This quarter I finally get to tackle a subject that's been on my to-do list for years: the Korean War. I wanted to this topic because of a connection to my father, and because I previously knew so little about it. Several years ago, when I was just getting back into wargaming after a long hiatus, the military history book club run by Hungadunga here on BGG read The Coldest Winter, by David Halberstam. I was blown away by the story. As the nickname goes, the Korean War was kind of The Forgotten War for me. Except that I'd never really learned much about it in the beginning to forget. Thanks to the book and discussion here at BGG, I learned a great deal.
1st Marine Division at Chosin Colorized photo from mediadrumworld.com
My dad passed away one month ago, as of the date I'm writing this blog. He didn't share my love of wargames, but he DID instill my interest in military history. We watched many PBS and History Channel programs together, as well as war movies. We talked about history and politics. The Korean War was from his era, when he served as jet engine mechanic for B-47 Stratojets in the USAF. No, those jets didn't fly in that war. They came just after. They were the United States first strategic jet bomber. The momentous first year of the Korean War coincided with my dad's senior year in high school. I'm sure he & his buddies were thinking about their futures as they heard and watched news stories about the retreat, advances, more retreats, and bitter winter fighting for the Army and Marines. A separate USAF was itself only three years old when the Korean War broke out. He went to college for a couple years, then enlisted in that new Air Force. My dad went through basic training during the war's final months, and the armistice was signed shortly after. That makes him a veteran of the Korean War era, rather than the war itself. Instead, he & his generation were the first "cold warriors" of General Curtis LeMay's Strategic Air Command.
My dad, Dale Johnson (1933-2018). Served in USAF 1953-57.
Consequently, besides a long list of games that cover the ground and air war in Korea, I'll also be exploring a couple titles that include the B-47. It was never deployed in combat--good thing since it had been designed for a nuclear WW3--yet there are some alt-hist games that include it. Doing that is a nice way to still include my dad in my hobby, and even share him a little with my listeners. Many of you have probably gone through something like this. In our case, we are fortunate in that it was a peaceful passing, and we had many good years together. I sure miss him, though.
Check out the amazing back & forth swings in territory during the first year of the war. Historical animation by EmperorTigerstar
The Korean War is hardly forgotten when it comes to wargames and movies, I'm finding. Although there are far fewer games on it than WW2, Napoleonics, or the ACW, there are still many great choices for me to investigate. Besides big games that I won't get to, there are smaller games covering the entire conflict, or individual battles. There are others about the air war overhead. Of course, there are several treatments of MacArthur's brilliant Inchon invasion, as well as his misjudged provocation of Communist Chinese forces. As for movies...well, this is one subject where I cannot even watch all of the choices. There are too many!
At the end of February, I plan to feature an interview with designer Joe Balkoski. I'm also starting to think about who I might get for the final Korean War episode in March. Suggestions are welcome.
Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my Korean War explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.