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The Course Of The Korean War And Why Did It Last Until 1953

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  • Category: Korea War

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Soon after the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe, China became Communist in 1949. The Americans had always regarded China as their outpost in the East. A massive Communist stronghold had appeared. Furthermore, spies informed Truman that Stalin was using Cominform to help Communists win power in other parts of the world. Many believed the Domino Effect, where Communism spread from one country to another like wildfire. When South Korea was invaded in 1950, many thought that only military action would do to stop the world from becoming Communist.

After the Second World War, and the split of Korea, the North became Communist and the South anti-Communist and undemocratic. In September 1950, with the start of the conflict, Communist advances pushed the South Koreans into the very South Eastern corner of the mainland.

At this point, Truman sent advisers to the area to asses the situation. He also put huge pressure on the U.N. Security Council to condemn the actions of the North Koreans and to call on them to withdraw their troops

In the cold war atmosphere of 1950 superpower always denounced and opposed any action by the other. So usually at this time, Russia would have used the Veto system to block the call for action. However, the U.S.S.R was boycotting the U.N. at this time. Therefore, as the USA was the single biggest contributor to the U.N. budget it was in a powerful position to influence the U.N. decision. Therefore, the UN was committed to using member forces to drive North Korean troops out of South Korea

In September 1950, eighteen states provided troops with support of some kind to aid the South Koreans. However, over 90 percent of the force that was sent to Korea was American. Indeed the commander of the forces was an American: General MacArthur

United Nations forces stormed ashore at Inchon in September 1950. At the same time, U.N. forces and South Korean troops advanced from Pusan. The North Koreans were driven back beyond their original border within weeks. MacArthur had quickly achieved the original U.N. objective of removing North Korean troops from South Korea. However, the Americans did not stop despite warnings from Mao Tse-tung that pressing on would mean China joining the war; the U.N. approved a plan to press on into North Korea. By October U.S., forces had reached the Yalu River and the border with China. The nature of the war had now changed. It was clear that MacArthur and Truman were pressing on for a bigger prize: to remove communism from Korea entirely.

Nevertheless, MacArthur and his advisers had seriously underestimated the power of the Chinese. Late in October 1950, 200,000 Chinese troops joined the North Koreans and they launched a blistering counterattack. Their soldiers were strongly committed to communism, and had been taught to hate the Americans. They had modern equipment with planes and tanks supplied by the U.S.S.R. The United Nations forces were pushed back into South Korea. At this time, the U.N. troops then recovered and the fighting finally reach stalemate around 38th parallel, which had been the original North-South border.

In mid-1951, with the land battle in stalemate, both sides agreed to go to the conference table and armistice talks began. They dragged on for two years. The main reason for this was the future of the tens of thousands of communist prisoners held in camps on Koje Island off the coast of South Korea. While the communist negotiators were adamant that all were to be returned to their country of origin, thousands of prisoners were unwilling to be repatriated. There were several great mutinies in the Koje camps before a satisfactory formula enabled those who wished to be repatriated to go home and for asylum to be granted to those who wished otherwise. In July 1953, a’ great calm descended over the battlefields’ and in Operation Big Switch, thousands of former prisoners on each side were returned. A Demilitarised Zone was established on the border. Both sides withdrew from their fighting positions, and a UN commission was set up to supervise the armistice.

This two-year period saw little pockets of fighting between the sides, but most of the conflict was between negotiators, not fighters. President Eisenhower helped to achieve a more ‘swift’ end to the negotiations when he Truman in 1952. Another major reason behind the resilience of the Communists at this time was the backing of China and Russia. However, when Stalin died in 1953, they had less confidence in the Russian’s backing, and so an armistice was signed in July 1953.

Therefore, the course of the Korean War was very similar to that of a yo-yo, and after a stalemate was reached, the position of 10,000 prisoners meant that some fighting carried on for another two years.

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