Sunday, February 17, 2013

The War in Korea

A North Korean soldier
in the Korean War, 1950-1953
After the defeat of the Japanese in the Second World War, the Korean Peninsula was occupied by the American and Russian armies. The Koreans wanted to have their country reconstructed as one unified Korean nation after thirty five years of Japanese occupation; but they could not decide if Korea should be a democracy, like the United States, or if they should unanimously accept the Communist model of Government introduced by the Soviet Union. The American and Soviet Governments decided to divide Korea along the 38th parallel, allowing the two halves of Korea to be governed by separate methods.
The Koreans, however, were dissatisfied with this arrangement. In 1950, five years after the end of World War II, the Soviet-backed North Korean army crossed the 38th Parallel in a campaign to take over South Korea in an attempt to unify the country under Communism.
Three days after the fighting began, the North Korean army took the South Korean capitol city of Seoul.

At the start of the war, both of the Korean armies
armed themselves with a mix of American,
Japanese and Soviet uniforms and gear.

It wasn't long until the Americans became involved.  The United Nations, a newly-formed body of Nations from around the world assembled in the aftermath of the Second World War to assist in international policy decision making, approved American involvement in stemming the tide in South Korea. Though many Nations dedicated against communism would send arms, men and relief aid into the conflict, the United States would take the leading role--and therefore it was decided that Douglas MacArthur, the American General who liberated the Philippines in World War II, would be the Commanding General in charge of all Democratic forces in Korea.
"Communism was acting in Korea just as Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese had acted. I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to go unchallenged it would mean a third world war." ~Harry S. Truman, President of the United States during the Korean Conflict
An American Marine in the fight to hold the Pusan Perimeter in the first year of the Korean Conflict.

The first United States troops to see action was a rifle company in near Osan, thirty miles South of Seoul. The North Koreans pushed South until the Americans only held the peninsula by a toehold on the Southeastern corner, where the American Army based in Pusan tried to hold onto their last defensive line, the "Pusan Perimeter".

An American Soldier early in the Korean War
 On September 15th, 1950, General Douglas MacArthur made a bold diversionary action and made an amphibious landing in Incheon, just a few miles Southwest of Seoul.

Now with the Americans in front and behind, and their supply lines cut, the North Koreans were compelled to withdraw from the Pusan Perimeter. Seoul was liberated on September 26th, and UN forces spearheaded by the Americans led a subsequent drive North, capturing the Communist capitol of Pyongyang on November 25th. The war wasn't over yet, however, as Chinese intervention on the North Korean's behalf coupled with harsh winter weather drove the UN armies back over the 38th Parallel.

The Americans were ill prepared for the harsh Korean winters, and countless
cases of frostbite and trenchfoot claimed many limbs.

A Chinese soldier in a white quilted winter uniform.

An American look-out post on the front lines

 The American and UN forces began a General retreat across the frozen mountainous hills of Korea, the endurance of the Americans in the harsh elements becoming a legend of perseverance. A fierce rear guard action was kept up, with whole divisions of Chinese attackers being almost wiped out by UN aircraft.

American troops huddled around a camp fire
during the retreat South.

Unfortunately, small comforts such as camp fires could draw Chinese artillery fire,
which was noted for its ferocity.

American Artillery pounds away on Chinese positions in Korea.

The Americans regrouped in Southern Korea and fought off their attackers, but fighting would continue for three more years until an armistice (temporary peace agreement) was agreed upon in 1953.
Sixty years later, the issue of a unified Korea is unresolved.