“In July, 1950, one news commentator rather plaintively remarked that warfare had not changed so much, after all. For some reason, ground troops still seemed to be necessary, in spite of the atom bomb. And oddly and unfortunately, to this gentleman, man still seemed to be an important ingredient in battle. Troops were still getting killed, in pain and fury and dust and filth. What happened to the widely-heralded pushbutton warfare where skilled, immaculate technicians who never suffered the misery and ignominy of basic training blew each other to kingdom come like gentlemen?In this unconsciously plaintive cry lies the buried a great deal of the truth why the United States was almost defeated.Nothing had happened to pushbutton warfare; its emergence was at hand. Horrible weapons that could destroy every city on Earth were at hand—at too many hands. But, pushbutton warfare meant Armageddon, and Armageddon, hopefully, will never be an end of national policy.Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life—but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men in the mud. ” ― T.R. Fehrenbach
American GI prisoner executed by North Koreans, 10 July 1950.
"They were probably as contented a group of American soldiery as had ever existed. They were like American youth everywhere. They believed the things their society had taught them to believe. They were cool, and confident and figured that the world was no sweat. It was not their fault that no one had told them that the real function of an army is to fight and that a soldier's destiny -- which few escape --is to suffer, and if need be, to die." -- T.R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War.
I grew up with veterans of the Korean War scattered about our neighborhood and they were always regulars at my old man's beer parties on Friday nights that he would stage on our carport on Dennis Avenue in Marion, Ohio. I would hide in this little alcove, sip on my Mom's lemonade and listen to the stories. Among the ex-GIs were two veterans of the early days in Korea, including one from Task Force Smith. He was lucky. He survived the disaster at Osan. Wounded and evacuated toward the end of the fight for the Pusan perimeter, he didn't end up dead or a prisoner of the NK communists, although he did once tell my father and his other drinking buddies about some GI prisoners that they found in a later engagement with their hands tied behind their backs with commo wire and bayoneted to death by people that he invariably called "gooks." He hated the North Koreans -- and all communists -- with a purple passion. I didn't blame him. But remember on this anniversary of the start of the war, 25 July 1950, the wages of unpreparedness and folly that the men of Task Force Smith reaped. Suggested reading: This Kind of War by T.R. Fehrenbach.
"In the final choice a soldier's pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner's chains." - Dwight Eisenhower