Hallock Lecturer Millett has Investigated Korean War to its Roots

COLUMBUS, Ga. - When Allen Millett started digging into a planned 20-year Korean war history project in the early 1990s, he consulted with a trio of his former graduate students who had become military officers in their home nation, South Korea. 

Millett, the renowned military historian and author, asked for “the most important thing Western readers should know about the war.” The Koreans unanimously responded the conflict was “a total war between two irreconcilable revolutionary movements” that emerged from 1910-1945 Japanese colonial oppression "with different visions of what modern Korea should be," Millett said.

The Korean perspective of internal revolutionary adversaries – Marxist-Leninists and nationalists – driving the Korean War is at the center of Millett’s “Who Forgot the Korean War and Why?” – his presentation slated for Columbus State University’s Hallock Lecture Series 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24 in the Cunningham Center. Allan Millett  Admission is free and open to the public. 

In the context of military conflicts through history, Millett, a former Marine officer and director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, has characterized Korea’s as a forgotten war, overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War, primarily because it was operationally complex with a conclusion perceived as an anomaly because the opposing parties’ differences remain unresolved.

Furthermore, when the war is studied, it’s viewed primarily through the perspectives of the United States, China and the former Soviet Union, and such an approach is of limited value, he said in a telephone interview.

Millett, right, has spoken face-to-face with Koreans who experienced the war from both sides to help shape a “Korean perspective that also accommodates the U.S., PRC (China) and USSR perspectives and deals with the Cold War rivalries and the decolonization wars of Asia, which includes the struggle for Korea,” he said. “The advantage to this approach is that it places the Koreans at the center of their own terrible history” and provides for a more complete foundation to “understand the possibilities and problems of nation-building as well as the perils of postcolonial politics.”

Such history is illustrated by 10 percent of all Koreans  (three million) dying in the war, with 80 percent of the dead non-combatants. “People do not forget such a war for generations, if ever,” Millett said.

Millett’s Korean War research has yielded several publications, including the recent books The War for Korea, 1950-1951: They Came from the North (2010) and The War for Korea, 1945-1950: A House Burning (2005). In between, he wrote The Korean War (2007) as a guide for researching the war.

While recognized among the world’s leading experts of the Korean War, Millett also is a senior military advisor for the National World War II Museum and earned the prestigious Pritzker Military Library Literature Award in 2008 for lifetime achievement in military writing.

His appearance at Columbus State is funded by the Hallock Lecture Series, coordinated by the Department of History and Geography and made possible through a gift from the Richard R. Hallock Foundation For more information, call 706-507-8350 or go to www.ColumbusState.edu/history.