Wilmington author's novel delves into Korean War
By BEN STEELMAN | Star-News, Wilmington, N.C. | Published: June 6, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — The 5.7 million Americans who served in the Korean "police action" are mostly in their late 70s and 80s now. And, like their former commander, Douglas MacArthur, memory of America's "Forgotten War" is mostly fading away.
Now, retired lawyer Frank Amoroso of Wilmington has released a new historical novel to jog readers" memories. "Korea: Forgotten Sacrifice" (Simply Francis Publishing, $24.99 paperback) follows the "Winds of War" format of tracing the waves of history with a few fictional characters.
Central to the story is Junior, a high school kid and amateur photography enthusiast from Baltimore. Picked up on a drunk-driving charge a few years after World War II, Junior is given a choice: enlistment in the U.S. Marines or prison.
After a few weeks at Parris Island, Junior wishes he chose convict status.
He survives, however, and his prowess as a shutterbug manages to draw the attention of Gen. MacArthur, then commander of U.S. occupation forces in Japan, who assigns the young Marine as his personal combat photographer. Soon, he's infiltrating North Korea in light aircraft (some, according to Amoroso, years ahead of their time) to document the disturbing buildup just north of the 38th Parallel dividing the Korean peninsula.
Junior is fictional, but Amoroso says he is based on an actual Marine who recently died and requested anonymity.
Since 2014, Amoroso has written a shelf of historical novels. "Behind Every Great Fortune" was about the shadowy financier Otto H. Kahn, who was allegedly the model for "Uncle Moneybags" in the Monopoly board game. :Dread the Fed" was an alternative view of the founding of the Federal Reserve System. A baseball fan, Amoroso has also written "Whopper," a three-volume fictionalized narrative of the life of Babe Ruth..
His version of "Korea" gives readers a deep dive into history, noting that U.S. relations in Korea date back to the administration of President Chester A. Arthur in 1882. The novel highlights forgotten heroes such as Maj. Gen. William Dean, who spent nearly four years as a prisoner of war, and better-known ones such as Col. Chesty Puller, who led the withdrawal of the "Chosin Frozen" from the Chosin Reservoir in the middle of winter.
A side angle focuses on the singular story of Unit 731, a Japanese military program in chemical and biological warfare based in Manchuria during World War II. According to accounts, the unit used thousands of Chinese and Koreans (and even an unknown number of American POWs) as guinea pigs in experiments that qualified as war crimes. Yet many of its researchers, including its commander Shiro Ishii, escaped punishment in Japan after the surrender in return for turning their findings over to U.S. authorities.
One of the book's anti-heroes, perhaps surprisingly, is North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Il-sung, a longtime guerrilla fighter and nationalist who was caught between China's Communist Party, which used him for their own purposes, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who used the war to bleed both the Yankee imperialists and the Red Chinese, whom he did not trust.
"Korea: Forgotten Sacrifice" is available from both Amazon.com and the Barnes & Noble website, and it comes in a Kindle edition.
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