How is it that Americans tuned into “M*A*S*H” for 11 years — savoring a mighty impressive 250-plus episodes — and yet the Korean War remains “The Forgotten War”? The answer may be that while “M*A*S*H” reminded us that war is hell, anything that comes with a laugh track is likely to dial down the violence, evisceration and sheer terror that accompany battle. Moreover, “M*A*S*H” was a general anti-war statement, not an attempt to illuminate the specific “police action” that was sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War.
Over the past few years, however, it has seemed to me that Korea is finally being remembered for the three-year nightmare it was. Recently, I’ve read histories of the conflict by David Halberstam (“The Coldest Winter”) and Bruce Cumings (“The Korean War: A History”), as well as Jayne Anne Phillips’s novel “Lark & Termite” — a National Book Award finalist in 2009. Nobel laureate Toni Morrison has just published “Home,” a novel about a Korean War veteran.