Overview of the Korean War


From: Army Historical Series, AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORY
Center of Military History,
United States Army,
Washington, D.C.,

Transcribed and uploaded by Kim A. Jewell, jewellk@sage.cc.purdue.edu

The Korean War, 1950-1953

After the USSR installed a Communist government in North Korea in 
September 1948, that government promoted and supported an insurgency in 
South Korea in an attempt to bring down the recognized government and 
gain jurisdiction over the entire Korean peninsula. Not quite two years 
later, after the insurgency showed signs of failing, the northern 
government undertook a direct attack, sending the North Korea People's 
Army south across the 38th parallel before daylight on Sunday, June 25, 
1950. The invasion, in a narrow sense, marked the beginning of a civil 
war between peoples of a divided country. In a larger sense, the cold 
war between the Great Power blocs had erupted in open hostilities.

The Decision for War

The western bloc, especially the United States, was surprised by the 
North Korean decision. Although intelligence information of a possible 
June invasion had reached Washington, the reporting agencies judged an 
early summer attack unlikely. The North Koreans, they estimated, had not 
yet exhausted the possibilities of the insurgency and would continue 
that strategy only.

The North Koreans, however, seem to have taken encouragement from the 
U.S. policy which left Korea outside the U.S. "defense line" in Asia and 
from relatively public discussions of the economies placed on U.S. armed 
forces. They evidently accepted these as reasons to discount American 
counteraction, or their sponsor, the USSR, may have made that 
calculation for them. The Soviets also appear to have been certain the 
United Nations would not intervene, for in protest against Nationalist 
China's membership in the U.N. Security Council and against the U.N.'s 
refusal to seat Communist China, the USSR member had boycotted council 
meetings since January 1950 and did not return in June to veto any 
council move against North Korea.

Moreover, Kim Il Sung, the North Korean Premier, could be confident that 
his army, a modest force of 135,000, was superior to that of South 
Korea. Koreans who had served in Chinese and Soviet World War II armies 
made up a large part of his force. He had 8 full divisions, each 
including a regiment of artillery; 2 divisions at half strength; 2 
separate regiments; an armored brigade with 120 Soviet T-34 medium 
tanks; and 5 border constabulary brigades. He also had 180 Soviet 
aircraft, mostly fighters and attack bombers, and a few naval patrol 

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Army had just 95,000 men and was far less 
fit. Raised as a constabulary during occupation, it had not in its later 
combat training under a U.S. Military Advisor Group progressed much 
beyond company-level exercises. Of its eight divisions, only four 
approached full strength. It had no tanks and its artillery totaled 
eighty-nine 105-mm. howitzers. The ROK Navy matched its North Korean 
counterpart, but the ROK Air Force had only a few trainers and liaison 
aircraft. U.S. equipment, war-worn when furnished to South Korean 
forces, had deteriorated further, and supplies on hand could sustain 
combat operations no longer than fifteen days. Whereas almost $11 
million in materiel assistance had been allocated to South Korea in 
fiscal year 1950 under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, 
Congressional review of the allocation so delayed the measure that only 
a trickle of supplies had reached the country by June 25, 1950.

The North Koreans quickly crushed South Korean defenses at the 38th 
parallel. The main North Korean attack force next moved down the west 
side of the peninsula toward Seoul, the South Korean capital, thirty-
five miles below the parallel, and entered the city on June 28. 
Secondary thrusts down the peninsula's center and down the east coast 
kept pace with the main drive. The South Koreans withdrew in disorder, 
those troops driven out of Seoul forced to abandon most of their 
equipment because the bridges over the Han River at the south edge of 
the city were prematurely demolished. The North Koreans halted after 
capturing Seoul, but only briefly to regroup before crossing the Han.

In Washington, where a 14-hour time difference made it June 24 when the 
North Koreans crossed the parallel, the first report of the invasion 
arrived that night. Early on the 25th, the United States requested a 
meeting of the U.N. Security Council. The council adopted a resolution 
that afternoon demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities and a 
withdrawal of North Korean forces to the 38th parallel.

In independent actions on the night of the 25th, President Truman 
relayed orders to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur at MacArthur's 
Far East Command headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, to supply ROK forces with 
ammunition and equipment, evacuate American dependents from Korea, and 
survey conditions on the peninsula to determine how best to assist the 
republic further. The President also ordered the U.S. Seventh Fleet from 
its current location in Philippine and Ryukyu waters to Japan. On the 
26th, in a broad interpretation of a U.N. Security Council request for 
"every assistance" in supporting the June 25 resolution, President 
Truman authorized General MacArthur to use air and naval strength 
against North Korean targets below the 38th parallel. The President also 
redirected the bulk of the Seventh Fleet to Taiwan, where by standing 
between the Chinese Communists on the mainland and the Nationalists on 
the island it could discourage either one from attacking the other and 
thus prevent a widening of hostilities.

When it became clear on June 27 that North Korea would ignore the U.N. 
demands, the U.N. Security Council, again at the urging of the United 
States, asked U.N. members to furnish military assistance to help South 
Korea repel the invasion. President Truman immediately broadened the 
range of U.S. air and naval operations to include North Korea and 
authorized the use of U.S. Army troops to protect Pusan, Korea's major 
port at the southeastern tip of the peninsula. MacArthur meanwhile had 
flown to Korea and, after witnessing failing ROK Army efforts in 
defenses south of the Han River, recommended to Washington that a U.S. 
Army regiment be committed in the Seoul area at once and that this force 
be built up to two divisions. President Truman's answer on June 30 
authorized MacArthur to use all forces available to him. 

Thus the United Nations for the first time since its founding reacted to 
aggression with a decision to use armed force. The United States would 
accept the largest share of the obligation in Korea but, still deeply 
tired of war, would do so reluctantly. President Truman later described 
his decision to enter the war as the hardest of his days in office. But 
he believed that if South Korea was left to its own defense and fell, no 
other small nation would have the will to resist aggression, and 
Communist leaders would be encouraged to override nations closer to U.S. 
shores. The American people, conditioned by World War II to battle on a 
grand scale and to complete victory, would experience a deepening 
frustration over the Korean conflict, brought on in the beginning by 
embarrassing reversals on the battlefield.

South to the Naktong

Ground forces available to MacArthur included the 1st Cavalry Division 
and the 7th, 24th, and 25th Infantry Divisions, all under the Eighth 
U.S. Army in Japan, and the 29th Regimental Combat Team on Okinawa. All 
the postwar depreciations had affected them. Their maneuverability and 
firepower were sharply reduced by a shortage of organic units and by a 
general understrength among existing units. Some weapons, medium tanks 
in particular, could scarcely be found in the Far East, and ammunition 
reserves amounted to only a 45-day supply. By any measurement, 
MacArthur's ground forces were unprepared for battle. His air arm, Far 
East Air Forces (FEAF), moreover, was organized for air defense, not 
tactical air support. Most FEAF planes were short-range jet interceptors 
not meant to be flown at low altitudes in support of ground operations. 
Some F-51’s in storage in Japan and more of these World War II planes in 
the United States would prove instrumental in meeting close air support 
needs. Naval Forces, Far East, MacArthur's sea arm, controlled only five 
combat ships and a skeleton amphibious force, although reinforcement was 
near in the Seventh Fleet.

When MacArthur received word to commit ground units, the main North 
Korean force already had crossed the Han River. By July 3, a westward 
enemy attack had captured a major airfield at Kimpo and the Yellow Sea 
port of Inch'on. Troops attacking south repaired a bridge so that tanks 
could cross the Han and moved into the town of Suwon, twenty-five miles 
below Seoul, on the 4th.

The speed of the North Korean drive coupled with the unreadiness of 
American forces compelled MacArthur to disregard the principle of mass 
and commit units piecemeal to trade space for time. Where to open a 
delaying action was clear, for there were few good roads in the 
profusion of mountains making up the Korean peninsula, and the best of 
these below Seoul, running on a gentle diagonal through Suwon, Osan, 
Taejon, and Taegu to the port of Pusan in the southeast, was the obvious 
main axis of North Korean advance. At MacArthur's order, two rifle 
companies, an artillery battery, and a few other supporting units of the 
24th Division moved into a defensive position astride the main road near 
Osan, ten miles below Suwon, by dawn on July 5. MacArthur later referred 
to this 540-man force, called Task Force Smith, as an "arrogant display 
of strength." Another kind of arrogance to be found at Osan was a belief 
that the North Koreans might "...turn around and go back when they found 
out who was fighting."

Coming out of Suwon in a heavy rain, a North Korean division supported 
by thirty-three tanks reached and with barely a pause attacked the 
Americans around 8:00 a.m. on the 5th. The North Koreans lost 4 tanks, 
42 men killed, and 85 wounded. But the American force lacked antitank 
mines, the fire of its recoilless rifles and 2.36-inch rocket launchers 
failed to penetrate the T-34 armor, and its artillery quickly expended 
the little antitank ammunition that did prove effective. The rain 
canceled air support, communications broke down, and the task force was, 
under any circumstances, too small to prevent North Korean infantry from 
flowing around both its flanks. By midafternoon, Task Force Smith was 
pushed into a disorganized retreat with over 150 casualties and the loss 
of all equipment save small arms. Another casualty was American morale 
as word of the defeat reached other units of the 24th Division then 
moving into delaying positions below Osan.

The next three delaying actions, though fought by larger forces, had 
similar results. In each case, North Korean armor or infantry assaults 
against the front of the American position were accompanied by an 
infantry double envelopment. By July 13, the 24th Division was forced 
back on Taejon, sixty miles below Osan, where it initially took position 
along the Kum River above the town. Clumps of South Korean troops by 
then were strung out west and east of the division to help delay the 
North Koreans.

Fifty-three U.N. members meanwhile signified support of the Security 
Council's June 27 action and twenty-nine of these made specific offers 
of assistance. Ground, air, and naval forces eventually sent to assist 
South Korea would represent twenty U.N. members and one non-member 
nation. The United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, 
Canada, Turkey, Greece, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, 
Thailand, the Philippines, Colombia and Ethiopia would furnish ground 
combat troops. India, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Italy (the non-United 
Nations country) would furnish medical units. Air forces would arrive 
from the United States, Australia, Canada, and the Union of South 
Africa; naval forces would come from the United States, Great Britain, 
Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The wide response to the council's call pointed out the need for a 
unified command. Acknowledging the United States as the major 
contributor, the U.N. Security Council on July 7 asked it to form a 
command into which all forces would be integrated and to appoint a 
commander. In the evolving command structure, President Truman became 
executive agent for the U.N. Security Council. The National Security 
Council, Department of State, and Joint Chiefs of Staff participated in 
developing the grand concepts of operations in Korea. In the strictly 
military channel, the Joint Chiefs issued instructions through the Army 
member to the unified command in the field, designated the United 
Nations Command (UNC) and established under General MacArthur.

MacArthur superimposed the headquarters of his new command over that of 
his existing Far East Command. Air and naval units from other countries 
joined the Far East Air Forces and Naval Forces, Far East, respectively. 
MacArthur assigned command of ground troops in Korea to the Eighth Army 
under Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, who established headquarters at Taegu 
on July 13, assuming command of all American ground troops on the 
peninsula and, at the request of South Korean President Syngman Rhee, of 
the ROK Army. When ground forces from other nations reached Korea, they 
too passed to Walker's command.

Between July 14 and 18, MacArthur moved the 25th and 1st Cavalry 
Divisions to Korea after cannibalizing the 7th Division to strengthen 
those two units. By then, the battle for Taejon had opened. New 3.5-inch 
rocket launchers hurriedly airlifted from the United States proved 
effective against the T-34 tanks, but the 24th Division lost Taejon on 
July 20 after two North Korean divisions established bridgeheads over 
the Kum River and encircled the town. In running enemy roadblocks during 
the final withdrawal from town, Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, the division 
commander, took a wrong turn and was captured some days later in the 
mountains to the south. When repatriated some three years later, he 
would learn that for his exploits at Taejon he was one of 131 servicemen 
awarded the Medal of Honor during the war (Army 78, Marine Corps 42, 
Navy 7, and Air Force 4).

While pushing the 24th Division below Taejon, the main North Korean 
force split, one division moving south to the coast, then turning east 
along the lower coast line. The remainder of the force continued 
southeast beyond Taejon toward Taegu. Southward advances by the 
secondary attack forces in the central and eastern sectors matched the 
main thrust, all clearly aimed to converge on Pusan. North Korean supply 
lines grew long in the advance, and less and less tenable under heavy 
UNC air attacks. FEAF meanwhile achieved air superiority, indeed air 
supremacy, and UNC warships wiped out North Korean naval opposition and 
clamped a tight blockade on the Korean coast. These achievements and the 
arrival of the 29th Regimental Combat Team from Okinawa on July 26 
notwithstanding, American and South Korean troops steadily gave way. 
American casualties rose above 6,000 and South Korean losses reached 
70,000. By the beginning of August, General Walker's forces held only a 
small portion of southeastern Korea.

Alarmed by the rapid loss of ground, Walker ordered a stand along a 140-
mile line arching from the Korea Strait to the Sea of Japan west and 
north of Pusan. His U.S. divisions occupied the western arc, basing 
their position on the Naktong River. South Korean forces, reorganized by 
American military advisers into two corps headquarters and five 
divisions, defended the northern segment. A long line and few troops 
kept positions thin in this "Pusan Perimeter.” But replacements and 
additional units now entering or on the way to Korea would help relieve 
the problem, and fair interior lines of communications radiating from 
Pusan allowed Walker to move troops and supplies with facility.

Raising brigades to division status and conscripting large numbers of 
recruits, many from overrun regions of South Korea, the North Koreans 
over the next month and a half committed thirteen infantry divisions and 
an armored division against Walker's perimeter. But the additional 
strength failed to compensate for the loss of some 58,000 trained men 
and much armor suffered in the advance to the Naktong. Nor in meeting 
the connected defenses of the perimeter did enemy commanders recognize 
the value of massing forces for decisive penetration at one point. They 
dissipated their strength instead in piecemeal attacks at various points 
along the Eighth Army line.

Close air support played a large role in the defense of the perimeter. 
But the Eighth Army's defense really hinged on a shuttling of scarce 
reserves to block a gap, reinforce a position, or counterattack wherever 
the threat appeared greatest at a given moment. Timing was the key, and 
General Walker proved a master of it. His brilliant response prevented 
serious enemy penetrations and inflicted telling losses that steadily 
drew off North Korean offensive power. His own strength meanwhile was on 
the rise. By mid-September, he had over 500 medium tanks. Replacements 
arrived in a steady flow and additional units came in: the 5th 
Regimental Combat Team from Hawaii, the 2d Infantry Division and 1st 
Provisional Marine Brigade from the United States, and a British 
infantry brigade from Hong Kong. Thus, as the North Koreans lost 
irreplaceable men and equipment, UNC forces acquired an offensive 

North to the Parallel

Against the gloomy prospect of trading space for time, General 
MacArthur, at the entry of U.S. forces into Korea, had perceived that 
the deeper the North Koreans drove, the more vulnerable they would 
become to an amphibious envelopment. He began work on plans for such a 
blow almost at the start of hostilities, favoring Inch'on, the Yellow 
Sea port halfway up the west coast, as the landing site. Just twenty-
five miles east lay Seoul where Korea's main roads and rail lines 
converged. A force landing at Inch'on would have to move inland only a 
short distance to cut North Korean supply routes, and the recapture of 
the capital city also could have a helpful psychological impact. 
Combined with a general northward advance by the Eighth Army, a landing 
at Inch'on could produce decisive results. Enemy troops retiring before 
the Eighth Army would be cut off by the amphibious force behind them or 
be forced to make a slow and difficult withdrawal through the mountains 
farther east.

Though pressed in meeting Eighth Army troop requirements, MacArthur was 
able to shape a two-division landing force. He formed the headquarters 
of the X Corps from members of his own staff, naming his chief of staff, 
Maj. Gen. Edward M. Almond, as corps commander. He rebuilt the 7th 
Division by giving it high priority on replacements from the United 
States and by assigning it 8,600 South Korean recruits. The latter 
measure was part of a larger program, called the Korean Augmentation to 
the United States Army, in which South Korean troops were placed among 
almost all American units. At the same time, he acquired from the United 
States the greater part of the 1st Marine Division, which he planned to 
fill out with the Marine brigade currently in the Pusan Perimeter. The X 
Corps, with these two divisions, was to make its landing as a separate 
force, not as part of the Eighth Army.

MacArthur's superiors and the Navy judged the Inch'on plan dangerous. 
Naval officers considered the extreme Yellow Sea tides, which range as 
much as thirty feet, and narrow channel approaches to Inch'on as big 
risks to shipping. Marine officers saw danger in landing in the middle 
of a built-up area and in having to scale high sea walls to get ashore. 
The Joint Chiefs of Staff anticipated serious consequences if Inch'on 
were strongly defended since MacArthur would be committing his last 
major reserves at a time when no more General Reserve units in the 
United States were available for shipment to the Far East. Four National 
Guard divisions had been federalized on September 1, but none of these 
was yet ready for combat duty; and, while the draft and call-ups of 
members of the Organized Reserve Corps were substantially increasing the 
size of the Army, they offered MacArthur no prospect of immediate 
reinforcement. But MacArthur was willing to accept the risks.

In light of the uncertainties MacArthur's decision was a remarkable 
gamble, but if results are what count his action was one of exemplary 
boldness. The X Corps swept into Inch'on on September 15 against light 
resistance and, though opposition stiffened, steadily pushed inland over 
the next two weeks. One arm struck south and seized Suwon while the 
remainder of the corps cleared Kimpo Airfield, crossed the Han, and 
fought through Seoul. MacArthur, with dramatic ceremony, returned the 
capital city to President Rhee on September 29. 

General Walker meanwhile attacked out of the Pusan Perimeter on 
September 16. His forces gained slowly at first; but on September 23 
after the portent of Almond's envelopment and Walker's frontal attack 
became clear, the North Korean forces broke. The Eighth Army, by then 
organized as four corps, two U.S. and two ROK, rolled forward in 
pursuit, linking with the X Corps on September 26. About 30,000 North 
Korean troops escaped above the 38th parallel through the eastern 
mountains. Several thousand more bypassed in the pursuit hid in the 
mountains of South Korea to fight as guerrillas. But by the end of 
September the North Korea People's Army ceased to exist as an organized 
force anywhere in the southern republic.

North to the Yalu

President Truman, to this point, frequently had described the American-
led effort in Korea as a "police action," a euphemism for war that 
produced both criticism and amusement. But the President's term was an 
honest reach for perspective. Determined to halt the aggression, he was 
equally determined to limit hostilities to the peninsula and to avoid 
taking steps that would prompt Soviet or Chinese participation. By 
western estimates, Europe with its highly developed industrial 
resources, not Asia, held the high place on the Communist schedule of 
expansion; hence, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance 
needed the deterrent strength that otherwise would be drawn off by a 
heavier involvement in the Far East.

On this and other bases, a case could be made for halting MacArthur's 
forces at the 38th parallel. In re-establishing the old border, the UNC 
had met the U.N. call for assistance in repelling the attack on South 
Korea. In an early statement, Secretary of State Acheson had said the 
United Nations was intervening "...solely for the purpose of restoring 
the Republic of Korea to its status prior to the invasion from the 
north." A halt, furthermore, would be consistent with the U.S. policy of 

There was, on the other hand, substantial military reason to carry the 
war into North Korea. Failure to destroy the 30,000 North Korean troops 
who had escaped above the parallel and an estimated 30,000 more in 
northern training camps, all told the equivalent of six divisions, could 
leave South Korea in little better position than before the start of 
hostilities. Complete military victory, by all appearances within easy 
grasp, also would achieve the long-standing U.S. and U.N. objective of 
reunifying Korea. Against these incentives had to be balanced warnings 
of sorts against a UNC entry into North Korea from both Communist China 
and the USSR in August and September. But these were counted as attempts 
to discourage the UNC, not as genuine threats to enter the war, and on 
September 27 President Truman authorized MacArthur to send his forces 
north, provided that by the scheduled time there had been no major 
Chinese or Soviet entry into North Korea and no announcement of intended 
entry. As a further safeguard, MacArthur was to use only Korean forces 
in extreme northern territory abutting the Yalu River boundary with 
Manchuria and that in the far northeast along the Tumen River boundary 
with the USSR. Ten days later, the U.N. General Assembly voted for the 
restoration of peace and security throughout Korea, thereby giving tacit 
approval to the UNC's entry into North Korea. 

On the east coast, Walker's ROK I Corps crossed the parallel on October 
1 and rushed far north to capture Wonsan, North Korea's major seaport, 
on the 10th. The ROK II Corps at nearly the same time opened an advance 
through central North Korea; and on October 9, after the United Nations 
sanctioned crossing the parallel, Walker's U.S. I Corps moved north in 
the west. Against slight resistance, the U.S. I Corps cleared 
P'yongyang, the North Korean capital city, on October 19 and in five 
days advanced to the Ch'ongch'on River within fifty miles of the 
Manchurian border. The ROK II Corps veered northwest to come alongside. 
To the east, past the unoccupied spine of the axial Taebaek Mountains, 
the ROK I Corps by October 24 moved above Wonsan, entering Iwon on the 
coast and approaching the huge Changjin Reservoir in the Taebaeks.

The outlook for the UNC in the last week of October was distinctly 
optimistic, despite further warnings emanating from Communist China. 
Convinced by all reports, including one from MacArthur during a personal 
conference at Wake Island on October 15 that the latest Chinese warnings 
were more saber-rattling bluffs, President Truman revised his 
instructions to MacArthur only to the extent that if Chinese forces 
should appear in Korea MacArthur should continue his advance if he 
believed his forces had a reasonable chance of success.

In hopes of ending operations before the onset of winter, MacArthur on 
October 24 ordered his ground commanders to advance to the northern 
border as rapidly as possible and with all forces available. In the 
west, the Eighth Army sent several columns toward the Yalu, each free to 
advance as fast and as far as possible without regard for the progress 
of the others. The separate X Corps earlier had prepared a second 
amphibious assault at Wonsan but needed only to walk ashore since the 
ROK I Corps had captured the landing area. General Almond, adding the 
ROK I Corps to his command upon landing, proceeded to clear northeastern 
Korea, sending columns up the coast and through the mountains toward the 
Yalu and the Changjin Reservoir. In the United States, a leading 
newspaper expressed the prevailing optimism with the editorial comment 
that "Except for unexpected developments...we can now be easy in our 
minds as to the military outcome."

UNC forces moved steadily along both coasts, and one interior ROK 
regiment in the Eighth Army zone sent reconnaissance troops to the Yalu 
at the town of Ch'osan on October 26. But almost everywhere else the UNC 
columns encountered stout resistance and, on October 25, discovered they 
were being opposed by Chinese. "Unexpected developments" had occurred.

In the X Corps zone, Chinese stopped a ROK column on the mountain road 
leading to the Changjin Reservoir. American marines relieved the South 
Koreans and by November 6 pushed through the resistance within a few 
miles of the reservoir, whereupon the Chinese broke contact. In the 
Eighth Army zone, the first Chinese soldier was discovered among 
captives taken on October 25 by South Koreans near Unsan northwest of 
the Ch'ongch'on River. In the next eight days, Chinese forces dispersed 
the ROK regiment whose troops had reached the Yalu, severely punished a 
regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division when it came forward near Unsan, 
and forced the ROK II Corps into retreat on the Eighth Army right. As 
General Walker fell back to regroup along the Ch'ongch'on, Chinese 
forces continued to attack until November 6, then, as in the X Corps 
sector, abruptly broke contact.

At first it appeared that individual Chinese soldiers, possibly 
volunteers, had reinforced the North Koreans. By November 6, three 
divisions (10,000 men each) were believed to be in the Eighth Army 
sector and two divisions in the X Corps area. The estimate rose higher 
by November 24, but not to a point denying UNC forces a numerical 
superiority nor to a figure indicating full-scale Chinese intervention.

Some apprehension over a massive Chinese intervention grew out of 
knowledge that a huge Chinese force was assembled in Manchuria The 
interrogation of captives, however, did not convince the UNC that there 
had been a large Chinese commitment; neither did aerial observation of 
the Yalu and the ground below the river; and the voluntary withdrawal 
from contact on 6 November seemed no logical part of a full Chinese 
effort. General MacArthur felt that the auspicious time for intervention 
in force had long passed; the Chinese would hardly enter when North 
Korean forces were ineffective rather than earlier when only a little 
help might have enabled the North Koreans to conquer all of South Korea. 
He appeared convinced, furthermore, that the United States would respond 
with all power available to a massive intervention and that this 
certainty would deter Chinese leaders who could not help but be aware of 
it. In an early November report to Washington, he acknowledged the 
possibility of full intervention, but pointed out that "...there are 
many fundamental logical reasons against it and sufficient evidence has 
not yet come to hand to warrant its immediate acceptance." His reports 
by the last week of the month indicated no change of mind.

Intelligence evaluations from other sources were similar. As of November 
24, the general view in Washington was that "... the Chinese objective 
was to obtain U.N. withdrawal by intimidation and diplomatic means, but 
in case of failure of these means there would be increasing 
intervention. Available evidence was not considered conclusive as to 
whether the Chinese Communists were committed to a full-scale of 
offensive effort." In the theater, the general belief was that future 
Chinese operations would be defensive only, that the Chinese units in 
Korea were not strong enough to block a UNC advance, and that UNC 
airpower could prevent any substantial Chinese reinforcement from 
crossing the Yalu. UNC forces hence resumed their offensive. There was, 
in any event MacArthur said, no other way to obtain "...an accurate 
measure of enemy strength...."

In northeastern Korea, the X Corps, now strengthened by the arrival of 
the 3d Infantry Division from the United States, resumed its advance on 
November 11. In the west, General Walker waited until the 24th to move 
the Eighth Army forward from the Ch'ongch'on while he strengthened his 
attack force and improved his logistical support. Both commands made 
gains. Part of the U.S. 7th Division, in the X Corps zone, actually 
reached the Yalu at the town of Hyesanjin. But during the night of 
November 25 strong Chinese attacks hit the Eighth Army's center and 
right; on the 27th the attacks engulfed the leftmost forces of the X 
Corps at the Changjin Reservoir; and by the 28th UNC positions began to 

MacArthur now had a measure of Chinese strength. Around 200,000 Chinese 
of the XIII Army Group stood opposite the Eighth Army. With unexcelled 
march and bivouac discipline, this group, with eighteen divisions plus 
artillery and cavalry units, had entered Korea undetected during the 
last half of October. The IX Army Group with twelve divisions next 
entered Korea, moving into the area north of the Changjin Reservoir 
opposite the X Corps. Hence, by November 24 more than 300,000 Chinese 
combat troops were in Korea.

"We face an entirely new war," MacArthur notified Washington on November 
28. On the following day he instructed General Walker to make whatever 
withdrawals were necessary to escape being enveloped by Chinese pushing 
hard and deep through the Eighth Army's eastern sector, and ordered the 
X Corps to pull into a beachhead around the east coast port of Hungnam, 
north of Wonsan.

The New War

In the Eighth Army's withdrawal from the Ch'ongch'on, a strong road-
block set below the town of Kunu-ri by Chinese attempting to envelop 
Walker's forces from the east caught and severely punished the U.S. 2d 
Division, last away from the river. Thereafter, at each reported 
approach of enemy forces, General Walker ordered another withdrawal 
before any solid contact could be made. He abandoned P'yongyang on 
December 5 leaving 8,000 to 10,000 tons of supplies and equipment broken 
up or burning inside the city. By December 15 he was completely out of 
contact with the Chinese and was back at the 38th parallel where he 
began to develop a coast-to-coast defense line.

In the X Corps' withdrawal to Hungnam, the center and rightmost units 
experienced little difficulty. But the 1st Marine Division and two 
battalions of the 7th Division retiring from the Changjin Reservoir 
encountered Chinese positions overlooking the mountain road leading to 
the sea. After General Almond sent Army troops inland to help open the 
road, the Marine-Army force completed its move to the coast on December 
11. General MacArthur briefly visualized the X Corps beachhead at 
Hungnam as a "geographic threat" that could deter Chinese to the west 
from deepening their advance. Later, with prompting from the Joint 
Chiefs, he ordered the X Corps to withdraw by sea and proceed to Pusan, 
where it would become part of the Eighth Army. Almond started the 
evacuation on the 11th, contracting his Hungnam perimeter as he loaded 
troops and materiel aboard ships in the harbor. With little interference 
from enemy forces, he completed the evacuation and set sail for Pusan on 
Christmas Eve.

On the day before, General Walker was killed in a motor vehicle accident 
while traveling north from Seoul toward the front. Lt. Gen. Matthew B. 
Ridgway hurriedly flew from Washington to assume command of the Eighth 
Army. After conferring in Tokyo with MacArthur, who instructed General 
Ridgway to hold a position as far north as possible but in any case to 
maintain the Eighth Army intact, the new army commander reached Korea on 
the 26th.

Ridgway himself wanted at least to hold the Eighth Army in its position 
along the 38th parallel and if possible to attack. But his initial 
inspection of the front raised serious doubts. The Eighth Army, he 
learned, was clearly a dispirited command, a result of the hard Chinese 
attacks and the successive withdrawals of the past month. He also 
discovered much of the defense line to be thin and weak. The Chinese 
XIII Army Group meanwhile appeared to be massing in the west for a push 
on Seoul, and twelve reconstituted North Korean divisions seemed to be 
concentrating for an attack in the central region. From all evidence 
available, the New Year holiday seemed a logical date on which to expect 
the enemy's opening assault.

Holding the current line, Ridgway judged, rested both on the early 
commitment of reserves and on restoring the Eighth Army's confidence. 
The latter, he believed, depended mainly on improving leadership 
throughout the command. But it was not his intention to start "lopping 
off heads." Before he would relieve any commander, he wanted personally 
to see the man in action, to know that the relief would not adversely 
affect the unit involved, and indeed to be sure he had a better 
commander available. For the time being, he intended to correct 
deficiencies in leadership by working "on and through" the incumbent 
corps and division commanders.

To strengthen the line, he committed the 2d Division to the central 
sector where positions were weakest, even though that unit had not fully 
recovered from losses in the Kunu-ri roadblock, and pressed General 
Almond to quicken the preparation of the X Corps whose forces needed 
refurbishing before moving to the front. Realizing that time probably 
was against him, he also ordered his western units to organize a 
bridgehead above Seoul, one deep enough to protect the Han River 
bridges, from which to cover a withdrawal below the city should an enemy 
offensive compel a general retirement.

Enemy forces opened attacks on New Year's Eve, directing their major 
effort toward Seoul. When the offensive gained momentum, Ridgway ordered 
his western forces back to the Seoul bridgehead and pulled the rest of 
the Eighth Army to positions roughly on line to the east. After strong 
Chinese units assaulted the bridgehead, he withdrew to a line forty 
miles below Seoul. In the west, the last troops pulled out of Seoul on 
January 4, 1951, demolishing the Han bridges on the way out, as Chinese 
entered the city from the north. 

Only light Chinese forces pushed south of the city and enemy attacks in 
the west diminished. In central and eastern Korea, North Korean forces 
pushed an attack until mid-January. When pressure finally ended all 
along the front, reconnaissance patrols ordered north by Ridgway to 
maintain contact encountered only light screening forces, and 
intelligence sources reported that most enemy units had withdrawn to 
refit. It became clear to Ridgway that a primitive logistical system 
permitted enemy forces to undertake offensive operations for no more 
than a week or two before they had to pause for replacements and new 
supplies, a pattern he exploited when he assigned his troops their next 
objective. Land gains, he pointed out, would have only incidental 
importance. Primarily, Eighth Army forces were to inflict maximum 
casualties on the enemy with minimum casualties to themselves. "To do 
this," Ridgway instructed, "we must wage a war of maneuver-slashing at 
the enemy when he withdraws and fighting delaying actions when he 

Whereas Ridgway was now certain his forces could achieve that objective, 
General MacArthur was far less optimistic. Earlier, in acknowledging the 
Chinese intervention, he had notified Washington that the Chinese could 
drive the UNC out of Korea unless he received major reinforcement. At 
the time, however, there was still only a slim reserve of combat units 
in the United States. Four more National Guard divisions were being 
brought into federal service to build up the General Reserve, but not 
with commitment in Korea in mind. The main concern in Washington was the 
possibility that the Chinese entry into Korea was only one part of a 
USSR move toward global war, a concern great enough to lead President 
Truman to declare a state of national emergency on December 16. 
Washington officials, in any event, considered Korea no place to become 
involved in a major war. For all of these reasons, the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff notified MacArthur that a major build-up of UNC forces was out of 
the question. MacArthur was to stay in Korea if he could, but should the 
Chinese drive UNC forces back on Pusan, the Joint Chiefs would order a 
withdrawal to Japan.

Contrary to the reasoning in Washington, MacArthur meanwhile proposed 
four retaliatory measures against the Chinese: blockade the China coast, 
destroy China's war industries through naval and air attacks, reinforce 
the troops in Korea with Chinese Nationalist forces, and allow 
diversionary operations by Nationalist troops against the China 
mainland. These proposals for escalation received serious study in 
Washington but were eventually discarded in favor of sustaining the 
policy of confining the fighting to Korea.

Interchanges between Washington and Tokyo next centered on the timing of 
a withdrawal from Korea. MacArthur believed Washington should establish 
all the criteria of an evacuation, whereas Washington wanted MacArthur 
first to provide the military guidelines on timing The whole issue was 
finally settled after General J. Lawton Collins, Army Chief of Staff, 
visited Korea, saw that the Eighth Army was improving under Ridgway's 
leadership, and became as confident as Ridgway that the Chinese would be 
unable to drive the Eighth Army off the peninsula. "As of now," General 
Collins announced on January 15, "we are going to stay and fight."

Ten days later, Ridgway opened a cautious offensive, beginning with 
attacks in the west and gradually widening them to the east. The Eighth 
Army advanced slowly and methodically, ridge by ridge, phase line by 
phase line, wiping out each pocket of resistance before moving farther 
north. Enemy forces fought back vigorously and in February struck back 
in the central region. During that counterattack, the 23d Regiment of 
the 2d Division successfully defended the town of Chipyong-ni against a 
much larger Chinese force, a victory that to Ridgway symbolized the 
Eighth Army's complete recovery of its fighting spirit. After defeating 
the enemy's February effort, the Eighth Army again advanced steadily, 
recaptured Seoul by mid-March, and by the first day of spring stood just 
below the 38th parallel.

Intelligence agencies meanwhile uncovered evidence of rear area 
offensive preparations by the enemy. In an attempt to spoil those 
preparations, Ridgway opened an attack on April 5 toward an objective 
line, designated Kansas, roughly ten miles above the 38th parallel. 
After the Eighth Army reached Line Kansas, he sent a force toward an 
enemy supply area just above Kansas in the west-central zone known as 
the Iron Triangle. Evidence of an imminent enemy offensive continued to 
mount as these troops advanced. As a precaution, Ridgway on April 12 
published a plan for orderly delaying actions to be fought when and if 
the enemy attacked, an act, events proved, that was one of his last as 
commander of the Eighth Army

Plans being written in Washington in March, had they been carried out, 
well might have kept the Eighth Army from moving above the 38th parallel 
toward Line Kansas. For as a gradual development since the Chinese 
intervention, the United States and other members of the UNC coalition 
by that time were willing, as they had not been the past autumn, to 
accept the clearance of enemy troops from South Korea as a suitable 
final result of their effort. On March 20, the Joint Chiefs notified 
MacArthur that a Presidential announcement was being drafted which would 
indicate a willingness to negotiate with the Chinese and North Koreans 
to make "satisfactory arrangements for concluding the fighting," and 
which would be issued "before any advance with major forces north of 
38th Parallel." Before the President's announcement could be made, 
however, MacArthur issued his own offer to enemy commanders to discuss 
an end to the fighting, but it was an offer that placed the UNC in the 
role of victor and which indeed sounded like an ultimatum. "The enemy 
...must by now be painfully aware," MacArthur said in part, "that a 
decision of the United Nations to depart from its tolerant effort to 
contain the war to the area of Korea, through an expansion of our 
military operations to its coastal areas and interior bases, would doom 
Red China to the risk of imminent military collapse." President Truman 
considered the statement at cross-purposes with the one he was to have 
issued and so canceled his own. Hoping the enemy might sue for an 
armistice if kept under pressure, he permitted the question of crossing 
the 38th parallel to be settled on the basis of tactical considerations. 
Thus it became Ridgway's decision; and the parallel would not again 
assume political significance.

President Truman had in mind, after the March episode, to relieve 
MacArthur but had yet to make a final decision when the next incident 
occurred. On April 5, Joseph W. Martin, Republican leader in the House 
of Representatives, rose and read MacArthur's response to a request for 
comment on an address Martin had made suggesting the use of Nationalist 
Chinese forces to open a second front. In that response, MacArthur said 
he believed in "meeting force with maximum counter-force," and that the 
use of Nationalist Chinese forces fitted that belief. Convinced, also, 
that "... if we lose this war to Communism in Asia the fall of Europe is 
inevitable, win it and Europe most probably would avoid war ...," he 
added that there could be " ...no substitute for victory ..." in Korea.

President Truman could not accept MacArthur's open disagreement with and 
challenge of national policy. There were also grounds for a charge of 
insubordination, since MacArthur had not cleared his March 24 statement 
or his response to Representative Martin with Washington, contrary to a 
Presidential directive issued in December requiring prior clearance of 
all releases touching on national policy. Concluding that MacArthur was 
"...unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the 
United States government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining 
to his official duties," President Truman recalled MacArthur on April 11 
and named General Ridgway as successor. MacArthur returned to the United 
States to receive the plaudits of a nation shocked by the relief of one 
of its greatest military heroes. Before the Congress and the public he 
defended his own views against those of the Truman Administration. The 
controversy stirred up was to endure for many months, but in the end the 
nation accepted the fact that, whatever the merit of MacArthur's 
arguments, the President as Commander in Chief had a right to relieve 

Before transferring from Korea to Tokyo, General Ridgway on April 14 
turned over the Eighth Army to Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet. Eight days 
later twenty-one Chinese and nine North Korean divisions launched strong 
attacks in western Korea and lighter attacks in the east, with the major 
effort aimed at Seoul. General Van Fleet withdrew through successive 
delaying positions to previously established defenses a few miles north 
of Seoul where he finally contained the enemy advance. When enemy forces 
withdrew to refurbish, Van Fleet laid plans for a return to Line Kansas 
but then postponed the countermove when his intelligence sources 
indicated he had stopped only the first effort of the enemy offensive.

Enemy forces renewed their attack after darkness on May 15. Whereas Van 
Fleet had expected the major assault again to be directed against Seoul, 
enemy forces this time drove hardest in the east central region. 
Adjusting units to place more troops in the path of the enemy advance 
and laying down tremendous amounts of artillery fire, Van Fleet halted 
the attack by May 20 after the enemy had penetrated thirty miles. 
Determined to prevent the enemy from assembling strength for another 
attack, he immediately ordered the Eighth Army forward. The Chinese and 
North Koreans, disorganized after their own attacks, resisted only where 
their supply installations were threatened. Elsewhere, the Eighth Army 
advanced with almost surprising ease and by May 31 was just short of 
Line Kansas. The next day Van Fleet sent part of his force toward Line 
Wyoming whose seizure would give him control of the lower portion of the 
Iron Triangle. The Eighth Army occupied both Line Kansas and the Wyoming 
bulge by mid-June.

Since the Kansas-Wyoming line traced ground suitable for a strong 
defense, it was the decision in Washington to hold that line and wait 
for a bid for armistice negotiations from the Chinese and North Koreans, 
to whom it should be clear by this time that their committed forces 
lacked the ability to conquer South Korea. In line with this decision, 
Van Fleet began to fortify his positions. Enemy forces meanwhile used 
the respite from attack to recoup heavy losses and to develop defenses 
opposite the Eighth Army. The fighting lapsed into patrolling and small 
local clashes.

The Static War

On June 23 1951 Jacob Malik, the USSR delegate to the United Nations, 
announced in New York during a broadcast of the U.N. radio program, "The 
Price of Peace," that the USSR believed the war in Korea could be 
settled. "Discussions," he said, "should be started between the 
belligerents for a cease fire and an armistice...." When Communist China 
endorsed Malik's proposal over Peiping radio, President Truman 
authorized General Ridgway to arrange armistice talks with his enemy 
counterpart. Through an exchange of radio messages both sides agreed to 
open negotiations on July 10 at the town of Kaesong, in territory which 
was then no-man's-land in the west but which would become a neutral 

At the first armistice conference the two delegations agreed that 
hostilities would continue until an armistice agreement was signed. 
Except for brief, violent episodes, however, action along the front 
would never regain the momentum of the first year. By July 26 the two 
armistice delegations fixed the points to be settled in order to achieve 
an armistice. But then the enemy delegates began to delay negotiations, 
to gain time, it seemed, in which to strengthen their military forces, 
and thus also to strengthen their bargaining position. In any case, the 
enemy delegation continued to delay and finally broke off negotiations 
on August 22.

General Van Fleet, at that juncture, opened limited-objective attacks. 
In east-central Korea, he sent forces toward terrain objectives five to 
seven miles above Line Kansas-among them places named the Punchbowl, 
Bloody Ridge, and Heartbreak Ridge-to drive enemy forces from positions 
that favored an attack on Line Kansas. These objectives were won by the 
last week of October. In the west, Van Fleet's forces struck northwest 
on a forty-mile front to secure a new line three to four miles beyond 
the Wyoming line in order to protect important supply roads that lay 
only a short distance behind the existing western front. The new line 
was reached by October 12.

These successes may have had an influence on the enemy, who agreed to 
return to the armistice conference table. Negotiations resumed on 
October 25, this time at Panmunjom, a tiny settlement seven miles 
southeast of Kaesong. Hope for an early armistice grew on November 27 
when the two delegations agreed that a line of demarcation during an 
armistice would be the existing line of contact provided an armistice 
agreement was reached within thirty days. Hence, while both sides 
awaited the outcome of negotiations, fighting during the remainder of 
1951 tapered off to patrol clashes, raids, and small battles for 
possession of outposts in no-man's-land. The first tactical use of 
helicopters by U.S. forces occurred about this time when almost a 
thousand marines were lifted to a front-line position and a like number 
returned to the rear.

Discord over several issues, including the exchange of prisoners of war, 
prevented an armistice agreement within the stipulated thirty days. The 
prisoner of war quarrel heightened in January 1952 after UNC delegates 
proposed to give captives a choice in repatriation proceedings, 
maintaining that those prisoners who did not wish to return to their 
homelands could be simply "set at liberty" according to the Geneva 
Conventions of 1949. The enemy representatives protested vigorously. 
While argument continued, both sides tacitly extended the November 27 
provisions for a line of demarcation. This had the effect of holding 
battle action to the pattern of the thirty-day waiting period.

By May 1952 the two delegations were completely deadlocked on the 
repatriation issue. On the 7th of that month inmates of UNC Prison Camp 
No. 1 on Koje-do, an island of the southern coast, on orders smuggled to 
them from North Korea managed to entice the U.S. camp commander to a 
compound gate, drag him inside, and keep him captive. The strategy, 
which became clear in subsequent prisoner demands, was to trade the U.S. 
officer's life and release for UNC admissions of inhumane treatment of 
captives, including alleged cruelties during previous screenings of 
prisoners in which a large number of prisoners refused repatriation. The 
obvious objective was to discredit the voluntary repatriation stand 
taken by the UNC delegation at Panmunjom.

Although a new camp commander obtained his predecessor's release, in the 
process he signed a damaging statement including an admission that 
"...there have been instances of bloodshed where many prisoners of war 
have been killed and wounded by U.N. Forces." There was no change in the 
UNC stand on repatriation but the statement was widely exploited by the 
Communists at Panmunjom and elsewhere for its propaganda value.

Amid the Koje-do trouble, General Ridgway received transfer orders 
placing him in command of NATO forces in Europe. General Mark W. Clark 
became the new commander in the Far East, with one less responsibility 
than MacArthur and Ridgway had carried. On April 28 a peace treaty with 
Japan had gone into effect, restoring Japan's sovereignty and thus 
ending the occupation. Faced immediately with the Koje-do affair, 
General Clark had the impression of walking "... into something that 
felt remarkably like a swinging door...." He immediately repudiated the 
prison camp commander's statement. Moving swiftly, he placed Brig. Gen. 
Haydon L. Boatner in charge of the camp with instructions to move the 
prisoners into smaller, more manageable compounds and to institute other 
measures that would eliminate the likelihood of another uprising. 
General Boatner completed the task on June 10.

While argument over repatriation went on at Panmunjom, action at the 
front continued as a series of artillery duels, patrols, ambushes, 
raids, and bitter contests for outpost positions. But for all the 
furious and costly small-scale battles that took place, the lines 
remained substantially unchanged at the end of 1952. The armistice 
conference meanwhile went into an indefinite recess in October with the 
repatriation issue still unresolved.

In November, the American people elected a Republican President. Dwight 
D. Eisenhower. An issue in the campaign had been the war in Korea, over 
which there was a growing popular discontent, in particular with the 
lack of progress toward an armistice. In a campaign pledge to "go to 
Korea,” Eisenhower implied that if elected he would attempt to end the 
war quickly. Consequently, when the President-elect in early December 
fulfilled his promise to visit Korea, there was indeed some expectation 
of a dramatic change in the conduct of the war. General Clark went so 
far as to prepare detailed estimates of measures necessary to obtain a 
military victory. But it quickly became clear that Eisenhower, like 
President Truman, preferred to seek an honorable armistice. As he would 
write later, however, the President-elect did decide to let Communist 
authorities know that if satisfactory progress toward an armistice was 
not forthcoming, "...we intended to move decisively without inhibition 
in our use of weapons, and would no longer be responsible for confining 
hostilities to the Korean peninsula." Immediately after taking office, 
President Eisenhower made sure this word reached Moscow, Peiping, and 

In the hope of prompting a resumption of armistice negotiations, General 
Clark in February 1953 proposed to his enemy counterpart that the two 
sides exchange sick and wounded prisoners. But there was no response and 
no break in the deadlock at Panmunjom by spring. At the front, where in 
February Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor had replaced General Van Fleet as 
the Eighth Army commander, the battle action continued in the mold of 
the previous year. The break finally came near the end of March, about 
three weeks after the death of Josef Stalin, when enemy armistice 
delegates not only replied favorably to General Clark's proposal that 
sick and wounded captives be exchanged but also suggested that this 
exchange perhaps could "... lead to the smooth settlement of the entire 
question of prisoners of war." With that, the armistice conference 
resumed in April. An exchange of sick and wounded prisoners was carried 
out that same month; and before the middle of June, the prisoner 
repatriation problem was settled through agreement that each side would 
have an opportunity to persuade those captives refusing return to their 
homelands to change their minds.

The pace of battle quickened in May when Chinese forces launched 
regimental attacks against outposts guarding approaches to the Eighth 
Army's main line in the west. A large battle flared on June 10 when 
three Chinese divisions penetrated two miles through a South Korean 
position in central Korea before being contained. That engagement could 
have been the last of the war since the terms of an armistice by then 
were all but complete. But on June 18 ROK President Rhee, who from the 
beginning had objected to any armistice that left Korea divided, ordered 
the release of North Korean prisoners who had refused repatriation. 
Within a few days most of these North Korean captives "broke
out" of prison camp and disappeared among a cooperative South Korean 
populace. Since the captives had been guarded by South Korean troops, 
UNC officials disclaimed responsibility for the break, but the enemy 
armistice delegates denounced the action as a serious breach of faith. 
It took more than a month to repair the damage done by Rhee's order.

Enemy forces used this delay to wrest more ground from UNC control, 
attacking on July 13 and driving a wedge eight miles deep in the Eighth 
Army's central sector. General Taylor deployed units to contain the 
shoulders and point of the wedge? then counterattacked. But he halted 
his attack force on July 20 short of the original line since by that 
date the armistice delegations had come to a new accord and needed only 
to work out a few small details. Taylor's order to halt ended the last 
major battle of the war.

After a week of dealing with administrative matters, each chief delegate 
signed the military armistice agreement at Panmunjom at 10:00 a.m. on 
July 27. General Clark and the enemy commanders later affixed their 
signatures at their respective headquarters. As stipulated in the 
agreement, all fighting stopped twelve hours after the first signing, at 
10:00 p.m., July 27, 1953. When the final casualty report for the 
thirty-seven months of fighting was prepared, total UNC casualties 
reached over 550,000, including almost 95,000 dead. U.S. losses numbered 
142,091, of whom 33,629 were killed, 103,284 wounded, and 5,178 missing 
or captured. U.S. Army casualties alone totaled 27,704 dead, 77,596 
wounded, and 4,658 missing or captured. The hulk of these casualties 
occurred during the first year of the fighting. The estimate of enemy 
casualties, including prisoners, exceeded 1,500,000, of which 900,000, 
almost two-thirds, were Chinese.

The Aftermath

By the terms of the armistice, the line of demarcation between North and 
South Korea closely approximated the front line as it existed at the 
final hour. Slanting as the line did from a point on the west coast 
fifteen miles below the 38th parallel northeastward to an east coast 
anchor forty miles above the parallel, the demarcation represented a 
relatively small adjustment of the prewar division. Within three days of 
the signing of the armistice, each opposing force withdrew two 
kilometers from this line to establish a demilitarized zone that was not 
to be trespassed.

The armistice provisions forbade either force to bring additional troops 
or new weapons into Korea, although replacement one for one and in kind 
was permissible. To oversee the enforcement of all armistice terms and 
to negotiate settlements of any violations of them, a Military Armistice 
Commission composed of an equal number of officers from each side was 
established. This body was assisted by a Neutral Nations Supervisory 
Commission whose members came from Sweden, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, 
and Poland. Representatives of those same countries, with India 
furnishing an umpire and custodial forces, formed a Neutral Nations 
Repatriation Commission to handle the disposition of prisoners refusing 
repatriation. Finally, a provision of the armistice recommended that the 
belligerent governments convene a political conference to negotiate a 
final settlement of the whole Korean question.

By September 6 all prisoners wishing to be repatriated had been 
exchanged. From the UNC returnees came full details of brutally harsh 
treatment in enemy prison camps and of an extensive Communist 
indoctrination program, of "brain-washing" techniques, designed to 
produce prisoner collaboration. Several hundred U.S. returnees were 
investigated on charges of collaborating with the enemy, but few were 

The transfer of nonrepatriates to the Neutral Nations Repatriation 
Commission was undertaken next. In the drawn out and troublesome 
procedure that followed, few of the prisoners changed their minds as 
officials from both sides attempted to convince former members of their 
respective commands that they should return home. Of twenty-three 
Americans who at first refused repatriation, two decided to return. On 
February 1, 1954, the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission dissolved 
itself after releasing the last of the nonrepatriates as civilians free 
to decide their own destinations.

The main scene then shifted to Geneva, Switzerland, where the political 
conference recommended in the armistice agreement convened on April 26. 
There was a complete impasse from the beginning: the representatives of 
UNC member nations wanted to reunify Korea through elections supervised 
by the United Nations; the Communist delegation refused to recognize the 
U.N.'s authority to deal with the matter. The conference on Korea closed 
June 15, 1954, with the country still divided and with opposing forces, 
although their guns remained silent, still facing each other across the 
demilitarized zone. The prognosis was that this situation would continue 
for some time to come.

The Geneva impasse leaving Korea divided essentially along the prewar 
line could scarcely be viewed as merely re-establishing the land's 
status quo ante-bellum. For by the end of the war, the ROK Army had 
grown to a well-organized force of sixteen divisions and was scheduled 
to raise four more divisions, a force North Korea's resources would be 
strained to match. Within days of the armistice, moreover, South Korea 
had a mutual security pact with the United States and a first 
installment, $200 million, of promised American economic aid.

The war's impact reached far beyond Korea. Despite criticism of the 
armistice by those who agreed with General MacArthur that there was "no 
substitute for victory," the UNC had upheld the U.N. principle of 
suppressing armed aggression. True, the U.N. Security Council had been 
able to enlist forces under the U.N. banner in June 1950 only in the 
absence of the USSR veto. Nevertheless, the UNC success strengthened the 
possibility of keeping or restoring peace through the U.N. machinery.

More far reaching was the war's impact on the two Great Power blocs. The 
primary result for the western bloc was a decided strengthening of the 
NATO alliance. Virtually without military power in June 1950, NATO could 
call on fifty divisions and strong air and naval contingents by 1953 a 
build-up directly attributable to the increased threat of general war 
seen in the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. With further reinforcement 
in the NATO forecast at the end of the Korean War, USSR armed aggression 
in western Europe became unlikely. For the east, the major result was 
the emergence of Communist China as a Great Power. A steady improvement 
in the Chinese army and air force during the war gave China a more 
powerful military posture at war's end than when it had intervened; and 
its performance in Korea, despite vast losses, won China respect as a 
nation to be reckoned with not only in Asian but in world affairs.

Outside these direct impacts of the war, the relative positions of west 
and east also had been affected during the war years by the development 
of thermonuclear devices. The United States exploded its first such 
device in 1952, the USSR in August 1953. The exact consequences of all 
these changes were incalculable. But it was certain that the cold war 
would continue and that both power blocs would face new challenges and 
new responses.

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