Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Korean War deserves recognition

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For 60 years, the Korean War was known as the Forgotten War or the Unknown War, much to the distress of the 30,000 Canadians who served in the 1950-1953 conflict. More than 500 were killed, including 37 from Manitoba, as well as 17 others when their troop train crashed in Canada while en route to the war zone.

There are numerous reasons why the war, which ended 60 years ago today, got short shrift in the Canadian imagination. The nation was war-weary after two world wars and more than 100,000 dead. Veterans of Hitler's war just wanted to get on with their lives, while survivors of the first war thought nothing could compare with their experience.

The Korean conflict also unfolded in an unfamiliar land, where the outcome did not seem as important.

It was also described as a UN police action, and not a real war, since war was never declared. As such, it may have seemed closer to peacekeeping than real war, but real it was.

Finally, nothing has ever been as important in Canadian myth-making as the First World War. It was then, we were told, that Canada became a nation. It was in the fields of Flanders that the flower of Canadian youth was bled dry. It was there that Canada -- a nation of just eight million souls -- lost more dead than in any other conflict.

How could anything compare? Indeed, the First World War continues to dominate the way Canadians remember. The symbols and language of remembrance have not changed since 1919, and even the Second World War lacks a distinct identity in terms of how it is commemorated.

In fact, some communities are still building new monuments to the First World War, such as one erected in Cornerbrook, N.L., last year, but not one has been built in Canada for the 1939-1945 war.

There are a few monuments dedicated exclusively to the Korean War, including one in Ottawa. Brookside Cemetery also features a veterans cairn for the Manitobans who died in the Korean conflict.

The war helped stabilize South Korea, which has evolved into a democratic society, but the point of remembrance is to honour the soldiers who served and their families. Their stories are just as compelling and dramatic as any that emerged from other conflicts. They are worth knowing and remembering because they tell us something about our history and the people who built this country.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2013 A14

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