Ridgway, who managed to regroup UN forces for an effective counter-offensive. A series of attacks managed to slowly drive back the opposing forces, inflicting heavy casualties on Chinese and North Korean units as UN forces advanced some miles north of the 38th parallel. The rest of the war was characterized by large-scale bombing of the north and lengthy peace negotiations with little territory change. Even during the peace negotiations, combat continued.
For the South Korean and allied forces, the goal was to recapture all of South Korea before an agreement was reached in order to avoid loss of any territory. The Chinese attempted a similar operation at the Battle of the Hook, where they were repelled by British forces. A major issue of the negotiations was repatriation of POWs.
The Communists agreed to voluntary repatriation, but only if the majority of the POW's would return to China or North Korea, something that did not occur. As many refused to be repatriated to the communist North Korea and China, the war continued until the Communists eventually dropped this issue. On November 29, , U.
President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower fulfilled a campaign promise by going to Korea to find out what could be done to end the conflict. With the UN's acceptance of India 's proposal for a Korean armistice, a cease-fire was established on July 27, , by which time the front line was had again moved to the proximity of the 38th parallel, and so a demilitarized zone DMZ was established around it, still defended to this day by North Korean troops on one side and South Korean and American troops on the other. The DMZ runs north of the parallel towards the east, and to the south as it travels west.
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The site of the peace talks, Kaesong, the old capital of Korea, was part of the South before hostilities broke out but is currently a special city of the North. No peace treaty has been signed to date. American action to support the ROK army had been taken for a number of reasons.
Truman, a Democratic president, was under severe domestic pressure for being too soft on communism. The intervention was also an important implementation of the new Truman Doctrine , which advocated the opposition of communism wherever it tried to expand. The lessons of Munich , in , also influenced the American decision, backed by the belief that appeasing Communism would only encourage further expansion.
Instead of pressing for a congressional declaration of war, which he regarded as too alarmist and time-consuming when time was of the essence, Truman went to the UN for approval. He would later come under harsh criticism for not consulting Congress before sending troops. Although American opinion was solidly behind the venture, Truman would later take harsh criticism for not obtaining a declaration of war from Congress before sending troops to Korea.
Thus, "Truman's War" was said by some to have violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the United States Constitution. The Korean War was the first armed confrontation of the Cold War and set the standard for many later conflicts. It created the idea of a limited war, where the two superpowers would fight without descending into an all-out war involving nuclear weapons.
It also expanded the scope of the Cold War, which to that point had mostly been concerned with Europe. The war led to a strengthening of alliances in the Western bloc and the splitting of China from the Soviet bloc. About one million South Koreans were killed, 85 percent of them civilians. According to figures published in the Soviet Union, The total casualties were about 2,, More than 80 percent of the industrial and public facilities and transportation infrastructure, three-quarters of all government buildings, and half of all housing was destroyed. The war left the peninsula divided, with a communist state in North Korea and an authoritarian state in the South.
Eventually, South Korea transitioned to democracy with a rapidly growing free-market economy, while North Korea stuck to its Stalinist communist roots, with totalitarian rule and a cult of personality around leaders Kim Il-sung and later Kim Jong-il, under whom there has been widespread famine. Army, and the entire South Korean military. No significant Russian or Chinese military forces remain in North Korea today.
The demilitarized zone remains the most heavily-defended border in the world. Many Korean families were also divided by the war, most of whom have had no opportunity to contact or meet one another. As time continues to pass without a reconciliation between the two Koreas, the possibility of being reunited before the end of their lifetimes is slipping away for most of these families. By some account, civilian killings committed by U. In South Korea, the painting was deemed anti-American, a longtime taboo in the South, and was prohibited for public display until the s.
Picasso's paintings made no allusions to Communist atrocities. In the U. Richard Hornberger that was later turned into a successful movie and television series. All three versions depict the misadventures of the staff of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and their struggle to keep sanity despite the war's absurdities through ribald humor, mischief, and shenanigans when not treating the wounded. Ha Jin's novel, War Trash, contains a vivid description of the beginning of the war from the point of view of a Chinese soldier.
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Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed. Korean War. Previous Korean Peninsula. Next Korean architecture. Did you know? The Korean War is technically not over since it ended with an armistice not a peace treaty. Dissolution of the USSR. Credits New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. Categories : History Military History Korea. But he begins by mowing down David Halberstam.
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Cumings, who admires Mr. The book, he argues, makes all the classic mistakes popular American historians tend to make about this little understood war. Cumings writes. Americans need to get past the idea, Mr. The United States succeeded in containment, establishing the 2. Cumings argues that the Korean War was a civil war with long, tangled historical roots, one in which America had little business meddling. Cumings likens the indiscriminate American bombing of North Korea to genocide. He writes that American soldiers took part in, or observed, civilian atrocities not dissimilar to those at My Lai.
An official inquiry is needed into some of these events, he writes, for any kind of healing to begin. Among the most important things to understand about North Korean behavior then and now, Mr. Cumings writes, is the longtime enmity between Korea and Japan. Japan humiliated and brutalized Korea in other ways. It will do whatever it can to stay out of the hands of South Korea, where leaders have long-standing historical ties to Japan. We wrongly label the country Stalinist, he argues.
Even from this distant vantage point, Mr. Authors should think about the main audience -- grad students preparing for their general exams. WHY writes huuuuge books like this, and especially vol. Not necessarily dry, and I wish I had time to really enjoy the information. Details are good for researchers but I see that curious but busy non-academics can easily get lost in them. May 18, Jana rated it did not like it. I couldn't get past the first chapter, so put off was I by the professorial tone and "in" comments.
A shame, as he is so often quoted as the one of the experts on the war. Perhaps I'll give it another try some day. May 26, Jessie rated it it was amazing. A brilliant work of craftsmanship, based on research of declassified U. In its place, Cumings advances a revisionst view that both sides of the 38th parallel could have started the war.
He also offers a critical assessment of the U. I also liked how he traces the deep ideological origins of the war to the colonial period, when the Japanese exercised "divide-and-rule" policy toward Korean nationalists.
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Overall, the book is empirically rich, theoretically sophisticated, and beautifully written-very rare for a book on Korea! Jun 03, Aniko rated it it was amazing Shelves: east-asia. Not free from fault, of course as no scholarly book is , but an excellent account of the tumultuous and highly controversial post-liberation years of Korea. Americans should read this more to see where their good will tends to lead Jul 05, Pranjal rated it it was amazing. The facts that the Chinese lacked methods of direct communication with the Americans and communicated their warning through the Indian ambassador in Beijing, who was widely distrusted in the West, compounded the problem.
Despite the emphasis on specific circumstances created by Inchon, Rees was by no means insensitive to the impact of longstanding American misperceptions of Communist China. He noted the tendency of the State Department to view the new Chinese government as more nationalist than communist in outlook and, therefore, disinclined to do the Soviets' bidding in Korea.
The deemphasis on ideology in the Chinese attitude toward the United States led Acheson and others to underestimate the degree to which Mao and his advisers viewed the Americans as a threat. Note 36 Later analysts added to the equation the significance of the ongoing underestimation in Washington of Chinese capabilities. Combined with the belief that the Soviets would hesitate to encourage Chinese intervention in Korea for fear of reducing their own influence on the peninsula, this attitude led to the conclusion that the Soviet Union was more likely to jump in than China. When after Inchon there was no sign of a Soviet intention to do so, the way seemed clear.
Rees had no way of peering inside the Chinese decisionmaking process and his focus on the practice of limited war by the United States justified his treatment of the Communist side in a summary fashion. Yet it is instructive to compare his characterization of Chinese thinking with the more detailed accounts that have emerged from the new Chinese and Soviet documentation. Rees' key paragraph on the perspective of China merits quotation at length:. With its Marxist-Maoist framework it seemed as if the US and its allies could menace China, if not its territorial integrity then its internal stability and its position as a great Asian and Communist power To Peking [sic] Helping North Korea was not merely a defensive measure A determined opponent in a position of strength in a unified, independent, non-Communist Korea could exploit opportunities inside China.
Thus initial intervention in Korea, with no professed ends beyond keeping some part of Kim Il-sung's state in being, was partially defensive, but with offensive possibilities, depending on the developing situation, and with the ultimate end of advancing Peking's interests in Asia A comparison of this characterization with the most systematic of the recent accounts, Chen Jian's China's Road to the Korean War, leaves us nodding with approval. Chen takes most earlier accounts to task for viewing Chinese policy "as totally reactive and without its own consistent inner logic.
If Rees had the right idea in general, it was left to Chen and others to both complete the skeleton and provide it with substantial flesh and muscle. Chen demonstrated that, "from the very beginning," Mao regarded the Korean War in the context of "the dialectic Chinese strategic culture," which defined "crisis as a combination of danger and opportunity. During July, the Chinese government began to mobilize the populace against the United States and formed the Northeast Border Defense Army to redirect its military strength from the provinces opposite Taiwan to the region adjacent to Korea.
On August 4, Mao told the Politburo that,. If the American imperialists won the war, they would become more arrogant and would threaten us. We should not fail to assist the Koreans. We must lend them our hands in the form of sending our military volunteers there. The timing could be further decided, but we have to prepare for this. Mao instructed his commanders to be ready to intervene in Korea by the end of August, a date he later pushed back in the face of reports from his field commanders.
As August ended, Chinese military leaders assumed that entry into the Korean fray was only a matter of timing, that the propitious moment "might be when the UN forces had counterattacked back across the 38th parallel, because this would put China in a politically and militarily favorable position to defeat the enemy. Chen concedes that Mao faced certain constraints. Although he thirsted for "a glorious victory in the Korean conflict," he recognized that persuading the party and the Chinese people would be easier once "China's territorial safety was directly threatened by the Americans.
Furthermore, if China was to fight successfully in Korea, it needed the approval and cooperation of the Soviet Union and North Korea, which did not come before Inchon. Determined to win with its own forces, the North Korea of Kim Il-sung was particularly standoffish regarding a high-level Chinese presence in its territory. Note 43 Whatever Mao's preference in the abstract, in early September he remained a good distance from ordering intervention. As it turned out, the order, or at least its final confirmation, did not come until October Chen sees the die as being cast as early as October 2, by which time South Korean forces had moved beyond the 38th parallel and Mao had requests from both Stalin and Kim to intervene and a general commitment from the former of substantial materiel and air support.
Subsequent delays, in Chen's mind, were designed merely to solidify support within the Politburo and nail down the specifics of Soviet aid. There is reason to dispute Chen here, both with regard to the significance of various decisions and the relative weight of the reasons for them.
For one thing, it is now known that the telegram for Stalin that Mao drafted on October 2 declaring China's intention to intervene and outlining the rationale for it was never sent. In fact, another telegram announcing the opposite was dispatched. Note 45 For another, Chen's own analysis suggests the importance of the deliberations within the Politburo on October 4 and 5, especially of General Peng Dehuai's support for Mao's position on the latter date. Chen is probably correct, nonetheless, that Mao's initial order to dispatch troops on October 8, one day after American forces had crossed the 38th parallel, approached finality, that the subsequent reevaluation was partly a bargaining ploy to get the firmest and broadest possible commitment of support from Stalin and partly a consensus-building exercise to insure support from Mao's immediate subordinates for the dangerous venture before them.
Given what we now know of the complexity of Mao's relationship with Stalin and Kim, of the dissent within Mao's own Politburo regarding intervention, and of the intense emotional stress that Mao endured through the final process of decisionmaking, it is best not to stray from the conclusion of Rees and Whiting--on whose account Rees' analysis was largely based--that the precipitating event for China's entry was the movement of non-Korean forces across the 38th parallel. Certainly Chen demonstrates that the appeal of intervention for Mao extended well beyond a concern to defend the borders of China and the revolutionary process therein.
Chen and others also show that Mao did not conceive of intervention solely in terms of reestablishing the 38th parallel, that he looked to chase the Americans off the peninsula entirely. Yet the odds are that Mao would have chosen against massive intervention had the United States restricted its aim to restoring South Korea.
It is clear that Mao anticipated during the summer that the United States would alter its aim once military conditions changed, which merely reinforces the point that his early inclination toward intervention was to a considerable extent reactive. The key and essential element leading to intervention, in other words, must be separated from the host of benefits Mao hoped to achieve from it.
Surely there existed an inner logic to Mao's foreign policy that included a strong domestic dimension and an expansionist thrust to promote revolution in Asia and Chinese influence in the borderlands. At the same time, strong internal and external forces provided constraints on its implementation. The new documentation reveals the constraints as well as the logic.
Whatever the differences between Rees and the new literature on the origins of Chinese intervention in Korea, they agree that, once it occurred, the issue was joined, that a halt to the U. Note 46 Thus the new evidence appears to undermine the view, popular among American scholars during the s and s, that until as late as mid-November the United States had a chance to avert a major clash with China. As an admittedly self-interested party, I would like to urge caution here. Whatever the inner logic of Mao, Chen's account, reinforced by more recent discoveries regarding the telegrams of October 2, shows in rich detail the twists and turns of Chinese decisionmaking during the critical month after Inchon.
The final decision was for intervention, but it came amidst continuing doubts within the Chinese high command, which derived in large part from uncertainty regarding the extent and timing of Soviet air support. Note 48 Although Mao did not alter his decision to intervene in Korea, he did adopt a defensive plan for the early stages of the intervention.
Note 49 Had U. Much could have happened in the intervening period, including negotiations. Even without successful talks, the political and military equations might have looked far different in the spring of than they had in November General MacArthur's insistence on pursuing the offensive and Washington's refusal to stop him remain key points in the evolution of the Korean War, therefore, and for reasons potentially greater than their impact on military conditions narrowly conceived.
Why did the United States follow what in retrospect was a clearly unwise course in continuing offensive action following the initial Chinese contact with U. Rees cited several factors. The Joint Chiefs of Staff resisted the temptation to halt MacArthur because of his tremendous prestige after Inchon and because they respected the traditional freedom granted to the commander-in-the-field to conduct his campaign as he saw fit.
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They "deferred to State," which could halt MacArthur as a matter of "policy. Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall, as the former boss of both the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of State, "was toppling over backwards not to meddle with his successors.
The claims that the Joint Chiefs deferred to State or that Marshall strained to avoid interfering with his successors' jobs have been disproven by new documentation. The Joint Chiefs clearly lobbied against altering MacArthur's orders and Marshall's sentiments were consistent with theirs. Note 51 With those exceptions, Rees' analysis contains at least part of the story. More recent accounts have added an important dimension, however. Revisionist Barton J. Bernstein argues, by and large correctly, that "Washington shared [with MacArthur] Note 52 Decisionmakers in the United States wanted to roll back communism in Asia, they knew the Chinese were in Korea but not in what strength, and they believed the best time for China to intervene had passed.
In any event, China was a backward nation ill-prepared to contest American power. He might have added that Washington also shared MacArthur's fear that U. What Bernstein ignores, though, is the difference in degree between Washington and Tokyo. MacArthur was a theater commander with Olympian pretensions. He regarded his area as the center of the universe. If China intervened en masse in Korea, he would counter by attacking Manchuria. Washington, in contrast, looked to Europe first. Korea was important but secondary, not an objective over which the United States should commit the bulk of its strength.
As a result, there was far greater ambivalence in the State Department and the Pentagon than in the Dai Ichi Building. Had a Europe-firster and traditional soldier, such as Matthew Ridgway, presided in Tokyo, American troops probably would never have crossed the narrow neck in October. Nor would the U. As a result, the full implications of intelligence and POW reports on the Chinese presence in Korea might have been grasped.
Note 54 And decisionmakers back home would not have feared a public confrontation with their field commander if they called his advance to a halt. MacArthur, in sum, made a difference--in part because his thinking was not totally out of phase with Washington but in part also because he was who he was. Note 55 Another commander might at least have saved the United States a major military setback in North Korea; at most he might have prevented a dangerous confrontation with China altogether.
The "entirely new war" that began with the Chinese counteroffensive of late November ushered in the most prolonged crisis of the Cold War. Sticking to his main purpose, Rees detailed the U. Rees also recounted the effort of MacArthur to manipulate the administration into expanding the war by creating what a later biographer would label "a false dilemma"--that is, a choice between expanding the war and total defeat in Korea.
Note 56 He proceeded to show how the field commander's public dissent from established policy and fears at home regarding his continuing effort to expand the war produced his April dismissal. Had Rees held access to then classified American and British records, he probably would have stuck to the broad outlines of his story while altering some of the details. Revelations of the extent of defeatism in the Pentagon in January and impatience with restricting operations to Korea might have led him to give greater weight to the role of the British in bucking up American morale during the darkest days and of the United Nations in providing a multilateral framework within which the British and others could maneuver together to restrain the United States.
Note 58 On MacArthur's dismissal, he surely would have noted the desire of the Joint Chiefs to give their field commander authority to retaliate with air power in Manchuria under certain circumstances. But they feared MacArthur would misuse such authority, thus giving them strong reason to favor his relief on "military grounds. Note 60 All in all, the new evidence suggests that the commitment to limited war of the Truman administration, especially its military leaders, was less firm than Rees thought.
At the same time, we now have a greater understanding of the risks that existed for the United States in fighting an all-out war with the Soviet Union. Rees never challenged "MacArthur's underlying preoccupation that the early s was the last period when the United States could have risked with impunity total war with the USSR. As Marc Trachtenberg has pointed out, the United States possessed a very limited capacity to deliver to Soviet territory its quite limited stockpile of A-bombs, which in themselves were judged inadequate to destroy the warmaking capacity of the Soviet Union.
Much of that capacity depended upon the availability of air bases for U. Top military personnel in Washington anticipated that any all-out war with the Soviet Union in would be long, extremely costly, and uncertain in outcome. Note 62 No fan of MacArthur, Rees still did not fully appreciate the weakness of his case.
Despite his superficial treatment of the Communist side, Rees concluded accurately that Mao's basic goal from the success of the Chinese counteroffensive at the end of through the spring offensives of was to drive U. In addition, Rees showed how Mao's theories of warfare, developed in the context of the Chinese civil war, were of limited applicability in Korea.
Note 63 It was left to Shu Guang Zhang in to provide a detailed account of the Chinese perspective based on Chinese sources. What Zhang portrayed was a leader determined to demonstrate the superiority of manpower and the human spirit over Western technology. The "military romanticism" of Mao led him to overestimate the capabilities of the Chinese People's Volunteers and overrule his more cautious field commander, Peng Dehuai, in pushing them forward. In a situation that could hardly have differed more than the one between Truman and MacArthur, Mao attempted to manage details of the Korean venture, almost constantly pressuring Peng to be more aggressive.
Mao's reach exceeded his grasp, and that fact cost Chinese forces dearly. Zhang also showed that Kim Il-sung pushed constantly for offensive action to produce a total enemy defeat, and that Chinese and North Korean forces in Korea sometimes had a stormy relationship that affected all levels-- from top to bottom. Where was Stalin through this period of greatest tension in Korea and the world? Rees largely ignored the question, one of the most glaring omissions in the entire book. The most detailed account of the Soviet side thus far is in Vojtech Mastny's larger study of the Cold War, which draws extensively on recently available Soviet sources.
Note 65 Mastny shows Stalin consistently trying to embroil China in Korea while striving to keep the Soviet Union involved only indirectly and protecting the bulk of his resources for the European theater. Obviously the Soviet leader wanted to avoid a direct confrontation with the Americans in Korea and elsewhere, to get the Chinese to do his fighting for him, but once they were doing so he was more than willing to exploit any advantage to the fullest, even overplaying his hand with regard to the key issues of Japan and Germany. Mao, in contrast, constantly attempted to draw the Soviets more deeply into the Korean enterprise through appeals for air and materiel support and, in June as the Communist side moved toward an effort at a negotiated settlement--through a request that Stalin direct the talks.
Although Stalin gave substantial if belated military aid, China was to pay for it with interest, and he refused to become directly engaged in negotiations to end the fighting. Mastny's Stalin is a man at once fearful yet bold, declining in judgment from the infirmities of age and excess yet calculating and dogged, a man not unlike Adam Ulam's earlier version, who was determined to act aggressively to hide his and his country's fundamental weakness. Note 66 Unlike Ulam, though, Mastny speculates that, through espionage sources, Stalin knew with some confidence of America's relative unpreparedness for a larger war.
Given the extended length of the armistice negotiations that began in July, the question remains as to whether the United States could have further exploited the military situation within Korea that emerged after the debacle of the second Chinese spring offensive in late May and, if it had, whether it would have expedited an end to the fighting.
Despite the preoccupation of Rees with the coordination of political and military power, he does not offer a firm opinion on the matter. Note 67 Clay Blair, author of the most serious recent military history of the war, revealed that the Joint Chiefs in late May were divided on whether or not to push forward aggressively at least to the narrow neck of the peninsula. The more cautious view prevailed, and the subsequent offensive effort of U. Blair also pointed out that the process of reestablishing the line during the first half of June was a good deal more difficult than the Eighth Army commander, General James Van Fleet, had anticipated.
Blair's clear message was that a further advance at that time would have been costly and risky and that the orders of the Joint Chiefs were sufficiently flexible to enable the field commander to maintain military pressure on the enemy. Note 68 Zhang's account of deliberations on the Chinese side of late May and early June indicate that, although there was general agreement on a retreat from an effort to drive the enemy out of Korea, at least for the time being, considerable sentiment remained against moving to negotiations until another offensive had restored the 38th parallel.
Note 69 There is no evidence that the Communists doubted their capacity in the short term to repulse an all-out U. Communist tactics in the negotiations that began in July certainly indicated no sense of weakness. The North Korean delegation, which took the lead in the talks for the Communists while deferring to the Chinese behind the scenes, threatened, cajoled, and insulted the Americans, and even moreso their South Korean ally.
Note 70 While there is some ambiguity in the evidence on the Chinese side, on balance it appears that Mao wanted and expected an early end to the fighting. He took very seriously, however, a settlement based on the 38th parallel and an early withdrawal of foreign troops. When the Americans adamantly rejected both of these terms, Mao dug in his heels and explored the military option. As Rees pointed out, the Americans reciprocated and battlefield events of the late summer and fall of revealed an advantage to U.
Limited U. Having again overplayed his hand, Mao agreed in late November on an armistice line based on the present battle line, which was north of the 38th parallel in all but the extreme southwest. It was at this point, Rees claimed, that Washington made a critical error by forcing the U.
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