The Korean War THE KOREAN WAR The Korean War is often referred to as the forgotten war. There exist no monuments in Washington D.C. to acknowledge the thousands of American soldiers who fought valiantly and died for their country’s political interests. There are no annual parades, and little information in text books to shed light on the war.
Korea was a bloody war. The United States sustained over 140,000 casualties with 33,000 killed in action, yet the U.S. never formally honored its fallen soldiers.1 The war was another chance to indirectly overpower communism in the beginning of the Cold War. Interestingly it was fought on Asian soil through Asian politics.
The lack of interest by the American public following the war reflected a national desire to forget the events of the war as quickly as possible. However, the Korean War must be remembered in order honor those whose who died for their country’s political convictions. For hundreds of years Korea was dominated by the Chinese empire. During World War II, Japan seized Korea from the Chinese and used its natural resources to fuel its war effort. After Japan was defeated by the allies, Korea became occupied by the Russians in the North and the Americans in the South. Both the U.S.
and the Soviets realized Korea was a strategic country; it was important to occupy because it lay in-between China, Japan, and the Soviet Union. North and South Korea was divided by the 38th parallel, it evenly split the country into two regions. Both Russia and America became politically involved in Korea, therefore, each set up strong military and governmental ties.2 The United States wanted Korea to be held under democratic rule, while the Soviets wanted communist rule. They took these conflicting views to the United Nations (UN.) which had just been set up to prevent another world war and help with international elections.3 The UN. decided that both sides of Korea should have their own elections.
The elections were held on January 12, 1948.4 Since North Korea favored communism, the people elected the Russians and Kim Il Sung, a former guerrilla leader. South Korea favored democracy and formed the Republic of Korea (ROK) under U.S. educated, Dr. Sygman Rhee.5 The Soviets withdrew from North Korea in 1949. They left a communist dictatorship with a well trained, well armed, North Korean-Soviet army. In fear of the North Koreans newly developed strength, the U.S.
left South Korea with some small arms and military advisors. American troops left Korea at the end of 1949.6 Both the North Koreans and the Russians wanted to overthrow South Korea to expand their empire. Above all, Russia had a chance to oppose its economic and military rival, the United States. North Korea, armed with Soviet tanks, boats, planes, and guns, planned a surprise attack across the 38th parallel into South Korea. Late Saturday evening on June 24, 1950, president Henry Truman got a urgent phone call. Truman was informed that a well organized and many pronged invasion of South Korea by the North Koreans was under way.
The U.S. was obliged to defend South Korea.7 The invasion of South Korea was prompted by the Soviet Union, therefore, the invasion was a direct challenge to the United States. For many years before Korea, the U.S. and the Soviets were in competition for the number of countries backing them.
This was known as the Cold War. In the Cold War, neither the U.S. or Russia dared to directly oppose each other because both were nations with atomic weapons. Both countries used economic, political, and small military victories using other countries to fight their battles.8 Communist North Korea’s invasion of South Korea altered the Cold War situation.
Now, by backing with South Korea, the U.S. had a chance to oppose the Soviets in force. With support from the United Nations, the U.S. ordered North Korea back over the 38th parallel because they had violated international peace agreements. North Korea disregarded the demand, and pushed further into South Korea.
With this, Truman ordered General MacArthur to send two American divisions to assist South Korea in repelling the invasion. As conflict infused, the UN. and South Korean forces were all put under command of Gen. MacArthur. The Unites States was aware that if North Korea succeeded, it would be a huge gain for communism and could possibly generate genocide of the South Koreans because of their democratic beliefs.9 The North Koreans achieved complete strategic surprise with the timing, as well as the scale, of their invasion.
They raced across the thinly guarded 38th parallel, and simultaneously launched a series of amphibious attacks on the east coast. Panicking, the ROK began to blow-up most all the bridges leading into South Korea in order to slow down the North Korean advance. MacArthur, seeing his troops overwhelmed by the on rushing invasion, sent urgent messages to the White House demanding more troops and supplies. Unseasoned troops were sent from U.S. bases in Japan, and within a week, the allied forces were being mauled by a fierce North Korean invasion. As the allied situation became more dire, fifteen nations, mostly the Atlantic allies, sent armed forces to fight in Korea.
The Korean police action had now become the Korean war.10 The U.S. and allied forces had been pushed back all the way to Taejon, where they held an indefinite position. The allies held Taejon for five days and allowed much needed troops and supplies to arrive at Pusan*. When the troops that arrived at Pusan, they created a defensive perimeter to hold back the North Koreans from capturing the entire country.11 The success of the North Koreans was an partly a cause of the allies underestimating their military ability. This was commonly known as Gook Syndrome where the Koreans were thought to be inferior, and as a result, the allies made many careless mistakes.12 MacArthur, realizing the severity of the allied situation, decided to land an army to the North, behind Pusan to cut off the North Korean retreat.
This was known as Operation Chromite. The plan was to land the allied forces at the coastal city of Ichon*, were nearly 100,000 North Koreans forces were stationed. Attacking Ichon from the sea was an enormous gamble, yet the cities strategic position was key in winning the war. Ichon was heavily guarded by * see map artillery and mines, so the allies mustered up 200 ships and countless aircraft to partake in the assault. On early September 15, 1950, after extensive air raids on the North Koreans, the allied forces stormed the beaches at Ichon.13 After eight hours of heavy fighting, the North Korean forces retreated out of the city.
It was a spectacular victory for the UN., and was considered the most successful amphibious assault in military history.14 Once the UN. had a firm hold on Ichon, armored units raced inland and prepared to attack Seoul, the capitol of South Korea. Seoul was heavily reinforced from the 50,000 North Korean forces who had retreated from Ichon to aid in holding the city. Seoul was bombarded by the allies for three days with little result. On the fourth day, the allies rushed the city.
Street to street guerrilla warfare insued, and both sides took huge loses. After the twelfth day of bitter fighting, the badly wounded North Korean forces retreated back across the 38th parallel.15 With a chance to put the kill on the North Korean forces, MacArthur commanded his troops to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea. There was a risk of communist Russia or China entering the war, but MacArthur found it unlikely. With a speedy push, UN. troops arrived at the North Korean city of Pyongyang.
A small skirmish took place in the outskirts of the city, but within one day, the city was won over to the allies. MacArthur’s troops moved swiftly, and with little fighting captured most of North Korea in one month. The UN. forces received little resistance and the remaining North Korean troops were seen crossing the Yalu River into China.16 With a hope to overtake some of the retreating North Korean troops, MacArthur ordered the UN.
forces to move north to the Manchurian border between China and North Korea. This command was in direct defiance of presidential orders, because encroaching on the Chinese border could cause China or Russia to enter the war.17 Yet, MacArthur dismissed the threat, and pushed forward. China feared the UN. would attack them, and they needed to protect valuable hydroelectric power plants on the Yalu River.
They massed 300,000 Chinese soldiers on the Manchurian border to wait for the UN. to arrive. On November 8, 1950, the UN. troops moved deeper into the mountainous Manchurian region. The Chinese troops lay coiled like a viper, and …