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Korean War

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Korean War Essay, Research Paper

On July 1, part of the U.S. Army 24th 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 2nd, 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.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 1st and captured many coastal cities.

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 Chinese 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 38th 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. 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 Kaesong 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. 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


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.-Caridi, Ronald J. The

Korean War and American Politics: The Republican Party as a Case Study.

University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968.

-Cummings, Bruce. Origins of the Korean War. Prince University Press, 1981.

-Truman, Harry S. Years of Trial and Hope. Doubleday, 1956.



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