Departing the barb-wire enshrouded and mostly-avoided strip of international boundary area known as the DMZ or “Demilitarized Zone” dividing the free Republic of Korea to the south, and the Communist enslaved nation of North Korea on the north one day in 2009, I was stopped by a media person with a microphone. I had just moments before stood on one side of a thin glass window staring into the venomous eyes of a uniformed North Korean border guard inches away, remembering that just 58 years previously, I and my unit had been receiving incoming enemy fire at a spot just a few miles distant.
The young South Korean news reporter asked me what my thoughts were as an American veteran returning all those years later. Disobeying the instructions we had been given to be careful of what we said, and even how we arranged our facial expressions that close to the green-uniformed North Korean soldiers, I launched into a passionate condemnation of the United Nations/U.S. policies which had denied us the opportunity to defeat the North entirely when I believed victory was possible back in 1953 when “our side” was “infected” with the “let’s go home fever” our politicians had fallen victims to.
Concerned military monitors hurried me down the stairs while members of the press continued to hound me for more. Eventually I was hunted down, even back in Utah, where I endured several interviews which made me a minor “personality” on global South Korean television. It became apparent that very few American veterans were willing to express themselves as was I, on a war which their own country viewed with such indifference, and for which their efforts had won so little respect at home. All these years later, that is still as evident. And I still ask myself why? Why can’t I just look at my “Korean experience” as a closed chapter, and take more comfort in all the beautiful things life has given me? As a freelance writer with a following and an active interest in a host of subjects, it would seem I would be content to let others worry about the “unfinished business” still menacing us and others on the other side of the world.
What still haunts me is the certainty that my country is not without culpability in helping – even though perhaps unwittingly -- to set the stage for the birth of the evil empire the world still faces and which we at one time had reduced to a virtual shadow on the map. (We actually occupied Pyongyang their capital city at one time while controlling the air space over the entire region.)
Almost from the beginning of our war against Japan in the Pacific, President Roosevelt was of the mind that only with the help of Russia could we ever hope to win a surrender from the Empire of Japan at an acceptable cost in American lives. He still believed this when the Big Three met for the Yalta Conference in the Soviet Crimea in February, 1945. The critically-ill and foundering FDR (he would be dead in sixty days) met secretly with Joe Stalin with whom the American President believed he had developed the kind of private friendship and trust he could rely on. The deal which was hammered out would give Russia a free hand in Manchuria (always at the heart of the Soviets’ long-range planning) and – by the way – the occupation of the northern part of the Korean Peninsula and a similar portion of Indo China; Viet Nam!
In return Russia did indeed declare war on Japan three days after the end of the war in Europe, as agreed. The only people at the Yalta Conference who held the secret knowledge of the Atomic Bomb were Roosevelt, and his closest advisor, Ambassador W. Averill Harriman; and possibly Joseph Stalin!
It would be the devoted Averill Harriman who would make certain the otherwise “untutored” and unprepared Truman Administration honored the Yalta agreement, including the Communist takeover of North Korea.
· As Vice President, Harry Truman had never had a single meeting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.