Rights For Korean War Soldiers
Rep. Thomas J. Lane Implores Congress To Aid Vets

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | April 27, 2017                    

"Wounded when a mine blew up his Jeep, an ambulance driver sobs by the side of the road after learning that a friend was killed in the blast, Korea 1950." Photo by David Douglas Duncan | LIFE magazine

Congressman Thomas Joseph Lane (1898-1994) of Massachusetts, a Democrat, delivered this stirring, little-known speech on the Korean War in the House of Representatives in 1952.

In addition to more empathy and recognition of their sacrifice, Lane proposed providing American soldiers with a G.I. Bill of Rights, rehabilitation programs and other federal aid. The government’s negligent treatment of these young men was a damning indictment of President Truman, one of the most unpopular administrations in U.S. history.

Other than being recorded in the Congressional Record, Rep. Lane’s presentation is transcribed here for probably the first time ever.

See also:

Korean War media archive
Harry Truman media archive
United States media archive

January 9, 1952


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under previous order of the House, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Lane) is recognized for 10 minutes.

Rep. Thomas J. (1898-1994) of Massachusetts Mr. LANE. Mr. Speaker, you just try and tell the men who fought in Korea that it was only “a police action” and you will get a bitter barrage for an answer.

A year and a half of battle with a price tag that reads “over 100,000 in killed, wounded, and missing” is not a bargain-basement skirmish.

Americans in Korea not only fought fear and pain and climate and a reckless enemy as all soldiers do. For the first time in our history they had to combat an additional danger—lack of confidence in the folks who were living so comfortably on the home front.

“Do the people really understand what we went through? Do they know the burden that some of our wounded will bear for the rest of their lives?

“Or is it all just make-believe to them who prosper because we live, and sometimes die, like animals?”

That is the gripe that comes from Korea.

And behind it all the terrible doubt that their sacrifices are being manipulated for political purposes, to cover up the blunders that they did not make.

We can start to make amends by frankly reexamining that the men in Korea have met war in all its brutality, that they are combat veterans in every sense of the word, and that they are entitled to full equality with their brothers and fathers who served in World War II when it comes to rights and benefits.

There are some men in high places who think that they are still playing with wooden soldiers, but time will rebuke their immaturity. They are expendable. But, in the name of conscience, stop trying to kid the men who know, really know, what war is.

They call it rotation, this gradual return of veterans to the dream world that is the United States. They are welcomed like home-coming travelers, who are expected to relieve our boredom with exciting tales of their adventures. We are disappointed when they do not talk. If we are intelligent, we become aware of their silent fury at the emptiness of understanding that they find here.

Must this war be regarded as a mere training maneuver, just to avoid offending the Communists? And to maintain this terrible fiction, must we treat the veterans of Korea as peacetime soldiers, denied the benefits that we granted to the men and women who served in World War II? The Congress can ignore many facts of life. It has been known to distort others. It cannot, by the simple device of neglect, cancel out the bleeding, suffering, and dying of young Americans who were ordered into battle by their Government to fight far from home on the bleak peninsula of Asia.

What these men went through in Korea was grim and real.

Some of them have come back to the States, and to Washington, to meet a greater shock than they ever experienced in combat. Above the thirty-eighth parallel in Korea there was hard fighting that tested each man’s character and courage. Above the thirty-eighth parallel, in the vicinity of the District of Columbia, United States of America, there was feverish wire pulling, fixing, and influence peddling that tested, in reverse, the capacity of other alleged Americans for betrayal.

They tried to cover it up, but the truth will out.

Grafters had to be taken care of first, while defense production lagged, and the rights of our Korean veterans were postponed.

It seems that we were not backing up our fighting men in a way that would inspire them with pride and confidence. As a consequence, they feel that a nation, misrepresented by a few counterfeit characters, has let them down.

We take care of their physical wounds, and think that we can let it go at that, oblivious to the deeper hurt which is their loss of faith in us. It was not the enemy who inflicted this upon them, but the birds of prey disguised as human beings who fatten on the sacrifices of its precious youth.

There are signs that the people want to expose these vultures and “cage” a few of them.

That will take time.

Meanwhile, for a healthy change, there are the Korean veterans to consider.

Remember? They fought for us, and they are coming home to us. Only a year and a half has been taken from their lives according to the calendar. By the names of months and numbers days, however, we cannot reckon the extent of their displacement, or the rehabilitation that may be required.

I do not plead for the dead. Who can?

Only outstanding leadership, putting the welfare of the Nation before any personal considerations, and working with a clean, strong heart, to bring us out of the wilderness, can make up in part, to the dead, for the mistakes that have been made.

The living who return, with scars on body and spirit, of these we must think and help, because it is not too late to do something for them.

They need educational and vocational assistance, loans to build homes, loans to get started in business. Hospital and medical and disability compensation benefits are not enough.

We must provide vocational rehabilitation for disabled veterans, for readjustment allowances and on-the-job training for all who served during the period of the Korean war. Their reemployment rights must be protected, they must be given preference in appointments to the Federal Government, and given credit for military service under the Social Security Act.

Patchwork legislation already qualifies them for some of these and other benefits, but the coverage is full of holes.

Therefore I suggest that we recognize the Korean veterans as equal to World War II veterans by granting to them all the benefits as spelled out in the original GI Bill of Rights.

If you have any objections, better try them out on the men who are returning from Korea.

The Korean War Makes No Sense | Robert C. Ruark (1951)
The Korean War Makes No Sense | Robert C. Ruark (1951)

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Related links:

Soldiers killed in Korean War denied full dignity on gravestones (1951)

A Fateful Convergence At Walter Reed Army Hospital

The Vietnam War | IRAN | What Lessons Did America Learn?

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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