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By: Shalesia Lide
The Basis Of the Korean War
The Korean War (25 June 1950 - armistice signed
July 27th, 1953 was a military conflict between the
Republic of
Korea, supported by the United Nations, and the
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, supported
by the People's
Republic of China (PRC), with military material aid
from the Soviet Union. The war was a result of the
division of Korea by an agreement of the victorious
Allies at the conclusion of the Pacific War at the end
of World
War II.
The Korean peninsula was ruled by
Japan from 1910 until the end of
World War II. Following the surrender
of Japan
in 1945, American administrators
divided the peninsula along the 38th
Parallel, with United States troops
the southern part and Soviet troops
occupying the northern part.
The failure to hold free
elections throughout the
Korean Peninsula in 1948
deepened the division between
the two
sides, and the North
established a Communist
government. The 38th Parallel
increasingly became a political
between the two Koreas.
Although reunification
negotiations continued in the
months preceding the war,
intensified. Cross-border
skirmishes and raids at the
38th Parallel persisted. The
situation escalated into open
when North Korean forces
invaded South Korea on 25
June 1950. It was the first
significant armed conflict of
Cold War.
North Korean invasion came as an
alarming surprise to American officials.
As far as they were concerned, this was
not simply a border dispute between two
unstable dictatorships on the other side
of the globe. Instead, many feared it was
the first step in a communist campaign
to take over the world. For this reason,
nonintervention was not considered an
option by many top decision makers. (In
fact, in April 1950, a National Security
Council report known as NSC-68 had
recommended that the United States
use military force to “contain” communist
expansionism anywhere it seemed to be
occurring, “regardless of the intrinsic
strategic or economic value of the lands
in question.”)
38th Parallel
The Korean War was the first major proxy war in the Cold
War , the prototype of the following sphere-of-influence
wars such as the Vietnam War (1959–75). The Korean War
proxy war as one way that the nuclear superpowers indirectly
conducted their rivalry in third-party countries. The NSC-68
Containment Policy extended the cold war from occupied
Europe to
the rest of the world.
What Truman Had To Say
“If we let Korea down,” President Harry
Truman (1884-1972) said, “the Soviets will
keep right on going and swallow up one
place after another.” The fight on the
Korean peninsula was a symbol of the
global struggle between east and west,
good and evil. As the North Korean army
pushed into Seoul, the South Korean
capital, the United States readied its troops
for a war against communism itself.
The Struggle…
At first, the war was a defensive one–a war to get the
communists out of South Korea–and it went badly for
the Allies. The North Korean army was welldisciplined, well-trained and well-equipped; Rhee’s
forces, by contrast, were frightened, confused, and
seemed inclined to flee the battlefield at any
provocation. Also, it was one of the hottest and driest
summers on record, and desperately thirsty
American soldiers were often forced to drink water
from rice paddies that had been fertilized with human
waste. As a result, dangerous intestinal diseases and
other illnesses were a constant threat.
Strategies Planned…
By the end of the summer, President Truman and General
Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), the commander in charge of
the Asian theater, had decided on a new set of war aims. Now,
for the Allies, the Korean War was an offensive one: It was a
war to “liberate” the North from the communists.
Initially, this new strategy was a success. An amphibious
assault at Inchon pushed the North Koreans out of Seoul and
back to their side of the 38th parallel. But as American troops
crossed the boundary and headed north toward the Yalu River,
the border between North Korea and Communist China, the
Chinese started to worry about protecting themselves from what
they called “armed aggression against Chinese territory.”
Chinese leader Mao Zedong (1893-1976) sent troops to North
Korea and warned the United States to keep away from the
Yalu boundary unless it wanted full-scale war
Unlike World War II and Vietnam, the
Korean War did not get much media
attention in the United States. The most
famous representation of the war in
popular culture is the television series
“M*A*S*H,” which was set in a field
hospital in South Korea. The series ran
from 1972 until 1983, and its final
episode was the most-watched in
television history
Korean Demilitarized Zone
Fighting ended at the 38th parallel
and the Korean Demilitarized Zone,
a strip of land 248x4 km (155x2.5
mi), now divides the two countries.
Even so, skirmishes, incursions, and
incidents between the combatants
have continued since the Armistice
was signed.
The Korean War Reaches A
In July 1951, President Truman and his new military
commanders started peace talks at Panmunjom.
Still, the fighting continued along the 38th parallel as
negotiations stalled. Both sides were willing to
accept a ceasefire that maintained the 38th parallel
boundary, but they could not agree on whether
prisoners of war should be forcibly “repatriated.” (The
Chinese and the North Koreans said yes; the United
States said no.) Finally, after more than two years of
negotiations, the adversaries signed an armistice on
July 27, 1953. The agreement allowed the POWs to
stay where they liked; drew a new boundary near the
38th parallel that gave South Korea an extra 1,500
square miles of territory; and created a 2-mile-wide
“demilitarized zone” that still exists today.
On September 15, 1950, U.S.
and South Korean forces
launched an amphibious landing
at the port of Inch' on, near the
South Korean capital, Seoul. A
daring operation planned and
executed under extremely
difficult conditions by U.S. Gen.
Douglas MacArthur, the landing
suddenly reversed the tide of the
war, forcing the invading North
Korean army to retreat in
disorder up the Korean
No Substitute For Victory?
This was something that President Truman and his advisers
decidedly did not want: They were sure that such a war would
lead to Soviet aggression in Europe, the deployment of atomic
weapons and millions of senseless deaths. To General
MacArthur, however, anything short of this wider war
represented “appeasement,” an unacceptable knuckling under
to the communists.
As President Truman looked for a way to prevent war with the
Chinese, MacArthur did all he could to provoke it. Finally, in
March 1951, he sent a letter to Joseph Martin, a House
Republican leader who shared MacArthur’s support for
declaring all-out war on China–and who could be counted upon
to leak the letter to the press. “There is,” MacArthur wrote, “no
substitute for victory” against international communism.
For Truman, this letter was the last straw. On April 11, the
president fired the general for insubordination.
MacArthur had started to think about a landing
somewhere behind enemy lines in early July 1950,
and on August 12 he ordered his staff to prepare for
an amphibious landing at Inch' on, the port outlet of
Seoul, located on Korea's west coast. Planning and
preparation for a major amphibious operation usually
took five or six months; MacArthur was allowing only
one, with a target D Day of September 15, the
earliest date that tides would be suitable. In
Washington, D.C., the Joint Chiefs of Staff were at
first opposed to such a landing. They feared that
because of the grave situation at the Pusan
Perimeter, MacArthur would not be able to hold out
enough units to fight elsewhere and might be
defeated in both places
The Ending Result
Before the armistice, talks had
gone on for nearly 2 years.
Eisenhower had promised that if
he was elected in the election of
1952, he would go to Korea and
end the war. There was no simple
way to end the conflict. Talks had
collapsed in October 1952. In
1953, the US threatened to bomb
China, but eventually a ceasefire
was declared between UN forces
and Korean/Chinese forces.
The "De-Militarized Zone" which
designates the border between
North and South Korea has
remained one of the most
heavily-armed stretches of land
on Earth. The stability of the
region is threatened by the
development of nuclear weapons
by North Korea.
The Korean War was relatively short but
exceptionally bloody. Nearly 5 million
people died. More than half of these–
about 10 percent of Korea’s prewar
population–were civilians. (This rate of
civilian casualties was higher than World
War II’s and Vietnam’s.) Almost 40,000
Americans died in action in Korea, and
more than 100,000 were wounded.