Wages of War and Greatest Generation Comes Home

by acscharf | November 23rd, 2010

While reading about the Korean War it became clear that the Korean War veterans became the scapegoat of the era. The police action that was the Korean War ended the prosperity that the end of World War II brought to America. Due to this, the American public blamed the conclusion of prosperity on Korean War veterans. Reading about the Korean and Vietnam wars caused me to wonder. What makes some wars forgettable and others not? Is it the amount of soldiers and civilians who die, the situation the war occurs under, the amount of countries involved or which countries are involved? Or perhaps it is the aftermath the war incurs which causes a war to go down in the history books. Either way, it cannot be the proximity to current times which causes a war to be forgotten. While the Spanish-American and Mexican wars were forgotten, so was the Korean War, which was much more current.
This also led me to wonder what is the difference between the Vietnam War and the Korean War which makes one absolutely forgettable and another one of the most arguably infamous wars in American history? Both wars were mass confusion. The U.S. lost both wars. And in each war soldiers were confused about what they were fighting for. And communism was involved in both.
In terms of veterans in the reading, I noticed a lot of similarities throughout the eras. Chapter 6 of Wages of War discusses James Monroe and his concept of benefits for veterans, provided by the federal government. However, there were issues distributing said pensions since the pension system was wrought with fraud. It occurred to me that this always seems to be the case. Veterans get the short end of the stick in nearly every war we’ve studied and this reading proves no differently. There doesn’t seem to be a time, at least not that Wages of War writes of, when the Veterans Administration actually helps the veterans. Chapter 7 tells how many veterans ended up with no way to pay for food, shelter and other necessaries to live. This is again, the veterans getting the short end of the stick. Another example would be when Americans used Korean War veterans as scapegoats during that time period. Finally, when reading about the treatment soldiers got at Wikoff and Montaurk Point, I felt that I could have been reading something straight out of Born on the Fourth of July. The way these veterans and soldiers were treated (or rather, not treated) was so reminiscent of Kovic’s experience it could have been the same time period.

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