The Korean War

.. as the UN. pushed forward, they encountered Human Waves of Chinese troops.18 Combined with poor equipment and the brutal North Korean winter, the UN. forces had no choice but to retreat. The allies retreated back 130 miles to the North Korean border.

Along with the UN. retreat, followed millions of North Korean refugees trying to escape China’s assault. The situation was described by one G.I., There were literally millions of North Korean refugees blocking the roads by sheer mass, the silent columns moving without hope, shelter or food, avoiding other’s tragedies of death, loss of total possessions. There were those who simply sank to the ground, too tired and defeated to move, the tossing of babies, born on their mothers’ backs and now frozen to death.19 As the UN. forces moved out of the Manchurian region, the U.S. air force and special forces were called to the task.

They pounded the advancing Chinese troops with missiles, and made the already treacherous mountain roads even more dangerous. Yet, the sheer numbers of the Chinese troops overpowered the obstacles in their way. All allied troops were swiftly with drawn from Pyongyang on December 4, 1950, in order not to be overrun by the well equipped Chinese armies. By Christmas Eve, 105,000 U.S. troops, 91,000 refugees, and 17,500 vehicles had been evacuated from Hungman Harbor back to South Korea.20 The Chinese forces moved swiftly through North Korea, and within two weeks they had crossed the 38th parallel and moved into South Korea.

They took Seoul, and then met a strong line of American defense about 25 miles outside the city. The geography of the region is extremely hilly, and was named the Punchbowl by the Americans. The U.S. was prepared for the Chinese, and had dug trenches and tunnels, a form of fighting which would become popular during Vietnam.21 The fighting for the next two years resembled the trench warfare of World War I. What took place on the ridges of the Punchbowl was repeated hundreds of times over the next two years.

Famous offensives like Heartbreak Hill, Old Baldy, Pork Chop Hill, and Bloody Ridge took thousands of men on either side. The landscape seemed nightmarish, and was blackened from all the napalm and phosphorous shells dropped. Burnt trees, bodies, and vehicles lay strewn in the muddied ground. The soldiers moral began to plummet; no one wanted to be there.22 Meanwhile in Washington, President Truman had become enraged at how Gen. MacArthur had been handling the war. Truman found MacArthur would not carry out direct orders, and found him to be extremely arrogant. Truman could not see how he and MacArthur could work as a team.

Truman wanted to fight a limited war in Korea. MacArthur wanted to take the war beyond Korea and overthrow China’s communist government. MacArthur also wanted to block China’s harbors and possibly use atomic weapons to end the war. Truman feared this would lead to World War III. MacArthur had sent an ill-clothed, unprepared army at the Chinese, and ignored all signs of China even entering the war.

Above all, MacArthur could not see eye to eye with his U.S. command. On April 11, 1951, Truman removed MacArthur from command and replaced him with General Ridgeway.23 General Ridgeway restored confidence and built up an aggressive spirit in the allied troops. Ridgeway was tough, flamboyant, and was known to wear two hand grenades on his chest. Thus, he got the nickname “Old Iron Tits”. He established the idea of R and R, (rest and recreation) in which troops rotated on a five day vacation to Japan in order to rest their bodies and minds.

The allied troops became revitalized, and inflicted heavy loses on the weary North Korean troops.24 On January 16, 1951, allied troops began a slow, methodical, offensive north, in hopes to end the war. Although the offensive moved slow, it was organized, not like the uncoordinated, speedy offensive led by MacArthur. In the next six weeks, allied forces took Seoul and moved again into North Korea.25 During the Korean War, the first battles between jet aircraft occurred. Unlike in the beginning of the war when the North Koreans used minimal aircraft, toward the end of the war U.S. transport planes were being shot down regularly by Soviet supplied Mig-15 fighter jets. The U.S.

quickly countered, and began to mass produce F-86 Saber jets. Dog fights became important to protect the allied transport planes. For the first time, helicopters were used to carry troops in and out of battle. With the new high powered jets, the air force killed over 100,000 communist troops and shoot down over 5000 North Korean planes.26 As the allies pushed father into North Korea, peace talks started at the North Korea city of Panmunjon. The allies wanted two neutral Korean states, but the communists would not consider the negotiations until all of the communist prisoners were freed. Not accepting the communist’s request, a deadlock occurred on all armistice negotiations at Panmunjon.

In an attempt to change the communist’s minds, Ridgeway was ordered to launch a full-scale air, navy, and land attack in order to destroy the communist hold in North Korea. UN. war ships bombarded and blockaded North Korean ports. Allied air force worked on destroying communist supply lines day and night. Wave upon wave of allied troops attacked communist strongholds day after day.27 In 1953, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected as President of the United States .

He threatened that if the armistice was not signed by the communists, the U.S. would start to use atomic weapons to end the war. With the death of Joseph Stalin in March of 1953, the standpoint of the Russians towards the peace treaty was drastically affected.28 Now the Soviets were not under as much communist pressure and wanted a peaceful settlement in Korea. However, the peace talks still dragged on with the speed of a stiff concrete mix as thousands of soldiers died on each side. Finally, during June of 1953, both sides established the Neutral Nations Reparation Commission to over see the return of POW’s.29 The U.S. returned 6,670 communist prisoners and received 684 sick or wounded allied troops.

After the reparation was made, the guns fell silent over Korea on July 27, 1953 as the armistice was signed. The U.S. and the allies signed the “Declaration of Sixteen” which did not hold them responsible for the cause or the cost of the war.30 Korea remained divided at the 38th parallel, and there was a twenty mile wide demilitarized zone enacted between the two states. Both North and South Korea agreed not to increase military strength and the terms were enforced by the Military Armistice Commission.31 The economic and human expenses of the Korean War were immense. The U.S. alone spent 67 billion dollars to keep South Korea independent. The entire allied war effort cost approximately 129 billion dollars.

The damage in North Korea was labeled at 49 billion dollars, while South Korea’s damage was seemingly less. China sustained one million military casualties. South Korea had 300,000 military casualties, and 200,000 civilian casualties. North Korea sustained a total of two million military and civilian casualties.32 The United States had over 142,000 military casualties, while the UN. had only 17,000 casualties. Over two million Koreans were left homeless, and the allied bombings left many parts of Korea a wasteland.33 The Korean War was a failure both for the military and political leaders in the U.S.

The United States never calculated the costs involved. If the conflict had ended at the 38th parallel in 1950, it could have been considered a stunning victory. But MacArthur and the UN. dreadfully underestimated the result of their actions. The UN. failed to understand that communist China would not tolerate UN.

forces on its borders. The anti-communist hysteria in the United States during and after the war, made the U.S. leaders stockpile nuclear weapons. The Soviets responded by stockpiling their own nuclear weapons, thus creating a “Balance of Terror”.34 The world became much more dangerous after the Korean War because of the volume of nuclear weapons produced. High taxes were imposed upon the American people to keep up the nuclear race with the Soviets.

Within a year or so, America had turned its back on the Korean War. No one wanted to remember a war which cost so much to accomplish so little. The dead were just simply forgotten in the fast modern world. The lessons of the war were also forgotten. As the last troops left Korea, another conflict started in a nearby Asian land, Vietnam. If we had learned from W.W.II, we would not have fought the Korean War.

If we had learned from the Korean War, we would have not fought Vietnam. History Essays.