U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO BY CPL. DENNIS FISHER, FROM THE JONATHAN F. ABEL COLLECTION, MARINE CORPS HISTORY DIVISION
SCRUB-A-DUB — In May 1968, 2nd Lt. Wayman H. Dodson, 30, of Greenville, South Carolina, the civil-affairs officer for the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, bathes a Vietnamese youngster during a Medcap staged south of Phu Bai.

History question: What is the longest war in American history?

If you say it was the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), you’re wrong. Nor was it the Vietnam War, which began in the 1950s and ended with the Communist conquest of South Vietnam in 1975. The Afghanistan War (2001-2021) was not our longest war. In fact, the longest war in our history is the Korean War, which began in 1950 and continues to this day.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that the Korean War ended in 1953.

In fact, the 70th anniversary of the signing of the armistice, July 27, passed with virtually no notice. It was a forgotten anniversary of a largely forgotten war.

The Korean War did not end with the signing of a cease-fire agreement. The armistice, which included an exchange of prisoners of war, was simply supposed to be a temporary bandage until an actual treaty was signed among the warring powers. To this day, there has never been a peace conference to reach a political settlement of the issues that caused the war or emerged from it. One of those issues is the return of Americans held hostage by the Communists.

The absence of a treaty means the war may — and sometimes does — erupt anew. This is why one occasionally hears about shooting incidents along the so-called Demilitarized Zone. Armed soldiers of the North and South Korean and U.S. armies patrol the no man’s land, and sometimes fighting breaks out. In fact, practically every GI stationed in Korea since 1953, with whom I have talked, says there are many hostile incidents about which we never hear or read.

The absence of a treaty means there is no basis for peace on the divided peninsula. There are no normal diplomatic relations between North and South Korea, or between North Korea and the U.S. There is virtually no trade between the Communist North and the U.S. The latter seeks to maintain economic sanctions on the North, because of its nuclear-weapons and missile programs that threaten its neighbors and perhaps even the American homeland. Though its economy is such that many of its people starve, the North Korean government somehow defies predictions of its imminent collapse and tightens its belt for survival.

Not least, the absence of a treaty to end the Korean War means an indefinite but sizable number of Americans who were engaged in the conflict remain unaccounted for. While some POWs were released after the signing of the armistice in 1953, the fate of many more is still unknown. Some are quite likely still alive to this day, despite the passage of time, held under guard but still waiting to come home.

After the final round of POW exchanges in September 1953, Gen. Mark Clark estimated as many as 3,000 Americans classified as captured or missing in the Korean War could still be alive. The Eisenhower administration knew it had abandoned Americans in enemy lands and did nothing to recover them.

As the war faded from the headlines, most Americans could enjoy the postwar boom, while other missing and unfortunate citizens, we now know, were moved to the Soviet Union’s gulags or to Communist China. Some remained in North Korea, where visitors, along with refugees and defectors, have told of seeing aging Caucasian and Black men and being told by North Koreans that they were captured Americans.

What does one say about a country that leaves its own people behind in a war far away?

By doing nothing to recover the live POWs, U.S. leaders then — and now — became complicit in the crimes of the Communist enemies.

This shameful story is a scandal far worse than Watergate.

— al@beacononlinenews.com

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