Duty Calls: Veterans of the Korean War
The Fifties had many themes that can be seen in a small town like Wayland, but in a larger sense, the Korean War was possibly the most telling factor in global politics at the time. It reflected the true feelings of the Cold War and the American's bitter distaste for Communism. It showed that despite the overwhelming wish for peace, America was ready to right to defend the Containment policy and other influential political ideas of the time. America, even though it had been hit brutally by the Second World War, believed in the aggressive war tactics of General MacArthur above President Truman's more conservative approach. They were willing to risk many more lives, and the young men of the time were ready to defend their country's morals. America still believed in Democracy and wanted its flag to prevail throughout the World.
These ideas were presented by the five Korean War Veterans who we interviewed. They each had a unique story but many of their ideas about the time fit together. They were fighting to defend Democracy because when your country called for aid it was your duty to answer. The Korean War changed or instead reinforced who they were and how their viewed their country.
Michael Levy was a Lieutenant in the Navy aboard a destroyer in North Korea. He describes many experiences throughout his time in the War and his opinions on how the fifties were a simpler time, which allowed Korea to be a simpler war. He tells one moving story about growing up: "[I]f I turned right or left I was going to get 300 people killed. And that's . . . where I grew up."
John Dyer and David Marshall were interviewed together and they coincidentally agreed on many points. Neither one saw battle, but they felt the shear weight of the War and what it meant to be fighting for Democracy and America.
George Dergalis has the most interesting life story as he was born in Greece and fought in the Greek army in WWII, before going to Italy to study art and moving to America for opportunities. His experience in Korea is less substantial because he also did not see battle, but his views on the world from an immigrant's perspective are very interesting.
One of the most interesting trends of the time, as reflected in these interviews, was the overwhelming feeling of devotion to America. They did not question their government nearly the same way we do today. They felt that they knew the government was right and they followed what the government wished. Even though many of them agree that today the world is different, and now they do not agree with what the country is doing, then they felt that the country was led by strong presidents, Truman and Eisenhower, doing the right thing. They wanted Democracy to prevail throughout the World, and they felt that putting their trust in the people with power was the way to encourage this. They all admitted that there was a much greater level of blind patriotism then than there is today.
Although the Korean War was fairly unknown to the average person at the time, and it is still relatively forgotten, it was neither unknown nor forgotten to these men who devoted years of their life to protect Democracy. It was certainly a major political issue in the Fifties that did reflect global trends. In fact, Eisenhower based much of his campaign on his ability to deal with Korea. It was a world trend that affected a small town like Wayland because Wayland felt the hardships of war and it took away some young men to fight. Wayland went through many of the same things the entire country was going through, and even here, we can still see the products of this issue in these gracious veterans.
We would like to deeply thank all of those at the Wayland Veteran Foundation and those from The Korean Society of New England. Our greatest thanks lie with those whom we interviewed, for without their help this would not have been possible.