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In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation

In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation: The Americans Who Fought the Korean War

Melinda L. Pash
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 349
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  • Book Info
    In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation
    Book Description:

    In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation traces the shared experiences of Korean War veterans from their childhoods in the Great Depression and World War II through military induction and training,the war, and efforts in more recent decades to organize and gain wider recognition of their service.Largely overshadowed by World War II's greatest generation and the more vocal veterans of the Vietnam era, Korean War veterans remain relatively invisible in the narratives of both war and its aftermath. Yet, just as the beaches of Normandy and the jungles of Vietnam worked profound changes on conflict participants,the Korean Peninsula chipped away at the beliefs, physical and mental well-being, and fortitude of Americans completing wartime tours of duty there. Upon returning home, Korean War veterans struggled with home front attitudes toward the war, faced employment and family dilemmas, and wrestled with readjustment. Not unlike other wars, Korea proved a formative and defining influence on the men and women stationed in theater, on their loved ones, and in some measure on American culture. In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation not only gives voice to those Americans who served in the forgotten war but chronicles the larger personal and collective consequences of waging war the American way.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8922-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-5)

    During the Korean War, the United States for the first time shipped home for burial the bodies of Americans killed in action. With little by way of ceremony or pomp, the remains of soldiers who died in Korea were interred in simple graves that merely identified the person’s name, rank, and date of birth. Only later did Americans think to add “Korea” to the stones, ascribing a time and place, if not a meaning, to their deaths. More than thirty-six thousand American soldiers ended their wartime tours of duty in Korea this way while another 1.8 million returned home alive...

  6. 1 Timing Is Everything
    (pp. 7-15)

    William Dannenmaier missed serving in World War II by just a year because of his age, but he did not fret over skipping such an important generational experience. Registering for the draft, Dannenmaier never expected to go anywhere, except maybe to graduate school. He reflected to himself on his luck, that the war was over and despite the legal requirement to register for the Selective Service, “young men’s lives were no longer forfeit. We could plan our futures—and have them.”¹

    Other young Americans shared Dannenmaier’s optimism. By the early 1950s, Robert Baken had settled comfortably into the study of...

  7. 2 Mustering In
    (pp. 17-51)

    “You’ll be soooorry!” The taunt from those who knew, who had already been there, usually came just a little too late—after raw recruits or inductees had already signed away a year or more of their lives to the military.¹ By then, many of those being warned already felt sorry. Entering the U.S. armed forces during the Korean War era, as in other periods, often amounted to nothing short of humiliation and hassle. For enlistees, the process began with a trip to the nearest recruitment office, frequently located in the local post office. Rural or small-town residents might have had...

  8. 3 You’re in the Army (or Navy, Marines, or Air Force) Now!
    (pp. 53-89)

    When new recruits arrived at the train or bus station with duffle bags in hand, as ready as possible for the upcoming weeks or months that would transform them into “Government Issue,” the oft-repeated ritual began. Anxious mothers and wives tried to keep from crying too hard, sweethearts planted kisses in hope that they not be forgotten, fathers gave last-minute pieces of advice, and babies squealed while older children clambered up and down the safety rails oblivious to the day’s portent. Even a few husbands and boyfriends turned out to bid farewell to wives and girlfriends who either had enlisted...

  9. 4 In Country in Korea: A War Like Any Other?
    (pp. 91-137)

    Remembering World War II, newspaper reporters canvassed Korea throughout the war in search of human interest stories for hometown readers. They expected to find troops filled with the same patriotic spirit and singleness of purpose as in the last war, but the tired and ragged young soldiers they encountered could not supply the pithy anecdotes that would make for good reading back home. Arriving in country, servicemen and, in the case of military nurses assigned to the war theater, servicewomen, often took a dim view of the land Uncle Sam called them to defend. Few had ever seen such poverty....

  10. 5 Behind Enemy Lines
    (pp. 139-159)

    In April 1951, Bob Ward’s luck nearly ran out. A United States Air Force P-80 captain, Ward found himself downed somewhere in enemy territory with broken legs and little hope of survival. Thinking he would die, Ward made a cross and waited. But, Ward’s captor, indicating that he too was a Christian, did the unthinkable. He grabbed a flashlight and directed American planes to Ward’s position so that he could be rescued. After falling “from one kind of war to another,” Ward had been redeemed after only a brief and tolerable interlude behind enemy lines.¹

    Ward’s tale is not the...

  11. 6 Our Fight? Gender, Race, and the War Zone
    (pp. 161-181)

    When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, an American service-woman, not a United States marine or soldier, first answered the country’s call to duty. Stationed in Korea, Captain Viola McConnell, an Army nurse, abruptly found herself charged with evacuating the wives and children of Americans assigned to KMAG as well as other foreigners desperately trying to flee the country. This would have been a difficult task under the best of circumstances, but Ambassador John J. Muccio made it even more onerous by hindering McConnell’s efforts. Certain that if the North Koreans captured Seoul they would grant Americans diplomatic...

  12. 7 Coming Home
    (pp. 183-217)

    When Second Lieutenant Edmund Krekorian returned home from Korea, the city of Seattle welcomed him and others on the troop ship in grand style. Marine Corsairs escorted the ship to the harbor, flying off in victory rolls as a happy chorus of boat horns and whistles joined the shouts of hundreds of people gathered on the pier. There, Miss Seattle waited with a bouquet of flowers to meet the men as a band played “The Star Spangled Banner.”¹ Also returning by way of Seattle, Russell Rodda vividly remembers the beautiful girls in bathing suits, one of whom stopped him on...

  13. 8 More Than Ever a Veteran
    (pp. 219-226)

    As men and women trickled back to the States from the Far East during and after the Korean War, a few Americans and groups did seek to honor them and memorialize their sacrifices. The United Nations dedicated a plaque to the Korean War dead at its headquarters on June 21, 1956, and on November 11, 1954, Armistice Day officially became Veterans Day in the United States, in part to recognize these new veterans.¹ But, with public support for such efforts as tepid in the 1950s as attitudes toward the war had been, early attempts to construct lasting monuments in remembrance...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 227-326)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 327-336)
    (pp. 337-337)