Korean War

AFTER WORLD WAR 2, KOREA WAS DIVIDED ALONG THE 38TH PARALLEL. ON JUNE 25, 1950, THE NORTH KOREAN ARMY INVADED SOUTH KOREA. THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL APPROVED A UNITED STATES RESOLUTION FOR THE WITHDRAWAL OF NORTH KOREAN FORCES BACK ACROSS THE 38th PARALLEL. WHEN IT DID NOT HAPPEN, U.N. FORCES LED BY THE UNITED STATES, WHO PROVIDED OVER 85% OF THE TROOPS, BEGAN ARRIVING ON JULY 1ST. MANY OF THE U.S. TROOPS SURVIVED ONE WAR AND WERE GETTING ON WITH THEIR CIVILIAN LIFE WHEN THEY WERE CALLED BACK TO ACTIVE DUTY AND TEST IF THEIR SURVIVAL LUCK WOULD HOLD AGAIN. SO BEGAN A WAR FOUGHT ON LAND, SEA, AND IN THE AIR THAT LASTED THREE YEARS.

THE TERRAIN IN KOREA WAS MOUNTAINOUS. THE UNITED STATES MILITARY BATTLED TORRENTS OF RAIN AND TEMPERATURES SOARING TO OVER 100°F IN SUMMERS. MUD PULLED AT THE SOLDIERS’ BOOTS AND THEIR TRUCKS BOGGED DOWN IN IT. ROADS ONLY WENT SO FAR. EQUIPMENT AND AMMO HAD TO BE CARRIED ON THE BACKS OF MEN UNLESS THEY WERE LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND A HORSE OR A MULE. WHEN THEY REACHED THE TOP OF A HILL, THEY DUG TRENCHES TO HOLD THE HIGH GROUND UNTIL ORDERED TO MOVE ON.

IN THE FIRST TWO MONTHS, LIGHTLY ARMED ALLIED TROOPS WERE IN A STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL AS THEY WERE PUSHED SOUTH TO THE OCEAN. AT GREAT COST OF LIFE, THEY FORMED AND HELD A DEFENSIVE PERIMETER AROUND THE PORT OF PUSAN. FOR EIGHT WEEKS, WITH THE AID OF AIR AND NAVAL SUPPORT, THEY KEPT THE NORTH KOREANS FROM OVERRUNNING THEM UNTIL REINFORCEMENTS COULD ARRIVE. THE ALLIES WERE THEN ABLE TO GO ON THE OFFENSIVE; PUSHING THE ENEMY NORTH TO THE YALU RIVER ON THE CHINA BORDER.

ON NOVEMBER 25, 1950, OVER 300,000 CHINESE, WITH NO REGARD FOR THEIR OWN FATALITIES IN SUPPORT OF NORTH KOREA, CAME IN WAVES TO DEFEAT THE ARMY AND MARINES. NO MATTER WHICH WAY THE ALLIES TURNED THEY WERE FACED WITH THE ENEMY. THE KOREAN ARCTIC WINTER WAS EXCEPTIONALLY BRUTAL THAT YEAR. TEMPERATURES WENT AS LOW AS -60ºF. WEAPONS AND ARTILLERY WOULD JAM OR NOT ACCURATELY FIRE. THE WEATHER WOULD CLAIM AS MANY LIVES AS COMBAT. SOME MEN WOULD FREEZE TO DEATH AS THEY SLEPT. THE INJURED WOULD NOT BLEED OUT; BLOOD FROZE IN THE BANDAGES, SEALING THE WOUNDS.

THE SOUNDS OF WAR WERE BUGLES AND WHISTLES AND SCREAMS. SCREAMS OF THE ENEMY ATTACKING IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT. SCREAMS OF THE WOUNDED AND DYING IN “NO MAN’S LAND”; MEDICS COULDN’T GET TO THEM.

THE HELL OF WAR CAN BE DESCRIBED IN ITS SMELLS. THE SMELLS OF BURNING FLESH AND HAIR. THE SMELLS OF ROTTING MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN. THE SMELLS OF SOLDIERS’ FEAR, SWEAT, URINE AND EXCREMENT. AND EVERYWHERE, THE SMELL OF BLOOD AND DEATH.

THE SIGHT OF A BATTLE FIELD WITH THE DEAD AND WOUNDED WOULD HAUNT DREAMS FOR MONTHS AND YEARS.

THERE WERE NO STRAIGHT ROADS TO VICTORY. BACK AND FORTH THE BATTLES WENT. IN MID-1951, THE CHINESE AND NORTH KOREANS AGREED TO NEGOTIATE. HALF OF THE U.S. TROOPS KILLED AND WOUNDED WERE DURING THOSE TWO YEARS OF NEGOTIATIONS AS THE FIGHTING CONTINUED.

ON JULY 27, 1953, AN ARMISTICE WAS SIGNED. THE FIGHTING ENDED AT THE 38TH PARALLEL – WHERE IT BEGAN.

UNITED STATES MILITARY CASUALTIES

BRANCH SERVED COMBAT DEATHS NON-COMBAT DEATHS WOUNDED
ARMY 1,153,000 27,731 2,125 77,596
NAVY 265,000 503 154 1,576
MARINES 130,000 4,267 242 23,744
AIR FORCE 241,000 1,238 314 368
TOTAL 1,789,000 33,739 2,835 103,284