Washington Bureau

05.28.14

WW2 And Korean Veterans Fade From U.S. Politics

With Rep. Ralph Hall's loss on Tuesday, Congress is likely to have no more World War II veterans and, at most, two veterans of the Korean War next year.

The defeat of Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) on Tuesday means that Congress likely will not have a World War II veteran in its ranks in 2015. However, Congress is also getting close to being without a single veteran of the Korean War either.

Currently, there are two veterans of Korean War on Capitol Hill and both are seeking re-election. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) is a former fighter pilot who flew combat missions in both Korea and Vietnam. In the latter war, Johnson was shot down behind enemy lines and spent seven years as a prisoner of war in North Korea. The second is Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who led a fighting retreat to safety after his unit was nearly surrounded by Chinese infantry at the 1950 Battle of Kunu-Ri.  Johnson, who was first elected in a 1991 special election, easily won his primary in his safe Republican district but Rangel is far more vulnerable. The embattled 22-term incumbent is currently facing a tough primary in his district, which includes Northern Manhattan and part of the Bronx. However, if he manages to win his Democratic primary against State Senator Adriano Espaillat, the Harlem-based Rangel should be a shoo-in in November.

Yet even with Hall’s loss, there still is the possibility that a former Member of Congress who served in World War II could return in 2015.

 If former Louisiana Governor, convicted felon and Naval Air Corps veteran Edwin Edwards triumphs in his long-shot bid to win a Louisiana House seat, Congress would once again have a World War II era veteran in its ranks. The octogenarian Democrat though would need to triumph over both his scandal-ridden past and the heavily Republican lean of his congressional district.

The most likely scenario though is that next year, only one or two veterans of Korean War and none of the Second World War will be serving on Capitol Hill as the heroes of “the Greatest Generation” increasingly pass from the scene.