A Dictionary of American History

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Author: Thomas L. Purvis  | Date: 1995

Korean War

Korean War Six months after Secretary of State Dean Acheson singled out Japan as the only Asian country in whose defense the US would take immediate, unilateral military action, 95,000 North Koreans invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950. On the same day as the United Nations asked members for troops to repel the aggressors, 27 June, Harry S Truman sent US air and naval forces to Korea; a day later, he ordered US Army units there from Japan. The US ultimately contributed 48 percent of all United Nations forces, and both UN commanders in chief: Douglas MacArthur and Matthew Ridgway.

By August, Communist forces had trapped UN troops within a 140-mile perimeter circling the Pusan Peninsula. On 15 September, MacArthur landed US troops behind enemy lines at Inchon harbor, and the next day UN forces at Pusan began breaking out of their encirclement to crush the Communists between themselves and MacArthur. By 30 September, the North Koreans had lost 100,000 men and fled from the south.

Two columns of UN troops pursued the Communists far into North Korea until 25 November, when 330,000 Chinese soldiers intervened at the Changjin and Chosin reservoirs. By 4 January 1951, the Chinese had inflicted heavy losses on the UN command and captured Seoul. UN forces resumed the initiative by 21 February with a counter-offensive that retook Seoul on 15 March and virtually cleared South Korea of Communist forces by 1 June. The war then stalemated along a 155-mile front on the border between the two Koreas. Truce negotiations began on 10 June 1951. An armistice ended the fighting on 27 July 1953 and separated the two Koreas with a demilitarized zone.

At the end of the war, US forces in Korea numbered 302,483 ground troops, supported by 261 US warships offshore. US losses included 33,629 battle deaths (27,704 army, 4,267 marines, 1,200 air force, 458 navy), 20,617 nonhostile deaths (9,429 army, 1,261 marines, 5,884 air force, 4,043 navy), 103,284 nonfatal wounds (77,596 army, 23,744 marines, 368 air force, 1,576 navy), and 7,140 captured (of whom 3,746 were repatriated), and 8,177 others missing in action. Aircraft losses totaled 1,466 for the air force and 1,248 for the navy and marines, of which half resulted from mechanical failure or accidents. Enemy fire hit 73 US warships and mines sank 5 others (4 minesweepers and 1 tugboat). Direct military expenses exceeded $54 billion. The war resulted in an estimated 415,000 Korean deaths in the South and 520,000 deaths in the North.

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Chicago: Thomas L. Purvis, "Korean War," A Dictionary of American History in A Dictionary of American History (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Reference, 1995), Original Sources, accessed July 3, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=SA77FIZYNGDTWE9.

MLA: Purvis, Thomas L. "Korean War." A Dictionary of American History, in A Dictionary of American History, Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell Reference, 1995, Original Sources. 3 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=SA77FIZYNGDTWE9.

Harvard: Purvis, TL, 'Korean War' in A Dictionary of American History. cited in 1995, A Dictionary of American History, Blackwell Reference, Cambridge, Mass.. Original Sources, retrieved 3 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=SA77FIZYNGDTWE9.