Recently we just opened our new exhibit The Forgotten Wars covering Korea and Vietnam.
This exhibit depicts the origins, accounts, weapons, home fronts, and personal stories of these two conflicts. It begins with the Cold War and American policy of Containment brought on by the Truman and Eisenhower Doctrines following the conclusion of the Second World War. Joseph Stalin began taking over Eastern Europe and aiding other countries who also sought to establish Communism, including Mao Zedong in China. America had just finished fighting a war to defeat tyranny in Europe and Asia and wanted to protect the world again from becoming enslaved by tyrannical ideologies. Thus a quiet and prolonged Cold War began between two world powers. America sought to “contain” Communism to its homelands and protect free countries in danger of its encroachment. One of the first world- recognized of these “containment” wars was Korea. Korea was split between Communism and a free Republic with the dividing line at the 38th Parallel. But in June of 1950, North Korea crossed that line seeking to bring South Korea under Communism as well. Korea asked for help, and America answered which began a three year war that cost 40,000 American lives. The result-South Korea remained free. Roughly a year later America got involved with Vietnam and roughly ten years later, she was fighting a war as North Vietnam (like North Korea) attempted to unite South Vietnam by sponsoring guerilla attacks within that half of the country-the beginning of the Vietcong. America quickly entered this war after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in which the North Vietnamese allegedly targeted an American naval forces. This brought America to the aid of South Vietnam starting one of the longest wars in U.S. history. It also wreaked the most havoc at home as it was aggravated by the “Hippie” movement stateside which ruined the legacy of the American soldiers in Vietnam. America pulled out of Vietnam in 1973. The result was 58,220 American deaths, and a less than welcoming homecoming for returning soldiers.
Today, Korea and Vietnam are mostly forgotten, and the men who served barely recognized. Thus, the goal of the Forgotten Wars exhibit is to bring much deserved recognition and honor to those of these “Forgotten” generations. We want to remind everyone that the price of freedom is high, and these boys who went and fought in Korea and Vietnam-our fathers, grandfathers, and uncles-fought there to pay that price. Because they did, America remains free and Communism contained. Imagine what would have happened if they hadn’t?