View Full Version : Few Americans understood Korean War

06-16-08, 08:10 AM
Alonso M. Perales: Few Americans understood Korean War

Web Posted: 06/16/2008 12:02 AM CDT

Special to the San Antonio Express-News

June 25, 1950. The evening was hot and muggy, which was not unusual for San Antonio. The summer session at St. Mary's Law School had just begun and already the pressures were being felt: Signing up for the required courses; putting together the necessary funds to purchase the law books; waiting for the G.I. Bill check from the “last” war to be processed so that we could get our money to pay the rent; and patiently adjusting to three former Marines living together in a small two-room apartment.

That evening, glad to get away alone for a while, I volunteered to go out and buy the next day's groceries. Upon entering the store, I glanced at the headlines on the news rack. Large, bold letters proclaimed that South Korea had been invaded by North Korea and that the United States was concerned and was considering various options. Curiously, I picked up the paper, paid for it and dropped it in the bag with the groceries. I was more preoccupied with next day's classes than with the headline news.

Back at the apartment, we went over the details reported in the paper and discussed its implications. Not knowing where Korea was located, one of the group took out his world atlas and pointed to a piece of land between Japan and China. It looked so small and insignificant. Little did we realize as we sat there that lives would change dramatically and that our plans to study law — which we had carefully put together — would forever change.

Within a matter of months, we would find ourselves fighting in yet another war. We each isolated ourselves to sort out the implications the events would have on our lives. I sat alone at the small table and stared at my textbook for a long time, unable to make a mental connection with the printed page. None of us slept well that night.

The rest is history. The Marine Reserves in San Antonio were activated. My buddies were in the active reserves, and I was on the inactive roster. Unwilling to stay behind, I sent a telegram to the Marine Commandant requesting assignment with the active reserves. My request was immediately granted.

There is no doubt but that thousands of Marines — new recruits, World War II veterans, volunteers — went through similar experiences. Each probably will remember exactly where he was, what he was doing and the circumstances under which he was transported to a country many of us had never heard about. Sadly, many of the Marines and other brave men who went to Korea never returned alive.

The headlines on June 23, 1950, puzzled many Americans. Most did not know or understand why we were there in the first place. Still, many more did not care. Others rushed to purchase maps in order to find out where Korea was located. The Korean War was a misunderstood war that President Truman labeled a “police action” ... and Americans came to abhor.

The homecoming for the Korean War veterans in 1953 was quite different from the homecoming celebration given World War II veterans. No drums rolled, no trumpets blared, no flags waved and no Americans cheered.