Korean War Explained

Conflict:Korean War
Partof:the Cold War
Date:–the armistice on July 27, 1953
Place:Korean Peninsula
Casus:North Korean attack on South Korea.
Territory:DMZ; both South and North gain some territory along the 38th parallel, south gains a little more than it loses.
North Korean invasion repelled; establishment of Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ); a few territorial changes along the 38th parallel, but essentially uti possidetis.
Combatant1: (UN Resolution 84):

New Zealand
South Africa
United Kingdom
United States
----Naval Support and Military Servicing/Repairs:
Japan----Medical staff:
Combatant2:North Korea and Allies: Democratic People's Republic of Korea
People's Republic of China
Commander1: Syngman Rhee Chung Il-kwon
Paik Sun-yup
Elpidio Quirino
Fidel V. Ramos
Tahsin Yazıcı
Douglas MacArthur
Matthew Ridgway
Mark Wayne Clark
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Commander2: Kim Il-sung Choi Yong-kun
Kim Chaek
Mao Zedong
Peng Dehuai
Joseph Stalin
Georgy Malenkov
Strength1: 590,911

Total: 941,356–1,139,518

Strength2: 260,000

Total: 1,066,000

Note: All figures may vary according to source. This measures peak strength as sizes changed during the war.

Casualties1:South Korea:
58,127 combat deaths
175,743 wounded
80,000 MIA or POW[6]
United States:
36,516 dead (including 2,830 non-combat)
92,134 wounded
8,176 MIA
7,245 POW[7]
United Kingdom:
1,109 dead[8]
2,674 wounded
1,060 MIA or POW[9]
721 dead[10]
2,111 wounded
168 MIA
216 POW
516 dead[11]
1,042 wounded
339 dead[12]
1,200 wounded
300 KIA or MIA[13]
194 KIA
459 WIA [14]
112 KIA
123 KIA
106 KIA
New Zealand

33 KIA [18]
South Africa
28 KIA and 8 MIA[19]
Total: Over 474,000

Casualties2:North Korea:
215,000 dead,
303,000 wounded,
120,000 MIA or POW
(Chinese estimate):

114,000 killed in combat
34,000 non-combat deaths
380,000 wounded
21,400 POW[20]
(U.S. estimate):
400,000+ dead
486,000 wounded
21,000 POW
Soviet Union:
282 dead[21]
Total: 1,190,000-1,577,000+
Casualties3:Civilians killed/wounded (total Koreans) = 2 Million (Est.)[22]

The Korean War refers to a period of military conflict between North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea) regimes, with major hostilities lasting from June 25, 1950 until the armistice signed on July 27, 1953. The conflict arose from the attempts of the two Korean powers to re-unify Korea under their respective governments. The period immediately before the war was marked by escalating border conflicts at the 38th Parallel and attempts to negotiate elections for the entirety of Korea.[23] These negotiations ended when the North Korean Army invaded the South on June 25, 1950. Under the aegis of the United Nations, nations allied with the United States intervened on behalf of South Korea. After rapid advances in a South Korean counterattack, communist-allied Chinese forces intervened on behalf of North Korea, shifting the balance of the war and ultimately leading to an armistice that approximately restored the original boundaries between North and South Korea.

While some have referred to the conflict as a civil war, many other factors were at play.[24] Each side was supported by external powers and the conflict expanded, becoming a proxy war in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The term has also been used to describe both the events preceding and following the main hostilities.

Name of the conflict

In South Korea, the war is often called 6·25 or 6·25 War (Korean: 6·25 전쟁), from the date of the start of the conflict or, more formally, Hanguk jeonjaeng (Hangul: 한국전쟁; Hanja: 韓國戰爭, literally "Korean War"). In North Korea, while commonly known as the Korean War, it is formally called the Joguk haebang jeonjaeng or Fatherland Liberation War (Hangul: 조국해방전쟁; Hanja: 祖國解放戰爭). In the United States, the conflict was officially termed a police action — the Korean Conflict — rather than a war, largely in order to avoid the necessity of a declaration of war by the U.S. Congress. The war is sometimes called The Forgotten War or The Unknown War because it is a major conflict of the 20th century that gets far less attention than World War II, which preceded it, and the Vietnam War, which succeeded it.[25] The war was a unique combination of the techniques utilized in both World War I and World War II, beginning with swift, fast-paced infantry advances following well-choreographed bombing raids from the air by the American military and its UN allies. However, following both sides' failures at holding the land captured, battles quickly evolved into World War I-type trench warfare in January 1951, lasting until the essential border stalemate at the end. In China, the conflict was known as the War to Resist America and Aid Korea (抗美援朝), but is today commonly called the "Korean War" (朝鮮 戰爭 Chaoxian zhanzheng,[26] 韓國戰爭 Hanguo zhanzheng, or simply 韓戰 Hanzhan).

Japanese rule

Korea had been a unified country since the 6th century. In 1895, Japan defeated China in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, and their Japanese forces remained in Korea, occupying strategically important parts of the country. To Japan, a late arriving player in the game of great powers, Korea seemed a natural fit in their sphere of influence.[27]

Ten years later, the Japanese defeated the Russian navy in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5), contributing to Japan's emergence as an imperial power.[28] Following the end of the Russo-Japanese War, The Japanese declared Korea was their protectorate and expanded their control over local institutions despite Korean opposition. In August 1910, a treaty of Annexation was signed.[29]

While Korean nationalists from both North and South Korea have their own versions of life under Japanese rule, it was clear that Japanese policies were harsh.[27] Educated Koreans and nationalists were all endangered and most fled. The harshness intensified as Japan became increasingly militant in the 1930s; Korean and its literature were banned from schools and conscription began in 1938. During the Second World War, 2.6 million Koreans were conscripted for forced labour (in addition to the kidnapped "Comfort Women"). Japan, especially as the American submarine campaign intensified, stripped out all livestock, rice stocks, and metal–causing much hardship.[30] At the close of World War II, forces of both the Soviet Union and the United States occupied the peninsula in accordance with an agreement put forth by the United States government to divide the Korean peninsula. This decision, which was made without consultation of the Korean people, was made by then Colonel Dean Rusk and Army officer Charles Bonesteel.[31] The Soviet forces entered the peninsula on August 10, 1945 and remained north of the 38th parallel waiting for the US forces to arrive. A few weeks later, the American forces entered through Incheon led by U.S. Army Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge and formally accepted the surrender of Japanese forces south of the 38th parallel on September 9, 1945 at Government House in Seoul.[32]

At the end of the Second World War Korea was under-developed industrially and in terms of infrastructure, and famine was widespread as a result of Japanese confiscation of food-stocks. Further worsening Korea's situation: few qualified Korean administrative personnel remained.

Division of Korea

Though the eventual division of Korea was considered at the Potsdam Conference,[32] [27] the wishes of the Korean people to be free of foreign interference were not considered.[33] [27] British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had stated a determination for Korean independence and freedom at the Cairo Conference.[27] [34] During the earlier Yalta Conference in February 1945, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin called for “buffer zones” in both Asia and Europe.[35] Stalin believed that Russia should have preeminence in China, and the US requested that the USSR join in the war against Japan “three months after the surrender of Germany.”[35] On August 6, 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on the Japanese Empire and, on August 8, it began the liberation on the northern part of the Korean peninsula. As agreed with the United States, the USSR halted its troops at the 38th parallel on August 26.[27] However, on September 3, Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge, commander of XXIV Corps and designated U.S. Commander in Korea, received a radio message from Lt. Gen. Yoshio Kozuki, commander of the Japanese 17th Area Army in Korea, reporting that Soviet forces had advanced south of the 38th parallel only in the Kaesong area.[32] Hodge decided to trust the Japanese reports of events in Korea. U.S. troops arrived in the southern part of the peninsula in early September 1945.[27]

On August 10, 1945, with the Japanese surrender imminent, the American government was unsure whether the Soviets would adhere to the proposal arranged by the U.S. government. A month earlier, Colonels Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel, after deciding in their 1/2 hour session that at least two major ports should be included in the U.S. zone, had drawn the dividing line at the 38th parallel using a National Geographic map for reference.[32] Rusk, later U.S. Secretary of State, commented that the American military was “faced with the scarcity of U.S. forces immediately available and time and space factors which would make it difficult to reach very far north before Soviet troops could enter the area.”[35]

The USSR agreed to the 38th parallel being the demarcation between occupation zones in the Korean peninsula, partly to better their position in the negotiations with the Allies over eastern Europe. It was agreed that the USSR would receive surrendering Japanese troops on the northern part of Korea; the U.S., on the southern side. The Soviet forces entered and liberated the northern part of the peninsula weeks prior to the entry of American forces. In accordance with the arrangements made with the American government, the Soviet forces halted their advance at the 38th parallel.

The American forces arrived in Korea in early September.[27] One of Hodge’s first directives was to restore many Japanese colonial administrators and collaborators to their previous positions of power within Korea. This policy was understandably very unpopular among Koreans who had suffered horribly under Japanese colonial rule for 35 years, and would prove to have enormous consequences for the American occupation.[23]

A second policy set forth by Hodge was to refuse to recognize the existing political organizations that had been established by the Korean people. Hodge sought to establish firm U.S. control over events throughout the southern half of the peninsula.[28] These policies would help give rise to the later insurrections and guerrilla warfare that preceded the outbreak of the civil war.[28] [36]

In December 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to administer the country under the U.S.-Soviet Joint Commission, as termed by the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers. It was agreed by the US and the USSR, but not the Koreans, that Korea would govern itself independently after five years of international oversight.[37] However, both the U.S. and the USSR approved Korean-led governments in their respective halves, each of which were favorable to the occupying power’s political ideology.[27] Some elements of the population responded with violent insurrections and protests in the South.[28] The USAMGIK tried to contain civil violence by banning strikes on December 8 and outlawing the revolutionary government and the people's committees on December 12. Events spiraled quickly out of US control, however, when Koreans[38] staged a massive strike on September 23, 1946 by 8,000 railway workers in Busan which quickly spread to other cities in the South. The Daegu uprising occurred on October 1, in which police attempts to control rioters caused the death of three student demonstrators and injuries to many others, sparking a mass counter-attack killing 38 policemen. It should be noted that at this time, the vast majority of members of the South Korean police force officers had been members of the Japanese police force during the colonial period.[39] When the US forces sided with these former collaborators, it discredited the US in the eyes of many Koreans.[40] Over in Yeongcheon, a police station came under attack by a 10,000-strong crowd on October 3, killing over 40 policemen and the county chief. Other attacks killed about 20 landlords and pro-Japanese officials.

In South Korea, an anti-trusteeship right wing group known as the Representative Democratic Council emerged, this group came to oppose these U.S. sponsored agreements.[41] Because Koreans had suffered under Japanese colonization for 35 years, most Koreans opposed another period of foreign control. This opposition caused the U.S. to abandon the Soviet-supported Moscow Accords.[42] The Americans did not want a communist government in South Korea, so they called for elections in all of Korea,[27] but the Soviets opposed this idea.[43]

The government that emerged was led by anti-communist U.S.-educated strongman Syngman Rhee, a Korean who had been imprisoned by the Japanese as a young man and later fled to the United States.[44] The Soviets, in turn, approved and furthered the rise of a Communist government in the North.[27] Bolstered by his history as an anti-Japanese fighter, his political skills, and his connections with the Soviet Union, Kim Il-sung rose to become leader of this new government and crushed any opposition to his rule by the summer of 1947.[24] In the south, those who supported Communism were driven into hiding in the hills, where they prepared for a guerrilla war against the American-supported government.[24]

South Korean President Syngman Rhee and North Korean General Secretary Kim Il-Sung were each intent on reuniting the peninsula under his own system.[27] Partly because of numbers of Soviet tanks and heavy arms, the North Koreans were able to escalate ongoing border clashes and go on the offensive,[27] while South Korea, with only limited American backing, had far fewer options. The American government believed at the time that the Communist bloc was a unified monolith, and that North Korea acted within this monolith as a pawn of the Soviet Union.


Invasion of South Korea

In a little known event prior to the start of the Korean War, a CIA officer named Douglas MacKiernan stationed in China gathered intelligence that predicted the war. MacKiernan had volunteered to stay in China when all other diplomats had left the country. He gathered valuable intelligence on the intent of the North Koreans and their ally the Chinese. He and his local CIA trained security were forced to flee and they spent months trying to get over the Himalayas on horse back. MacKiernan was killed within miles of the Tibetian town of Lhasa. His men did make it with this valuable information and they turned it over to the US officials there. The North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel 13 days later. MacKiernan received the CIA's award for valor, the coveted Intelligence Star, for his actions. [45]

Under the guise of a counter-attack, the North Korean Army struck in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, crossing the 38th parallel behind a firestorm of artillery.[27] The North claimed Republic of Korea Army (ROK) troops under the “bandit traitor Syngman Rhee" had crossed the border first, and that Rhee would be arrested and executed.[32] While certainly true that both Southern and Northern militaries had for the past year exchanged gunfire and crossed over the 38th parallel, the attack on June 25 was considered by some nations to be an extension of the North's plan to unify the country and not a direct result of a particular attack from the South.

The United Nations Security Council was convened in a few hours and passed the UNSC Resolution 82 condemning the North Korean aggression unanimously. The resolution was adopted mainly because the Soviet Union, a veto-wielding power, had been boycotting proceedings since January, in protest that the Republic of China (Taiwan) and not the People's Republic of China held a permanent seat on the council.[46] President Truman had made a statement on June 27, 1950 ordering the United States air and sea forces to give the South Korean regime support. While the United Nations Security Council was convened and had been debating the issue from the invasion forward it only issued Resolution 83 on June 27 which definitively recommended member-states militarily assist the Republic of Korea. The Soviet Union's foreign minister accused the United States of starting armed intervention on behalf of the Republic of Korea before the Security Council was summoned to meet on June 27, and confronting the UN with a fait accompli.[47]

Critics charged that the information on this resolution was based on U.S. sources referring to reports of the South Korean army. The DPRK was not invited to sit as a temporary member in the UN which some say violated Article 32 of the UN Charter. It was argued that the situation in Korea did not fall within the scope of the UN Charter since the initial clashes between North and South Korean forces would have to be classified as a civil war. Since the USSR representative decided to boycott the United Nations with the announced purpose of preventing action by the Security Council, the legality of UN action was challenged; legal scholars argued that unanimity among the five permanent members was required to take action on important matters.[48] [49]

At the outbreak of war, the North Korean Army was equipped with 274 Type 58 tanks, about 150 YAK fighters, 110 attack bombers, 200 artillery pieces, 78 YAK trainers and 35 reconnaissance planes. Around 231,000 North Korean soldiers invaded South Korea.[32] These forces were assigned to the invasion while 114 more fighters, 78 bombers, 105 Type 58 tanks, and 30,000 were stationed in North Korea. Their navy had several small warships, and launched attacks on the South Korean Navy. North Korea's logistics system was able to quickly move supplies south as the army advanced. Thousands of Korean civilians running south were forced to hand-carry supplies, many of whom later died in North Korean air attacks.

According to Roy E. Appleman in "South to the Naktong - North to the Yalu", the South Korean Army had 98,000 soldiers of whom only 65,000 were combat troops. Unlike their northern opponents the South Korean military had no tanks at all, and the South Korean air force consisted of a mere 12 liaison-type aircraft and 10 advance trainers (AT6). There were no large foreign combat units in the country when the war began, but there were large American forces stationed in nearby Japan.[32]

The North's well-planned attack with about 231,000 troops achieved surprise and quick successes.[32] North Korea attacked a number of key places including Kaesŏng, Chuncheon, Uijeongbu and Ongjin.

Within days, South Korean forces, often of dubious loyalty to the Southern regime, were in full retreat or defecting en masse to the North.[27] As the ground attack continued, the North Korean Air Force conducted bombing of Kimpo Airport near Seoul. North Korean forces occupied Seoul on the afternoon of June 28. An air battle took place over the city in which 37 South Korean fighters were shot down while only 9 North Korean fighters were downed. Two days later, the largest battle between only North and South Korean forces happened. The North Koreans destroyed 89 tanks, 76 artillery pieces, 19 bombers, and 21 fighters. South Korean casualties were 7,000, while 16,000 were captured. Many of these South Koreans later fought for North Korea. Many South Koreans deserted after the battle. However, North Korea's hope for a quick surrender by the Rhee government and the reunification of the peninsula evaporated when the United States and other foreign powers intervened with UN approval.

U.S. intervention

Despite the post-World War II demobilization of U.S. and allied forces, which caused serious supply problems for American troops in the region,[27] the United States still had substantial forces in Japan to oppose the North Korean military. These American forces were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. Apart from British Commonwealth units, no other nation could supply sizable manpower.

On Saturday June 24th, President Harry S. Truman received an emergency phone call from Secretary of State Dean Acheson informing him that the forces of the Communist government of North Korea had crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the American-backed South Korea.[50] Truman and Acheson began extensive discussions of the unfolding events and assembled a meeting of top state and defense department officials. The officials shared a conviction that the United States was obligated to respond to blatant acts of aggression.[51] The group drew parallels with Hitler's aggressions in the 1930s and believed that the mistakes of appeasement could not be repeated. President Truman viewed the situation as critically relevant to the global containment of communism:

American intentions were announced as President Truman issued, in his first public statement concerning the fighting, that the United States of Government would counter "unprovoked aggression" and "vigorously support the effort of the security council to terminate this serious breach of peace".[52] In Congress, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Omar Bradley, spoke out against "appeasement" and declared that Korea was as good a place as any "for drawing the line" against Communist expansion. Truman and Acheson then prepared Congress to appropriate funds for additional military expenses essential to the goals of NSC-68 and in August 1950, $12 billion for military expenses in Asia was authorized.[53]

Upon the recommendation of Acheson, U.S. President Truman then ordered MacArthur to transfer ammunition, arms and equipment to the ROK Army while using air cover to protect the evacuation of U.S. citizens. Truman did not agree with his advisors, who called for unilateral U.S. airstrikes against the North Korean forces, but did order the Seventh Fleet to protect Chiang Kai-Shek's Taiwan. The Nationalist government (confined to the island of Taiwan) asked to participate in the war. Their request was denied by the Americans who felt that it would only encourage intervention by the People's Republic of China (PRC).[54] The first significant foreign military intervention was the American Task Force Smith, part of the U.S. Army's 24th Infantry Division based in Japan.[27] On July 5, it fought for the first time at Osan and was immediately defeated with 1,416 casualties and 785 taken prisoner.[27] The victorious North Korean forces advanced southwards, and the 24th Division was forced to retreat to Taejeon, which also fell to the Northern forces.[27] There were 3,602 casualties and 2,962 soldiers taken prisoner, along with Major General William F. Dean, commander of the division.[27] 18 American fighters were shot down in this battle compared to five North Korean fighters. 29 U.S. bombers were shot down by North Korean fighters and anti-aircraft fire in these actions.

By August, the South Korean forces and the U.S. Eighth Army under General Walton Walker had been driven back into a small area in the southeast corner of the Korean peninsula around the city of Pusan.[27] As the North Koreans advanced, they rounded up and killed civil servants.[27] On August 20, MacArthur sent a message warning Kim Il Sung that he would be held responsible for further atrocities committed against UN troops.[44] [27]

By September, only the area around Pusan—about 10 percent of the Korean peninsula—was still in coalition hands. With the aid of massive American supplies, naval and air support, as well as ground reinforcements, the UN forces managed to stabilize a line along the Nakdong River. This desperate holding action became known in the United States as the Pusan Perimeter.

Escalation of the Korean war

In the face of fierce North Korean attacks, the allied defense became a desperate battle called the Battle of Pusan Perimeter by Americans. However, the North Koreans failed to capture Pusan.

American air power arrived in force, flying 40 sorties per day in ground support actions Strategic bombers (mostly B-29s based in Japan) closed most rail and road traffic by day, and destroyed 32 critical bridges necessary for the conduct of warfare.[27] Trains used by military and civilians alike waited out the daylight hours in tunnels.[27]

Throughout all parts of Korea, the American bombers knocked out the main supply dumps and eliminated oil refineries and seaports that handled imports. The bombing was designed to starve North Korean forces of ammunition and other martial supplies. Naval air power also attacked transportation choke points. The North Korean forces were already strung out over the peninsula, and the destruction caused by American bombers prevented needed supplies from reaching North Korean forces in the south.[27]

Meanwhile, supply bases in Japan were pouring weapons and soldiers into Pusan.[27] American tank battalions were rushed in from San Francisco; by late August, America had over 500 medium tanks in the Pusan perimeter.[27] By early September, UN-ROK forces were decidedly more powerful and outnumbered the North Koreans by 180,000 to 100,000. At that point, they began a counterattack.[32] [27]

South Korean and allied forces move north

See main article: Battle of Incheon.

In the face of these overwhelming reinforcements, the North Korean forces found themselves undermanned and with weak logistical support.[27] They also lacked the substantial naval and air support of the Americans.[27] In order to alleviate pressure on the Pusan Perimeter, General MacArthur, as UN commander-in-chief for Korea, argued for an amphibious landing far behind the North Korean lines at Incheon.[27]

The violent tides and strong enemy presence made this an extremely risky operation.[27] MacArthur had started planning a few days after the war began, but he had been strongly opposed by the Pentagon.[27] When he finally received permission, MacArthur activated the X Corps under General Edward Almond (comprising 70,000 troops of the 1st Marine Division and the Army's 7th Infantry Division and augmented by 8,600 Korean troops) and ordered them to land at Incheon in Operation Chromite.[27] By the time of the attack on September 15, thanks to reconnaissance by guerrillas, misinformation and extensive shelling prior to the invasion, the North Korean military had few soldiers stationed in Incheon, so the U.S. forces met only light resistance when they landed, though extensive shelling and bombing destroyed much of the city.[27]

The landing was a decisive victory, as X Corps rolled over the few defenders and threatened to trap the main North Korean army.[27] MacArthur quickly recaptured Seoul.[27] The North Koreans, almost cut off, rapidly retreated northwards; about 25,000 to 30,000 made it back.[55] [56]

Invasion of North Korea

See main article: UN Offensive, 1950. The United Nations troops drove the North Koreans back past the 38th parallel.[27]

The UN forces crossed into North Korea in early October 1950.[27] The U.S. X Corps made amphibious landings at Wonsan and Iwon, which had already been captured by South Korean forces advancing by land.[27] The Eighth U.S. Army, along with the South Koreans, drove up the western side of Korea and captured Pyongyang on October 19.[27] By the end of October, the North Korean Army was rapidly disintegrating, and the UN took 135,000 prisoners.

The UN offensive greatly concerned the Chinese, who worried that the UN forces would not stop at the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China, and might extend their rollback policy into China.[27] Many in the West, including General MacArthur, thought that spreading the war to China would be necessary and that since North Korean troops were being supplied by bases in China, those supply depots should be bombed. However, Truman and the other leaders disagreed, and MacArthur was ordered to be very cautious when approaching the Chinese border.[27]

Chinese intervention

On June 27, 1950, before China entered the conflict, President Truman ordered the 7th Fleet to enter the Taiwan Straits, in order to protect Taiwan from Chinese Communist forces.[57] The PRC warned American leaders through neutral diplomats that it would intervene to protect its national security.[27] Truman regarded the warnings as “a bald attempt to blackmail the U.N.” and did not take it seriously.[58] The PRC Government argued that in making Japan its main war base in the Far East, launching an invasion against Korea and the Chinese province of Taiwan, and carrying out active intervention in other countries in Asia, the United States was building up a military encirclement of China.[59] The PRC Government reported that prior to China's entry in the Korean conflict, the United States violated Chinese airspace, bombing peaceful towns and villages.[60]

On October 15, 1950, Truman went to Wake Island for a short, highly publicized meeting with MacArthur.[27] MacArthur, saying he was speculating, saw little risk.[27] MacArthur explained that the Chinese had lost their window of opportunity to help North Korea's invasion. He estimated the Chinese had 300,000 soldiers in Manchuria, with between 100,000-125,000 men along the Yalu; half could be brought across the Yalu. But the Chinese had no air force; hence, “if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang, there would be the greatest slaughter.”[55] [61]

On October 8, 1950, the day after American troops crossed the 38th parallel, Chairman Mao Zedong issued the order to assemble the Chinese People's Volunteer Army. Seventy percent of the members of the PVA were Chinese regulars from the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Mao ordered the army to move to the Yalu River, ready to cross. Mao sought Soviet aid and saw intervention as defensive of the broader revolutionary situation in Asia: “If we allow the United States to occupy all of Korea, Korean revolutionary power will suffer a fundamental defeat, and the American invaders will run more rampant, and have negative effects for the entire Far East.” he told Stalin. Premier Zhou Enlai was sent to Moscow to add force to Mao's cabled arguments. Mao delayed while waiting for substantial Soviet help, postponing the planned attack from October 13 to October 19. However, Soviet assistance was limited to providing air support no nearer than sixty miles (100 km) from the battlefront. The Soviet MiG-15s in PRC colors did pose a serious challenge to UN pilots. In one area, nicknamed “MiG Alley” by UN forces, they held local air superiority against the American-made Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars until the newer North American F-86 Sabres were deployed. The Chinese were angry at the limited extent of Soviet involvement, having assumed that they had been promised full scale air support.

The Chinese made contact with American troops on November 1, 1950. Thousands of Chinese had attacked from the north, northwest, and west against scattered U.S. and South Korean (Republic of Korea or ROK) units moving deep into North Korea. The Chinese seemed to come out of nowhere as they swarmed around the flanks and over the defensive positions of the surprised United Nations (UN) troops.[62]

The Chinese march and bivouac discipline also minimized any possible detection.[27] In a well-documented instance, a Chinese army of three divisions marched on foot from An-tung in Manchuria, on the north side of the Yalu River, 286 miles (460 km) to its assembly area in North Korea, in the combat zone, in a period ranging from 16 to 19 days. One division of this army, marching at night over circuitous mountain roads, averaged 18 miles (29 km) per day for 18 days. The day's march began after dark at 19:00 and ended at 03:00 the next morning. Defense measures against aircraft were to be completed before 05:30. Every man, animal, and piece of equipment were to be concealed and camouflaged. During daylight, bivouac scouting parties moved ahead to select the next day's bivouac area. When Chinese units were compelled for any reason to march by day, they were under standing orders for every man to stop in his tracks and remain motionless if aircraft appeared overhead.[27] Officers were empowered to shoot any man who violated this order.[32]

In late November, the Chinese struck in the west, along the Chongchon River, and completely overran several South Korean divisions and successfully landed a heavy blow to the flank of the remaining UN forces.[27] The ensuing defeat of the U.S. Eighth Army resulted in the longest retreat of any American military unit in history.[63] Mostly due to the successful but very costly rear-guard action by the Turkish Brigade at Kunuri during November 26 to 30th, which slowed the Chinese onslaught by 3-4 days, the U.S. 8th Army escaped complete annihilation by the Chinese. In the east, at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, a 30,000 man unit from the U.S. 7th Infantry Division and U.S. Marine Corps was also unprepared for the Chinese tactics and was soon surrounded, though they eventually managed to escape the encirclement, albeit with over 15,000 casualties.[64]

While the Chinese soldiers initially lacked heavy fire support and light infantry weapons, their tactics quickly adapted to this disadvantage, as explained by Bevin Alexander in his book How Wars Are Won:

Roy Appleman further clarified the initial Chinese tactics as:

The U.S. forces in northeast Korea, who had rushed forward with great speed only a few months earlier, were forced to race southwards with even greater speed and form a defensive perimeter around the port city of Hungnam, where a major evacuation was carried out in late December 1950.[27] Facing complete defeat and surrender, 193 shiploads of American men and material were evacuated from Hungnam Harbor, and about 105,000 soldiers, 98,000 civilians, 17,500 vehicles, and 350,000 tons of supplies were shipped to Pusan in orderly fashion.[27] As they left, the American forces blew up large portions of the city to deny its use to the communists, depriving many Korean civilians of shelter during the winter.[55]

Aftermath of Chosin Battle-Operation Glory

Following the conflict, the United Nations troop casualties were buried at a temporary gravesite near Hŭngnam. Operation Glory occurred from July to November 1954, during which the dead of each side were exchanged; remains of 4,167 U.S. soldiers and marines were exchanged for 13,528 North Korean and Chinese dead. In addition, 546 civilians who died in United Nations prisoner of war camps were turned over to the South Korean government.[65] After "Operation Glory" 416 Korean War "unknowns" were buried in the Punchbowl Cemetery. According to a DPMO white paper [66] 1,394 names were also transmitted during "Operation Glory" from the Chinese and North Koreans

Notes and References

  1. Web site: On This Day 29 August 1950. BBC. 2007-08-15.
  2. Web site: Veterans Affairs Canada — The Korean War. Veterans Affairs Canada. 2007-08-15.
  3. Web site: Filipino Soldiers in the Korean War (video documentary). 2008-03-24.
  4. Web site: Walker. Jack D. A brief account of the Korean War. 2007-08-15.
  5. Web site: French Participation in the Korean War. Embassy of France. 2007-08-15.
  6. Web site: South Korean POWs. 2007-08-15.
  7. Web site: All POW-MIA Korean War Casualties. 2007-08-15.
  8. Web site: The UK & Korea, Defence Relations. Office of the Defence Attache, British Embassy, Seoul. 2007-08-15.
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