G.I. comforting a grieving infantryman in Korean War

G.I. comforting a grieving infantryman in Korean War

The Korean War

(June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953)

The Participants

South Korea: South Korea, The UN Command with the United States as its principal force. Other members involved included the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Turkey, and Ethiopia

North Korea: North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union

The Cold War Heats Up: Events Leading to the Korean War

Up to June 25, 1950

In the 1800s, the Korean Peninsula was occupied by the Japanese. It was annexed into the Japanese Empire in 1910 and remained part of the Empire until the end of World War II in 1945. After World War II, the Allies split up the landholdings of the Axis Powers, including Japan’s landholdings of the Korean Peninsula. Korea was split between the Soviet Union and the United States at the 38thparallel. The Soviet Union occupied the North and instituted Communist leader Kim Il Sung to rule the country. In response, in 1948, the U.S. ran a rigged election in South Korea to put Syngman Rhee into power, simply because he was not Communist. Tensions rose between the two sides as the Cold War began to boil between the Capitalist West and the Soviet Union. Then, in 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. 

The Red Scare

Between 1947 and 1991, there was significant political tension between the Capitalist West and the Communist states of the Soviet Union (the USSR). Communismwas a driving political ideology in the 20thcentury, which believed in a common ownership of resources by all people. This supposedly utopian society would also be classless and stateless, a distinct threat to the “rags to riches” ideologies of the United States. The reality of Communism was rampant corruption and abuse of the system, leading to the same class systems found in other countries. “Cold War” refers to the fact that the Soviet Union and the United States never engaged in direct war, instead fighting through intermediary conflicts.

A War Through Intermediaries

June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953

Boots on the Ground

On July 1st, the U.N. and the U.S. sent ground forces to South Korea, occupying Busan in the Southeast part of Korea. President Truman sent General Douglas MacArthur, a staunch anti-Communist, but found he had little success controlling the general. In September, after a back-and-forth of territory holding, the U.S. sent its navy to outflank the North and retook Seoul (South Korea) and Pyongyang (North Korea). South Korea and the U.S. briefly appeared to be winning the war and sought to reunite the peninsula under one pro-democratic rule. 

However, Chinese troops flooded into North Korea over the Yalu River and fought back against the South Korean and U.S. soldiers. They managed to push the South back behind the 38thparallel and, once again, Seoul fell into Communist hands. The following March, the U.S. retook Seoul. The capital exchanged hands five times before being secured for the South.  

In April of 1951, General MacArthur, on an anti-Communist warpath, refused orders of the president and was subsequently dismissed. 

Bradley County Sends its Finest

At the beginning of the war, the U.S. and South Korean anti-Communist forces were pushed back to the Busan Perimeter, the Southeastern-most portion of Korea. Territories changed hands repeatedly over the course of the war, sometimes in favor of the North and sometimes the South. The National Guard was organized and ready to meet the demand for military servicemen. The Bradley County area was part of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, stationed in Cleveland, TN. Of these men, about 60-70%  saw combat in Korea. Although intended to be a short conflict, the war stretched on, lengthening the combat enlistments of our local troops for twelve extra months. 

Bradley County Tires of War

The American public was tired of fighting wars, tired of losing family members, and tired of being torn away from home. As opposed to World War II, which still inspires many forms of entertainment, there were few forms of entertainment based on the Korean War. This was a reflection of public disinterest. The average American didn’t understand the reasoning behind the war, nor the hardships servicemen and women faced on the battlefront. Still today, there is not nearly as much interest in glorifying the Korean War as there is World War II. This is partially due to the fact that it is not seen as a complete victory as the latter. However, it should be viewed as a victory for the U.S. Without U.S. help, the whole of the Korean Peninsula could have been overtaken by the Soviet Union and North Korea. 

The End of the War

July 27, 1953

The War was static during 1952 and 1953, a stalemate between two equally matched forces where the upper hand was exchanged multiple times. The War lingered longer than either side expected. Civilian death tolls grew. POWs were captured by both sides. The vision of a unified Korea that both sides desired slowly slipped out of focus. It became clear this idea of victory would not come so easily. They would need a compromise. 

On July 27, 1953, a cease-fire was signed to halt the fighting between North and South Korea. The North and South reestablished their borders at the 38thparallel, which is now a demilitarized zone. It must be stressed that this cease-fire was nota peace treaty. To this day, North and South Korea are still at war. 

Over 35,000 U.S. troops died in the Korean War, having saved the people of South Korea from the tyrannical regime of today’s North Korea.