In July of 1950, barely five years after America and her allies demanded “unconditional surrender” by the enemy as the price for ending World War II, America was drawn into another war in a country few could have found on a map.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, and within days, American troops and United Nations allies were in South Korea, helping to repel the invaders.
It was our nation’s first experience with “limited war,” the notion that our forces would try so hard — but no harder — to achieve victory. Whereas in World Wars I and II, our resolve was to kick butt, take names, and leave victorious, limited war was something less.
Exactly how much less, I suggest, still is not clearly defined. Vietnam was a “limited war” with nearly unlimited negative consequences to national pride. Its warriors, every bit as brave as those who fought in the world wars, received a lethargic and often hostile welcome when they returned home.
The nation owes them a massive apology, as well as our thanks.
America was mired in the Korean War for slightly more than three years, at which time fighting ended, not with victory, but with an armistice which to this day results in an uneasy peace.
Against this background, few Bartowans remember that during those three years of what today is often called the “forgotten war,” Bartow showed a special form of support for American troops in Korea.
Bootsie Mann Moore contacted me a few weeks ago to ask if I remembered the sounding of the steam whistle at the city power plant as a “call to prayer” every day at noon. I had a vague recollection (I was only 9 years old), but I knew who could run down the information.
My good friend Lloyd Harris, a fellow retired Florida National Guardsman and an avid local historian, is my go-to guy for such inquiries. Eventually he will change both his phone number and his email address, and it will serve me right.
After many hours of researching the bound volumes of The Polk County Democrat, he found that on Sept. 12, 1950, City Manager C.R. Odom announced that in response to requests from Mrs. J.H. Hawthorne, president of the Union Missionary Society, and Miss Rosalie Brown, president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the steam whistle would be sounded each day at noon “to unify Bartow prayers for Americans fighting in Korea.”
The whistle was sounded for the first time at noon four days later, signaling a daily call for one minute of prayer.
The gesture was a repeat of a practice observed in Bartow during World War II.
Today, Korea may be the “forgotten war,” but in the 1950s, this daily call to prayer proclaimed Bartow’s commitment to America’s troops.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. His research revealed that 33,686 Americans were killed in Korea, and 8,176 were listed as missing in action. Six of their names are found on Bartow’s Veterans Memorial Walk. For them, Korea was not a “limited war.” God rest their souls.)