Did you know…Korea?

Nov 19, 2017

Lately, there is a lot of discussion in the news about North Korea. Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, continues to launch missiles over his neighbors and international waters that neither the United Nations nor any other international governing body has authorized. The United States leadership have vowed to stop Kim Jong-un from acquiring nuclear weapons. Americans are justifiably concerned about the possibility of going to war.

Did you know the United States, as part of a broader United Nations (UN) coalition, fought in a war against North Korea in the early 1950’s? It is known as the “Forgotten War” because it was wedged in time between the victory of World War II and the controversy of the Vietnam conflict. Furthermore, the United States Marines were instrumental in the successful eviction of North Korea from South Korea. Douglas MacArthur, the famed World War II Army General, was in charge of the UN coalition. However, when an armistice was reached years later, he would not be the Commander delivering the order to cease fire rather he would be on the sidelines in civilian clothing.

In June of 1950, North Korea led by Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong-un, ordered his army to invade across the 38th parallel, the recognized international border between North and South Korea. His goal was to “unify” Korea under Communist rule. South Korea had recently elected a pro-democracy President, Syngman Rhee. Initially, the North Koreans pushed the South Korean Army across the peninsula all the way to the coast of the Sea of Japan. The UN security council determined the forced entry into South Korea as an inexcusable act of aggression and ordered a police action. The police action demanded that the North Koreans retreat back across the 38th parallel.

United States Marines successfully executed a hard-driving amphibious landing at Inchon, South Korea followed by a successful march to Seoul. Joining with coalition forces, the Marines pushed the North Korean Army across the 38th parallel all the way to the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. First Marine Division fought in key battles, like the battle for Chosen Reservoir. These Marines slugged it out against the Chinese and North Koreans in the sub-zero temperatures of the winters and drought conditions of the summer. Exposure to these extreme conditions caused injuries and death from hypothermia and dehydration, which were just as deadly as the enemy’s bullet; more than 4,000 Marines died adding to the US total casualty figure of over 35,000.

The conflict stalled on the Yalu River creating worry for the leaders of Communist China about an American invasion; a worry that was not unfounded with General MacArthur in charge. The Chinese sent troops into North Korea to assist them in fighting the UN coalition.

General MacArthur stood firm in his belief that overall success would only come if UN forces invaded into China. His position was contrary to that of President Truman who wanted to fulfill the United Nations resolution to push the North Koreans out of South Korea. Furthermore, and more importantly, he did not want to start a war with China, who was backed by Russia.

General MacArthur wrote a letter to a friend in Congress articulating his position on invading China. A conspiracy between the General and his friend was hatched. The letter would be leaked to the press through his friend’s staff giving the American public an opportunity to learn about General MacArthur’s victory plan. They believed the General’s plan would win the support of the American people forcing the President to shift his position about China. President Truman took swift action firing General MacArthur sending him out of uniform and into private life.
 
Resources

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/modern-world-history-1918-to-1980/the-united-nations/the-united-nations-and-the-korean-war/

https://www.koreanwar.org/html/usmc_korean_war_records.html

http://www.history.com/topics/korean-war

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