The Korean War, which began in June of 1950, was a conflict between the Democratic People s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
It was one of the bloodiest war in history in which an estimated 3, 000, 000 persons lost their lives. It was also the first war in which a world organization, the United Nations, played a military role. After World War II, U.
S. and Soviet forces moved into Korea. Soviet troops occupied Korea north of the 38 th parallel and American troops occupied Korea south of the parallel. The UN wanted to hold general elections in the two Koreas in order to achieve unification of the country. However, the Soviet Union refused to cooperate with the plan and as a result, a Communist state was permanently established under Soviet influence in the north and a pro-Western state was set up at the south. Both North and South Korea claimed the entire country and bitter hostility between the two inevitably led to disputes.
On June 25, 1950, the North Koreans, with tacit approval of the Soviet Union, unleashed a carefully planned attack southward across the 38 th parallel and the Korean War began. When North Korea invaded South Korea, the North Korean Army had about 135, 000 soldiers in addition to airplanes, artillery, and tanks while the South Korean Army had only about 95, 000 soldiers, few planes or heavy guns, and no tanks. The outcome of the war was evident. However, the UN soon came to South Korea s aid. At their greatest strength, the South Korean and UN forces consisted of almost 1, 110, 000 soldiers. Approximately 590, 000 were South Koreans and 480, 000 were Americans.
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About 39, 000 came from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Great Britain, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey. The North Korean Army soon grew in number as well. The army itself grew to more than 260, 000 troops during the war and China sent another 780, 000 soldiers to aid the North Koreans. On the day the war began, the UN Security Council issued a resolution demanding that the Communists stop fighting and retreat to the 38 th parallel. The Soviet Union, a member of the 11-nation Council, could have vetoed the resolution but the Soviet delegate was absent when the vote on Korea was taken due to Soviet Union s boycotting of Council meetings to protest China s membership on the Council.
North Korea ignored the UN demand and on June 27, its troops reached the outskirts of Seoul, the South Korean capital. On that same day, U. S. president Harriet Truman, without asking Congress to declare war, ordered United States forces to come to the assistance of South Korea as part of the UN police action. On July 1, part of the U. S.
Army 24 th Infantry Division flew from Japan to Pusan, a city located at the southern tip of Korea. They were the first American troops to reach Korea and other troops from other UN nations began arriving in Korea shortly after the Americans. On July 8, with the approval of the UN Security Council, Truman named General MacArthur commander in chief of the United Nations Command. The command had authority over all the Allies- South Koreans, Americans and the troops from other UN countries. MacArthur directed allied operations from his headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. By August 2 nd, the Communists had already captured the cities Seoul and Taejon and pushed the Allies back to the Pusan Perimeter.
The Pusan Perimeter was a battle line in the southeast corner of South Korea. The victory had almost gone to North Korea but through the help of reinforcements, the allies were able to fight off the North Koreans in the advance. The North Koreans lost about 58, 000 soldiers and much equipment in this area alone. The decisive point that changed the course of the war was the Inchon landing. On Sept. 15, 1950, marines and soldiers of the U.
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S. X Corps sailed from Japan to Inchon, on the northwest coast of South Korea. General MacArthur personally directed the surprise attack. It required extreme careful planning because the tides at Inchon vary more than 30 feet. Each boat had to land at high tide because any boat near the shore when the tide dropped would be trapped in the mud. The troops who landed at Inchon cut off the North Koreans in the Pusan Perimeter area from those north of Inchon.
They fought fiercely and managed to drive the North Koreans out. The troops then moved toward Seoul and took back Seoul on September 26. MacArthur demanded surrender by the North Koreans but they stubbornly rejected it. Late in September, the Allies prepared to invade North Korea. South Korean troops crossed into North Korea on October 1 st and captured the coastal cities of Won san, Hungnam, and Hamhung. The allied troops drove the North Koreans further back to their capital, Pyongyang and captured it.
When the North Koreans were driven all the way back to the borders of China, China warned against further advances toward its border. But General MacArthur, hoping to end the war before winter set in, ordered the Allies to press on. MacArthur and political leaders in Washington underestimated the size of the Chinese armies. MacArthur believed the Allied forces outnumbered the Chinese and that the Chines would be used for defense only. He also thought that Allied air power could prevent additional Chinese troops from entering North Korea. Allied planes roamed the length of Korea, and Allied warships sailed unchallenged along the coastlines, bombarding enemy ports.
Everyone had confidence that the war would be over by Christmas. But hopes for a quick end to the war soon disappeared. China sent a huge force against the Allies on November 26 and 27 and forced them to retreat. Allies began to retreat starting on December 4 and by Christmas Eve, 105, 000 U. S. and Korean troops, 91, 000 refugees, and 17, 500 vehicles had been evacuated by sea from North Korea.
By March 14, the war had changed. The two sides dug in along a battle line north of the 38 th parallel and most of the battles were concentrated in these areas. Truce talks began in July, but fighting continued for two more years. Neither side made important advances, but they fought many bitter battles for strategic positions. One of the most controversial events of the war took place on April 11, 1951, when President Truman removed General MacArthur from command and replaced him with Ridgway.
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The President s action resulted from a continuing dispute between MacArthur and defense leaders in Washington as to how the Allies should conduct the war. MacArthur wanted total victory by bombing bases in Manchuria, China and use all-out-measures. Truman fearing such actions might lead to a third World war, dismissed MacArthur as UN commander. Many people were growing weary by this war and peace talks increased. Truce talks began on July 10 at Kae song and were moved to Panmunjom on October 25.
A settlement seemed near on November 27, when both sides agreed that the existing battle line would be the final dividing line between North and South Korea if a truce were reached within 30 days. But unfortunately, a truce was not reached within the time limit mainly due to the issue of voluntary repatriation of prisoners. The UN Command had insisted that prisoners of both sides be allowed to choose whether or not they would return to their homelands. Many Chinese prisoners of the Allies violently protested against a forced return to life under Communism. The North Korean captives also refused to return home.
The Communists could not agree to the UN demand without admitting that Communism had thus far failed to secure the loyalty of all its citizens. By late April 1952, the truce talks were firmly deadlocked over voluntary repatriation and fighting continued along the battle line. On October 8, the UN Command adjourned the truce talk stating the talks would resume when the Communists were ready to offer a helpful suggesting for settling the issue of voluntary repatriation. After Stalin s death, Soviet leaders began talking of the need to settle disputes peacefully. On March 28, the Communists accepted an earlier offer by the UN Command for an exchange of sick and wounded prisoners. The Communists also indicated that the truce talks should be resumed.
The exchange took place in April and May. The UN Command received 684 sick and wounded prisoners, including 149 Americans. It returned 6, 670 Communist prisoners. The truce talks were resumed on April 26, and the Communists accepted voluntary repatriation. They agreed to let prisoners indicate their choice to the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission, which consisted of representatives of Czechoslovakia, India, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland. An armistice agreement was signed on July 27, 1953, and the fighting ended.
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A buffer zone, called the Demilitarized Zone, divided the two sides. It was 2. 5 miles wide along the final battle line. South Korea gained about 1, 500 square miles of territory.
Both sides agreed not to increase their military strength. A Military Armistice Commission, with representatives from both sides, was set up to enforce the armistice terms. The armistice also provided for a political conference to work out a final settlement. After the armistice was signed, each side charged the other with torture and starvation of prisoners, and other war crimes. The North Koreans and Chinese Communists were also accused of brainwashing prisoners.
The UN General Assembly adopted a general resolution condemning such acts. The United States spent about $67 billion on the war. Almost all parts of Korea were heavily damaged. About 1 million civilians were killed in South Korea, and property damage was estimated at more than $1 billion. Statistics for civilian deaths and damage in North Korea are unknown because they were not given. The UN Command and the Communists completed an exchange of 88, 539 prisoners in September 1953.
The Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission took custody of prisoners who refused to return to their homelands. The armistice provided that delegates from the various countries could visit these prisoners and try to persuade them to go home. But 14, 227 Chinese, 7, 825 North Koreans, 325 South Koreans, 21 Americans, and 1 British prisoner refused to return. In 1954, Soviet officials and representatives of countries that had fought in Korea met in Geneva, Switzerland.
But the negotiators failed to draw up a permanent peace plan and they were unable to settle the question of unifying Korea. A permanent peace treaty has never been signed.