The Forgotten War

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  • Background Korea had been a unified country since the 7th century. During the 19th century, Imperial Japan began an occupation of the Korean Peninsula which lasted until the end of WW II. At the close of World War II, forces of both the Soviet Union and the United States occupied the Korean peninsula.
  • Korea - 1945 The Soviets imposed a communist government on North Korea, resulting in the formation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in 1948, The U.S. imposed a nationalist/capitalist democracy on South Korea, resulting in the formation of the Republic of Korea in 1948.
  • Post-War Plans Initially, it was the intention of both sides to establish a stable and unified Korea in order to withdraw their military forces from the area. However, neither the Soviet Union or the U.S. wanted the peninsula to fall into the other's hand. The division of Korea that ensued set the stage for a civil war.
  • Prelude to War North Korean General Secretary Kim Il-Sung was intent on reuniting the peninsula under communism. An offensive against the South was planned On January 30, 1950, Stalin, via telegram, informed Kim Il Sung that he was willing to help Kim in his plan to unify Korea.
  • Stage 1: North Korea attacks 1st Phase of Conflict June 25, 1950 North Korea launches a surprise attack against South Korea triggering the Korean War. By the night of June 28, Seoul (capital of South Korea) had fallen and the South Korean forces were in disarray.
  • United Nations Involvement The United Nations Security Council called for an immediate end to hostilities. When its further demand that North Korea withdraw forces from the southern half of the Korean peninsula fell on deaf ears, the UN Security Council recommended that members of the United Nations join forces to repel the attack. Twenty-one nations agreed to contribute arms, money, medical supplies, and/or troops to rid South Korea of the Communist aggressor.
  • United Nations Force Gen. Douglas MacArthur was put in charge of the U.N. Command, which included combat and medical units from 22 nations. The United States provided 50% of the ground forces (South Korea provided most of the remainder), 86% of the naval power, and 93% of the air power.
  • Stage 2: Americans pushed to the Pusan Perimeter Unable to slow the enemy advance, the Americans and South Koreans fought desperate delaying operations, buying time with blood as more American units were rushed to Korea. By the end of July 1950, the North Koreans had pushed the U.N. forces to the southeast corner of the peninsula, where they dug in around the port of Pusan.
  • Stage 3: Inchon MacArthur completely changed the course of the war overnight by ordering an amphibious invasion at the port of Inchon, near Seoul. The Americans quickly gained control of Inchon, recaptured Seoul within days, and cut the North Korean supply lines. American and ROK forces broke out of the Pusan Perimeter and chased the retreating enemy north.
  • Stage 4: Approaching the Yalu Despite warnings from the Chinese that "American intrusion into North Korea would encounter Chinese resistance," MacArthur's forces continued to push north. On October 25, 1950, however, things turned ominous. The Chinese army, which had been massing north of the Yalu River after secretly slipping into North Korea, struck with considerable force.
  • Stage 5: An entirely new war Roughly 180,000 Chinese troops shattered the right flank of the US Eighth Army in the west, while 120,000 others threatened to destroy the X Corps near the Chosin Reservoir. On November 28, a shaken MacArthur informed the Joint Chiefs, "We face an entirely new war."
  • American Marines race past a dead enemy soldier.
  • Corporal Leonard Hayworth ... shows his utter frustration as he has crawled back from his position only to learn that the ammo is gone.
  • Capt. Francis Fenton ponders his fate and the fate of his men after being told that his company is nearly out of ammunition.
  • The fight for Seoul, Korea.
  • A family running down stairs, a father holding a baby, tanks firing away. Those tanks are taking fire from North Koreans right down the street!
  • Battle of Chosin Reservoir The U.S. Marines consider the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir to be one of the proudest parts of their own history. The Marines mauled the Chinese divisions they faced so badly that the Chinese had to be withdrawn from the front; the Marines then marched out in an orderly fashion and intact . The Frozen Chosin or the Chosin Few
  • Marines retreat from the Chosin Reservoir.
  • A column of American Marines marches down a canyon road dubbed "Nightmare Alley" during their retreat from Chosin Reservoir.
  • A weary American Marine hooded against the cold during the grim retreat.
  • American Marines pass by the bodies of their fallen comrades.
  • Marines file past a truck loaded with dead troops during the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir.
  • Marines rest after making it through the canyon road known as Nightmare Alley.
  • Stage 6: Stalemate Beginning January 15, Ridgway led the U.N. in a slow advance northward, in what his troops began to call the "meatgrinder." Inflicting heavy casualties on the Chinese and North Koreans, the U.N. re-recaptured Seoul. In the meantime, General MacArthur had been steadily pushing Washington to remove the restrictions on his forces. Not only did Truman decline for fear of widening the war, but he fired MacArthur, who had been publicly challenging him for months, for insubordination on April 11.
  • Ceasefire Agreement The Korean War ended, when an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. The armistice was only ever intended as a temporary measure and provided for: A suspension of open hostilities A fixed demarcation line with a four kilometer (2.4 mile) buffer zone - the so-called demilitarization zone SEE next slide A mechanism for the transfer of prisoners of war.
  • Heroic Americans in Korea The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. There were a total of 131 Medal of Honor recipients from the Korean War. Here are a few of their stories
  • Col. William E. Barber Earned the Medal of Honor during the bitter Chosin Reservoir campaign. Fighting in sub-zero temperatures against overwhelming odds, he was wounded on the first night of the action, but refused evacuation and remained in action in command of his company.
  • Private Herbert K. Pililaau Pililaau, earned the Medal of Honor on "Heartbreak Ridge" near Pia-ri, Korea, on Sept. 17, 1951. The company's ammunition nearly exhausted, Pililaau stayed behind to cover the withdrawal. He fired his automatic weapon into the ranks of the assailants, threw all his grenades and, with ammunition exhausted, closed in hand-to-hand combat with his trench knife and fists until falling mortally wounded. PFC Pililaau is credited with killing 40 enemy soldiers.
  • Cpl. Hiroshi H. Miyamura Awarded the Medal of Honor for action that took place on 24 April 1951, at which time he was wounded and taken prisoner by the Communist Chinese Forces, being released some 27 months later.
  • story continued As the enemy force overran the Americans' position, Corporal Miyamura, a machine-gun squad leader, leaped from his shelter and, in close hand-to-hand combat, killed 10 of the enemy with his bayonet. After the first attack, while Miyamura administered first aid to the wounded and ordered the evacuation of his men, the enemy dealt another savage blow. Miyamura delivered devastating fire with his machine gun until he ran out of ammunition. He then bayoneted his way to a second gun emplacement and covered the withdrawal of his unit with machine gun fire until his ammunition was depleted. Miyamura killed more than 50 of the enemy before he was severely wounded and later captured.
  • Korean War Casualties 0 50000 100000 150000 200000 250000 300000 350000 400000 USA North Korea South Korea China Wounded Killed
  • Korean War Memorial The Korean War Veterans Memorial was authorized by the U.S. Congress on October 28, 1986. President George H. W. Bush conducted the groundbreaking for the Memorial on June 14, 1992, Flag Day. It was dedicated on July 27, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the war, by President Bill Clinton and Kim Young Sam, President of the Republic of Korea, to the men and women who served during the conflict.