The statue at Inchon
Crackling radio reports early on September 15, 1950 picked up via staticky shortwave radio told Americans of the unexpected, unbelievably high-risk Invasion of Inchon by our armed forces, led by five-star general Douglas MacArthur. That turnaround in the Korean War was the best life-saving military news since five years past, when two A-bombs ended World War II.
In the months before Inchon, American Marines and soldiers had been electrocuted on barbwire, tortured, and pushed south to land's end by the evil forces of Communist North Korea. All but a tiny foothold of South Korea had fallen to the enemy. After winning a war fought on six continents and seven seas, America was being humiliated on that small Korean peninsula. That world in which Americans lived changed on the day of MacArthur's highly successful invasion.
The brilliantly conceived Invasion of Inchon by MacArthur 67 years ago is considered one of the greatest operations in military history. Seoul was liberated ten days after MacArthur's landing and is now among the world's leading cities. The vibrant economy built by free South Koreans would not exist if MacArthur's Inchon invasion had failed.
Unlike Dwight Eisenhower and Black Jack Pershing, who commanded from safe spaces behind the lines, MacArthur led his armed forces into action. MacArthur, then age 70, directed the embattled Inchon landing from the deck of the USS Mount McKinley (her namesake peak later erased by Obama). MacArthur then waded ashore in muddy, treacherous terrain in similar manner to his October 20, 1944 invasion at Leyte, in fulfillment of his "I shall return!" promise.
Today, Douglas MacArthur's bronze statue, ten feet tall atop an 18-foot base, stands high above the invasion site in Inchon's Freedom Park. Statues of men are erected to show gratitude for accomplishments and courageous achievements. In a larger sense, we build statues to leave for posterity so that our great, great grandchildren will forever know of this man, his deed, and this time in which we have lived.
If today you are a college student, your grandfather will tell you that South Korea is free and prosperous because Douglas MacArthur, his officers, and his men saved South Korea from the malignant communism that still enslaves the people's cousins in North Korea. But your professor will tell you that the MacArthur statue at Inchon must be torn down by a mob because Douglas MacArthur was a war criminal who prevented the "peaceful" reunification of North Korea with South Korea. "His statue is a symbol of war. It must be torn down," says Lee Kwang-ho, assistant director-general of the Inchon Sociality for Peace and Participation. A police guard protects the MacArthur statue from professors and their students, organized by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. The most violent of several attempts to topple the tall statue failed when thousands of Inchon residents and police protected the monument in 2005.
Those who tear down our statues are intent on erasing our history from the minds of future generations. During his brief occupation of Paris, Adolf Hitler torn down 17,000 French statues, most of which have never been replaced.
A plaque in front of the guarded Inchon statue gives a moving testimonial to Douglas MacArthur's genius:
It was here at Inchon that we knew the incalculable height of his genius. With the infinite capacity of his vision he conceived, and on September 15, 1950, he personally executed an almost unbelievable landing operation which instantly turned the course of the war to the triumph of freedom and the salvation of this Republic.
This is a deed and this is a man to hold eternally in honored memory. And thus it is by the authority and the contributions of a grateful people that the General Douglas MacArthur Statue Committee consisting of representatives of all walks of life has raised this figure fashioned in General MacArthur's heroic mold by Professor Kyung Seung Kim to overlook this hallowed scene for all ages to come.
We shall never forget what he and his valiant officers and men ... did here for us and for freedom. And until the last battle against the malignant infection of Communism has finally been won, may we never forget it was also he who said, "In war there is no substitute for victory." –dedicated 9/15/1957
MacArthur was a lone voice calling for the Inchon landing on Korea's west coast. Addressing a Tokyo gathering of doubtful admirals and generals on August 23, MacArthur spoke with a mastery of Aristotelian rhetoric for 45 minutes. He reviewed communism's plan of global conquest, concluding: "I can almost hear the ticking of the second hand of destiny. We must act now, or we will die. Inchon will succeed, and we will save 100,000 lives. I shall land at Inchon, and I shall crush them."
Nowhere on Earth is the contrast between liberty and socialism more visible than where the 38th Parallel cuts across the Korean peninsula. The plaque in front of the guarded Inchon statue puts it succinctly: "This is a deed and this is a man to hold eternally in honored memory."
Michael J. Fahy is an attorney at law in Chicago.