Sunday, September 25, 2011

American Wars

In World War II, the United States had approximately 16.5 million men and women in uniform. Of these about 2 percent were killed. In World War II, the US Marines had approximately 669 thousand men and women in uniform. Of these about 3-1/2 percent were killed. In World War I, 3 percent of US Marine participants were killed.

In the Korean War 424,000 US Marines participanted and 4,500 were killed. In the Vietnam War 1.6 percent of US Marine participants were killed. What is my point?

The POWs in the Pacific faced death and disease on a daily basis for almost 4 years. They died at a higher casualty rate than any war of the last two centuries. Since returning home they have died at a rate 3 times that of POWs from the European Theater of Operations. Yet many of them came away from that experience with a sense of shame, with a feeling they had not done enough.

The Japanese constantly told them they did not deserve to live because they had surrendered. Try to find mention of them in history books, especially the North China Marines. Our government did little if anything to help them adjust when they came home. They did not receive their full back pay until 57 years after they returned home, and then in 1942 dollars and with no interest. (Feb 2010 - Now evidence has arisen they were not given the promotions they were actually due.) Interest was finally paid in 2007-to surviving POWs or their living spouses, only 17 North China Marines were still living.

If they made a career out of the Marines and retired after 20 years, their disability pay is subtracted from their retirement pay. This issue is still not completely rectified. Many of them were awarded a Purple Heart on their return to the states. In most cases that award was not entered into their records-or was deleted.

Today officials drag their feet on paperwork submitted for those Purple Hearts. In 2004 one North China Marine was recommended for a Medal of Honor for his actions in 1942. There was no action on that recommendation for a full year after it was submitted by a retired Marine general who was a witness to the event. Then the official finding was that since no medal had been awarded at the end of the war there would be none awarded now. Further paperwork was submitted as of October 2007. As of February 2010 there was still no action.

So it is easy to see how these former prisoners might feel the way they do. But there should be no shame. There should be a sense of having served their fellow Americans in a manner few others have, at a cost few others have paid. There should be pride.

These men should be seen as examples of what it truly means to be an American.