The Korean War is often referred to as the Forgotten War. Doctor Aviation does not forget today. This is a Thanksgiving Tribute to William Hovey and all Korean War Veterans.
The Forgotten War
This was the early stage of the Cold War. As World War II ended the Soviet Union began an insidious spread of its Communist cloak. Eastern Europe was brought into a period of darkness that would last until the 1990s and its effects are still felt today. In the East, Chiang Kai Shek’s government in China fell to Mao Tse Tung’s Communist Party in 1949 and China has been under a communist cloud since that time. Spurred and encouraged by Chairman Mao, North Korea endeavored to spread its communist wings south.
In 1950 Communist North Korea broke a fragile relationship with free South Korea by invading on June 25. Harry Truman felt that if the United States did not respond, it would send a clear signal to the Soviet Union and China that they were free to spread communism wherever they desire, unopposed.
Instead of declaring War (Truman was not sure he could get Congressional support), Truman called the United States into a “police action”. Several allies joined in and the war was on. It has been called The Forgotten War and it technically was not a war.
The United States forces were led by Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur devised a brilliant, yet risky, invasion at Inchon. The North Koreans were completely caught by surprise and quickly driven back across the 38th parallel back to North Korea. This was the critical point of the conflict. Truman had to decide if allied forces should stop at the 38th parallel or chase the North Koreans into North Korea. He opted for the chase.
The Chinese then entered the conflict to rescue their satellite. This resulted in a two and a half year back and forth quagmire/stalemate. In the midst Truman relieved McArthur and replaced him with Matthew Ridgeway. The United States employed jet fighters for the first time. Eisenhower became president and a peace was reached in 1953.
The Jet Age
The Korean War saw the first widespread use of the fighter jet. There was the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star, but the first with real impact was the Republic F-84 Thunderjet. This was quickly followed by the North American F-86 Sabre.
A couple of notable pilots flew during this period: Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams flew the Grumman F9F for the United States Marine Corps. While Neil Armstrong also flew F-9 Panthers from the USS Essex.
Heroes on the Ground
Many have read Laura Hillenbrand’s epic book, Unbroken, chronicling the story of Louie Zamperini. In that book, I learned of unknown heroes such as Bill Harris. His story is chronicled in pages 201-2010 and 386-388 of Unbroken.
However, I want to focus on William Hovey, or Mr. Hovey as he was and always will be known to me. Mr. Hovey was my History teacher as a sophomore and junior in High School. Mr. Hovey’s knowledge of World War II was unparalleled in my book. It was from Mr. Hovey that I learned of people like Erwin Rommel.
Students would cunningly strive to get Mr. Hovey off on one of his “war stories” so that we could be distracted from class. They thought it was funny and a game. I thought his stories were fascinating and chocked full of lessons.
One I shall never forget, and which is the point of this blog is Mr. Hovey’s Thanksgiving in Korea during the War. Hovey was a tough leather necked Marine. Fighting it out on the ground wit the other “grunts”. When it came time for a cold, desolate Thanksgiving, there was no turkey. Only cans of Spam. One can passed to each Marine.
Not to be denied (Necessity is the mother of Invention) the ingenuity of the Marines was stirred. They each opened their rectangular cans of spam. They combined them into a pot. Then one man began his culinary masterpiece. Those cans of Spam were combined into one big glob, which in turn was shaped into the shape of a turkey. It was then placed on a spear and then placed over a fire. It was then slowly rotated and “cooked” over the open flames. The Marines had their turkey on Thanksgiving.
As many of us set down for a real turkey today at Thanksgiving, let us be thankful for our many blessings. And for men like Mr. Hovey who were willing to eat Spam turkey in the cold so that others could have freedom.