The Korean War - History

The Korean War - History

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The Korean War is the forgotten war of the 20th century. Maybe it was because it took place so soon after the end of of World War II, or maybe because it ended in a stalemate and to this day that stalemate has not been resolved. For whatever reason it was a war that no great movie(other then the TV show Mash) were done about it, there was never much discussion about it. But for the 5,720,000 US troops who served, of which 36,995 died and another 103,235 were wounded it was every bit a war.



What were the causes of the war

June 30, 1950

Task Force Smith

Oe of the forces on the ground was battalion led by Colonel Smith



The American forces managed to hold the lines in Pusan



The Inchon invasion changed with face of the war

November 1950

Chinese Intervene

The Chinese forces surprised UN forces by intervening

November 1950

Chinese Attack

The Chinese began an offensive against UN forces

November 1950


The American forces were almost trapped near the Chosin Resevoir



It became clear that a stalemate had developed

July 27, 1953

Peace Agreement

A final armistace was reached to end the war.

Republic of Korea Army

The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA Korean: 대한민국 육군 Hanja: 大韓民國 陸軍 Revised Romanization: Daehanminguk Yuk-gun), also known as the ROK Army, is the army of South Korea, responsible for ground-based warfare. It is the largest of the military branches of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces with 420,000 members as of 2020 [update] . This size is maintained through conscription South Korean men must complete 18 months of military service between the age of 18 and 35. [7]

In a speech to the National Press Club, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson outlines a U.S. Pacific defense posture that includes Japan and the Philippines but does not explicitly include Korea. In fact, he states that, “so far as the military security of other areas in the Pacific is concerned, it must be clear that no person can guarantee these areas against military attack.”

North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung proposes the “liberation” of South Korea to Soviet officials. Weeks of telegram exchanges between Beijing, Moscow, and P'yŏngyang follow, and by early spring Kim has secured assurances of support for the invasion from Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

52e. The Korean War

The television show "M*A*S*H" aired from 1972-83 and used a Korean War innovation &mdash the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital &mdash as its setting. The shows characters, like Dr. "Hawkeye" Pierce, often addressed the tough issues of war through their interactions.

While many of us have probably seen episodes of the TV show " M*A*S*H ," few of us could explain what caused the Korean War. Here's a chance to understand what "Dr. Benjamin Franklin ("Hawkeye") Pierce from Crabapple Cove, Maine, was doing in Korea.

Containment had not gone so well in Asia. When the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan, they sent troops into Japanese-occupied Korea. As American troops established a presence in the southern part of the Korean peninsula, the Soviets began cutting roads and communications at the 38th parallel . Two separate governments were emerging, as Korea began to resemble the divided Germany.

Upon the recommendation of the UN, elections were scheduled, but the North refused to participate. The South elected Syngman Rhee as president, but the Soviet-backed North was ruled by Kim Il Sung . When the United States withdrew its forces from the peninsula, trouble began.

Northern Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950. It took only two days for President Truman to commit the United States military to the defense of southern Korea. Truman hoped to build a broad coalition against the aggressors from the North by enlisting support from the United Nations.

North Korean tanks cross the 38th Parallel, marking the opening salvo of the Korean War.

Of course, the Soviet Union could veto any proposed action by the Security Council, but this time, the Americans were in luck. The Soviets were boycotting the Security Council for refusing to admit Red China into the United Nations. As a result, the Council voted unanimously to "repel the armed attack" of North Korea. Many countries sent troops to defend the South, but forces beyond those of the United States and South Korea were nominal.

The commander of the UN forces was none other than Douglas MacArthur. He had an uphill battle to fight, as the North had overrun the entire peninsula with the exception of the small Pusan Perimeter in the South. MacArthur ordered an amphibious assault at Inchon on the western side of the peninsula on September 15.

Caught by surprise, the communist-backed northern forces reeled in retreat. American led-forces from Inchon and the Pusan Perimeter quickly pushed the northern troops to the 38th Parallel &mdash and kept going. The United States saw an opportunity to create a complete indivisible democratic Korea and pushed the northern army up to the Yalu River, which borders China.

The USS Missouri fires on Chongjin, North Korea, in October 1950. The mission of this particular engagement was to disable enemy communications systems.

With anticommunism on the rise at home, Truman relished the idea of reuniting Korea. His hopes were dashed on November 27, when over 400,000 Chinese soldiers flooded across the Yalu River . In 1949, Mao Tse-tung had established a communist dictatorship in China, the world's most populous nation. The Chinese now sought to aide the communists in northern Korea.

In no time, American troops were once again forced below the 38th Parallel. General MacArthur wanted to escalate the war. He sought to bomb the Chinese mainland and blockade their coast.

Truman disagreed. He feared escalation of the conflict could lead to World War III, especially if the now nuclear-armed Soviet Union lent assistance to China. Disgruntled, MacArthur took his case directly to the American people by openly criticizing Truman's approach. Truman promptly fired him for insubordination.

Meanwhile, the war evolved into a stalemate, with the front line corresponding more or less to the 38th Parallel. Ceasefire negotiations dragged on for two more years, beyond Truman's Presidency. Finally, on July 27, 1953, an armistice was signed at Panmunjom . North Korea remained a communist dictatorship, and South Korea remained under the control of Syngman Rhee, a military strong man. Over 37,000 Americans were killed in the conflict.

Why the Korean War Still Matters

Seventy years ago, on June 25, 1950, North Korean tanks rolled across the 38th parallel, the line that separated communist North Korea from U.S.-backed South Korea. As a top secret U.S. intelligence cable from Tokyo to Washington concluded, the incursion wasn't just a mere raid. "The size of the North Korean Forces employed, the depth of penetration, the intensity of the attack, and the landings made miles south of the parallel on the east coast indicated that the north Koreans are engaged in an all-out offensive to subjugate South Korea."

The Korean War, which ultimately would pit the U.S. against China in the first-ever confrontation between the two superpowers, would claim the lives of an estimated 2.5 million military members and civilians, including nearly 34,000 Americans. The fighting would cease with an armistice on July 27, 1953, but the Geneva Conference of 1954 failed to produce a peace treaty, and the North and South remained tense enemies.

That's the way things pretty much have continued, though in 2018, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In announced that they would work together toward a peace treaty. But after the collapse of a February summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, those tensions seem likely to remain for a while longer.

The "Forgotten War"

In the U.S., the Korean War is sometimes called the "forgotten war" because it's overshadowed by the conflicts that came before and after it — the stirring victory of World War II and the lengthy, painful ordeal of the Vietnam War. "Modern Americans don't think about it much," explains Edward Rhodes, a professor on the faculty of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and an expert in American foreign and national security policy. "Vietnam was more traumatic, and World War II was more victorious."

Nevertheless, the overlooked conflict has exerted a powerful influence that is still felt today. According to Rhodes, the war forever changed the course of U.S. foreign and national security policy, compelling the U.S. to accept a permanent military involvement around the globe, even in peacetime. It also helped drive the creation of a vast U.S. nuclear arsenal to deter possible communist aggression with the threat of annihilation, and a global nuclear arms race that still continues.

Why North and South Korea Split

All this happened, according to Rhodes, after Korea, a nation that had been occupied by the Japanese from 1910 to 1945, was split in two by the U.S. and the Russians after World War II. "It was a practical matter," he explains. "There were Japanese armies that had retreated into Korea from Manchuria, and they needed to be disarmed. We split that large task with the Soviet Union, with the understanding that the Soviets would disarm the Japanese in the north, and we would do it in the south." But as the Cold War developed between the U.S. and its European allies and the Soviets, the temporary partition turned into a permanent one, with the formation of a communist regime headed by Kim Il Sung in the North and an authoritarian pro-American government headed by Syngman Rhee in the South. Each regime saw itself as the real government of Korea and its rival as illegitimate, Rhodes explains.

Kim Il Sung decided to settle the matter by invading South Korea, and in May 1950, finally obtained reluctant approval from his patron, the Stalin regime, according to this Soviet diplomatic cable. About a month later, Kim launched a surprise attack, which initially had devastating results. "The South Korean forces just dissolved," Rhodes says.

Truman Goes to War Without Congress

The U.N. Security Council — taking advantage of a Soviet boycott of the body — then passed a measure calling for member nations to assist the beleaguered South Koreans. That mandate enabled U.S. President Harry Truman to respond militarily without having to go to Congress for a declaration of war.

Up until that point, the U.S. hadn't seen South Korea as having much strategic importance, Rhodes says. "But when the North Korean tanks rolled across the border, the image that flashed in Truman's mind was that this was a repeat of what the Nazis did," he explains. "His response is to stand up, thinking that if we had stood up to Hitler early on, the world would have been a better place."

General Douglas MacArthur in Command

An outnumbered contingent of U.N. forces formed a desperate line of defense around Pusan, the only part of South Korea not captured by the communists, and managed to hold off the invaders for two months. That gave Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who had been placed in overall command of the U.N. forces, enough time to make an audacious amphibious landing at Inchon, near the South Korean capital of Seoul on Sept. 15, 1950, cutting off the overextended North Koreans.

MacArthur's forces chased the invaders back north across the 38th parallel, and by mid-October had captured the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. But MacArthur, overconfident, kept pushing the North Koreans back to the Yalu River, the border with China. China then responded with a massive counterattack of between 130,000 and 300,000 troops. This time, it was the U.N. forces who were driven back. A bloody stalemate on the ground developed, as the U.S. pounded North Korea from the air. MacArthur eventually was relieved of his command by Truman and replaced with Gen. Matthew Ridgeway. The U.S. abandoned the idea of a total victory and shifted to a holding action against the communist forces.

"MacArthur embraced the idea that there's no substitute for victory," Rhodes says. "You beat the enemy, and they surrender." But after the Chinese intervention, "we're in a situation where there's got to be a substitute for victory, because how are we going to fight the manpower of China. There's a realization that we can't fight this war to victory, and it's hard for the American people to accept."

The longer the war stretched on, the more unpopular that it became back in the U.S. Many of the soldiers sent to Korea were reservists who had served in World War II. "They've got homes and families and jobs, and then they were called up and sent to fight another war," Rhodes explains. "There was a feeling that this wasn't fair."

Eisenhower Ends the Fighting

Eventually, Truman's successor, President Dwight Eisenhower, ran on a promise that he would go to Korea and seek an end to the conflict, and actually did that a month before his inauguration in 1953, as this article from the Eisenhower Presidential Library explains.

But though Eisenhower had ended the fighting, the Korean War still shaped his policies. "Eisenhower looked at this as the wrong war at the wrong time, using the wrong weapons," Rhodes says. "He reaches the conclusion that with the Cold War going on with the Soviets, we have to plan for the long haul. We're going to sustain this kind of military deterrence." That led to resources being pumped into the development of a massive nuclear deterrent that could be used to contain the Soviets. Additionally, Eisenhower began attempting to form alliances with more and more countries, in an effort to create a unified front to hold off communist aggression.

"The U.S. was forced to take China more seriously as a military power after fighting to a stalemate in the Korean War," Charles K. Armstrong, the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences at Columbia University, says in an email. "Gen. MacArthur [had] severely underestimated the Chinese military's willingness to confront the U.S. and capacity to fight, leading to a bad rout for U.N. forces in the initial months after China entered the war."

China's participation in the Korean War also consolidated Mao's rule and dashed the hopes of some Americans the communist regime could be "rolled back" and replaced by Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists, Armstrong says.

Revolution, division, and partisan warfare, 1945–50

The Korean War had its immediate origins in the collapse of the Japanese empire at the end of World War II in September 1945. Unlike China, Manchuria, and the former Western colonies seized by Japan in 1941–42, Korea, annexed to Japan since 1910, did not have a native government or a colonial regime waiting to return after hostilities ceased. Most claimants to power were harried exiles in China, Manchuria, Japan, the U.S.S.R., and the United States. They fell into two broad categories. The first was made up of committed Marxist revolutionaries who had fought the Japanese as part of the Chinese-dominated guerrilla armies in Manchuria and China. One of these exiles was a minor but successful guerrilla leader named Kim Il-sung, who had received some training in Russia and had been made a major in the Soviet army. The other Korean nationalist movement, no less revolutionary, drew its inspiration from the best of science, education, and industrialism in Europe, Japan, and America. These “ultranationalists” were split into rival factions, one of which centred on Syngman Rhee, educated in the United States and at one time the president of a dissident Korean Provisional Government in exile.

In their hurried effort to disarm the Japanese army and repatriate the Japanese population in Korea (estimated at 700,000), the United States and the Soviet Union agreed in August 1945 to divide the country for administrative purposes at the 38th parallel (latitude 38° N). At least from the American perspective, this geographic division was a temporary expedient however, the Soviets began a short-lived reign of terror in northern Korea that quickly politicized the division by driving thousands of refugees south. The two sides could not agree on a formula that would produce a unified Korea, and in 1947 U.S. President Harry S. Truman persuaded the United Nations (UN) to assume responsibility for the country, though the U.S. military remained nominally in control of the South until 1948. Both the South Korean national police and the constabulary doubled in size, providing a southern security force of about 80,000 by 1947. In the meantime, Kim Il-sung strengthened his control over the Communist Party as well as the northern administrative structure and military forces. In 1948 the North Korean military and police numbered about 100,000, reinforced by a group of southern Korean guerrillas based at Haeju in western Korea.

The creation of an independent South Korea became UN policy in early 1948. Southern communists opposed this, and by autumn partisan warfare had engulfed parts of every Korean province below the 38th parallel. The fighting expanded into a limited border war between the South’s newly formed Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) and the North Korean border constabulary as well as the North’s Korean People’s Army (KPA). The North launched 10 cross-border guerrilla incursions in order to draw ROKA units away from their guerrilla-suppression campaign in the South.

In its larger purpose the partisan uprising failed: the Republic of Korea (ROK) was formed in August 1948, with Syngman Rhee as president. Nevertheless, almost 8,000 members of the South Korean security forces and at least 30,000 other Koreans lost their lives. Many of the victims were not security forces or armed guerrillas at all but simply people identified as “rightists” or “reds” by the belligerents. Small-scale atrocities became a way of life.

From the Archives

“To win the war against this alien invader, we have to win the war globally… this is an opportunity for America to offer a new kind of leadership for a new kind of world crisis”

By Caroline Newman | UVA Today | April 14, 2021

On Tuesday, the University of Virginia announced that its Miller Center for Public Affairs will serve as a base for a COVID Commission Planning Group, led by UVA professor Philip Zelikow, the former executive director of the 9/11 Commission.

The planning group hopes to prepare the way for a potential National COVID Commission set up to help America and the world learn from this pandemic and safeguard against future threats.

“This is perhaps the greatest crisis suffered by America, if not the world, since 1945,” said Zelikow, the White Burkett Miller Professor of History and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance, who also led the earlier, privately organized Carter-Ford Commission on Federal Election Reform. “It is vital to take stock, in a massive way, of what happened and why.

“These sorts of civilizational challenges may become more common in the 21 st century, and we need to learn from this crisis to strengthen our society,” he continued. “Scholars and journalists will do their jobs, but there is also a role for the kind of massive investigation and research effort that only a large-scale commission can provide.” … continue

How did the Korean War start?

The Korean War began when North Korean troops pushed into South Korea on June 25, 1950, and it lasted until 1953. But experts said the military conflict could not be properly understood without considering its historical context.

Korea, a Japanese colony from 1910 until 1945, was occupied by the United States and the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. The United States proposed temporarily dividing the country along the 38th Parallel as a way to maintain its influence on the peninsula, which bordered Russia, said Charles K. Armstrong, a professor of Korean history at Columbia University.

“A divided Korea was something unprecedented,” he said.

But the divide lasted in part because of competing visions among Koreans for the country’s future. “Fundamentally it was a civil war, fought over issues going back into Korea’s colonial experience,” said Bruce Cumings, a professor of history at the University of Chicago.

In 1948, the American-backed, anti-communist southern administration, based in Seoul, declared itself the Republic of Korea. It was led by Syngman Rhee, who lived in exile in the United States for many years and was installed as the South Korean leader by the Office of Strategic Services, a predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, Professor Cumings said.

Soon after, the Soviet-backed, communist northern administration, based in Pyongyang, declared itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Its leader was Kim Il-sung, who fought alongside communist forces during the Chinese civil war and was the grandfather of North Korea’s current dictator, Kim Jong-un.

Each regime was unstable, rejected the legitimacy of the other and considered itself to be Korea’s sole rightful ruler. Border skirmishes between the two were frequent before the Korean War began.

Korean War

In June 1950, Communist forces from North Korea invaded the western-aligned Republic of South Korea, launching the Korean War. Douglas MacArthur was put in charge of the American-led coalition of United Nations troops. That fall, his troops repelled the North Koreans and eventually drove them back toward the Chinese border. MacArthur met with President Truman, who worried that the communist government of the People’s Republic of China might view the invasion as a hostile act and intervene in the conflict. The general assured him the chances of a Chinese intervention were slim. Then, in November and December 1950, a massive force of Chinese troops crossed into North Korea and flung themselves against the American lines, driving the U.S. troops back into South Korea. MacArthur asked for permission to bomb communist China and use Nationalist Chinese forces from Taiwan against the People’s Republic of China. Truman flatly refused these requests, and a public dispute broke out between the two men.

On April 11, 1951, Truman removed MacArthur from his command for insubordination. In an address to Americans that day, the president stated, “I believe that we must try to limit the war to Korea for these vital reasons: To make sure that the precious lives of our fighting men are not wasted to see that the security of our country and the free world is not needlessly jeopardized and to prevent a third world war.” MacArthur had been fired, he said, “so that there would be no doubt or confusion as to the real purpose and aim of our policy.”

MacArthur’s dismissal set off a brief uproar among the American public, but Truman remained committed to keeping the conflict in Korea a “limited war.” Eventually, the American people began to understand that MacArthur’s policies and recommendations might have led to a massively expanded war in Asia.


The 19 stainless steel statues were sculpted by Frank Gaylord of Barre, Vt. and cast by Tallix Foundries of Beacon, N.Y. They are approximately 7-feet tall and represent an ethnic cross section of America. The advance party has 14 Army, three Marine, one Navy and one Air Force members. The statues stand in patches of juniper bushes and are separated by polished granite strips, which give a semblance of order and symbolize the rice paddies of Korea. The troops wear ponchos covering their weapons and equipment. The ponchos seem to blow in the cold winds of Korea. The statues are identified below:

Position Service Duty Race Weapon
1. Army Lead Scout Caucasian M-1
2. Army Scout Caucasian M-1
3. Army Squad Leader Caucasian M-1
4. Army BAR Man Afro-American Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR)
5. Army BAR Assistant Caucasian Carbine
6. Army Rifleman Afro-American M-1
7. Army Group Leader Caucasian Carbine
8. Army Radio Operator Caucasian Carbine
9. Army Army Medic Hispanic None
10. Army Forward Observer Caucasian Carbine
11. Air Force Air-Ground Controller Caucasian Carbine
12. Marine Corps Assistant Gunner Caucasian Tripod
13. Marine Corps Gunner Caucasian Machine Gun
14. Navy Corpsman Afro-American None
15. Marine Corps Rifleman Asian-American M-1
16. Army Rifleman Caucasian M-1
17. Army Rifleman Hispanic M-1
18. Army Assistant Group Leader Caucasian M-1
19. Army Rifleman Native American M-1


The Korean War (June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953) was a war between South Korea and North Korea, in which a United Nations force led by the United States of America fought for the South, and the People’s Republic of China with the support and assistance of the Soviet Union fought for the North. The war resulted from the arbitrary division of the Korean peninsula into two Koreas at the end of World War II, and from the global tensions of the Cold War that developed immediately afterwards.

Korea was ruled by Japan from 1910 until the closing days of World War II. In August, 1945 the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and, by agreement with the United States, occupied Korea north of the 38th Parallel. U.S. forces subsequently occupied the south. By 1948, two separate governments had been set up. Both claimed to be the legitimate government of Korea, and neither accepted the border as permanent.

The conflict escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces, supported by the Soviet Union and China, invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. On that day, the United Nations Security Council recognized this North Korean act as invasion, and called for an immediate ceasefire. On June 27, the Security Council adopted S/RES/83: Complaint of Aggression upon the Republic of Korea, and decided to authorize and dispatch a multinational U.N. force to Korea.

Twenty-one members of the United Nations contributed to the defense of South Korea, with the United States providing 88% of the troops. The following countries were part of the United Nations effort:

Watch the video: Οι Έλληνες στον πόλεμο της Κορέας 1950-1955