Pinpricks next to the wounds of the world’s great battles

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachCompared to Gettysburg, Bastogne, or Verdun, T. R. Fehrenbach notes (in This Kind of War), the outpost battles that erupted across Korea from time to time were skirmishes, pinpricks next to the wounds of the world’s great battles:

But on the bodies of troops actually engaged the casualties were exceedingly high. When companies are reduced to forty men, and platoons to six or seven, to the men in them it is hardly limited war.

The hill battles along an unmoving line were costing the United States casualties at the rate of thirty thousand a year.

This number was still less than the annual traffic toll. But while Americans are well conditioned to death on the highways, they are not ready to accept death on the battlefield for apparently futile reason.


  1. Adar says:

    The communists themselves said the UN in Korea were better prepared static positional type of trench warfare. Even the commie said it was tough.

  2. Kirk says:

    This is an issue that Fehrenbach picked up on, and then came to exactly the wrong conclusion about. It isn’t that the “American people” are against futile deaths in combat, it’s that they’re against the bait-and-switch recruiting and conscription for “crusades of self-defense” that are actually wars of de facto “imperial hegemony” maintaining the international commons.

    Do note the limited outrage today at the long, slow bleed-out of the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most people recognize that the all-volunteer professional force is akin to the old Frontier Army, which they didn’t give a flat f**k about, either. The only time you’re really gonna outrage sensibilities with these people is when you’re drafting their kids and sending them off to die in symbolic long-term conflicts whose benefits they can’t see or find questionable. Average guy enlisting today knows damn good and well they’re likely going to go to some unpleasant foreign land and be asked to kill little brown people in ambiguous circumstances whilst they go about trying to kill them. Their families know that, their neighbors know that–And, to them, when the inevitable happens, too bad, so sad… He knew the risks when he signed up for them. That’s what they really think, and that’s how they usually react. The concern isn’t that they’re getting killed, it’s that the conditions that led up to it were far less “conscripted unwilling service” than during either Korea or Vietnam.

    The military at least took that much away from Fehrenbach, even if they ignored a lot more of the other important stuff he had to say.

    If Vietnam had been fought entirely by volunteers, I don’t think the issues would have been anywhere near as bad as they were. Had the powers-that-were been honest enough to say what the deal was, and then behaved accordingly with the manpower? I doubt there’d have been all that much in the way of protest.

    It’s kinda hard to gin up much in the way of outrage when it’s a trained professional getting his ass shot up, vice someone’s recently-graduated high-schooler. Kid gets drafted, then it’s incumbent upon the military and the politicians to ensure that they’re only dying when it’s a question of national survival, or, at least, can be made to look that way. WWII vs. Vietnam or Korea? That’s the difference.

  3. Altitude Zero says:

    I dunno,about 2/3 of those who served in Vietnam were volunteers,and the Left still screeched about it. When they want to discredit someone fighting against Commies, they find something…

  4. Kirk says:

    Altitude Zero,

    True. However, the question is, will the public listen to them and believe what they’re selling?

    In Vietnam, it was entirely possible for them to lie and the general public didn’t know any better. Assholes like Ron Kovic, who was a wannabe lifer careerist on his second enlistment and (I think…) second tour in Vietnam played it like they were draftees, and got away with it. Ain’t nobody doing that today, with the all-volunteer force.

    I lost all respect for Kovic about the time I actually looked into his background. Up until doing a fairly deep dive on that, I had always taken it on face value that he was some poor conscript that got caught up in evil ol’ Uncle Sammy’s war. Actual facts? Dude was far from some innocent victim; he knew the score going in, volunteered for more duty, and then played it like he was some innocent victim of it all.

    I’ve got no patience with those types. You want my sympathy, you’re not going to get it when you’re on your second enlistment and wearing NCO stripes the way Kovic was. He had bad luck, but he was there with full knowledge and appreciation for what he was involved with, and for him to come out after with the fairy tale that he was some innocent victim of it all…? Yeah; bullshit. You pays your money, you takes your chances, and if you chose to make a profession of a hazardous career, don’t whine about the actual repercussions of it afterwards.

    For reference, this is what the Wiki has to say about his career:

    “Kovic volunteered to serve in Vietnam, and was sent to South Vietnam in December 1965 as a member of H&S Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. In June 1966, he was transferred to Bravo Company, Second Platoon, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division[7] where he participated in 22 Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols in enemy territory and was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V for valor. After a 13-month tour of duty, he returned home on January 15, 1967. He was subsequently assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, North Carolina. Several months later, he volunteered to return to Vietnam for a second tour of duty.”

    Note that well: Second tour of duty. Note also that his first tour was not one that would have prevented him from knowing the nature of what he was involved in.

    Not to mention, there was that “minor incident” he doesn’t do a lot to highlight, where he shot and killed another Marine “accidentally” during an ambush.

    Kovic always played it like he had nothing to do with what happened to him, but the reality was, he put himself there. I gotta give him kudos for having done that, but… Brother, as a professional soldier? You signed up for that crap; you knew what you were getting into, and it’s an implied risk–I don’t want to hear you whining about how it’s all evil and icky after you get yourself hurt.

  5. VXXC says:

    The American people are getting their first real lessons in repression, they may or may not get their first lessons in war.

    I disagree with Kirk that they don’t care, they just don’t know what to do about it, that’s not just war…it’s everything. Our domestic policy is now as insane as our foreign policy, of course it’s now the identical people.

  6. Paul from Canada says:

    The Israelis have rather famously suffered more deaths and maimings from traffic accidents than all their wars combined.

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