Below are a series of thoughts, short excerpts, and quotes that come from those directly involved, influenced, and affected by the Korean War. In some cases, the passages are taken out of context, but the message still remains. In other cases, the words fit the moment. A list of possible activities to experience using this section follows.
Activities: Reacting to the Words of Others
- Research the individual who made the statement. Many statements are made by political figures and others made by individuals who may not be as familiar to the reader. Find out more about the individual to whom the statement was attributed.
- Create a commonplace book. Commonplace books have their origin in the Renaissance as one means of coping with the information overload of that era. They helped people select, organize, classify, and remember key moral precepts. Today Commonplace Books are used to record reflections, ideas, and information that need to be experienced and remembered. Select a number of thoughts, excerpts and quotes from the following pages and write your own reflections for each. Consider illustrating your reflections with photographs, posters, paintings, or political cartoons. Or, better yet, create your own illustrations.
- Design posters. Select one or more of the quotes and design a poster that can be used to convey a message you want to give to others. The design can be to commemorate the Korean War or can be used to support your concern about current events.
- Use statements to augment the creation of an illustrated timeline.
- Research the Maginot Line. This military line is referred to in the quote from Robert Leckie’s book, Conflict: The History of the Korean War.
- Create a Reader’s Theater. Similar to a play, a reader’s theater has a number of parts and can involve staging and music. Scenery is basic, if any is used. Often the stage is dark and a narrator introduces the script. A reader’s theater can be written by an individual or several people can work on it simultaneously. There are a number of themes that relate to the Korean War that would lend themselves practically for a reader’s theater. For example, research several key events in each of the years. Write descriptive paragraphs on each. Combine the historical events with poetry and other writings found in this module, including quotes. The narrative script is written to weave the entire production together. Other themes may be a play written from one country’s perspective, through the eyes of a warrior, expressions of feelings from individuals displaced by the war, or thoughts expressed by those who remained on the home front. There can be a number of different roles written into the piece. A single voice or two could be used to describe events, and different parts can be given to those who read poetry, excerpts from diaries, or quotes. Often the narrator’s role is the most substantial.
Harry Truman and General MacArthur
If there is any necessity for Congressional action, I will come to you. But I hope we can get those bandits in Korea suppressed without that.
President Harry S. Truman, to members of Congress, June 30, 1950
A month or so before this we had undergone an ordnance inspection and half of our rifles were condemned. They were all left over from World War II, retrieved from Okinawa, or places like that. The same went for the mortars and machine guns. I don't remember ever seeing anything new.
U.S. Army Lieutenant Jack Doody, sent to Korea with Task Force Smith on June 30, 1950
We thought the North Koreans would back off once they saw American uniforms.
Phil Day, Task Force Smith
United States M.A.S.H. Unit
My God, maybe there's a real war going on!
Unknown wounded American Soldier
We have a little action up here. All we need is some men who won't run when they see tanks. We're going to move you up to support the ROKs [Republic of Korea soldiers] and give them moral support.
U.S. Army Brigadier General John H. Churchto, the commander of Task Force Smith
The seat in Hell closest to the fire is reserved for those who knew this but kept it quiet.
2nd Lieutenant Ollie Conner, Task Force Smith,
on the inability of 2.36-inch bazooka rockets to penetrate Soviet-made tank armor
In May of 1945 the U.S. Army had reached its peak of 8,290,000 men (including, of course, the Army Air Force). Five years later, by the summer of 1950, it had dwindled to 592,000 men or about 7 percent of its former strength. Even at the time of Pearl Harbor, usually regarded as the classic example of American unpreparedness, the Army had 1,600,000 men under arms. Worse, this 1950 army of 592,000 men was top heavy with technicians and service people, for the Maginot Line mentality had produced the myth of the push-button war and so downgraded the foot soldier.
In all this army there were only ten combat divisions, plus the equivalent of one more in the European Constabulary, and perhaps the equivalent of another three in nine independent regimental combat teams—an optimistic total, in all, of fourteen divisions of which only the Constabulary was up to strength.
Of these forces, four divisions were in Japan under General MacArthur. . . . They were at about 70 percent of wartime strength . . . [and] deficient in such modern arms as 57mm and 75mm recoilless rifles, 4.2-inch mortars and 3.5-inch rocket launchers.
Robert Leckie, "Conflict: The History of The Korean War"
Marines Watching Guard at Cemetery at Hamhung, Korea, 1950
The time has come when Uncle Sam must put up or shut up, and my guess is it will do neither.
A Washington ambassador cabling skepticism tohis government
three days after North Korea invaded South Korea.
The wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong enemy.
General Omar Bradley on General MacArthur's proposal
to carry the Korean Conflict into China, May 1951
[Korea is] the clearest test case that the United Nations has ever faced. If the United Nations is ever going to do anything, this is the time, and if the United Nations cannot bring the crisis in Korea to an end, then we might as well wash up the United Nations and forget it.
Senator Tom Connally, of Texas, summing up Congressional opinion of the Korean crisis
three days after the invasion.
I'm more worried about other parts of the world. The Middle East, for instance. [Iran] is where they will start trouble if we aren't careful.
Korea is the Greece of the Far East. If we are tough enough now, if we stand up to them like we did in Greece three years ago, they won't take any next steps. But if we just stand by, they'll move into Iran and they'll take over the whole Middle East. There's no telling what they'll do, if we don't put up a fight now.
President Harry S. Truman, two days after the invasion
Harbor at Inchon, 1950
Military medicine is a well conceived, well advised, and well established device, system, or mechanism, the mission of which is to provide the Armed Services with a quality or brand of medical coverage that is not only essential to the proper and efficient function of the military but is moreover essential to the best interests of the individual and of the national welfare.
One would need only to go to Korea, as I have been during the past two summers, and there observe the manner of living and of the activity being engaged in by medical personnel serving with the combatants in the theater of war. One would not need to remain long there to appreciate the essentiality of service doctors being psychologically agile, emotionally stable, professionally genuine, and physically able and tough.
Since when has the doctor of medicine and dentistry become such a pantywaist as to require that a bald responsibility others accept with good grace must be diked out with certain frills before he will buy it.
During my sojourn at the combatant front in Korea this past summer I failed to detect evidence of any special effort being made on the part of anyone to make the service more attractive to the soldiers and Marines who were fighting, bleeding, and dying in the heat and dust on a barren Korean hillside.
The manner of man requisite to filling the bill that needs to be filled by the Medical and Dental Corps of the Armed Services is an individual who to himself clearly realizes that it is a privilege and not a penalty to serve in a uniform of his national defense establishment, that it is his establishment and his nation for the defense of which the establishment exists and that he may be no more honorably distinguished than by wearing that uniform, and that by abhorring ignoble ease he can perform no more worthy mission than that of protecting and restoring the most priceless element, that of health, in our most precious national resource, the men and women who comprise the Armed Forces.
Rear Admiral Lamont Pugh, Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy, in an address before the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, November 17, 1952
American imperialists are very arrogant, they are very unreasonable whenever they can get away with it, if they became a little bit reasonable, it was because they had no other choice.
Comment made by Chairman Mao after the Korean War