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Thank you, Waitsfield, for remembering

06/05/2008

By Frank Covino

President Truman called our war a "police action." Our purpose was to quell the insurgence of the Communistic North Korean Army into the more democratic South. With clandestine Russia supporting the North, the South was facing a swift defeat. Guilty from his horrific decision to annihilate Nagasaki with our Atomic Bomb, Truman dispatched a small contingent of Army, Marines and Air Force, armed with antiquated equipment from the Second World War, expecting an early victory. Perhaps he was influenced by the John Wayne war movies that they showed us every night on the U.S.S. Mitchell as we crossed the Pacific. How could anyone stand up to the might of the United States Armed Forces?

We were slaughtered, with more dead in three years than it took 10 years to lose in Vietnam. There were just too many of them. General MacArthur, whom we highly respected for conducting his war on the line, and not from Tokyo, devised a pincer movement, from the muddy shores of Inchon, south, to assist those of us who were oscillating from Pusan, with serious casualties because of lack of ammunition. When MacArthur's plan was successful, he begged our president to allow us to continue north, pushing the enemy to the Yalu River.

Truman resented the general's political intrusion, locked horns with him and passionately fired one of the best generals this country has ever commissioned. That push, had it been allowed, would have announced to the world that politicians conduct our wars, not our generals. There may never have been a Vietnam had MacArthur not been fired. Our morale plummeted. Some soldiers threw down their arms and foolishly surrendered.

The Chinese entered the conflict 10,000 strong against a third that many Marines. Striking at night, blowing the bugle charge call of the old U.S. Cavalry, they charged, screaming with bayonets strapped to five-foot-long rifles. Our three-foot Garands were overwhelmed. Survivors defended themselves by ripping the long-rifle weapons from the hands of dead Chinese and leveling the playing field. We also stole the down vests from our well-equipped enemy, as Truman didn't think we would need more than Army fatigue jackets through winters as severe as Vermont's.

I was one of seven who returned, from a company of 340. Pieces of my high school friends became fertilizer for Korean rice paddies. No one greeted our returning troop ship. No band. No loyal girlfriends. No family.

I cried when I saw American flags lining the streets of Waitsfield this Memorial Day weekend. I imagined they were for some of the best young friends I've ever had.

Thank you, Waitsfield, for remembering. We fought hard to keep you and the democratic world free.

Frank Covino lives in Fayston.
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