One week before he spoke, Dr. Carroll, President of our Residents Association and himself a Korean War Veteran, visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington and read silently “its plain yet profound inscription:” “Our Nation Honors Her Sons and Daughters Who Answered the Call To Defend a Country They Never Knew And a People They Never Met.”
Movingly, Roy Carroll described his own first glimpse of Korea from the deck of a troopship, his arrival two days later in the ruins of Seoul, and his emotional encounter there with a thin, elderly woman scratching around for scraps of wood for a fire to warm her family and a nine-year-old Korean boy begging him to come home with him and sleep with his sister. Dismayed by this civilian wretchedness, Roy returned to his replacement depot, had supper, went out to scrape scraps off his mess kit and saw “children’s arms …thrust through the fence to catch fresh garbage with bare hands.”
He was, indeed, in a country he had never known and among a people he had never met.
Plainly impatient with characterization of the Korean War as a Proxy War, Police Action, or Forgotten War, Carroll recited sobering statistics about the number of US soldiers who fought there and the number who died in battle, were wounded, or missing in action. He cited also civilian deaths estimated at 1.5 to 3 million in the two Koreas and China, deploring the custom of referring to such casualties as “collateral damages.”
The Korean War broke new ground in the use of jet aircraft, deployment of helicopters for medical evacuation, early development of helicopter gunships, reduction of casualties as compared with the World War II rate, and in the actual use in battle of minorities in racially integrated units.
Carroll reported gratefully that the United States refrained from use of the atomic bomb in Korea, but he found no cause for glory in that or any other aspect of the War. Summarizing his argument about this: “Despite differences in conflicts, they carry a common price: Somebody dies. (W)e) honor and respect the warriors who died…but we should not glorify war itself or celebrate its beginning…The end of a war…is the moment to celebrate….”
Dr. Carroll concluded by pointing out that men who die in battle are not fairly represented by bronze statues and heroic poses. They die with “faces showing fear or resignation, bewilderment or shock,” he said. “Today, as in every year, I remember especially those in Fox Co., 179th Infantry Regiment.”
As Roy took his seat, “Taps,” rendered by an Army bugler, closed our Carolina Meadows Memorial Day address, a memorable one.
From Resident Public Relations Committee member Paul Hardin, on Memorial Day remarks by Residents Association President Roy Carroll