The Korean War, which began in June of 1950, was a conflict between the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It was one of the bloodiest war in history in which an estimated 3,000,000 persons lost their lives. It was also the first war in which a world organization, the United Nations, played a military role.
After World War II, U.S. and Soviet forces moved into Korea. Soviet troops occupied Korea north of the 38th parallel and American troops occupied Korea south of the parallel. The UN wanted to hold general elections in the two Koreas in order to achieve unification of the country. However, the Soviet Union refused to cooperate with the plan and as a result, a Communist state was permanently established under Soviet influence in the north and a pro-Western state was set up at the south. Both North and South Korea claimed the entire country and bitter hostility between the two inevitably led to disputes. On June 25, 1950, the North Koreans, with tacit approval of the Soviet Union, unleashed a carefully planned attack southward across the 38th parallel and the Korean War began.
When North Korea invaded South Korea, the North Korean Army had about 135,000 soldiers in addition to airplanes, artillery, and tanks while the South Korean Army had only about 95,000 soldiers, few planes or heavy guns, and no tanks. The outcome of the war was evident. However, the UN soon came to South Korea s aid. At their greatest strength, the South Korean and UN forces consisted of almost 1,110,000 soldiers. Approximately 590,000 were South Koreans and 480,000 were Americans. About 39,000 came from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Great Britain, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Phillippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey. The North Korean Army soon grew in number as well. The army itself grew to more than 260,000 troops during the war and China sent another 780,000 soldiers to aid the North Koreans.
On the day the war began, the UN Security Council issued a resolution demanding that the Communists stop fighting and retreat to the 38th parallel. The Soviet Union, a member of the 11- nation Council, could have vetoed the resolution but the Soviet delegate was absent when the vote on Korea was taken due to Soviet Union s boycotting of Council meetings to protest China s membership on the Council. North Korea ignored the UN demand and on June 27, its troops reached the outskirts of Seoul, the South Korean capital. On that same day, U.S. president Harriet Truman, without asking Congress to declare war, ordered United States forces to come to the assistance of South Korea as part of the UN police action.
On July 1, part of the U.S. Army 24th Infantry Division flew from Japan to Pusan, a city located at the southern tip of Korea. They were the first American troops to reach Korea and other troops from other UN nations began arriving in Korea shortly after the Americans.
On July 8, with the approval of the UN Security Council, Truman named General MacArthur commander in chief of the United Nations Command. The command had authority over all the Allies- South Koreans, Americans and the troops from other UN countries. MacArthur directed allied operations from his headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.
By August 2nd, the Communists had already captured the cities Seoul and Taejon and pushed the Allies back to the Pusan Perimeter. The Pusan Perimeter was a battle line in the southeast corner of South Korea. The victory had almost gone to North Korea but through the help of reinforcements, the allies were able to fight off the North Koreans in the advance. The North Koreans lost about 58,000 soldiers and much equipment in this area alone.
The decisive point that changed the course of the war was the Inchon landing. On Sept. 15, 1950, marines and soldiers of the U.S. X Corps sailed from Japan to Inchon, on the northwest coast of South Korea. General MacArthur personally directed the surprise attack. It required extreme careful planning because the tides at Inchon vary more than 30 feet. Each boat had to land at high tide because any boat near the shore when the tide dropped would be trapped in the mud.