A new exhibit, Korean War: American Forces in Korea, is now available to view in the Prince Family Veterans Resource Center on the ground floor of Vasey Hall. The exhibit focuses on the Korean War, which was fought in 1950-1953 between North Korea, supported by China and the Soviet Union, and South Korea, supported by the United States. Following three years of conflict, the two sides agreed to an Armistice, resulting in a Demilitarized Zone along the 38th parallel north, which divides the Korean peninsula to this day. Korean War: American Forces in Korea was curated by Director of Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Michael Foight and Distinctive Collections Coordinator Christoforos Sassaris. It includes a range of materials covering the war, from 1950s comic books to a letter signed by President Harry S. Truman.
The first case, pictured above, includes two US military publications that shed light on the experiences of US troops stationed in Korea. The Hour Glass was a newspaper that chronicled the activities of the 7th Infantry Division; it provided US troops with information about Korean history, culture, and language. The Stethoscope served as a newsletter for the 7th Division’s 7th Medical Battalion; it includes illustrations drawn by members of the Battalion.
The exhibit also commemorates Villanova alumnus Lt. Robert Munday, who was killed in action while serving as an officer in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. In the first exhibit case, you may view a letter of condolence following Munday’s death signed by President Harry S. Truman, as well as an article on Munday published in a 1951 issue of the Lynx, a literary magazine published by Villanova College from 1948 to 1983. A plaque dedicated to the memory of Munday is found outside of John Barry Hall on the Villanova campus. Moreover, an entry on Munday is found on Honoring the Fallen: An Interactive Memorial Map, a Geographic Information System (GIS) map showing the locations where numerous Villanova veterans died in service. Another Villanova alumnus who died in Korea while serving in the Marine Corps is William Gaul, who is likewise commemorated with an entry on the GIS mapping project. A similar resource is the oral history project The Voices of Villanova’s Veterans, which includes interviews with numerous Villanovans who served in the armed forces.
The second exhibit case, pictured above, includes representations of the Korean War in the popular culture of the 1950s, including an issue of Collier’s magazine and four comic books depicting fictional scenes from the war. The page of Collier’s displayed in the exhibit showcases illustrations of US troops in Korea by artist Howard Brodie (1915-2010), who had previously become known for his sketches of World War II combat. These drawings demonstrate the heavy toll that continuous fighting took on US troops. The comics not only seek to engender sympathy toward troops, but also reflect several widespread attitudes, including McCarthyism, that would persist after the Armistice of 1953. These comics were all published shortly before the creation of the Comics Code Authority, which censored comics for decades, so Korean War-era comics were free to draw on the conventions of horror and similar genres in their depiction of wartime suffering.
Interestingly, one of the comic-book stories on display (“That’s What I Call Shooting,” found in Soldier Comics no. 11) emphasizes the importance of mapping technologies in war. For more information on this subject, read this article on Art of War: Illustrated and Military Maps of the Twentieth Century, an exhibit that was viewable in both Falvey Library and the Prince Family Veterans Resource Center during fall 2022.
You can see the full Korean War: American Forces in Korea exhibit during the spring 2023 semester at the Prince Family Veterans Resource Center in Vasey Hall!