Korean War

From New World Encyclopedia

Korean War
Part of the Cold War
Lopez scaling seawall.jpg
United States Marines storm ashore at Incheon
Date Full-scale fighting lasted from June 25, 1950, until a cease-fire agreement was reached on July 27, 1953, though there was never an “official” end-of-the-war treaty. The conflict still technically persists to this day.
Location Korean Peninsula
Result Cease-fire; North Korean invasion repelled; establishment of Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ); a few territorial changes along the 38th parallel, but essentially uti possidetis.
North Korean invasion of South Korea.
Control of North and South Korea
Flag of United Nations United Nations:

Flag of South Korea Republic of Korea
Flag of Australia Australia
Flag of Belgium Belgium
Flag of Canada Canada
Flag of Colombia Colombia
Flag of Ethiopia Ethiopia
Flag of France France
Flag of Greece (1828-1978).svg Greece
Flag of Luxembourg Luxembourg
Flag of Netherlands Netherlands
Flag of New Zealand New Zealand
Flag of Philippines Philippines
Flag of South Africa South Africa
Flag of Thailand Thailand
Flag of Turkey Turkey
Flag of United Kingdom United Kingdom
Flag of United States United States

Naval Support and Military Servicing/Repairs:
Flag of Japan Japan

Medical staff:
Flag of Denmark Denmark
Flag of Italy Italy
Flag of Norway Norway
Flag of India India
Flag of Sweden Sweden Flag of United States USA

North Korea and Allies:

Flag of North Korea Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Flag of People's Republic of China People's Republic of China
Flag of Soviet Union Soviet Union

Flag of South Korea Syngman Rhee

Flag of South Korea Chung Il-kwon
Flag of South Korea Paik Sun-yup
Flag of Turkey Tahsin Yazıcı
Flag of United States Douglas MacArthur
Flag of United States Matthew Ridgway
Flag of United States Mark Wayne Clark
Flag of United States Harry S. Truman
Flag of United States Dwight D. Eisenhower

Flag of North Korea Kim Il-sung

Flag of North Korea Choi Yong-kun
Flag of North Korea Kim Chaek
Flag of People's Republic of China Mao Zedong
Flag of People's Republic of China Peng Dehuai
Flag of Soviet Union Joseph Stalin
Flag of Soviet Union Georgy Malenkov

Flag of South Korea 590,911

Flag of United States 480,000
Flag of United Kingdom 63,000[1]
Flag of Canada 26,791[2]
Flag of Australia 17,000
Flag of Philippines 7,430[3]
Flag of Turkey 5,455[4]
Flag of Netherlands 3,972
Flag of France 3,421[5]
Flag of New Zealand 1,389
Flag of Thailand 1,294
Flag of Ethiopia 1,271
Flag of Greece (1828-1978).svg 1,263
Flag of Colombia 1,068
Flag of Belgium 900
Flag of South Africa 826
Flag of Luxembourg 44

Total: 941,356–1,139,518

Flag of North Korea 260,000

Flag of People's Republic of China 780,000
Flag of Soviet Union 26,000

Total: 1,066,000

Note: All figures may vary according to source. This measures peak strength as sizes changed during the war.

South Korea:
58,127 combat deaths
175,743 wounded
80,000 MIA or POW[6]

United States:
36,516 dead (including 2,830 non-combat)
92,134 wounded
8,176 MIA
7,245 POW[7]
United Kingdom:
1,109 dead[8]
2,674 wounded
1,060 MIA or POW[9]
721 dead[10]
2,111 wounded
168 MIA
216 POW
516 dead[11]
1,042 wounded
339 dead[12]
1,200 wounded
300 KIA or MIA[13]
112 KIA[3]
South Africa
28 KIA and 8 MIA[14]
Total: Over 474,000

North Korea:
215,000 dead,
303,000 wounded,
120,000 MIA or POW[9]

(Chinese estimate):

114,000 killed in combat
34,000 non-combat deaths
380,000 wounded
21,400 POW[15]
(U.S. estimate):[9]
400,000+ dead
486,000 wounded
21,000 POW
Soviet Union:
315 dead
Total: 1,190,000-1,577,000+

Civilians killed/wounded (total Koreans) = 2 Million (Est.)[16]

The Korean War is the name given to a civil war between the nations of North Korea and South Korea, which were created out of the occupation zones of the Soviet Union and United States established at the end of World War II. The conflict began on June 25, 1950, and fighting continued until an armistice on July 27, 1953, although, since no official peace treaty was signed, the war is still not technically over. The Soviet Union and People's Republic of China, seeking to expand the communist sphere of influence, aided the North Koreans, while forces representing the United Nations—led primarily by the United States with troops provided by 15 other nations, aided the South Koreans. The Korean War pitted American and Soviet hardware against each other without the threat of all-out nuclear strikes (although limited nuclear strikes were discussed once the Chinese became involved).

Each side wanted to unite the Korean peninsula under its own political ideology. Finally, after massive swings in favor of both the North and the South, at the end of the conflict, Korea remained divided along the 38th parallel. The demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two nations is still the most heavily fortified border in the world. There is a constant hope among the populations in both North and South that Korea will again be united under one flag.


In South Korea, the war is often called Yuk-ee-oh (육이오/6·25), from the date of the start of the conflict or, more formally, Han-guk Jeonjaeng (Korean: 한국전쟁, literally "Korean War"). In North Korea, it is formally called the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean: 조국통일전쟁). In the United States, the conflict was officially termed a police action—the Korean conflict—rather than a war, largely in order to avoid the necessity of a declaration of war by the U.S. Congress. The war is sometimes referred to outside Korea as "The Forgotten War," because it is a major conflict of the twentieth century that is rarely mentioned in public discourse. In China, the conflict was known as War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea (抗美援朝), but is today commonly called the "Korean War" (朝鲜战争, Chaoxian Zhanzheng).[17]

Historical background

On August 6, 1945, the Soviet Union, in keeping with a commitment made to its World War II allies, Britain and the United States, declared war on the Japanese Empire, and on August 8, 1945, began an attack on the northern part of Japanese-occupied Korea. As agreed with the U.S., the USSR halted its troops at the 38th parallel and President Harry S. Truman ordered the landing of U.S. troops in the south.[18]

On August 10, 1945, with the Japanese surrender imminent and following a plan drawn up earlier by the United States, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to divide Korea along that 38th parallel. Japanese forces north of that line would surrender to the Soviet Union, and those to the south to the United States. Although later policies and actions contributed to Korea's division, the United States did not envision this as a permanent partition.[19]

In December 1945, the U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to temporarily take on the administration of Korea. Concurrently, both countries established governments in their respective halves, each one favorable to their political ideology. The U.S. ran elections supervised by the UN, replacing an indigenous, left-wing government that had formed in June 1945, before the end of the war, with one led by anti-Communist Syngman Rhee. The Soviet Union, in turn, approved and furthered the rise of a Communist government led by Kim Il-Sung in the northern part.[19] In 1949, both Soviet and American forces withdrew.

South Korean President Syngman Rhee and North Korean General Secretary Kim Il-Sung were each intent on reuniting the peninsula under their own systems. Partly because of Soviet tanks and heavy arms, the North Koreans were better prepared to go on the offensive, while South Korea, with only limited American backing, had far fewer options. As for the American government, they believed at the time that the Communist bloc was a unified monolith, and that North Korea acted within this monolith as a pawn of the Soviet Union Thus, the U.S. portrayed the conflict in the context of international aggression rather than a civil war. (Kim Il-Sung, operating with some Soviet assistance, was responsible for the attack on the South.)

Rhee and Kim competed to reunite the peninsula, conducting military attacks and skirmishes along the border throughout 1949, and early 1950.[20] The North Koreans, however, armed with Soviet tanks, changed the nature of the war from a border conflict to a full blown civil war.

On January 12, 1950, United States Secretary of State Dean Acheson said that America's Pacific defense perimeter was made up of the Aleutians, Ryukyu, Japan, and the Philippines implying that the U.S. might not become involved in a fight over Korea.[21]

In mid-1949, Kim Il-Sung pressed his case with Joseph Stalin that the time had come for a reunification of the Korean peninsula. Kim needed Soviet support to successfully execute an offensive far across a rugged, mountainous peninsula. Stalin as leader of the communist bloc refused permission, concerned with the relative unpreparedness of the North Korean armed forces and with possible U.S. involvement.

Over the following year, the North Korean leadership molded the North Korean army into a formidable offensive war machine modeled partly on a Soviet mechanized force, but strengthened primarily by an influx of Koreans who had served with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army since the 1930s. By 1950, the North Koreans, equipped with Soviet weaponry, enjoyed substantial advantages over the South in every category of equipment. After another visit by Kim to Moscow in March-April of 1950, Stalin approved an attack.

Military action

The war begins

Korea unified vertical.svgHistory of Korea

Jeulmun Period
Mumun Period
Gojoseon, Jin
Proto-Three Kingdoms:
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  Ma, Byeon, Jin
Three Kingdoms:
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List of monarchs

The North Korean army struck in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, crossing the 38th parallel behind a firestorm of artillery barrage. The North Koreans attacked across a broad front, including the cities of Gaeseong, Chuncheon, Uijeongbu, and Ongjin. Within a few days, South Korean forces, outnumbered and out-gunned, were in full retreat. As the ground attack continued, the North Korean Air Force bombed Gimpo Airport near the ROK capital of Seoul. Seoul itself was captured on the afternoon of June 28, but the North Koreans failed to secure the quick surrender of the Rhee government. Kim Il-Sung had expected a quick victory, with the peasants rising up in his support. That did not happen. He did not expect the war to last long enough for American intervention, so there were no significant defenses prepared against American air attacks.

Border crossing at the 38th Parallel.

Equipped by the Soviets with 150 T-34 tanks, the North Koreans began the war with about 180 Russian aircraft, including 40 YAK fighters and 70 attack bombers. Naval support was inconsequential. North Korea's most serious weakness was the lack of a reliable logistics system for moving supplies south as the army advanced. (In practice, the regime forced thousands of civilians to hand-carry supplies, while subject to American air attacks.) Nevertheless, the North's initial attack with about 135,000 troops achieved surprise and quick successes. The invasion of South Korea came as a surprise to the United States and the other western powers. The South Korean Army had only 65,000 soldiers present for duty, and was deficient in armor and artillery. There were no large foreign combat units in the country when the invasion began, although there were large American forces stationed in nearby Japan.[22]

Truman sends in American forces

Overview map of the Korean War

On hearing of the invasion, President Harry S. Truman ordered General Douglas MacArthur, stationed in Japan, to use U.S. naval and air forces to stem the North Korean advance. Disagreeing with his advisers, who called for unilateral U.S. airstrikes against the North Korean forces, Truman stipulated that they were not allowed to attack north of the 38th parallel, and especially not into Chinese or Russian territory, as Truman wanted to keep the Chinese and Russians out of the conflict.

MacArthur was also to transfer munitions to the ROK Army, while using air cover to protect the evacuation of U.S. citizens. In addition, Truman ordered the Seventh Fleet to protect the island of Taiwan. Although the Chinese Nationalists offered to participate in the war, the Americans declined not only because they were poorly equipped and trained, but also because, politically, there was a risk that Nationalist participation would encourage overt intervention by the Chinese communists.

On July 5, The U.S. Army 24th Infantry Division, the first significant American combat unit to arrive in South Korea, engaged in the first North Korean-American clash of the war at Osan. The United Nations also took quick action, ordering the invaders to withdraw and calling all members to support South Korea. A UN command was established under the control of the United States. Britain, Australia, and other Western powers quickly showed support and volunteered to aid in the effort.[23]

Pusan perimeter

By August, the ROK forces and the U.S. Eighth Army, which had arrived to help South Korea resist the North Korean attack, had lost a lot of ground and had been driven into a small area in the southeast corner of the Korean peninsula around the port city of Busan.

With the aid of American air support, additional reinforcements, and supplies, the U.S. and South Korean forces barely managed to stabilize a line along the Nakdong River. In the face of fierce North Korean attacks, the allied defense became a desperate holding action, called the Battle of Pusan Perimeter. Although more UN support arrived, the situation was dire for the southern regime and its foreign allies, looking as though the North Koreans might succeed in gaining control of the entire peninsula. The failure of North Korea to capture the city of Pusan itself ultimately doomed its invasion.

While holding the the Pusan perimeter, American air power arrived in force, flying 40 sorties a day in ground support actions, especially against tanks. Strategic bombers (mostly B-29 Superfortresses based in Japan) closed most rail and road traffic by day, and cut 32 critical bridges. The bombers knocked out the main supply dumps in the north, as well as the oil refineries and seaports that handled Russian imports. Naval air power also attacked transportation choke points. The North Korean logistics problems grew severe, with shortages of food and ammunition. The North lost half its invading force and morale was poor.

Meanwhile, supply bases in Japan were pouring more weapons and soldiers into Pusan. Tank battalions were rushed in from San Francisco; by late August, the U.S. had over 500 medium tanks in the Pusan perimeter. By early September, UN-ROK forces were vastly stronger and outnumbered the North Koreans by 180,000 to 100,000. At that point, they began their counterattack.[24]

Inchon landing and move north (September–October 1950)

American forces land on Inchon harbor one day after the Battle of Inchon began.

In order to alleviate pressure on the Pusan perimeter, MacArthur, as UN commander-in-chief for Korea, ordered an amphibious invasion at Incheon, a location far behind the front line of the North Korean troops. This plan had been formulated by MacArthur several days after the war began, but he faced heavy resistance from the Pentagon due to the extreme risk of the operation. However, once MacArthur gained approval for his controversial strategy, it proved extremely successful. Having gained a foothold on the beach, the American troops with their UN allies faced only mild resistance and quickly moved to recapture Seoul. The North Koreans, finding their supply lines cut, began a rapid retreat northwards, allowing the ROK and UN forces that had been confined within the Pusan perimeter in the south to move north and joined those that had landed at Inchon.[25]

In the face of these reinforcements, the North Koreans found themselves undermanned, with weak logistical support, and lacking sufficient naval and air support. The United Nations troops drove the North Koreans back past the 38th parallel. The initial goal of saving South Korea had been achieved; however, because of the success and the prospect of uniting all of Korea under the government of Syngman Rhee, the Americans—with UN approval—decided to push further north into North Korea. This greatly concerned the Chinese, who worried that the UN forces would not stop at the Yalu River, the borderline between the Korean and China. Indeed, many in the West, including General MacArthur, thought that spreading the war to China would be necessary. However, Truman and the other leaders disagreed, and MacArthur was ordered to be very cautious when approaching the Chinese border. And while MacArthur argued that, because the North Korean troops were being supplied by bases in China, that those supply depots should be bombed; except on some rare occasions, UN bombers remained out of Manchuria and other parts of China during the war.

The Chinese entry (October 1950)

The People's Republic of China, fearful of a capitalist Korean state on its border, warned neutral diplomats that it would intervene. Truman regarded the warnings as "a bald attempt to blackmail the UN." On October 15, 1950, Truman went to Wake Island for a short, highly publicized meeting with MacArthur. The CIA had previously told Truman that Chinese involvement was unlikely. MacArthur, saying he was speculating, saw little risk. The general explained that the Chinese had lost their window of opportunity to help North Korea's invasion. He estimated the Chinese had 300,000 soldiers in Manchuria, with between 100,000-125,000 men along the Yalu; half could be brought across the Yalu. But the Chinese had no air force; hence, "if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang there would be the greatest slaughter."[26] MacArthur, thus, assumed that Chinese were motivated to help North Korea, and wished to avoid heavy casualties.

A Chinese enlistment status poster during the Korean War.

On October 8, 1950, the day after American troops crossed the 38th, Chairman Mao issued the order to form the Chinese People's Volunteer Army. It was named in that way, so it would appear to the world that it was not a state-to-state war between China and the U.S. Those soldiers "volunteered" to fight. They were actually regulars in the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Mao ordered the army to move to the Yalu River, ready to cross. Mao sought Soviet aid and saw intervention as essentially defensive: "If we allow the U.S. to occupy all of Korea… we must be prepared for the U.S. to declare… war with China," he told Stalin. Premier Zhou Enlai was sent to Moscow to add force to Mao's cabled arguments. Mao delayed his forces while waiting for Russian help, and the planned attack was thus postponed from October 13 to October 19. Soviet assistance was limited to providing air support no nearer than sixty miles (96 km) from the battlefront. The Russian MiG-15s in PRC colors became a serious threat to the UN pilots. In one area ("MiG Alley"), they held local air superiority against the F-80 Shooting Stars until newer F-86 Sabres were deployed. The Chinese were angry about the limited support, having assumed that the Soviets had promised to provide full scale air support. The Soviets had made their role known to the U.S., who kept quiet to avoid any international and potential nuclear incidents.

The Chinese made a skirmish on October 25, 1950, with 270,000 PVA troops under the command of General Peng Dehuai, much to the surprise of the UN. However, after these initial engagements, the Chinese forces melted away into the mountains. UN leaders saw the retreat as a sign of weakness, and greatly underestimated the Chinese fighting capability, misinterpreting the effects of the limited Soviet assistance. The UN forces, thus, continued their advance to the Yalu river, ignoring stern warnings given by the Chinese to stay away.

UN retreat (late 1950)

In late November, the Chinese struck in the west, along the Chongchon River, and completely overran several ROK divisions and landed a heavy blow to the flank of the remaining UN forces. The resulting withdrawal of the U.S. Eighth Army was the longest retreat of any American military unit in history.[27] In the east, at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, a 30,000 man unit from the U.S. 7th Infantry Division were soon surrounded, but eventually fought their way out of the encirclement after suffering over 15,000 casualties. The Marines, although surrounded at the Chosin Reservoir, retreated after inflicting heavy casualties on six attacking Chinese divisions.[28]

The UN forces in northeast Korea quickly withdrew to form a defensive perimeter around the port city of Hungnam, where a major evacuation was being carried out in late December 1950. Altogether, 193 shiploads of men and materiel were evacuated from Hungnam Harbor, and about 105,000 soldiers, 98,000 civilians, 17,500 vehicles, and 350,000 tons of supplies were shipped to Pusan in orderly fashion.[29]

Fighting across the 38th Parallel (Early 1951)

On January 4, 1951, Chinese and North Korean forces recaptured Seoul. Both the 8th Army and the X Corps were forced to retreat. The situation was so grim that MacArthur mentioned the use of atomic weapons against China, much to the alarm of America's allies.

The Chinese could not go beyond Seoul because they were at the end of their logistics supply line—all food and ammunition had to be carried—at night—on foot or bicycle from the Yalu River. On March 16, 1951, in Operation Ripper, a revitalized Eighth Army repelled the North Korean and Chinese troops from Seoul, the fourth time in a year the city had changed hands. Seoul was in utter ruins; its prewar population of 1.5 million had dropped to 200,000, with severe food shortages.[30]

MacArthur was removed from command by President Truman on April 11, 1951. The reasons for this are many and well documented. They include MacArthur's meeting with ROC President Chiang Kai-shek in the role of a U.S. diplomat; he was also wrong at Wake Island, when President Truman asked him specifically about Chinese troop buildup near the Korean border. Furthermore, MacArthur openly demanded nuclear attack on China, while being rude and flippant when speaking to Truman. Another reason why the president removed MacArthur was that he wanted a reliable commander in field should the U.S. decide to use nuclear weapons. Truman was not sure he could trust MacArthur to use nuclear weapons as ordered.

MacArthur was succeeded as commander of the UN troops by Matthew B. 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.

Stalemate (July 1951-July 1953)

Did you know?
The Korean War is technically not over since it ended with an armistice not a peace treaty

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.

A U.S. Air Force F-86 Sabre. Rushed into service during the Korean War, the Sabre proved superbly effective against the Soviet-built MiG-15.

On November 29, 1952, U.S. 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, 1953, 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. 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.

Pilots man their MiG-15 fighters. Until the introduction of the F-86, Soviet MiG fighters gained air superiority over UN forces.

Western reaction

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 1938, 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.) Thanks to a temporary Soviet absence from the Security Council—the Soviets were boycotting the Security Council to protest the exclusion of People's Republic of China (PRC) from the UN—there was no veto by Stalin and the (Nationalist-controlled) Republic of China government held the Chinese seat. Without Soviet and Chinese vetoes, and with only Yugoslavia abstaining, the UN voted to aid South Korea on June 27. U.S. forces were eventually joined during the conflict by troops from 15 other UN members: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, South Africa, Turkey, Thailand, Greece, the Netherlands, Ethiopia, Colombia, the Philippines, Belgium, and Luxembourg. 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.

600,000 Korean soldiers died in the conflict according to U.S. estimates. About one million South Koreans were killed, 85 percent of them civilians. According to figures published in the Soviet Union, 11.1 percent of the total population of North Korea died, which indicates that around 1,130,000 people were killed. The total casualties were about 2,500,000. 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. American troops remain in Korea as part of the still-functioning UN Command, which commands all allied military forces in South Korea—American Air Forces, Korea, the Eighth U.S. 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.


Artist Pablo Picasso's painting Massacre in Korea (1951) depicted violence against civilians during the Korean War. By some account, civilian killings committed by U.S. forces in Shinchun, Hwanghae Province was the motive of the painting. In South Korea, the painting was deemed anti-American, a longtime taboo in the South, and was prohibited for public display until the 1990s. Picasso's paintings made no allusions to Communist atrocities.

In the U.S. far and away the most famous artistic depiction of the war is M*A*S*H, originally a novel by Richard Hooker (pseudonym for H. 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.


  • Fixed Bayonets (1951). U.S. soldiers in Korea surviving the harsh winter of 1951. Directed by Samuel Fuller.
  • The Steel Helmet (1951). A squad of U.S. soldiers holes up in a Buddhist temple. Directed by Samuel Fuller.
  • Battle Circus (1951). A love story of a hard-bitten surgeon and a new nurse at a M.A.S.H. unit. It starred Humphrey Bogart and June Allyson and was directed by Richard Brooks.
  • Men of the Fighting Lady (1954). Fictional account of U.S. Navy pilots flying F9F Panther fighter jets on hazardous missions against ground targets. Directed by Andrew Marton and starring Van Johnson.
  • The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955). A U.S. Navy Reserve pilot flying attack missions over North Korea, from the novel by James Michener. Directed by Mark Robson and starring William Holden. Winner of the 1955 Academy Award for Best Special Effects.
  • Target Zero (1955). U.S., British, and South Korean troops are trapped behind enemy lines.
  • Shangganling Battle (Shanggan Ling, Chinese: 上甘岭, BW-1956). In the Korean war in early 1950s, a group of Chinese People's Volunteer soldiers are blocked in Shangganling mountain area for several days. Short of both food and water, they hold their ground till the relief troops arrive.
  • Battle Hymn (1956). Based on the autobiography of Colonel Dean E. Hess, an American clergyman and World War II veteran fighter pilot who volunteers to return to active duty to train the fighter pilots of the South Korean Air Force. Starring Rock Hudson as Hess.
  • Pork Chop Hill (1957). A true story about U.S. soldiers attempting to retake the top of a hill. Directed by Lewis Milestone and starring Gregory Peck.
  • The Hunters (1958). Robert Mitchum and Robert Wagner as U.S. Air Force F-86 pilots in an adaptation of the novel by James Salter, who was himself an F-86 pilot in the Korean War.
  • The Manchurian Candidate (1962). The principal characters in the film are captured and brainwashed during the war. (The 2004 remake of the movie used the Persian Gulf War of 1991 instead.)
  • MASH (1970), about the staff of a U.S. Army field hospital who use humor and pranks to keep their sanity in the face of the horror of war. Directed by Robert Altman.
  • M*A*S*H (1972-1983) was also a long-running television sitcom, inspired by the movie, featuring Alan Alda. The television series lasted several times longer than the war.
  • Inchon (1981). The movie portrays the Battle of Incheon, a turning point in the war. Controversially, the film was partially financed by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Movement. It became a notorious financial and critical failure, losing an estimated $40 million of its $46 million budget, and remains one of the last mainstream Hollywood film to use the war as its backdrop. The film was directed by Terence Young, and starred an elderly Laurence Olivier as General Douglas MacArthur.
  • Joint Security Area (film) (Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA) (2000). In the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone) separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier. The investigating Swiss/Swedish team from the neutral countries overseeing the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone) suspects from evidence at the crime scene that another, unknown party was involved. Major Sophie E. Jean, the investigating officer, suspects a cover-up is taking place, but the truth is much simpler and much more tragic. It unravels as the story follows the development of a relationship between two North Korean and two South Korean soldiers that hang out together in an empty building in the Joint Security Area. Starring Lee Young Ae, Lee Byung-Hun, Song Kang-ho, Kim Tae-woo, and Shin Ha-kyun. Directed by Park Chan-wook.
  • Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004). When two Korean brothers are drafted into the military to fight in the war, the older brother tries to protect the younger by risking his own life in hopes of sending his brother home. This results in an emotional conflict that wears away at his own humanity. Epic in scope, the movie has a touching family story backdropped by a brutal war. Directed by Je-Kyu Kang or Kang Je-gyu.
  • Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005). During the height of the war, three North Korean soldiers, two South Korean soldiers and a U.S. Navy pilot accidentally get stranded together in a remote and peaceful mountain village paradise called Dongmakgol. All three wayward factions learn that the village is naively oblivious to the raging war outside. These newcomers must somehow find a way to coexist with each other for the sake and preservation of the village they all learn to love and respect. Directed by Park, Gwang-hyeon.


  1. BBC News, On This Day 29 August 1950. Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  2. Veterans Affairs Canada, The Korean War, Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Filipino Soldiers in the Korean War, Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  4. Jack D. Walker, A brief account of the Korean War, Korean War Educator, Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  5. Korean War.com, French Forces in the Korean War. Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  6. All POW-MIA InterNetwork, South Korean POWs. Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  7. All POW-MIA Korean War US Casualities, Listed by state, and totals, Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  8. UK in Korea, Korean war. Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Michael Hickey, The Korean War: An Overview, BBC Home. Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  10. Korean War.com, Turkish Brigade.
  11. Veterans Affairs Canada, Valour Remembered: Canadians in Korea: Epiloque. Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  12. Australian War Memorial, Korean War 1950–53.
  13. Korean-war.com, French Forces in Korea. Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  14. Korean-war.com, South Africa in the Korean War. Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  15. Xu Yan, Korean War: In the View of Cost-effectiveness, Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in New York, Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  16. News Asia-Pacific, US cuts Korean war deaths, BBC News. Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  17. People's Daily, War to Resist US Aggression And Aid Korea Marked in DPRK. Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  18. Dankwart A. Rustow, "The Changing Global Order and Its Implications for Korea's Reunification," Sino-Soviet Affairs, Vol. XVII, No. 4, Winter 1994/5, The Institute for Sino-Soviet Studies, Hanyang University.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 1: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945–1947 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981, ISBN 9780691101132).
  20. Gregory Henderson, Korea: The Politics of the Vortex (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968).
  21. Dean Acheson, The theme of China lost, Present at the Creation: My Years at the State Department (1969). Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  22. Appleman, South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, 1961), 15.
  23. Appleman, South to the Naktong.
  24. Appleman, South to the Naktong, 381, 545.
  25. James F. Schnabel, United States Army In The Korean War: Policy And Direction: The First Year (Ft. Belvoir: Defense Technical Information Center, 1972).
  26. Robert J. Donovan, Tumultuous Years: The Presidency of Harry S. Truman, 1949-1953 (New York: Norton, 1982, ISBN 9780393016192), 285.
  27. Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch, Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War (New York: Free Press, 1990, ISBN 9780029060605), 165-95.
  28. William Hopkins, One Bugle, No Drums: The Marines at Chosin Reservoir (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1986, ISBN 9780912697451).
  29. Schnabel, 304.
  30. Korea Institute of Military History, The Korean War (University of Nebraska Press, 2000, ISBN 9780803277946), 2: 512-29.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Appleman, Roy E. South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1961. ASIN B000YHKMUM
  • Brune, Lester H. The Korean War: Handbook of the Literature and Research. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0313289699.
  • Cohen,Eliot A., and John Gooch. Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War. New York: Free Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0029060605
  • Cumings, Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 1: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945–1947. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981. ISBN 978-0691101132
  • Donovan, Robert J. Tumultuous Years: The Presidency of Harry S. Truman, 1949-1953. New York: Norton, 1982. ISBN 978-0393016192
  • Edwards, Paul M. Korean War Almanac. Almanacs of American wars. New York, NY: Facts On File, 2006. ISBN 978-0816060375.
  • Foot, Rosemary. "Making Known the Unknown War: Policy Analysis of the Korean Conflict in the Last Decade." Diplomatic History 15 (Summer 1991): 411-31.
  • Henderson, Gregory. Korea: The Politics of the Vortex. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968. ISBN 978-0674505506
  • Hopkins, William. One Bugle, No Drums: The Marines at Chosin Reservoir. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1986. ISBN 978-0912697451
  • Kaufman, Burton Ira. The Korean Conflict. Greenwood Press Guides to Historic Events of the Twentieth Century. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0313299094.
  • Korea Institute of Military History. The Korean War. University of Nebraska Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0803277946.
  • Leitch, Keith A. Shapers of the Great Debate on the Korean War: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0313328084.
  • Matray, James I. (ed.). Historical Dictionary of the Korean War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0313259241.
  • Millett, Allan R. “A Reader's Guide To The Korean War.” Journal of Military History 61 (3): 583.
  • Millett, Allan R. "The Korean War: A 50 Year Critical Historiography." Journal of Strategic Studies 24: 188-224.
  • Sandler, Stanley (ed.). The Korean War: An Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Garland Pub., 1999. ISBN 978-0815333524.
  • Schnabel, James F. Policy and Direction: The First Year (United States Army in the Korean War). University Press of the Pacific, 2005. ISBN 978-1410224859
  • Summers, Harry G. Korean War Almanac. New York, NY: Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 978-0816017379.

Further reading

  • Schell, Katie. Love Beyond Measure: Memoirs of a Korean War Bride. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. ISBN 978-1491295908

Combat studies, soldiers

  • Appleman, Roy Edgar. East of Chosin: entrapment and breakout in Korea, 1950. [s.l.]: Texas A&M University, 2002. ISBN 978-0890964651
  • Appleman, Roy E. Escaping the trap: the US Army X Corps in Northeast Korea, 1950. Texas A & M University military history series, 14. College Station: Texas A & M Univ. Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0890963951
  • Appleman, Roy Edgar. Disaster in Korea: the Chinese confront MacArthur. Texas A & M University military history series, 11. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0890963449
  • Appleman, Roy Edgar. Ridgway duels for Korea College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0890964323
  • Blair, Clay. The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2003, ISBN 9781591140757. Revisionist study that attacks senior American officials.
  • Farrar-Hockley, Anthony. The British part in the Korean War. Vol.2, An honourable discharge. London: H.M.S.O., 1995. ISBN 978-0116309587
  • Field Jr., James A. History of United States Naval Operations: Korea, University Press of the Pacific, 2001. ISBN 978-0898756753. Official U.S. Navy history.
  • Futrell, Robert F. The United States Air Force in Korea, 1950-1953, rev. ed. (Office of the Chief of Air Force History, 1983). Official U.S. Air Force history.
  • Hallion, Richard. The naval air war in Korea. New York, NY: Kensington Pub. Corp., 1988. ISBN 978-0821722671
  • Hamburger, Kenneth Earl. Leadership in the crucible: the Korean War battles of Twin Tunnels & Chipyong-ni. Texas A & M University military history series, 82. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-1585442324
  • Hastings, Max. The Korean war. Pan grand strategy series. London: Pan, 2000. ISBN 978-0330392884 British perspective.
  • Hermes, Walter G. Truce tent and fighting front. United States Army in the Korean War, [v. 2]. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2005. OCLC 69659551 Official US Army history on the "stalemate" period from October 1951 to July 1953.
  • James, D. Clayton. The years of MacArthur. Volume III, Triumph and disaster, 1945-1964. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1985. ISBN 978-0395360040
  • James, D. Clayton, and Anne Sharp Wells. Refighting the last war: command and crisis in Korea, 1950-1953. New York: Free Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0029160015
  • Johnston, William Cameron. A war of patrols: Canadian Army operations in Korea. Studies in Canadian military history. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0774810081
  • Kindsvatter, Peter S. American soldiers: ground combat in the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Modern war studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003. ISBN 978-0700614165
  • Millett, Allan Reed. Their war for Korea: American, Asian and European combatants and civilians, 1945-53. Dulles, Va: Brassey's, 2004. ISBN 978-1574885347
  • Montross, Lynn et al., History of U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953, 5 vols. (Washington: Historical Branch, G-3, Headquarters, Marine Corps, 1954-72).
  • Mossman, Billy C. Ebb and flow, November 1950-July 1951. United States Army in the Korean War (Center of Military History). Washington, DC: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1990. OCLC 19846599
  • Russ, Martin. Breakout: the Chosin Reservoir campaign, Korea 1950. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2000. ISBN 9780140292596.
  • Toland, John. In mortal combat: Korea, 1950-1953. New York: Morrow, 1991, ISBN 9780688100797.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Fire and ice: the Korean War, 1950-1953. Mason City, IA: Savas, 2001. ISBN 9781882810444.
  • Watson, Brent Byron. Far Eastern tour: the Canadian infantry in Korea, 1950-1953. Montréal, Québec: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007. ISBN 9780773532588.

Origins, politics, diplomacy

  • Chen, Jian. China's road to the Korean War: the making of the Sino-American confrontation. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0231100250
  • Cumings, Bruce. The origins of the Korean War. Vol. 1, Liberation and the emergence of separate regimes 1945-1947 Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981. ISBN 978-0691101132
  • Goncharov, Sergeĭ Nikolaevich, John W. Lewis, and Xue Litai. Uncertain partners: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0804725217
  • Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007. ISBN 978-1401300524. Masterful journalistic narrative.
  • Kaufman, Burton Ira. The Korean war: challenges in crisis, credibility, and command. America in crisis. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 1997. ISBN 978-0070341500. Focus on Washington.
  • Millett, Allan Reed. The war for Korea, 1945-1950: a house burning. Modern war studies. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2005. ISBN 978-0700613939. Origins of the war.
  • Rees, David. Korea: The Limited War. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964. ISBN 0140211926. Classic history of the Korean War.
  • Spanier, John W. The Truman-MacArthur controversy and the Korean War. New York: Norton, 1965. ISBN 978-0393002799
  • Stueck, William Whitney. Rethinking the Korean war: a new diplomatic and strategic history. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0691088532
  • Stueck, William Whitney. The Korean War: an international history. Princeton studies in international history and politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0691016245. Diplomatic history.
  • Weintraub, Stanley. MacArthur's War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero. New York: Touchstone Books, 2000 ISBN 0743205030
  • Zhang, Shu Guang. Mao's military romanticism: China and the Korean War, 1950-1953. Modern war studies. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1995. ISBN 978-0700607235

External links

All links retrieved April 24, 2018.


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