The Forgotten War
Americans pride themselves on their support for their armed service members. We have an entire holiday dedicated to honoring our veterans along with countless documentaries, films, and even tv shows about soldier’s bravery during conflict. But for all of this honor for our armed services there is one conflict in recent memory that is overlooked: The Korean War.
Like many of the conflicts in the mid-20th century, the roots of this war can be traced back to the aftermath of World War II. Korea, during the first half of the 1900s, was a colony of Japan. So, when the allied leaders were discussing how reconstructing axis-power holdings would be carried out the country became a factor to be dealt with. While FDR was still living, he was able to compromise with Stalin and allowed him land holdings in Manchuria rather than Korea. But following his death, his successor Truman was unwilling to compromise, and this led to the territory of Korea becoming an area that could be influenced by either nation. So as World War II came to a close, the USSR marched into Korea which forced the US and USSR to agree on a line to split the country in half. The initial goal of this split was to create a joint commission to create a united and independent Korea, but as cooperation between the US and the USSR usually go, this fell apart along ideological lines.
Inspired by the Chinese Civil War and the Chinese Communists victory, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung began preparing his own revolution for his country. Due to North Korea’s primary support system coming from the USSR, Kim had to try and secure Joseph Stalin’s support in order to launch an invasion into the South. He ended up asking Stalin no less than 43 separate times, but in April of 1950 Stalin approved and sent Soviet generals to North Korea in order to advise their Korean counterparts. Following much buildup along the border at the 38th parallel, the North Koreans began artillery fire across the border and invade on the 25th of June 1950. In less than 5 days, the ill-equipped South Korean army that numbered 95,000 on the 25th was reduced to 22,000 troops. By early July the US was in control of the South’s army.
Over the next three years the war was fought and ultimately became a stalemate. With China and the USSR supporting the North and the US, British Commonwealth, and Unite Nations forces supporting the South, this became a war of attrition for both sides. Ultimately, the result of this war was a permanently divided Korea. On the 27th of July 1953 and armistice was agreed upon, however, the South Korean president Syngman Rhee refused to sign the document, so the war has technically never ended. The 38th parallel is now a demilitarized zone, although the North and South have been in contact since 2016 in order to formally end the conflict. In total, the United States alone sustained 128,650 casualties.
The Korean War was a very memorable event for our armed service members, and one that should not be forgotten about. Come check out more about the Cold War in our new exhibit, "Surviving the Cold War: Defense and Division in the Atomic Age."
Garrett is an intern at the FHA and an undergraduate History major attending Saginaw Valley State University.
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