Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the armistice to armed fighting in the Korean War, and a Myrtle Beach resident wants to help ensure “the forgotten war” – in which 54,246 U.S. personnel gave their lives – is remembered forever.
Larkin Spivey, a retired Marine Corps officer who served in the Vietnam War and in the Nixon administration, continues welcoming local residents who served in Korea to relay names to him for a national registry – call 448-3053 (more details at www.abmc.gov/search/koreanwar.php).
The author of numerous books on military history, including “Stories of Faith and Courage from the Korean War,” published Friday by God & Country Press, Spivey and Harry DuBose also have coordinated a bus trip to the memorials in Washington, D.C. – modeled after the Honor Flight system – for July 26-27, for 42 local Korean War veterans. Like the flights, the bus ride is funded solely through donations of money and time.
Honor Flight Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach has its sixth trip scheduled for Aug. 28, in a full commercial jet.
Question | How important does the quest remain to have the name of every person who served in the Korean War on the national database, and locally, what keeps your involvement so active?
Answer | We’re trying to get all these local Korean War veterans to contact me. … so they’re getting certificates of appreciation. I’ve already sent out about 100 names, with all the information to get the certificates. I think it’s a great recognition, and it’s a great time for them to get it.
Q. | How did this memorable bus tour coming up this weekend come together, in perfect timing for marking 60 years since the ceasefire on the Korean peninsula?
A. | We’re taking a group of 42 veterans with a team of 15 escorts. … They’re all getting up there in age; they’re all volunteering to go, and we’re really excited about it. … It’s not an Honor Flight per se. … We’re calling this the “Heroes Remembered Tour.” … These are guys who have the initiative to do this. We’re taking a bunch of wheelchairs, and we’ll have a medical team on staff.
Q. | Since the dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial (www.nps.gov/kowa/index.htm) in 1995 with its striking layout of 19 statues, how has awareness about this war changed?
A. | The Korean War came in between World War II and the Vietnam War. For one reason or another, there’s more controversy with Vietnam and more glory for World War II. The Korean War ... ended the same way as it started – along the 38th parallel. The war was unpopular at the time, and these soldiers who went over there kind of felt like they were underappreciated, which they were. In retrospect, it turned out pretty good. South Korea is a great nation, a great nation, and also a great Christian nation.
Q. | How did this third installment in your “Stories of Faith and Courage” book series, with the Korean War as the focus this time, develop?
A. | I’ve been working on it for a couple of years. I also have done books on World War II and Vietnam. My publisher asked me to do this book, and I didn’t know what to expect. … There were some amazing men and great stories that came out of this war. This is the first war that Americans didn’t win; it ended in a stalemate. … These veterans who were over there have tried to forget about it, and that’s not appropriate. You just have to look at the results of what they accomplished for South Korea. It’s an amazing story of a strong nation coming back from a devastating war, contrasted by has happened in North Korea. It’s a black hole. They still have hundreds of thousands of people in gulags … and more and more of them are escaping and getting old, and their stories are being told.
It’s still the most repressive government in the world. They rule with an iron hand and try not to let anybody on the outside know what’s going on. … They have cannibalized everything that was left by the Soviets. There’s no infrastructure; it’s just a mess.
Q. | What steps are needed to youth today grow up knowing about the massive sacrifice made that allowed South Korea to exist and thrive, even hosting the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988?
A. | We need to encourage our children to be curious and read, and study history. … With war, we’ve been through it before, often with the same kind of events. … Look at how World War II started. If we can take a look at how it started … we can see how it might have been prevented, and it might have prevented the Korean War as well. There’s lots of lessons in our history, and all we can do is encourage our kids to learn it.
Q. | With our nation losing so many World War II-era veterans to the inevitability of age, how do the Honor Flights nationwide help salute that generation, and will the Korean War veterans carry their torch?
A. | In the future, I’m reasonably sure Honor Flight will be taking Korean War veterans. Honor Flight is the greatest organization in our community.
Q. | What theme might occupy the next book to arise from your reflections as a student of history?
A. | I think my next project is going to be a skeptic’s guide to God. As a former skeptic myself, I have a message . … My little mission in life is to talk about faith and war. I’ve enjoyed this third career.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.