The Army's Advice to Soldiers Headed for the Korean War: "Respect Your Allies"

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Dec. 11 2013 11:00 AM

The Army's Advice to Soldiers Headed for the Korean War: "Respect Your Allies"

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This list of things soldiers should remember when preparing to go to Korea is part of a pamphlet titled “Getting Along With Our Allies,” published by the Department of the Army in 1950. (You can read the whole pamphlet here.)

In the aftermath of World War II, and with the beginning of the Cold War, the United States military anticipated involvement in far-flung conflicts. By 1950, when the American presence in Korea amped up in response to the Communist invasion of the South, the military hoped to smooth the alliance by offering a little bit of targeted cultural counseling for soldiers about to ship to the peninsula.

Advertisement

The pamphlet asked soldiers to be open-minded, tolerant, and smart about their interactions with local people. “Respect your Ally as a man,” the pamphlet advised, noting that in some places, soldiers would observe “abject poverty, filth and disease.” They shouldn’t judge the allies for their lower standard of living: “These people have not had the opportunity—for any number of reasons—to build a society like our own.”

For the sake of the alliance, soldiers should refrain from using “uncomplimentary nick names,” pestering local women, getting drunk, spending too much money, and violating the “cherished customs” of the local culture. These injunctions were accompanied by comical representations of “ugly American” soldiers in violation of the advice. (One image, of a soldier using lit dollar bills to kindle a cigar, is particularly humorous.)

This list of Korea-specific advice draws from these larger themes of toleration. If the Korean countryside smelled bad to an American nose, a soldier should remember that they used human waste for fertilizer not out of choice, but out of necessity. Likewise, kimchi (spelled “kim chu” here) was pungent, but “much of our food would probably impress a Korean the same way.”

The list counsels respect despite the Koreans’ “physical smallness,” pointing to the three runners Kee Yong Ham, Gil Yoon Song, and Yun Chil Choi, who won all three top medals in the April 1950 Boston Marathon.

I found this pamphlet in the files of the delightfully eclectic Prelinger Library in San Francisco.

KoreaList1Final

KoreaList2Final
From "Getting Along With Our Allies," published by the Department of the Army, 1950.

Prelinger Library.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 19 2014 1:56 PM Scotland’s Attack on the Status Quo Expect more political earthquakes across Europe.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 12:09 PM How Accelerators Have Changed Startup Funding
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Never Remember Anything
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Movies
Sept. 19 2014 2:06 PM The Guest and Fort Bliss How do we tell the stories of soldiers returning home from war?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.