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Epoch Cinema Documentary Series Review: ‘The Korean War Remembered’


Unfortunately, The Korean War (1950–1953) has largely faded from the memories of both American scholars and the general public. Indeed, it is commonly (and dismissively) referred to as “the Forgotten War,” even though it was a critical territorial conflict and constituted the first military action of the Cold War.

The Korean conflict was largely overshadowed by World War II. After all, it didn’t have a Pearl Harbor to get Americans fired up and ready for righteous action. There wasn’t much in the way of unbridled flag-waving American patriotism to rally behind.

In recent times, however, as those who fought in the Korean conflict pass away, Americans have become more curious about it—belatedly memorializing and honoring the brave military who went overseas to defend freedom from a massive communist invasion.

The Korean War Remembered,” subtitled “A Motion Picture History of the Korean War,” is a fascinating look at the brutal conflict that came on the heels of World War II. The 13-part, episodic documentary series is available to watch on EpochTV here.

The series is comprised of films including U.S. military combat bulletins, newsreels, and documentary footage produced at the time of the conflict. It begins with celebrated American director John Ford’s documentary “This is Korea,” released in 1951.

Although it is comparable to Frank Capra’s fantastic “Why We Fight” World War II documentary series and displays the same even-handed balance between combat and non-combat footage, Ford’s documentary is in full color—which lends much immediacy to the film.

U.S. Naval jets taking off from an aircraft carrier in “The Korean War Remembered.” (Republic Pictures)

Most of the combat footage is stunning. All manner of bombs explode into bright orange fireballs; ear-splitting mortar and artillery strikes thunder; naval guns from massive ships blast away just off the coast of Korea. Marines cover their advancing cohorts with zinging rifle fire—it’s all quite impactful.

Throughout the series, the masculine voices of the narrators pair well with each episode’s incredible footage.

We get an up-close look at the costs of war: crumbling buildings on fire; South Korean civilian casualties, refugees, orphaned children, and wounded U.S. troops being treated by combat medics in the field. In contrast, there are heartwarming scenes of American GIs singing together in make-shift churches during Christmas, or smiling as they read letters from back home.

An American serviceman sings in footage from “The Korean War Remembered” (Republic Pictures)

All of these beautiful and brutal, real-life scenes stand in stark contrast to the typical Hollywood feature film fare. Curiously, there haven’t been many Hollywood films about the Korean conflict. Perhaps the best of the slim pickings is 1954’s “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” starring William Holden and Grace Kelly. And of course, 1970’s “MASH,” was also well received and spawned a TV series that lasted a little over a decade.

It’s important to understand why Americans were in Korea in the first place. After World War II, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into communist North Korea and capitalist South Korea. In 1950, the North Korean military, backed by the communist Soviets and Chinese, invaded South Korea.

The North Koreans quickly overran South Korea, prompting America and its allies to come to South Korea’s aid. It was a hard-fought, grueling war that ended in an armistice being signed in 1953. However, a new division was created between North and South Korea called the demilitarized zone (DMZ)—an ironic moniker, given that it’s one of the most deadly borders in the world, with many casualties happening on both sides to this day.

South Korean children at play. “The Korean War Remembered” (Republic Pictures)

My hope is that “The Korean War Remembered” will stimulate curiosity about this crucial, off-ignored conflict. Given the rare footage offered, and its fantastic quality, I believe the series deserves a good look.

Watch “The Korean War Remembered on Epoch Cinema here.

‘The Korean War Remembered’

Director: John Ford Running Time: 50 minutes MPAA Rating: Not Rated Release Date: Aug. 10, 1951 Rated: 4 stars out of 5

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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