Korea: The Forgotten War

This past Monday was Memorial Day in the U.S. and coming up is the Republic of Korea’s Memorial Day, which is why I’ve been keeping with war theme this week. The perfect film for this week’s Friday post would have been Tae Guk Ki: The Brotherhood of War, which is the Korean film I featured on April 9.  But since I wasn’t thinking ahead, I decided to feature a documentary about the Korean War today. (This documentary is not really entertainment, but it is something to watch so it ended up under the Entertainment category.)

Korea: The Forgotten War is a documentary done by The History Channel. It’s 100 minutes long and details the war from start through each major advance. I got the DVD from our library.

The thing I liked about this documentary is that it uses actual footage from the war zone to tell the story. It was heartbreaking to see the people of Seoul return to their city, which was now just a shell of what it was. But the footage makes the loss and destruction very real, especially considering how visual a society we are today.

A couple of interesting insights. This documentary claims that occupation of part of the Korean peninsula was used to entice the USSR to become a World War II ally with the United States. The second is the failure of such a decorated and experienced general.

After making a risky decision to embark on an amphibious landing at Incheon, which was successful and put the U.S. forces far behind enemy lines, Gen. Douglas MacArthur disregarded the rumors of the Chinese coming to the aid of the North Korean Army. In October 1950, the U.S. forces were pushing northward. In a meeting that month with President Harry Truman, who asked about Chinese involvement in the war, MacArthur predicted victory by the end of the year.

And as the soldiers in the United Nations Command were eating Thanksgiving dinner within sight of Manchuria it must have seemed that MacArthur was right. But on Nov. 25, 1950, the U.S. Army was attacked by the Chinese Army and soon the United Nations Command was in retreat. It was a serious miscalculation by MacArthur.

In the early days of the war, in June 1950, the North Korean forces had pushed southward and taken control of most of the peninsula. Five months later the United Nations Command had pushed northward, almost to the border with China. A month after that the South Korean forces and their allies were in retreat. And in July 1953, three years after the war began, an armistice was signed. Fighting ceased, but no one surrendered and the country remained divided at the 38th Parallel.

Fifty-seven years later the situation remains largely unchanged. The peninsula is still divided. Technically the countries have remained at war since a peace treaty has never been negotiated. And one has to wonder what will happen on the peninsula in light of the most recent events of hostility between these two countries. (That most recent event being the sinking of the Republic of Korea warship Cheonan in March by what is believed to be a North Korean torpedo.)

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