60 years of needless tragedy deserve reflection

Published 10:16 am Wednesday, March 21, 2012

To the Editor:

In 1945, a famous conference took place at Yalta. The participants were Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin.

At that conference, Roosevelt suggested to Stalin that he send his “boys” into northern Korea to accept the surrender of the Japanese troops. Churchill must have burped about three times because this was difficult to understand.

Roosevelt had to have known then, more than I do now, about Russia’s interest in Korea. That interest had to do with one simple scientific fact: Water freezes at approximately 32 degrees.

Russia did not have a year-round, ice-free seaport on the Pacific Ocean. To be a power in that region, it had to have one. Korea had several.

I imagine Stalin replied, “Well, Franklin, if you insist!”

So Russian troops came into northern Korea, and in five years established a tyrannical communist government, manned and equipped a million-man army, and sent them south.

Thus began the Korean Conflict — a war that should never have happened, a war in which 38,000 to 40,000 young Americans lost their lives.

The war was waged up and down that peninsula until a truce was called, and the 38th degree parallel was designated the boundary between North and South Korea, leaving a country torn in half.

Even today, the people of South Korea are sitting on a virtual powder keg — threatened by invasion from the north and having to deal with hostile acts, such as the recent sinking of one of their ships and the loss of 46 young sailors.

I pray this doesn’t mean another war, but if it does, we must stand by the Korean people. We must not let them become enslaved by the tyrant to the north. If we do, 38,000 to 40,000 young Americans will have died in vain 60 years ago.

This is special to me. I spent 18 months of my youth in Korea — seven months during the war. I liked the Korean people. They were very grateful for our presence. It was a frequent experience for one or a group of them to come up, and with genuine smiles, thank us for being there. That made my 18 months more meaningful.

Tommy Joyner