[FOUNTAIN]The person of the year“The man of 1950 was not a statesman; Dean Acheson and his fellow diplomats of the free world had, in 1950, notably failed to stop the march of Communism. Nor was the 1950 man a general; the best commander of the year, MacArthur, had blundered and been beaten... As the year ended, the 1950’s man seemed to be an American in the bitterly unwelcome role of a fighting man.”
At the end of year in which the Korean War broke out, Time magazine chose the U.S. soldier as its man of the year for his courageous struggle in a strange battlefield. The Korean War was an unexpected conflict, and the American GIs were not familiar with the Korean Peninsula. The 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, known as Task Force Smith, was the first unit to be called into battle. The soldiers were in high spirits, thinking the North Korean People’s Army would flee the moment they saw the faces of Americans. But the first battle in Osan was a crushing defeat of ignorance. The more formidable foes were the severe weather and guerrillas. Many American soldiers, especially the black G.I.s from the south, experienced temperatures below 14 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time and suffered from frostbite. North Korean troops would disguise themselves as civilian refugees and take the American troops by surprise. Some soldiers would compulsively point their guns at the people wearing white clothes, civilian garb.
Time magazine wrote at the time that very few soldiers had foreseen “the incredibly dirty and desperate war that waited for them,” and while soldiers in all lands and times have hated wars, the Korean War was especially hated by the soldiers. The Korean War is remembered as a war of winter. The magazine did not forget to make clear that “Communism was a reaction, an effort to turn the tide of worldwide forces set free by U.S. progress back into the old channels of slavery.”
Fifty-three years have passed, and Time magazine again named the American soldier as the person of the year. The magazine believes in “benevolent hegemony” and stressed that the U.S. forces voluntarily participated in the war “for the challenge of defending not only our freedoms but those barely stirring half a world away.” As Samuel Huntington put it, the 20th century was the era of America, as the 21st century will be.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.