Dr. Bill Atwood

Celebrating our local history


Within days of the sneak attack on our naval forces in Pearl Harbor, thousands of young men and women enlisted into the armed forces of the United States. They fought gallantly and helped bring an end to World War II in the Pacific theater as their brothers did in the European theater. The war was over and those who survived made their way back into the mainstream of civilian life. The “good life” was returning to the USA.

A large number of those veterans opted to stay connected to the military because enlisting into the reserves meant a monthly stipend to help with expenses of starting families and buying first homes. After all, the second world war was over, we had an ally in the Russians so the US seemed to be in a safe spot in the politics of the world.

On June 27, 1950, that all changed for those in the reserves. The American government entered into a “police action” in Korea. We were not happy with the imperialism demonstrated by the Communist Chinese and President Harry Truman sent in troops. War was not declared so they called it a “Police Action” to avoid violating the Constitution which states that only Congress may declare war. This precedent has been used over and over since they seemed to get away with the “police-action/not-really-a war concept.” Many soldiers died in that police action.

People in this country had grown weary of war and the effects on the nation and the economy following the years of WWII. Korea was small, not too threatening to the American people so it sounded less dangerous when they called it a police action. We use softer words these days. Evil acts are described as inappropriate behavior, sins are described as life choices, refusal to obey rules is seen as “doing your own thing.” So “police action” made Korea less important and worrisome to many.

It has become known as the “Forgotten War.” It seems impossible to forget an event that saw the death of 5,000,000 people. Over 40,000 Americans lost their lives in that hellish experience. For a perspective, that is the seating capacity of Bulldog Stadium. More than 100,000 veterans were injured in that conflict. My Uncle Earl lost his hand to a hand grenade when he was only 19 years of age. Now in his 80s, he still has that daily reminder of the Forgotten War. My dad, after joining the Marines right after Pearl Harbor, was attacked and living through many harrowing battles of WWII found himself in some horrible conditions in South Korea. While others may have forgotten that police action, my dad wasn’t able to forget being surrounded at the Chosin Reservoir or having his feet frozen to the point that his skin peeled off with his socks. His memories of his dead buddies were not forgettable.

We have many Korean veterans in our midst and we need to remember their heroics and their sacrifices. We need to honor their fallen comrades-in-arms who did not come home. We need to never forget that every generation is called upon to advance the cause of liberty. The veterans in this community, county, state, and nation must hear our appreciation constantly. I wake up every day in a country that is free. I do so as a direct result of several million veterans who stood the watch, served time in hell, made the sacrifices, and many died away from home so we all get to be a free people.

Don’t forget to remember those veterans of the Forgotten War.