The Forgotten War, it's called. Which is why it was so good to have it remembered so ceremoniously and extensively this past weekend on the 60th anniversary of the tenuous armistice -- certainly not peace -- that has uneasily endured on the Korean peninsula ever since.
The Korean War is worth remembering and so are all those who fought in it, the living and the dead, the great and small, the worthless politicians who knew only how to continue it and the unsung heroes who died in the snow and ice.
And let there be no mistake: It was a war, not a Police Action, just as Iraq and Afghanistan in our time have been wars, not Overseas Contingency Operations. As always, euphemism is the first and clearest symptom of a lack of national resolve. Seldom since Korea, at least till now, has the disparity between this country's political leadership -- first unprepared and then vacillating -- and the heroism and endurance of its fighting men been so clear.
The war that seesawed across the Korean peninsula in the early 1950s should have left a permanent impress on the American memory, yet it was somehow distant even while it was going on, and the country grew to yearn only for it to stop. Any lessons to be drawn from that conflict could wait. Indefinitely. In important ways, they still do. To this day, the heroism of those who fought there, like the suffering of the Korean people, has never been accorded the attention both deserve.
In a masterpiece of strategic thinking still studied, MacArthur's landing at Inchon in September of 1950 represented a dramatic end run around the entire North Korean army, which was sent, shocked and shattered, fleeing back north, pursued all along its collapsing lines, ripe for unconditional surrender.
As daring and masterful -- as historic -- a stroke as Inchon was, MacArthur's letting himself be surprised by the massive Chinese entry into the war only a couple of months later would prove an historic debacle.
A veteran Marine general, Lewis Burwell Puller, found his 1st Marine Division posted to a remote part of North Korea, the Chosin Reservoir, early in November of that year -- just as the first great wave of fresh, well-equipped and well-prepared Chinese troops began to sweep into Korea from the north, the northwest, the west. ... The 1st Marines were just establishing their perimeter defense when the horde engulfed them on all sides.
Correspondents accompanying the American troops asked the general what his plan was now. Chesty Puller explained: "We've been looking for the enemy for several days now. We've finally found them. We're surrounded. That simplifies our problem of finding these people and killing them." The Marines did.