WSJ; Notable & Quotable From James Brady's "The Coldest War: A Memoir Of Korea (1990)

The Korean War, which President Truman called a police action and Averell Harriman "a sour little war," and today is largely forgotten, began...when 90,000 North Korean troops pushed across the 38th Parallel and came south.

Before it ended thirty-seven months later it killed more than 54,000 Americans. In the three years of Korea nearly as many of us died as in the decade of Vietnam. No one will ever know how many Koreans and Chinese were killed.

Korea was a strange war in a strange land, a war the generals warned we should never fight, a ground war on the Asian mainland against the Chinese. It anointed few heroes, ended MacArthur's career, helped elect Ike. Korea didn't arouse America as the Second World War did, nor did it, as Vietnam would, scar a generation. There are men today lying in VA hospitals who were broken by Korea, but those of us who came home intact pretty much picked up our lives and went to school or out to look for a job.

They didn't stage any parades, but then neither did people spit on us in the streets.

In some ways, it wasn't a modern war at all, more like Flanders or the Somme or even the Wilderness campaign. There were jets and tanks and warships but you didn't see them very often. Korea was fought mostly by infantrymen with M-1 rifles and machine guns and hand grenades and mortars. There was artillery, of course, quite good on both sides. And barbed wire, lots of that, and mines, always the mines.

We lived under the ground. In sandbagged bunkers, and stood watch in trenches. Men who fought in France in 1917 would have understood Korea; Lee's and Grant's men would have recognized it.