Korean War Quotes

Quotes tagged as "korean-war" Showing 1-30 of 42
David Halberstam
“Fear was the terrible secret of the battlefiled and could afflict the brave as well as the timid. Worse it was contagious, and could destroy a unit before a battle even began. Because of that, commanders were first and foremost in the fear suppression business.”
David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

“We had it drilled into us time and time again: 'If someone above you falls, grip tightly to the vertical rope and cradle that person in your arms until help can get to you.'...If someone fell down on me I swear I would have bitten him on the ass and would keep on biting until he got off onhis own.”
C.S. Crawford, The Four Deuces: A Korean War Story

Christopher Hitchens
“The North Korean capital, Pyongyang, is a city consecrated to the worship of a father-son dynasty. (I came to think of them, with their nuclear-family implications, as 'Fat Man and Little Boy.') And a river runs through it. And on this river, the Taedong River, is moored the only American naval vessel in captivity. It was in January 1968 that the U.S.S. Pueblo strayed into North Korean waters, and was boarded and captured. One sailor was killed; the rest were held for nearly a year before being released. I looked over the spy ship, its radio antennae and surveillance equipment still intact, and found photographs of the captain and crew with their hands on their heads in gestures of abject surrender. Copies of their groveling 'confessions,' written in tremulous script, were also on show. So was a humiliating document from the United States government, admitting wrongdoing in the penetration of North Korean waters and petitioning the 'D.P.R.K.' (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) for 'lenience.' Kim Il Sung ('Fat Man') was eventually lenient about the men, but not about the ship. Madeleine Albright didn't ask to see the vessel on her visit last October, during which she described the gruesome, depopulated vistas of Pyongyang as 'beautiful.' As I got back onto the wharf, I noticed a refreshment cart, staffed by two women under a frayed umbrella. It didn't look like much—one of its three wheels was missing and a piece of brick was propping it up—but it was the only such cart I'd see. What toothsome local snacks might the ladies be offering? The choices turned out to be slices of dry bread and cups of warm water.

Nor did Madeleine Albright visit the absurdly misnamed 'Demilitarized Zone,' one of the most heavily militarized strips of land on earth. Across the waist of the Korean peninsula lies a wasteland, roughly following the 38th parallel, and packed with a titanic concentration of potential violence. It is four kilometers wide (I have now looked apprehensively at it from both sides) and very near to the capital cities of both North and South. On the day I spent on the northern side, I met a group of aging Chinese veterans, all from Szechuan, touring the old battlefields and reliving a war they helped North Korea nearly win (China sacrificed perhaps a million soldiers in that campaign, including Mao Anying, son of Mao himself). Across the frontier are 37,000 United States soldiers. Their arsenal, which has included undeclared nuclear weapons, is the reason given by Washington for its refusal to sign the land-mines treaty. In August 1976, U.S. officers entered the neutral zone to trim a tree that was obscuring the view of an observation post. A posse of North Koreans came after them, and one, seizing the ax with which the trimming was to be done, hacked two U.S. servicemen to death with it. I visited the ax also; it's proudly displayed in a glass case on the North Korean side.”
Christopher Hitchens, Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays

Don DeLillo
“Too young for Korea, too old for Vietnam.”
Don DeLillo

Pat Frank
“It was during this terrible night that the three wounded died, and the jeeps froze solid.”
Pat Frank, Hold Back The Night

Christopher Hitchens
“Even in former days, Korea was known as the 'hermit kingdom' for its stubborn resistance to outsiders. And if you wanted to create a totally isolated and hermetic society, northern Korea in the years after the 1953 'armistice' would have been the place to start. It was bounded on two sides by the sea, and to the south by the impregnable and uncrossable DMZ, which divided it from South Korea. Its northern frontier consisted of a long stretch of China and a short stretch of Siberia; in other words its only contiguous neighbors were Mao and Stalin. (The next-nearest neighbor was Japan, historic enemy of the Koreans and the cruel colonial occupier until 1945.) Add to that the fact that almost every work of man had been reduced to shards by the Korean War. Air-force general Curtis LeMay later boasted that 'we burned down every town in North Korea,' and that he grounded his bombers only when there were no more targets to hit anywhere north of the 38th parallel. Pyongyang was an ashen moonscape. It was Year Zero. Kim Il Sung could create a laboratory, with controlled conditions, where he alone would be the engineer of the human soul.”
Christopher Hitchens, Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays

“All right. They’re on our left. They’re on our right. They’re in front of us, they’re behind us. They can’t get away this time’.”
Jeff Shaara quoting Colonel "Chesty" Puller

Rolando Hinojosa
“It comes down to this: we're pieces of equipment
To be counted and signed for.
On occasion some of us break down,
And those parts which can't be salvaged
Are replaced with other GI parts, that's all.”
Rolando Hinojosa, Korean Love Songs From Klail City Death Trip

Pat Frank
“When he reached the last hole he saw, far to the west, a series of rockets bloom in the sky. He watched their green and yellow and red petals arch across the horizon, and fade into the gloom of the earth. It was very beautiful, but he recognized them for Chinese rockets.”
Pat Frank, Hold Back The Night

“Our farmers make enough rice to feed all of us, yet we must eat millet and barley. All that rice goes to feed the Imperial soldiers sent the Japanese residents...some even gets sent back to Japan...and the prices they charge us for the little rice that remains! Did you see the look of satisfaction on Captain Narita's face as he looked at these coarse little cookies?”
Sook Nyul Choi, Year of Impossible Goodbyes

Douglas MacArthur
“Duty, Honor, Country" — those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn...”
Douglas MacArthur

Hwang Sok-yong
“People hated and killed each other back then. Now even those who survived are dying, leaving this world one by one. Unless we find a way to forgive one another, none of us will ever be able to see each other again. (2007: 88)”
Hwang Sok-yong, The Guest

“They keep us so hungry that we can't do anything but worry about where our next meal is coming from. They keep us hungry for so long that we are grateful for whatever little food we get.”
Sook Nyul Choi, Year of Impossible Goodbyes

Marguerite Higgins
“A military situation at its worst can inspire fighting men to perform at their best.”
Marguerite Higgins, War in Korea: The Report of a Woman Combat Correspondent

Cheryll Snow
“When we finally let go... that's when the real fun begins."

The Second Most Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Cheryll Snow

John Sandford
“O'Dell's driver was a broad man with a Korean War crew cut, his hair the color of rolled steel. A hatchet nose split basalt eyes, and his lips were dry and thick: a Gila monster's.”
John Sandford, Silent Prey

Hwang Sok-yong
“we left our home forty years ago. Despite the unhappy events we faced there, we left because our faith allowed it, because our belief in the Lord taught us that we would find a new place, a place to build a heaven on earth. War was waged in our home as we left. Many, many innocents dies. To live, people killed and were killed. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds his people of the promise made to their ancestors regarding the land of Canaan. He delivers the law, teaching them how to win a life of victory in the land of promise. They said, Jehovah, let all the enemies of the Lord face this same end. Do not pity them or offer them promises, only annihilate them all. And yet, Jesus taught love and peace. I say again - those left behind in our hometown had souls, just as we do. It is we who must repent first. (2007: 17)”
Hwang Sok-yong, The Guest

Hwang Sok-yong
“As it turns out, the atrocities we suffered were committed by none other than ourselves, and the inner sense of guilt and fear sparked by this incident helped form the roots of the frantic hatred that thrives to this day. (2007: 9)”
Hwang Sok-yong, The Guest

Hwang Sok-yong
“I can't say a thing. What is there to say? I have given birth to a son! What more can I possibly hope for? I hear his footsteps crossing the front yard and gradually fading away, off into the distance. As the silence grows, I suddenly realize that he"s gone. He's gone to someplace far away, and he's never coming back.(2007: 153)”
Hwang Sok-yong, The Guest

Bruce Cumings
“In fact the United States has had no exit strategy since 1945, expect in places where we were kicked out (Vietnam) or asked to leave (the Philippines): American troops still occupy Japan, Korea, and Germany, in the seventh decade after the end of World War II. Policymakers – almost always civilians with little or no military experience (Acheson is the archetype) – get Americans into wars but cannot get them out, and soon the Pentagon takes over, establishes bases, and the entire enterprise becomes a perpetual-motion machine fuelled by a defence budget that dwarfs all others in the world.”
Bruce Cumings, The Korean War: A History

Bruce Cumings
“Eventually the Korean War will be understood as one of the most destructive and one of the most important wars of the twentieth century.”
Bruce Cumings, The Korean War: A History

Bruce Cumings
“Those who suffer terrible wars have a finer sense of when they begin and when they end.”
Bruce Cumings, The Korean War: A History

“Hold on to your hats, Korea is a land of surprises”
Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History

Marguerite Higgins
“I thought then how much more matter-of-fact the actuality of war is than any of its projections in literature. The wounded seldom cry – there’s no one with time and emotion to listen.”
Marguerite Higgins, War in Korea: The Report of a Woman Combat Correspondent

Marguerite Higgins
“I was gripped with a sense of unreality that followed me through most of the war. Reality, I guess, is just what we are accustomed to ...”
Marguerite Higgins, War in Korea: The Report of a Woman Combat Correspondent

Marguerite Higgins
“There is very little that is not wasteful and dismal about war. The only clear, deep, good is the special kind of bond welded between people who, having mutually shared a crisis, whether it be a shelling or a machine-gun attack, emerge knowing that those involved behaved well. There is much pretence in our everyday life, and, with a skilful manner, much can be concealed. But with a shell whistling at you there is not much time to pretend and a person’s qualities are starkly revealed. You believe that you can trust what you have seen. It is a feeling that makes old soldiers, old sailors, old airmen, and even old war correspondents, humanly close in a way shut off to people who have not shared the same thing. I think that correspondents, because they are rarely in a spot where their personal strength or cowardice can affect the life of another, probably feel only an approximation of this bond. So far as I am concerned, even this approximation is one of the few emotions about which I would say: It’s as close to being absolutely good as anything I know.”
Marguerite Higgins

“Administrators grew wary of the emotional bonds that formed between [US military] men and Korean houseboys when bunking together. The paternal role taken on by soldiers was not conducive to military goals; they were there to fight a war, not act as fathers to Korean children, commanders argued. By taking up nurturing roles traditionally reserved for women, servicemen threatened the image of the military.”
Susie Woo, Framed by War: Korean Children and Women at the Crossroads of US Empire

“A retreat to Pusan would be one of the greatest bloodbaths in American history. We must fight until the end…. If some of us must die, we will die fighting together. Any man who gives ground may be personally responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of his comrades. I want everybody to understand that we are going to hold this line. We are going to win.”
Gen. Walton Walker

“In my generation, this was not the first occasion when the strong had attacked the weak. [...] Communism was acting in Korea just as Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese had acted ten, fifteen, and twenty years earlier. I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to fall, communist leaders would be emboldened to override nations closer to our own shores.”
Harry S. Truman

“People in the countryside soon told of seeing hon bul, “ghost flames,” or “spirit fires,” flickering in the night over the killing fields.”
Charles J. Hanley, Ghost Flames: Life and Death in a Hidden War, Korea 1950-1953

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