Today I got a weekly email from my congressman, Rob Wittman. He was paying tribute to the veterans. His email contained the following paragraph:
This past year, I had the pleasure of
visiting servicemembers deployed in
Afghanistan, and forward deployed in
Singapore, Australia, Germany, Italy and
Turkey. I recently spent a day in the woods
with some of our Marines training at
Quantico. On November 2, I met with veterans
who serve on my Veterans’ Advisory Council
and veterans of the Korean War. Our nation
has learned much from what happened at the
beginning of the Korean War. At that time,
our country was not prepared to go to war.
We did not ensure that our forces were ready
for combat and we sent under-trained and
under-equipped Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and
Marines into harm’s way. From that
experience, harsh lessons were learned that
should direct our current and future
decision makers about investing in our
I was dumbfounded. I was barely even on this earth when the Korean War started. However, I wondered to myself, how on earth could things have deteriorated so fast in less than 5 years. Weren’t we in tip top shape as a nation after WWII? Didn’t we emerge as the most powerful nation in the world? Well Hell, I didn’t know so I thought I’ll ask a vet. I emailed George Harris. For those of you who don’t know, he is a Korean War vet. He went in when he was knee-high to a grasshopper, right out of Oklahoma.
George set me straight, with the following response, which I wanted him to do:
Well let me begin by saying that in most instances we have never been ready for whatever war we are fighting. For instances, at the beginning of WWII,,we were still flying some bi-planes Swahili the Japanese were flying Zeros and the Germans were flying Messerschmitts, Stukas and Fowkers. The infantry was still using the M1903, 5 round, Springfield volt action rifle used in WWI even though the M1 Garand 8 round semi-automatic rifle was developed in 1939. I trained with the M1903 when I went through recruit training in 1951. The standard sidearm was the M1911 .45 calibre pistol, which was in service until 1985. It was first used in the Philippine Insurrection! We didn’t have snorkeling submarines until near the end of WWII. We still had many four- stacker, coal burning ships at the beginning of WWII.
After WWII, there was a rapid demobilization because, after all, we had just defeated the world’s greatest enemies. That is if you didn’t count Communism and the beginning of the Cold War I EUROPE (not shouting-just for emphasis). For some reason, we weren’t paying much attention to Communism in Asia (much of what went on in China was a Nationalist war against Mao Zedung and the Communists.
Despite having fought in the terrible cold in Europe, which resulted in many casualties from the cold, we weren’t ready for the bitter cold in Korea-sometimes as much as -35F. The winter I was there it was -25F. Pretty f’ing cold! The first cold weather boots simply did not protect against the bitter cold. The “Mickey Mouse” boots we had were made of a double rubber boot with insulation between the rubber layers. They made your feet sweat and if you stopped for very long, your feet could freeze because they were wet.
After Korea, we had another draw down, after all it was too damned expensive to keep a large standing military and we were really tired of war and we had been terribly stung by our defeat in Korea. We bided our time, although we were aware of the French plight in what was the. IndoChina. Little did we realize I think, that we would get drawn into that mess. I can tell you that from a medical standpoint, we were still using equipment designed in WWII but most of our physicians had gone well beyond the capability of what we had on the way of equipment. The rest of that story you pretty well know.
And then Dubya senior decides we need to invade Kuwait, I mean, hey, they got oil! Yes, we kicked some butt, however, we didn’t do enough. We stopped short and they had time to regroup while the oil fields in Kuwait blazed away.
The tragedy of 9/11 caught us completely off guard and when Dubya II decided we should wage some more war, we seemed to forget everything we ever knew about urban warfare, if we ever knew it. Yes, we deposed Saddam Hussein and we hanged him. So what! Thieves stole national treasures, war broke out between sects and the people we armed to fight the Russians turned against us. The oil revenues that were supposed to pay for the Iraqi debacle have never materialized and sectarian war still continues. Afghanistan continues to be a Cluster F**k with millions of dollars and countless lives lost and we are still a year away from leaving. Some of our service people are on their fifth or sixth tour of duty there and tens of thousands have been also wounded physically and mentally. We will have that reminder with us for many decades. IEDs continue to plague us despite more than 10 years of trying to figure out how to minimize their damage.
And as sure as God made little green apples (my Mother’s favorite expression), we will draw down again and when we decide it is time to go to war again, we will once again be caught with our pants down around our collective ankles and who knows how many innocent young men and women will pay the price for our repeated ignorance.
“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Thanks for your perspective, George!
George also reminded me that this was purely his opinion, from his experiences:
“Caveat Emptor. Who know how accurate my facts are it is just what I remember. Unless human nature changes in the military hierarchy, we will always fight the last war.”
That’s fair. I thought it was a good history lesson. Thanks again, George. Your lessons should be read by all.