Nestled between the epic cataclysm that was World War II and the roiling controversy that was Vietnam, Korea is often referred to as the forgotten war. The 5.7 million American men and women who served in that war have their own memories, whether they were on the battle lines, in the air, or in support of those whose lives were at risk. The war lasted just over three years, but nearly 60 years after the guns fell silent, Americans in uniform still maintain the peace along the 38th Parallel, the border between North Korea and South Korea.
To mark the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, the Veterans History Project (VHP) in the Library of Congress has compiled a web presentation titled “The Korean War: Not Forgotten.” Accessible at www.loc.gov/vets/, the presentation features 26 first-person accounts of Korean War veterans acquired by the VHP and housed in the Library’s American Folklife Center.
Mary Weiss and Edwin Nixon are but two of the veterans featured. Weiss decided to join the Air Force in 1950 after a recruiter visited her nursing school. Her desire to travel was fulfilled after she signed up for flight school and became a flight nurse, logging more than 760 hours between Japan and Korea during her 14 months abroad. Nixon enlisted in the Navy after college, became a Navy pilot and flew his first mission over Korea in January 1953. On his 25th mission, he took crippling fire intended for another plane. He managed to crash-land his craft, breaking his back in the process. For four months, he was interrogated and kept in isolation, then spent time in a camp with other POWs.
“The Veterans History Project is honored to share these stories of those who served during the Korean War,” said Veterans History Project Director Bob Patrick. “By highlighting their personal recollections, VHP issues a call to action to encourage volunteer interviewers to record the stories of Korean War veterans before it is too late.”
Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000 as a national documentation program of the American Folklife Center (www.loc.gov/folklife/) to record, preserve and make accessible the firsthand remembrances of American wartime veterans from World War I through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. More than 68,000 individual stories comprise the collection to date.