SITREP: September 2001

By Dan Shea

We at SAR were considering that it has been fifty years since the Korean War was fought, and that late August and early September were the anniversary months of some of the seminal battles of that war. I use the word “War” on purpose- the fighting in Korea certainly qualifies it as such. However, there have been other titles to the conflict, and I wanted to be correct in titling. Therefore, in a conversation with one of the finest legal minds of the Korean War generation- I asked Colonel Jim Jeffries (USMCR Ret.) the following:

“Jim, is the name “Korean War” correct? Some of the writers label it the “Korean Police Action”.... sounds like “Vietnam Conflict” to me.... and I know that rankles a lot of us youngsters.

He replied: “Well Dan, you’ve touched on a real legal and semantical can of worms. The word “war” has great legal significance because the Constitution reserves the right to declare “war” to Congress. It also appears in a myriad of other statutes ranging from tax exemptions to combat pay to veteran’s benefits to various “wartime” emergency powers available to the government. To my recollection there have only been two formal declarations of war (WWI and WWII, not counting the Declaration of Independence and possibly the War of 1812), but by anyone’s count the United States has been a direct combatant in at least 20 full-fledged wars. The Korean “difficulty” was a “war” by anyone’s standards (more casualties in three years than in 10 years of Vietnam — third highest of all our wars, after WWII and the War of Northern Aggression — where of course the casualty count on both sides was American), combat pay, awards of combat decorations, etc., etc.

The controversy about whether Korea was a war or not arose from President Harry Truman’s scornful reference to it as a “police action” when queried about the rather awesome feats of arms by the 1st Marine Division contrasted with some of the bugouts by the Army. Truman was a WWI Army veteran (MO National Guard artillery Capt) who was extremely angry over all the press the Marines got during Belleau Wood and after — a long and interesting story in itself. His characterization of “police action” brought a quick outburst of public anger and a quick apology, but had no legal content whatsoever. Bottom line: By any test Korea was a “War” (and one technically that is not yet over since we are still operating under a truce)”.- Jim Jeffries.

That is good enough for us. “Korean War” it is.

As most readers are aware, Small Arms Review uses a diverse group of writers and styles to present many layers of the study of small arms. Much of our presentation is in reference to the collector community, in what they can purchase and own as part of collections, and much of what we present is for active military and industry people. In light of this, we have selected an eclectic mix for this issue- from the Army’s studies of the weapons, to the 57mm converted to 50 cal, we have tried to present the subject of small arms in the Korean War in such a light as to interest all of our readers, and perhaps educate each group to the interests of other readers.

Unfortunately, we were unable to include some of the submitted documents due to lack of space, and there are several small arms that merit discussion- and we have lengthy articles in process on these- and ask our readers to keep their eyes open for these in particular: Russian DP, Japanese Type 99 Rifles conv to 30-06 for Korean military use, and one on the PPSH41 variants.

Note - Nick Steadman sent us SADW on time for his schedule, but regrettably due to an accelerated SAR print schedule this month, we did not receive SADW in time for this issue, it will be back in the next issue.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V4N12 (September 2001)
and was posted online on April 18, 2014


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