A few years ago, I was in Washington D.C. and I took the opportunity to visit the museums but because I am a taphophile, I was also very keen to visit the Arlington National Cemetery and the war memorials.
When I was growing up, the Vietnam War was not far away and people spoke of the “domino theory” which suggested that a communist victory in Vietnam would lead to the fall of other nations in South East Asia to communism in quick succession. The war was never far from our thoughts and from our news. And then the Vietnamese refugees started coming to our shores; we called them the “Boat People”. When I was 14, I spent my school holidays as a volunteer with a U.N. office trying to match names on search requests sent in by relatives against a long list of names of registered refugees in the hope of reuniting separated loved ones. I never did succeed in making even one match.
And so, I was very aware about the Vietnam War and I did visit the Vietnam War Memorial.
But there was another earlier Asian war that I and many, many people are less familiar with …….. the Korean War. It was a little before I was born and I was never taught anything about it in school. Believe it or not, the first I learned about it was from watching the TV series M.A.S.H.
Yet in many ways, although much shorter, it was a bloodier war than the Vietnam War. The percentage of casualties compared to soldiers committed was extremely high. For example, the average U.S. casualties per month was 4,257 for the Korean War as compared to 2,092 for the Vietnam War (source:Korean War Educator). And the suffering of the Korean people was great with as much as 10% of the population killed – a rate of civilian deaths which were higher than that for World War II.
I was deeply moved when I had the opportunity to visit the memorial to what some have called “the Forgotten War”, and remember the sacrifices made and the lives lost.