On this Memorial Day all of us think of the wars the United States has fought and the men and women who served in them. Everyone who served in wartime has been changed by the experience, many have been injured either physically or mentally and others have survived more mature and serious. But the wars we remember are the big ones–the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Vietnam. Other wars are almost forgotten although to the individuals who lived through them, it’s not the size of the war that counts but the extremity of the experience.
The Korean War from 1950-1953 is one of the forgotten wars although thousands of troops served in it and more than 35,000 died. It was a harsh war in a bitter climate and was fought by the sons and younger brothers of men who had served in World War II, but it never caught the imagination of the country. Reading the books and looking at the websites about the war, we can see how important it was. One momentous change, although almost unnoticed, is that it finally led to desegregation in America’s armed forces. President Truman signed the bill authorizing desegregation in 1948, but most of the units which entered the Korean War were completely segregated. The military was not eager to embrace a multiracial force until the dramatic losses in Korea made it necessary to replace many white soldiers. Gradually servicemen realized they could serve together as effective units. It was not until 1951, three years after Truman’s ruling, that the Army finally announced plans for desegregating all units. Even forgotten wars can have far-reaching effects. So as we remember our service men and women let’s include all of them from all the wars that have shaped American history.
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