Letters from Our Readers

By American History magazine
6/2/2014 • American History, American History Letters

Korean War Legacy
In the June 2014 Interview (“Why Is Korea the ‘Forgotten War’?”), Melinda Pash pointed out that the American military was a leader in integration during the very segregated 1950s. She is quite correct. I served in the Marine Corps from 1955 to 1958. I never saw a hint of institutional discrimination on a USMC base. Off the base was another matter. I spent my last 12 months in the Corps at Camp Lejeune, N.C. I couldn’t go off the base and have a beer with a black buddy because none of the nearby bars would serve blacks. It is not generally known that the military was a leader in integration; as a former Marine (notice I didn’t say “ex”), I salute Pash for bringing this to light.

R. Conrad Stein
Chicago, Ill.

I was dismayed by Melinda Pash’s comment that Korean War vets remained silent about their service while “veterans of both World War II and the Vietnam War came back to talk about what they did and to form veterans organizations.” As a Vietnam combat veteran, I can only ask, What Vietnam vets have you talked to?

My experience is that the vast majority of Vietnam vets chose to “disappear.” We did not join the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, etc., in any great numbers because we were not welcome. We formed our own organization, Vietnam Veterans of America, in 1981. I emphatically believe that the aftermath to any particular armed conflict will find its own course. We, as a nation, are at least 10 to 20 years away from any real understanding of how the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will deal with their hurts, fears, angers, hopes and dreams, and that includes my 40-year-old Iraq veteran son.

Richard Timmerman
River Falls, Wisc.

Melinda Pash’s interview about the Korean War highlighted several points many of us probably hadn’t fully considered before: Only a third who served had been drafted. Most American defectors had social problems before the war. Desegregation in the military helped lead to desegregation at home. But one comment disturbed me: “American POWs in Korea experienced a level of torture and abuse largely absent from previous wars.” That seems to overlook the Bataan Death March and extreme conditions in Japanese prisoner of war camps in World War II.

Jim Bartos
Brooklyn Park, Minn.

Kudos to JQ
It has been the fate of John Quincy Adams to be overshadowed by his peers. Although Peter Onuf mistakenly identifies Adams as the fifth president (he was the sixth) in his review of John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan (June 2014), he quickly rebounds and provides an excellent summary of a career that spanned more than 60 years. Kaplan’s book will enhance Adams’ historical reputation. It would benefit us as a nation if we had a few more leaders like Adams. One can only hope that the current members of Congress will set polling, fundraising and Green Eggs and Ham aside long enough to read this most recent attempt to give John Quincy Adams his due.

Mike Parsons
Macomb, Mich.

Taunton’s Flag for Liberty
We at the Old Colony Historical Society in Taunton, Mass., very much enjoyed “The Spirit of ’74” (June 2014) and the discussion of events in Worcester. However, we wanted to direct your attention to the fact that on October 21, 1774, Tauntonians raised a Liberty Pole, 112 feet high, on Taunton Green and flew a rebellious flag with “Liberty and Union” stitched on it. Taunton was the first community in the American colonies to raise a flag in stated opposition to British rule, and a “Liberty and Union” flag flies proudly over our city to this day.

Katie MacDonald
Director and Ruby Winslow Linn Curator
Old Colony Historical Society
Taunton, Mass.


Unraveling Mary Baker Eddy
Thanks to Erika Janik for her intellectual curiosity and lively writing, both of which grace your April issue (“Think Positive”). And a comment to wrestle with from a fellow historian: Mary Baker Eddy rejected Mesmer’s theories, while Phineas P. Quimby and the New Thought tradition embraced them. Eddy’s claim to unorthodox Christian revelation was the core difference. Still, she admired Quimby’s character, in her later writings even comparing him to John the Baptist. Scholars of religion, including myself, grapple with how to classify and understand the history of Christian Science. Janik is hardly alone in this ongoing task. I wish her well in it. Perhaps this note will provide her, and American History’s readers, with new views into how Eddy built her unconventional religion on a rejection of Mesmer’s theories.

Amy B. Voorhees
2013-14 Fellow, Boston Athenaeum and American Congregational Association
Rumney, N.H.


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