play in bringing Douglas MacArthur’s vision of democracy to a shattered Japan

On August 30, 1945, just days after Japan capitulated, ending World War II, Douglas MacArthur first set foot on the island nation, to set up temporary headquarters at the New Grand Hotel in Yokohama—and to set in motion a unique experiment that little more than three and a half years later would cause me also to spend my first night in Japan in the New Grand. Read more »

The Biggest Decision: Why We Had To Drop The Atomic Bomb

On the morning of August 6, 1945, the American B-29 Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later another B-29, Bock’s Car , released one over Nagasaki. Both caused enormous casualties and physical destruction. These two cataclysmic events have preyed upon the American conscience ever since.Read more »

Echoes Of A Distant War

The half-remembered Korean conflict was full of surprises, and nearly all of them were unpleasant

Korea is in the news again, and it’s ugly news. North Korea may or may not have the capability to make nuclear weapons, and North Korea’s aging dictator, Kim Il Sung, is unwilling to let international inspectors find out. The United Nations is talking of sanctions. The United States is pointedly scheduling military maneuvers with the army of the Republic of South Korea. Some of the media’s self-chosen secretaries of state summon us, from their word processors, to sturdy firmness.Read more »