Who served during the Korean War? How did their wartime and postwar experiences differ from those of World War II veterans? Why did they sometimes come to see themselves as not measuring up to the Greatest Generation?
In attempting to answer these questions, Pash (History/Fayetteville Technical Community Coll.) begins by examining who entered the service and why, what parts of the country they came from, how they accepted the call to serve, and how well they were trained for battle. Through interviews with Korean War veterans, the archives of the Eisenhower library, government documents and contemporary books and articles, the author constructs a portrait of the men and women who served in Korea. She reveals their attitudes once they were in Korea, where, as the war dragged on, troops came to question the reason for U.S. involvement and to understand that the American public had little knowledge of or interest in the conflict. She also looks at the experience of American POWs, who, upon their return, often faced questions of their possible brainwashing and collaboration with the enemy. Pash then briefly examines the situation of servicewomen, mostly nurses, and more extensively, the relations of black and white troops in the newly integrated armed forces. Manpower pressures had created a military life far less segregated than life at home, making the return to civilian life especially difficult for African-Americans, who faced continued discrimination. In general, Korean War veterans found that a hero’s welcome was not to be, that veterans organizations like the American Legion excluded them, that the VA offered less help to the physically or psychologically damaged, and that the education benefits were less generous than those of World War II’s GI Bill. Americans, it seemed, just wanted to forget about an inglorious war.
Packed with facts, figures and anecdotes, the book doesn’t entertain like M*A*S*H, but it does provide a wealth of source material for future historians.