After Japanese forces surrendered to General Douglas MacArthur, the United States and the USSR shared control of the neighboring Korean Peninsula, which had been under Japanese control since the turn of the century. They divided Korea at the 38th parallel, with the Soviet Union taking control in the north and the United States in the south. Both sides also armed the Koreans and erected new governments friendly to each respective superpower.
The North Koreans attacked. They were very successful. The North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) easily defeated the Republic of Korea’s army (the ROKs). They captured most of South Korea.
The Americans were alarmed. On 27 June they persuaded the United Nations to pass a resolution supporting South Korea. The Americans sent troops to Korea to reinforce the South Korean Army at Pusan.
On 15 September, the American General MacArthur led a UN amphibious landing at Inchon (near Seoul) behind the North Koreans (NKPA) . Out of the 300,000 UN troops, 260,000 were Americans. It was an ambitious and daring plan – the tides off Inchon were crucial to the plan – The harbor was very shallow - The amphibious forces would be unable to disembark if the timing was off. A storm preceded the landing providing crucial cover to the invading forces.
In danger of being cut off, the North Koreans (NKPA) had to retreat. The Americans drove them back and recaptured South Korea. 125,000 North Korean prisoners were taken. On 7 October 1950 MacArthur invaded North Korea. He advanced as far as the Yalu River – the Chinese border. He boasted that the Americans would be 'home by Christmas'.
MacArthur had sent 8th Army toward the Yalu at top speed, sacrificing preparation for haste to complete the destruction of the North Korean armies before China could get permission to act from the USSR. October 18 - Interpreting this move as an act of war, the Chinese sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers across the Yalu to meet MacArthur’s men in North Korea. Unknowingly, the 8th Army was racing into a well prepared trap by powerful veteran army. Overwhelmed, MacArthur and his forces retreated back to the 38th parallel.
Stalemated once again at the 38th parallel, MacArthur pressured Truman to drop nuclear bombs on mainland China. Doing so, MacArthur reasoned, would not only allow his forces to take the entire Korean Peninsula but would also topple the Communist regime in Beijing.
Truman and U.S. military officials, however, knew they lacked the resources to fight a war with China, defend Western Europe, contain the Soviet Union, occupy Japan, and hold Korea at the same time. They also wanted to keep the war limited and knew that the deployment of nuclear weapons would bring the Soviet Union into what could quickly devolve into World War III.
So the Americans landed more troops – The US had superior air power – They used bombers. The Americans drove the Chinese back, but 54,000 American soldiers died doing so. The Chinese admitted to losing 390,000 men dead - UN sources put the figure at up to a million Chinese and half a million North Koreans dead. MacArthur reached the 38th parallel in March 1951.
As 1951 began, Truman and his Pentagon staff had continued to warn MacArthur that he would not be allowed to attack China—not by land, sea, or air. MacArthur told a number of people that the president's policy was misguided. Truman warned MacArthur not to express his dissent publicly. On April 5, however, Congressman Joseph Martin made public a letter he had received from MacArthur. The letter contained scathing attacks on Truman's Asia policy, and on his military strategy.
Truman had told MacArthur to stop. MacArthur was relieved of command. He returned to the U.S. a hero to many Americans.
Many historians have stated that the sacking of MacArthur was Truman's finest hour. By daring to fire an extremely popular general, Truman stood up for the principle that in our democracy, the civilians control the military. Yet MacArthur showed greatness here as well. Rather than continue to snipe at Truman and at Truman's policies, MacArthur accepted his dismissal while expressing public respect for the president. MacArthur's actions after his firing helped smooth over what could have been a terribly divisive event in American history.
In 1953, Eisenhower became American president. By the time Eisenhower took the oath of office, American soldiers had been entrenched in Korea for nearly three years. In the time since MacArthur’s final retreat to the 38th parallel, thousands more Americans had died without any territorial loss or gain. Eisenhower eventually brought about an armistice with North Korea, in part by making it known that he, unlike Truman, would consider the use of nuclear weapons in Korea. The Chinese agree to a truce, which was signed on 27 July 1953.
Despite the armistice, however, the border between North and South Korea has remained one of the most heavily fortified Cold War “hot spots” in the world for more than fifty years.
It is estimated that 10 million people died in the war – as many as died in the First World War. Americans 136,935 casualties 33,651 KIA This is the National Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. There are 19 statues approximately 7’3&quot; tall, heroic scale and consist of 14 Army, 3 Marines, 1 Navy, 1 Air Force. They represent an ethnic cross section of America with 12 Caucasian, 3 African American, 2 Hispanic, 1 Oriental, 1 Indian (Native American). The juniper bushes are meant to be symbolic of the rough terrain encountered in Korea, and the granite stripes of the obstacles overcome in war .
This is what is engraved on the marker for the National Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Korean War Cold, Bloody, and Forgotten 25 June 1950 – 27 July, 1953 38 months