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War Remains by Jeffrey Miller: An Accessible Account of the Korean War

War Remains by Jeffrey Miller: An Accessible Account of the Korean War

September 26, 20112233Views

By Konrad Kostecki

Other features by the reviewer:

Losing Katherine: Death of a Korean Girlfriend: Part 1 and Part 2

Turning 30 on the 13th floor of a Korean dorm: Part 1 and  Part 2

In his novel, “War Remains”, Jeffrey Miller has done an excellent job in depicting selected events that occurred during the Korean War. The 1950 – 1953 conflict on the Korean peninsula has been dubbed by historians “the forgotten war”.Professor Richard C. Kagan from the University of Minnesota gives a good summary of the reasons why the Korean War has been dubbed “forgotten”.

One of the main reasons is the fact that the conflict wasn’t even officially called a war—rather, it was referred to as “police action” and it occurred between WWII and Vietnam. It ended in a stalemate along the 38th parallel. Despite the “forgotten” tag, the Korean War has been far from forgotten by the people whose lives came in direct contact with the war: those whose lives were shattered by the enormous tragedy that this war brought.

Sadly today, unless one happens to be a history buff, most people’s knowledge of the Korean War is based on watching reruns of MASH. I remember myself having zero knowledge of the Korean War, not to mention of Korea, prior to coming here. Well, that is life; we live and learn but it helps if a writer comes along and brings the history closer to us, more alive in a fictionalized form and yet accurate, based on real events. Such presentation of history is more exciting and palatable to the general public who might otherwise scoff at dry, academic writing. If Jeffrey Miller’s intentions in writing this book included renewing interest in the Korean War and making the subject accessible to non-historians, he has overwhelmingly succeeded.

The narrative of  Miller’s book deals with the character of Robert “Bobby” Washkowiak who serves through the brutal winter of the first year of the Korean War.  He writes letters to his family describing the horrors of the war while trying to assuage his desperate desire to see his wife and newborn son. The letters are to be his last testament.

Then, fifty years later, his son and grandson discover a pile of these letters hidden away in an old footlocker in the attic of the family house. Together they try to piece together what had happened to Bobby on one of the battlefields of the Korean War. Unknown to them, there is an ongoing investigation of the remains of over 8000 servicemen still listed as missing in action. The search has uncovered the remains of a service member near the town of Hoengsong. Could these be the remains of Bobby, listed as missing on Feb.12, 1951?  “War Remains” takes the reader on the search for answers to see if Bobby can finally be put to rest.

The site for War Remains: http://www.warremains.blogspot.com/

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conradKonrad was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1976, the year of the Dragon.

In 1987, he was abruptly uprooted from his surroundings by his parents and taken to Italy where he lived for almost two years in a refugee camp in Ostia, just outside of Rome. There he attended the remaining years of elementary school where he learned to speak Italian.

After the stint in Italy, his fate took him to Australian shores where he continued his education and mischief. After graduating university and driven by ennui and lack of ideas as to what to do with his life, he came to South Korea where he remains to this day plotting his departure.

He’s a fan of Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Milan Kundera, J.M Coetzee among others.

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