Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reflecting on the Korean War today

Part 4: Back home

My father, James A. Seitz, returned home from the Korean War in April 1954. He was there for the final four months of the war and stayed nine months following the armistice.
I interviewed my dad about his experiences in the war:

What stands out the most?

I’m just thankful that I survived, because I saw enough deaths and enough suffering. When you lose some people that you’re responsible for that’s pretty heartbreaking. You say to yourself, “Boy, they left their families back home.” It’s not easy.
All three (who died under my command) were single. They were young guys – 18, 19, 21, somewhere in that age range.
When you’re there you’re thinking two things: one, how long am I going to be there and, two, I’ve got to make sure we stay as safe as we can.

Was it a good idea for Americans to get involved in the Korean conflict?

You’d hate to think that a country that’s been invaded can’t be saved.
Was World War II worthwhile? We invaded Europe to drive out the Germans. It all could have been Germany today.
Korea was divided after World War II, because the Japanese took over Korea during the war. The Chinese had been there. They had a North and South Korea anyway. North Korea invaded South Korea to take it all.
North Korea literally took over the country. When America came in, they came in just at the tip of the peninsula and they drove them back.
When I got there it was basically at the line … they had driven that far. And as far as I know there was no intent to drive them any further than that. They agreed to peace but no change in land (after three years of conflict).

Looking back

Nobody ever talked about whether it made sense for the U.S. to be involved, he said.
Seitz spent a little over a year in Korea and endured one winter there.
He wrote letters home every week, but wasn’t able to call from Korea.
He entered the service as a second lieutenant and was promoted to first lieutenant while in Korea. After returning home, he earned the rank of captain while serving in the Medical Service Corps, U.S. Army Reserve.
While in Korea, Seitz bought some china and a red silk robe with a dragon on the back. The robe was ruined by dry cleaners in the states, my mom, Alice, said.
But what about all those letters Dad sent home?
“Your dad wrote to me regularly. I got a letter a week,” my mom said. “There were a lot of letters. And he described in detail what was going on. I kept every one of them in a nice big box.” She had them when they moved from Madison, Wis., to Detroit in the early 1960s.
So what happened to them?
“I burned them,” she said.
“Because I got mad.”
She calls that action a “very big regret” now. “You go through the rest of your life regretting certain decisions.”

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