Archive for October, 2007

The Forgotten War


I’ve been reading a bit lately about the Korean War.  Not only has this been a gap in my own history knowledge, but I would wager my next paycheck that I’m not the only one who lacks any real understanding of this war.  World War II and Vietnam get all the attention, but Korea has long been overlooked, hence the moniker The Forgotten War.  Hard to imagine a war in which nearly 50,000 Americans were killed could be forgotten.  It was the first major armed conflict of the Cold War involving the United States and a Soviet proxy and the first test of UN solidarity in the face of a major world conflagration.  It was called a “police action” at the time, but to the men on the ground it was a war in every sense of the word.  Up to this point about the only knowledge I had on the subject was that there was in fact a war between North and South Korea and there must have been some renegade doctors working the field hospitals sewing stitches by day, and busting them at night with hilarious hijinx and wacky nurse-chasing antics.  I got that from M.A.S.H.  Like I said, I’m just beginning to look into this subject and as I do I plan on imparting the knowledge gained onto you, the faithful reader or meandering netizen.  Until then–notice I’m not giving myself a deadline–lets test your knowledge with a Korean War pop quiz.  Put your answers in the comments.  After a few have answered I’ll give the answers.  Ready, go (and no Googling or Wiking)!

1.  Who was President when the Korean War broke out?

2.  What decade did the war take place in, and what years specifically?

3.  Who was the commanding General for the United Nations forces at the outset of the war?

4.  What eventually happened to him? 

5.  What other Asian country became involved in the war?

Extra-Credit-Really-Hard-Bonus Question:  Where did the UN forces make a daring amphibious landing that the Supreme Commander gave a 1-in-5000 chance for success?

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Pop Quiz

Ominous title, I know.  Well, a history teacher in the Bay Area thought that his students needed one.  A pop quiz on World War II.  His students are juniors and, hypothetically, had studied WWII in both their sophmore and junior years.  The results were less than impressive.  As an article in the San Francisco Chronicle details:

If high school juniors’ answers to a World War II questionnaire were strung together, here’s how history would look:

World War II took place in 19-something, when Theodore Roosevelt was president and the Germans claimed to be the best race.

Hoping to aid Third World countries, the United States joined the war to stop racism and end the dispute over Jews.

The head of the Nazis was a killer named Hitler whose evil partner, Mussolini, was president of the USSR. Ultimately, the war ended with the bombing of Iwo Jima and Hitler’s suicide. Then a treaty was signed.

Well, I just finished watching The War and Ken Burns must have really screwed up because I don’t remember it happening like that.  Unfortunately in our schools these days, history seems to be getting pushed off to the side.  I’m sure its always been a tough task for teachers to make what seems like old, dusty stuff to kids seem alive, interesting, and relevant.  It seems like other subjects, like math, english, and science, are given priority.  I’m not expert on education, and maybe those others are more practical, but as someone who loves history and sees the value in knowing our own, I find it sad that it appears to be neglected in many cases.  It’s tough for teachers because there’s always more every year and its tough to cover a couple hundred years in a school year without skimming over everything.  I remember when I was in school, it always seemed like the history classes barely got past the pilgrims.  Things like the Civil War and especially WWII seemed like they were thousands of years away, not tens.  In my junior year my American History teacher actually started the year with the Civil War because she knew we’d never have time to get to even the twentieth century if we didn’t.  I don’t have any answers or suggestions for making this better, like I said, I’m no expert on education.  Just some rambling thoughts.

Below is the quiz that the HS kids took, with the answers in small print at the bottom.  Quiz yourself and post your score.  I promise not to make fun of you…too much.  (I got 100%, BTW).

World War II quiz

Test your World War II knowledge – or your children’s. This Chronicle questionnaire was administered in San Francisco to 36 sophomores, 34 juniors and 20 seniors – but without benefit of multiple-choice options. Below is a multiple-choice version of the quiz, with each choice – incorrect, correct and nearly correct – taken from the students’ original answers.

1. When was World War II?

a. 1700

b. 1939 to 1945

c. Europe: 1930 to 1945; U.S.: 1941-1945

d. 1967

2. Who was president during most of World War II?

a. Woodrow Wilson

b. Theodore Roosevelt

c. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

d. Harry Truman

3. Who was Winston Churchill?

a. Prime Minister of the U.K.

b. General of the U.S.

c. A dictator

d. Some important dude

4. Who was Adolf Hitler?

a. Super evil guy

b. Nazi leader

c. Killer of Jews

d. All of the above

5. Who was Benito Mussolini?

a. Soviet leader

b. An explorer

c. Dictator of Italy

d. A columnist

6. Who was Rosie the Riveter?

a. Icon of U.S. female participation in the war

b. A protester

c. Gay gang member

d. Congressman

7. What caused the U.S. to join World War II?

a. Fighting over Hawaii

b. Revenge

c. Zimmerman’s note

d. The bombing of Pearl Harbor

8. How did World War II end?

a. Two atomic bombs were dropped in China

b. Hitler’s suicide

c. Germany lost as Allies pushed into Berlin, Japan was bombed by two atom bombs, and Emperor Hirohito surrendered.

d. Americans and Russians freed the Jews

9. What was the war about?

a. Racism

b. Communism

c. Boston tea

d. Liberation of Europe and the Pacific

10. What was the Holocaust?

a. Genocide of over 6 million Jews and others

b. Slavery

c. Killing of those that weren’t white

d. People looking down on Jews


1. b; 2. c; 3. a; 4. d; 5. c; 6. a; 7. d; 8. c; 9. d; 10. a

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