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In-Depth Study of the Korean War

The Korean War Begins
The Americans Enter the War
More Troops Arrive to Help UN
The War Turns Around
Attacks on Inchon
Invasion of North Korea
China Enters the War
Seoul is Lost for the Second Time
The Iron Triangle
The Peace Talks Begin
Eisenhower Becomes President
The Outcome

Please refer to the map below to help you understand what was happening more clearly. You can click on the picture below, which will open up a larger version of it in a new window. This should allow you to leave the second window open so you can look at it when necessary.
Map of Korea for the Korean War

Russia has just pulled out of North Korea and The United States has just pulled out of South Korea, each leaving their own form of government behind. In the North, there is Communism, while in the South, there is Democracy.

Both North Korea and South Korea wish to unify Korea once more, the only problem is they both want to do so with their own form of government. North Korea wants all of Korea to be communist, while South Korea wishes to spread democracy. Conflict is already starting. The Korean War is about to begin.

North Korea invades South Korea -
June 25th, 1950

North Korean armies cross the 38th parallel, the imaginary line dividing North Korea and South Korea. South Korea was not expecting the attack and was caught completely offguard. North Korean armies were easily able to invade South Korea, because the United States had not given South Korea enough weapons, for fear of having South Korea start a war against North Korea. They had good cause in doing so, at least. Syngman Rhee was left in charge of South Korea when the United States pulled out, and he had made threats to attack North Korea if only he had the weapons. This lack in weapons worked against South Korea however, because they had no weapons to defend themselves as North Korean armies advanced during the Korean War.

By June 27th, Seoul, the capital of South Korea, was captured. South Koreans panicked as North Korea easily invaded their country. The United States along with the United Nations decided to take a stand - if communism was allowed to spread in Korea, the UN feared it would only spread more, to close countries such as Japan. Also, the option of using the Atom Bomb, as the United States had done at the end of World War II just a few years earlier, was no longer an option. Russia had developed their own atomic bomb by now. Any nuclear attacks would only lead to nuclear war.

Americans Enter the Korean War

Douglas MacArthur was given the position of leading this defense against North Korea. The United States first decision was to send Task Force Smith to try to help South Koreans defend against the invasion. Unfortunately, this did nothing. The communists tanks just rolled right on.

The 8th army arrived from the United States. North Korea continued to procede and were heading towards Pusan, in the lower right corner of South Korea. This made the defense even more difficult, as anyone trying to defend South Korea would be pushed right into the sea. The 8th army kept getting trapped behind enemy territory as the North Koreans moved at an incredibly pace, causing the battles to be even more difficult.

Americans were fighting a losing battle in the Korean War. North Korea had invaded all the way down to the Nakdong River, near Pusan. South Korea had almost entirely been lost by August 1950, less than 2 months after the attack began. UN troops were limited. General Walton Walker was field commander of the 8th army, and told his troops "If I ever see you back here again, it better be in a coffin." All the UN had to stop the attack was a great deal of firepower. North Korea found a gap in the UN lines and crossed the Nakdong river. If the UN lost this barrier at the Nakdong river, the war would be lost. Americans struck back hard for the next two weeks and pushed North Korea back to gain the river barrier once more. This was the first time North Korea had really been haulted during the Korean War. It was sort of a moral booster.

More Troops Arrive

As the UN held back North Korea at the Nakdong River, more troops arrived from all over the World--after all, Pusan was a major port. These new troops were young, getting into the action for the first time as they were too young to fight in World War II. They were ready to go. Black troops arrived as well because of the high need for troops, and for the first time there were mixed units.

The Korean War Turns Around

On September 1, 1950, North Korea launched a large attack all around the barrier. They couldn't hold up the attack, luckily. The United States saw it was the perfect opportunity to attack.

General MacArthur knew the perfect place to attack. One problem, the attack would be nearly impossible to pull off. The perfect place to attack was Inchon, on the other side of South Korea and deep within North Korean territory. Inchon was a major supply center and was very close to Seoul.

Over near Inchon, the tide had the largest shift in tide in the World. The waters were only deep enough for boats during high tide. This posed as another problem for the attack. The only way to win the attack was to do it perfectly.

MacArthur created a special 10th core unit to carry out the attack. Five days before the major attack was planned, marine jets began attacking the small coastal island of Wolmi-do. Ships joined in on the attack two days before the major attack. On September 15th, during the morning high tide, the 10th core moved in on Wolmi-do, successfully taking it with ease. North Korea had been caught off guard this time. No American troops were killed. Later during the high tide at night, the main attack began. Troops landed on two beach fronts, successfully. The attack went perfect. Only 20 American troops were killed, and American troops had secured Inchon.

Attacks from Inchon

With the success of the battle for Inchon came many benefits. American troops were now near Seoul, and were also near Kimpo Airfield. By September 18th, Kimpo Airfield had been secured as well. American troops could now launch air attacks near Seoul.

Troops proceded to try and take Seoul back as well, but North Korea wouldn't budge. It came down to a last man standing battle. On September 21, only 33 marines stood at the end to celebrate victory at Seoul, but they had it.

The 8th army pushed hard with their minds set on taking North Korea back to the 38th parallel, which they did on October 1st.

Should Troops Invade North Korea?

This posed to be a big question. South Korean troops moved on forward across the 38th parallel, leading the attack on North Korea, but American troops stayed behind. If America continued to follow in the attack, the Korean War would no longer be a defense against communism, but would turn into an attack on communism. Nobody knew if it was worth the risk. Also, UN troops predicted Chinese troops were in North Korea, ready for an attack.

Unfortunately, United States moral was sky high, especially after the victories in the World Wars. Troops moved on, racing for P'yongyang, the North Korean capital. P'yongyang fell and everyone in the attack was optimistic. North Korea had almost entirely fell to South Korea, a complete switch from the beginning of the war.

China Enters the Korean War

...Until the UN ran into China. Chinese soldiers had been there, and the blow was hard. On October 25th, China made their presence known. UN troops were ambushed and died trying to retreat. Moral dropped lightning fast within a few hours. General Walker pulled troops back to figure out a new plan. Chinese slowly disappeared just as they had appeared, waiting once more.

General MacArthur ordered an advance on November 24th. One day later, on November 25th, everything suddenly changed again. Chinese troops found a gap in the lines. Retreat was difficult. UN troops were now fighting for their lives.

General Walker died in a car accident on December 23rd, while Lt. General Matthew Ridgway became the new commander.

Seoul is Lost Again

UN troops continued retreating as North Koreans and Chinese soldiers attacked down towards the 38th parallel. They crossed the 38th parallel--again, on January 1st. By January 3rd, 1951, Seoul was lost to the communists again, along with Kimpo Airfield. Luckily, the communists supply lines were not strong and they could not sustain the attack long enough. They began to turn around almost mysteriously. General Ridgway took this opportunity to strike back. The first place recovered was Kimpo Airfield. In March, Seoul was regained for the second time. On March 31st, UN troops pushed communists back to the 38th parallel again.

From here, MacArthur wanted to widen the attack--part of what got him fired. President Truman fired MacArthur on April 11th and wanted peace talks. General Ridgway took over MacArthur's job and General James Van Fleet took over Ridgway's old position.

The Iron Triangle

The Iron Triangle was a powerful area connecting three cities where Chinese staged attacks from. It was nearly impossible to break down. It was positioned not far above the 38th parallel. UN troops made an attack in the direction of the Iron Triangle. The communists were getting predictable. UN troops learned how the Chinese fought throughout the past 6 months of the war. This helped them stop attacks made by the Chinese. When they finally got to the Iron Triangle itself, Chinese troops would not budge. It was nearly impossible to break through, but once UN troops managed to break through 10 days later, it fell to pieces.

Peace Talks Begin

The time was right for peace talks. The communists agreed to have the peace talks in Panmunjom. At the talks, nobody seemed to want to give in. The UN wanted a new border, while North Korea wanted it to stay at the 38th parallel. The communists wanted their prisoners back, yet they had killed nearly all of the ones they had taken, offering nothing in return. The talks kept failing, beginning a very long series of negotiations.

For the next two years, talks went on with no progress. The Korean War continued. Battles were still taking place, but there were long periods of idle time on the field as well. This time was spent fortifying the ground already won. The UN needed to put more pressure on the communists.

The UN turned to air attacks to put more pressure on North Korea. The US had air superiority, using new, faster, and deadlier planes. On June 23rd, fighter planes launched a large attack on hydroelectric plants. This ended up knocking out 90% of North Korea's electrical power supply, yet North Korea still would not give in.

New President

The 1952 presidential campaigns heavily revolved around the Korean War. Americans wanted the war to end, and fast. The peace talks had been going on for a long time with no success. Dwight D. Eisenhower, a popular general from World War II, ran for office. He said he would go to Korea himself if he won the election. He won in November, 1952, and followed through with his promise. He soon replaced General Fleet. Eisenhower gave threats of nuclear attack, which North Korea took seriously. Only a few months after the election, Chinese sent notice pleading for an end to the Korean War. It still took another 4 months to bring it to an end and sign all the papers. On July 27th, 1953, the papers were signed and the Korean War ended.


Who won the war, you ask? Technically, the UN gained about 20 miles, a slight victory. But casualties in the Korean war totaled more than 3,000,000. Did anyone really win?

Even to this day, the war continues. North Korea and South Korea still have standing armies at the line, often getting into disputes. Nothing has changed.

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