Korean Conflict beginning of UN stand against agression
As we look back over the century, it’s easy to to reflect on the wrongs we may have done.
Pardons and apologies various incidents have been in the news during 1999.
Two recent examples were President Clinton’s pardon for a black sailor court-martialed for mutiny after he refused to load explosives under unsafe conditions and his apology to the Greeks for failing to support their democracy movement.
Encouraged by this outpouring of good feelings, Koreans have stepped five decades out of the past to demand reparations for incidents that occurred during the early stages of the Korean War.
The military is investigating the incident at No Gun Ri, where 300 Korean civilians were allegedly gunned down by U.S. troops.
Now recently released documents show that Air Force planes strafed columns of civilians fleeing the North Korean invasion.
Both incidents allegedly stemmed from American’s fear that North Korean soldiers had infiltrated the civilian population and were making their way behind allied lines.
As the recent conflict in Kosovo shows, not even the most careful planning can prevent civilian casualties from air attack.
A story in the Associated Press based its investigation on three documents from July 1950 when the South Korean and American armies were in danger of being pushed into the sea by North Korean forces. The allies had been pushed back into the far southern corner of Korea and were defending the city of Pusan from one communist assault after another.
Quotes from the documents are telling.
“Many troops seen in river areas directly South of Yusong. Could have been refugees because much baggage was seen piled on river banks. Were strafed by order of controller. Number of people hit unknown. Some had uniforms on. Some field pieces, camouflaged as ox carts were hit.”
This report was issued July 20, 1950 the day after units of the 1st Cavalry Division and the 25th Infantry Division landed to reinforce the 24th Infantry Division and the day before the city of Taejon fell to the North Koreans.
The Korean war has often been called the “Forgotten War.” During its three-year span, a million civilians were killed and both sides lost more than 2 million soldiers.
Looking at South Korea today, the people definitely benefited from our willingness to fight the war. Had North Korea won, what is today an economic powerhouse would barely be able to feed itself.
The Korean War was also the first time the United Nations stood up to aggression, distinguishing itself as a body willing to enforce peace.
It would be wrong for us to remember the Korean War for No Gun Ri, just as it would be wrong to remember World War II solely for the dropping of the atomic bombs or Kosovo for civilian casualties there.
Looking back, we should remember each of these conflicts for what they were, battles against international aggression and the only hope we have that the next century won’t be a repeat of the last.