The Korean Conflict 1950 to 1953
Korea before the War • Korea was long influenced by the Chinese, Russians & Japanese. • Japan controlled the peninsula from 1905 to the end of WWII. • At the Yalta Conference, the Allied Powers decided that after the war Korea should be free & democratic nation. • For security reasons, the Allied Powers chose to divide Korea into northern & southern parts.
The dividing line was the 38th parallel. • The Soviet Union would control the northern part & the Americans would control the southern part. • Even though the Soviets did not play an important military role in the Pacific, they took control of northern Korea anyway. • This arrangement was supposed to be temporary; however, problems soon developed. • The Soviet Union tried to establish a Communist system of government in North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.)
The first leader of North Korea was Kim Il Sung. • He wanted to reunify North & South Korea under Communist control. • Of course, the US wanted to have a democratic system in the South, known as the Republic of Korea (leader was Syngman Rhee.) • He was pretty much a dictator like Kim Il Sung. • Reunification efforts would lead to the conflict on the Korean peninsula.
Syngman Rhee Kim Il Sung
The Start of the Korean War • June 25, 1950: 100,000 North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel & invaded South Korea. • Kim Il Sung had ordered the invasion, hoping to reunify all of Korea under his rule. • The troops carried Soviet-made weapons & drove Soviet-made tanks. • This attack came as a surprise to most American leaders
The North Koreans had been building up their forces at the 38th parallel. • Truman administration thought there would be no serious fighting in Korea, but they were wrong. • The US was not well prepared for this fight; the decision to fight was made quickly. • Truman wanted the Americans to make a stand in South Korea against Communist aggression. • Truman knew that the North Koreans were supported by both the Soviets & the Chinese. • Had we abandoned South Korea, other nations would think we would not help them.
A failure against the Communists would also show the weakness of the capitalist/democratic system. • Situation in Korea was getting worse by the day. • Days after the invasion, the North Koreans had pushed back the South Korean defenses & captured the capital city of Seoul. • Truman ordered American naval & air forces to support South Korean ground troops. • Then he asked the UN to approve the use of force to stop the North Korean invasion.
The UN Enters the Fight • The UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of the use of force. • The Soviet representative was absent from the vote (protest) so he couldn’t use his veto power to stop the use of force. • BUT, it was obvious that American ground troops would be needed to help the South Koreans. • June 30 Truman ordered American ground troops into action as part of UN Forces.
No war was ever declared; Korea is known as a “UN police action.” • The commander of UN forces was Gen. Douglas McArthur. • Approximately 15 other nations contributed a total of 40,000 troops. • When they reached the ground they were joined the South Koreans in a desperate attempt to save their country. • However, American soldiers would not be prepared for the terrain, climate, & the fierce fighting of the North Koreans.
Key Battles of the Korean War • By September, 1950, the North Koreans had pushed the UN Forces to the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula near the city of Pusan. • The UN Forces held a 130-mile-long perimeter around the city. • Throughout September the UN Forces held this perimeter while more troops & equipment were unloading daily at Pusan. • McArthur’s plan for attacking the North Koreas was daring & brilliant.
McArthur’s plan called for UN forces to make an amphibious landing behind enemy lines at the port city of Inchon on the west coast of South Korea. • There were challenges at landing at Inchon, but McArthur used those challenges to his advantage (North Koreans wouldn’t expect an attack there.) • McArthur’s plan worked beautifully; within 24 hours 70,000 UN forces had secured a solid landing & regained some ground. • The landing at Inchon would be the first step in forcing the North Koreans back.
The Koreans on the Run • From Inchon, the UN Forces quickly recaptured the capital of Seoul. • The North Koreans had stretched themselves too thin & were powerless to stop the force moving out of Inchon. • The UN Forces stationed at Pusan then launched another offensive breaking through the North Korean lines, pushing northward. • The North Koreans were forced to surrender or they were massacred.
The UN Forces moved quickly; by October, 1950, all of South Korea was controlled by the UN Forces. • The military question now was-do we take all of Korea or stop at the 38th Parallel? • McArthur favored taking all of North Korea. • BUT what would the Soviets or the Chinese do? Would either come to the help of the North Koreans? • The Chinese had issued a warning to the UN Forces not to attack North Korea. • Truman favored McArthur’s plan BUT there would be a snag.
In November, 1950, as McArthur was planning for a major push north the unexpected happened. • 260,000 Chinese troops stormed across the Yalu River into North Korea to force the UN Forces to retreat. • The Yalu River is North Korea’s northern border with China. • McArthur’s promise of a quick victory had disappeared.
UN Retreat • The Chinese far out-numbered the UN Forces which caused them to retreat. • UN Forces retreated past the 38th parallel all the way to Seoul. • To make matters worse, the brutal Korean winter had arrived with temperatures dropping well below 0 degrees F. • McArthur & his forces were stunned at how quickly the Chinese were able to recapture lost territory.
The UN faced a choice between defeat by the Chinese or all out war with them • McArthur called for bombing the Chinese mainland & bringing Nationalist forces to fight against the Communist Chinese. • The most controversial thing was that McArthur called for the use of atomic weapons against the Chinese. • McArthur was wrong in his prediction. • In time, Chinese forces were not only stopped but forced back to the 38th parallel. • This success called into question McArthur’s has warning & the need to expand the war.
Truman believed that a diplomatic solution could be found rather than expanding the war or using atomic weapons. • McArthur however grew angry at Truman’s attitude; McArthur wanted the communists defeated even if it meant expanding the scope of the war. • After McArthur made pubic statements challenging the president’s authority & threatening the Chinese government Truman had to act. • Truman decided to fire McArthur; he could not allow a general to disobey the president or….
…..make his own policy • McArthur was a war hero from the Pacific Theater; he issued the famous promise, “I shall return.” • Many Americans were outraged & angered at Truman’s decision. • The Chicago Tribune warned, “The American nation has never been in greater danger. It is led by a fool who is surrounded by knaves.” • McArthur appeared before Congress in a televised farewell address. • Those watching were further angered at Truman’s decision.
April 19, 1951 McArthur spoke to Congress saying, “In war, there is no substitute for victory. There are some who for varying reason would appease Red China. They are blind to history’s clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new & bloodier war.” • McArthur closed with the emotional words, “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”
End of Fighting in Korea • In July, 1951, the US entered into peace talks to end the fighting in Korea. • By this point, nearly 14,000 US soldiers were dead & 80,000 were wounded. • South Korea, UN Forces, North Korea, & China also suffered large amounts of casualties. • Peace talks though would not go smoothly.
The peace negotiations were stuck on the location of the boundary between North & South Korea. • UN Forces had taken land just north of the 38th parallel; they wanted the boundary established there. • The Communists wanted the boundary set at the 38th parallel. • Negotiations broke off by the end of the summer in 1951. • Meanwhile, military actions continued in Korea.
There was back-&-forth fighting between the UN Forces & the Communists; mainly to achieve more strategic positions. • The forces would take turns winning & losing key hilltops; though little was gained, the losses were heavy. • When peace negotiations resumed they hit another snag rather quickly. • This time is was prisoners of war. • Syngman Rhee (leader of South Korea) hoping for unification under his leadership refused to send back North Korean & Chinese pow’s to their countries.
The battlefield was quiet of major fighting but shelling & sniping continued. • Peace negotiations at Panmunjom were working slowly toward an agreement. • When “Ike” was elected in 1952, he promised to end the war in Korea; he pushed negotiators to find a solution to the war. • The Communists also wanted an end to the war. • After some last-minute fighting, the guns fell silent on July 27. • In the last 2 months of the conflict, UN Forces suffered 57,000 casualities.
The Communists lost 100,000 casualties. • The final peace settlement resulted in a cease-fire with the establishment of the Korean Demilitarized Zone at the 38th parallel. • July 27, 1953 • No peace treaty has been signed to date. • The leader of North Korea is the son of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-Il.
The Great Leader The Dear Leader