MacArthur's daring amphibious assault, deep behind enemy lines at Inchon on Sept. 15, 1950 turned the tide -- but two months later, nearly a quarter of a million Communist Chinese Army troops entered the fray, pushed the Americans and their allies back and recaptured Seoul, the South Korean capital. For the next three years, Armed Forces Day would be observed with little celebration by the families of young Americans fighting pitched see-saw battles against Chinese and North Korean communists in the hills of Korea. By the war's unsatisfying end at the Panmunjom truce table in 1953, more than 137,000 Americans had been wounded, killed or were missing in action -- largely because of the hollow promise on that first Armed Forces Day, that there was "readiness for any eventuality."
The bloodletting in the Korean War was horrific compared to the present Global War on Terror. Yet, the armchair admirals, bar-room brigadiers and sound-bite Special Forces of the U.S. press corps were far more supportive of our Armed Forces than they are today.
Cameramen like David Douglas Duncan spent months in the field -- their lenses capturing indelible images of young Americans serving in harm's way. Journalists like Marguerite Higgins filed tributes -- not affronts -- to the young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving the cause of freedom. Hard as it may be to comprehend today, the New York Times, on May 17 1952, said of Armed Forces Day, "This is the day on which we have the welcome opportunity to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces ... to all the individuals who are in the service of their country all over the world. Armed Forces Day won't be a matter of parades and receptions for a good many of them. They will all be in the line of duty and some of them may give their lives in that duty."
Though the young Americans serving in today's U.S. military are the brightest and best educated, trained, equipped and combat-experienced in our nation's history, they don't get the same respect as their predecessors on Armed Forces Day. It's far more likely that they will be accused -- as Congressman John Murtha did this week -- of some terrible crime.
They deserve better from the press and the politicians. As President Bush said recently, the reason why we're "still the land of the free is because we are the home of the brave." And the bravest are those who serve in the uniforms of the Armed Forces of the United States.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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