Even though I was six years old at the time of the Marines' fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir, its images are burned into the tribal memory of Marines of all generations. I won't bore you with the details, hit the link. Suffice it to say that the Jarheads pretty much turned getting their ass kicked into a tremendous moral victory.
Now, I like ships and planes and depictions of the big picture, but all that boils down to the guys who suffer for their leaders' ambitions - the snuffies with their rifles. Sometimes they fight and suffer and die for the good of mankind, like in WWII. Sometimes the cause is just in the beginning, like Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, but is later perverted into something that shouldn't have been.
Sometimes they fight and die for reasons that are perverted and immoral right from the get-go, for purely evil political ambition and greed, spun as "defending the
That trooper in the painting - cold, hungry, scared, but still on his feet, still a fighting man - is retreating in the worst conditions imaginable due to a series of his leaders' mistakes.
First, MacArthur's egomaniacal decision, not just to chase the North Koreans back to North Korea, but to chase them all the way past North Korea and into China. "Home by Christmas" was the mantra. My ass. Besides being a bad idea, no doubt fostered in his mind in the wake of his startling against-all-odds victory at Inchon, ol' 'Dugout Doug' chose to ignore a coupla minor details, like the fierce North Korean winter that came howling down from Siberia pretty reg'lar every year since about forever.
The other thing he chose to ignore was really minor, like about a gazillion Chinese just across the Yalu River from where MacArthur said he was going to stop his advance, but really wanted to keep going 'til he got to Moscow. Communist China was only a year old at the time, and Mao Tse-Tung had only recently kicked the Nationalist Chinese, with whom we had sided against the Japanese, off the mainland and onto Formosa. They did not want an American army on their border, for good reason, and sent so many "volunteers" (I've been 'volunteered' like that) into the fray that it caused one young Marine to ask, "Hey, Sarge, just how many hordes are there in a Chinese platoon?".
MacArthur then chose not to believe reports from his field commanders that the Chinese were in the fight. He pressed on regardless, until it became obvious that all the spin in the world, and the First Marine Division and Eighth Army as well, weren't going to stop them. The technical term for how 8th Army dealt with it was "bugged out", but 1stMarDiv, surrounded by Chinese, did a smart about face and fought their way out.
The other leader's mistake was Truman's, who let MacArthur do this. He later fired MacArthur over it and for calling for us to nuke China, but the damage was done. If Truman had drawn MacArthur up and had him stop at the 38th parallel, the war would have been over, or at least would have been reduced to about what it is now, a coupla million soldiers glaring at one another across the DMZ. Instead, the Korean War dragged on in virtual stalemate for 2½ more years at hideous expense in blood and money and isn't over yet. All as a result of extremely poor judgment on the part of two men.
Remind you of anything? The model here is 41's Gulf War - objective gained, army stop, do not go to Baghdad, do not collect quagmire, do not wreck nations (ours as well as theirs) in the process. There's a nation or two on the border to consider as well.
The parallel to what is happening in Iraq is not exact, but it is most certainly there. Today, the hideous expense in blood and money is the result of extremely poor judgment of the two most powerful men in the world, a ruthless demented zealot and his sock puppet, a demented clueless dry drunk, an easily-led zealot of a different kind who is lost in denial to the detriment of the nation and the world for generations to come. It almost makes you wax nostalgic for the days when a washed-up old general could do something stupid, but be held accountable for it. Ah, those were simpler times.
And the troopers? Still fighting and dying. For nothing but greed and oil. At least the Korean War and Vietnam War were fought at the outset to contain the spread of Communism.
I fervently wish for our troops to get the Hell out of Iraq before they have to fight their way out like the trooper in the painting.