U.S. Troops Committed to Korean War 

U.S. #2152 was based on 1950 photo of U.S. troops retreating from Chosin Reservoir.

On June 27, 1950, President Harry Truman announced that America would send troops to aid South Korea.

As World War II came to an end, the Allied leaders discussed the fate of the Japanese Empire. Korea had been an imperial colony since 1910 and was one of the areas under consideration. At a meeting in Cairo in 1943, it was decided the U.S. would occupy the southern part of the Korean peninsula, and the Soviet Union would rule the north. Two young U.S. colonels chose the latitude line 38 degrees north of the equator as the dividing line. The occupation was supposed to be temporary, and the ultimate goal was for Korea to be “free and independent in due course,” according to the Cairo conference.

The U.S. and Soviet Union began their occupation in 1945. The United Nations planned to oversee elections in 1947, with the hopes of unifying the country. Instead, the Soviet Union supported Kim Il-sung as leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and refused to hold elections. The U.S. helped elect Syngman Rhee as president of the new Republic of Korea (ROK). Both men wanted a unified nation, but their ideas about the government of Korea differed greatly. Kim had trained with Soviet troops during the war and was sympathetic to communism. Rhee, the country’s exiled leader, was educated in America and was against communism.

U.S. #3187e from the Celebrate the Century: 1950s stamp sheet.

In 1949, the U.S. and Soviet Union withdrew their militaries from the region, but left advisors. Negotiations continued in an effort to unify the nation as the new Korean governments skirmished across the 38th parallel. Members of the DPRK Army were well trained and supplied by the Soviet Union and Communist China. In contrast, the southern ROK forces were poorly equipped and without adequate training.

On June 25, 1950, 75,000 North Korean soldiers poured across the 38th Parallel to begin their takeover of the entire peninsula. Soviet tanks and heavy artillery supported them. The ROK troops had no tanks or weapons to combat tank attacks. Within days, they were pushed south and Seoul, the capital, fell to the DPRK forces. ROK soldiers retreated or defected to the Northern army.

Fearing the invasion would advance the spread of communism worldwide, the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea’s actions and called for a ceasefire. On June 27, 1950, U.S. President Harry Truman addressed the nation stating that he would send U.S. air and naval forces to help South Korea fight the communist threat. President Truman said, “I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to fall, Communist leaders would be emboldened to override nations closer to our shores.” While it wasn’t a declaration of war, Congress voted to extend the draft and call up reservists. The Security Council met the following day and approved the use of force against North Korea. And on June 30 Truman agreed to send ground troops.

U.S. #3803 – The Korean War Memorial includes 19 seven-foot-tall statues representing the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force.

The U.S. committed the majority of forces in the U.N. command and led the operation. America’s military had been greatly reduced after World War II because of budget cuts and an emphasis on funding research on nuclear bombs. The military had to be strengthened and reorganized quickly to effectively fight a war.

U.S. forces stationed in Japan were the first to go to Korea. The 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division was considered the most combat-ready. A task force of 400 infantry supported by about 130 men from an artillery battery was the first to land in Korea. Most of the soldiers and officers had no combat experience, and their weapons were inferior to those of the North Koreans. The mission of Task Force Smith was to hold the enemy as far north as they could for as long as possible. This would allow more time to get men and equipment into the southeastern corner of the nation where the U.N. command was setting up a defensive perimeter. On July 5, the first battle between the U.S. and North Korea began. Though it was clearly a victory for the North, Task Force Smith slowed down the much larger force for seven hours.

This action was followed by similar battles, as the U.N. forces retreated. By the time both sides arrived near Pusan, a deep-water port on the southern tip of Korea, U.N. defenses were built and soldiers and equipment had arrived. The defense of the Pusan Perimeter began on August 4 and lasted more than a month. On September 16, U.N. forces broke through the enemy’s line and began pushing them back toward the 38th Parallel.

U.S. #4822-23f honors the 136 Medal of Honor recipients from the Korean War.

The momentum of the war changed, and the U.S.-backed army retook South Korea and crossed the 38th Parallel. During the course of the fighting, the objective of the war changed from containing the Communists in North Korea to defeating them and liberating the nation. It looked like the war would be over quickly, and a united Korea would be free of communism.

After recapturing South Korea, General MacArthur, commander of the U.N. army, was given permission to proceed to the northern border at the Yalu River. Communist China, on the other side of the river, called this movement “armed aggression against Chinese territory.” Leader Mao Zedong warned against crossing the 38th Parallel, threatening to intervene on North Korea’s behalf.

U.S. and U.N. leaders did not take Mao’s threat seriously and did not prepare for combat against the large People’s Volunteer Army (PVA). The Chinese offensive began on October 25 and took the U.N. command by surprise. After a long, cold winter of fighting, the war was taking place along the 38th Parallel once again.

Item #6401295 – Set of five Korean War heroes First Day Covers.

During this time, General MacArthur supported invading China to destroy supply depots. In a letter, he wrote, “There is no substitute for victory,” and discussed using an atom bomb against Chinese forces. The general had repeatedly gone against his orders from President Truman, and on April 11, 1951, MacArthur was relieved of his duties. General Matthew Ridgway replaced him.

For the remainder of the war, the U.N. command and PVA were in a stalemate. Negotiations began on July 10, 1951, in an effort to end the war. Both sides agreed to a ceasefire, but the issue of prisoners of war caused the talks to stall. China and North Korea wanted all prisoners to be returned to their home country. The U.S. and its allies wanted prisoners to be allowed to choose whether they wanted to go back or remain in the country in which they were held captive.

U.S. #2152 – Korean War Veterans First Day Cover.

The armistice was finally signed on July 27, 1953. Both sides agreed to let prisoners decide where they wanted to live. Former POWs had sixty days to return to their home country. The country was divided along a line close to the 38th Parallel, called the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Today, the 2.5-mile-wide border is still the most heavily guarded border in the world.

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  1. Sometimes referred to as the forgotten war, the consequences of actions taken in Korea or more notably the actions not taken impacted the area from Korea to southeast Asia. General MacArthur’s plan was much more intricate than mentioned in the article. Had his plan been executed the entire dynamic of the Viet Nam conflict would have been altered.

  2. I worked with a 3rd Army Korean War vet. He was in the division’s band but was on the front line like everybody else. His descriptions of combat and daily life in a hostile land were impressive. Vietnam vets mention the heat, Korean War vets always mention the unbelievable cold. God Bless them all.

  3. My father was a decorated Korean War Infantry commander. He fought from the Chosen all the way down to Outpost Harry, Old Baldy and Porkchop Hill where he was the commander. He was the youngest and lowest ranking officer to sign the armistice. BTW, he despised MacArthur whose ego ignored the Chinese threat and cost many American lives. Truman did the right thing.

  4. As long as man is on this earth there will be good vs evil and bullies will attempt to get their way. I remember the day the MacArthur was fired. “Old soldiers never die”. The country has always needed, but never liked, military power to enforce Freedom, all the way back to the Revolution. Defenseless people will always be preyed on by the aggressor. Never put your guard down.

  5. Thank you Mary Rose for reminding us of a remarkable woman and her birthday! Helen Keller was truly an inspiration to so many people while she was living and even now in reading about her life and many accomplishments overcoming being blind and deaf.

  6. I remember Korea, both the people and the countrye. The winters were cold and the wind always there. I was like a sea breeze that you did not want. The people were hard and crafty, they seemed to know what they wanted, but you could can figure it out by looking and listening to them talk about and among themselves. They were divided in thought (Japan kept them always in doubt when it controled it.) and they seem to sense that actions of each other. by knowing what they might to in the same saturation. Most were gentle people and liked to please, they received more pleasure by giving and it was nice when they received, too. It was a cold hard way of life and knowing it I am more knowledgeable of other people and their lands. It was hard to tell the North from the South (look at history of the Civil Was in the U.S.) Koreans still want a united country, but I believe that the rift between them now would be very hard remove. Families are still split by the 38th,

  7. A good article, but it couldn’t begin to portray the anguish that a young wife would feel as she heard the news about the Chosen reservoir and wondered if she would ever see her young Marine again. He fought in the southern part of Korea and received the Silver and Bronze stars for his initiative. He came home, raised three delightful sons and lived to be 89. One of the greatest generation. I enjoyed 60 and a half years of his love.

  8. Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace… You, .. — John Lennon

  9. MacCarthur was an arrogant and “old School” general-pretty much lost in the glory days and WW2
    He damn near started a full scale nuclear war . His idea was to create a nuclear bomb; radiation zone above N Korea so the Chinese would not cross over! THank God Truman had a real world perspective and brought him home.
    Thanks Mystic

  10. I appreciate the articles from Mystic, so much information. But I really love all the reply from other readers. Some sharing more information, others sharing love.

  11. Instead of letting the military run the war,, politicians had to intervene.. this policy continued in Vietnam with disastrous results and repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe this policy will change, hopefully

    1. The dividing line between peace and war is the content in which John Lennon is illustrating.

      So war and peace, and a line in the sand to separate the two actions, is very relative to Imagine’s message, My Good Man Wade Lucas.

      MaCarthur thought that he knew what was behind the (North Korea’s northern border) curtain, however once the drape is pulled back, the Mao regime is poised to send the million strong screaming Chinese Army, which would reinforce the enemy and could and did nullify any beneficial gain he could have made. So now they just agree to disagree at the 38th P.

      It is not hard to do…..live in peace; And it’s up to mankind, not politicians to determine their destinies. That is what “Imagine” is teaching us. The article explains that peace is created through aggressive abilities against their foes’ weaknesses, and that’s just plain stupid to no end. Happy Birthday America – Long May Your Banner Wave.

  12. Helen Keller was born on 27 June, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama USA.. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of telephone advised her to meet Anne Mansfield Sullivan . Anne started teaching Helen from March 3, 1887. Helen used text books in Braille and obtained Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904. Anne Sullivan attended classes with Helen and spelled~ the lectures into her hands.
    Helen Keller wrote many books , some of them are 1 The Story of My Life (1903), 2. Optimism (1903), 3 The World I live in (1908), 4. Out of the Dark (1913), 5.Midstream (1929), 6. Journal (1938) 7.Let Us Have Faith (1940). Helen Keller was awarded U>S Presidential Medal of Freedom and also French Legion of Honor. In 1965, she was inducted into Women`s Hall of Fame at New York World Fair.. Anne Mansfield Sullivan remained Helen`s constant companion and teacher till Sullivan`s death in 1936. Helen Keller died at her home near Easton Connecticut on June 1, 1968..On June 27, 1980, India issued a postage stamp to honor Helen Keller.

  13. Ernest Orillion – you hit a home run with your comment. I spent a year in Vietnam and remember one particular fire fight. We asked for permission to return fire and we were told that since the bulk of incoming fire was from a village, we could not return fire without Vietnamese permission. When we asked whose idiot rule this was, the response was that this was per State Department and Congressional direction.

  14. I believe Greg K. referred to John Lennon’s lyrics as they apply to war rather than his unfortunate death at the hands of a lunatic. Hey Greg, I get it.

    1. Thanks Ed. Old School meets a History Lesson….some of which can also be learned in the poetry of this Great Musician’s’ legacy, which his is always relevant, in my honest opinion.

  15. I remember the onset of the Korean conflict very well indeed. As a three-plus year veteran of WWII and in the Army Reserves. I felt sure that I’d be called up. Just graduated from engineering at Cornell and newly-married (both within the month), I surely didn’t want that. As it turned out, the Korean War rivals the subsequent one in Viet-Nam, both in a somewhat vain effort to contain the spread of Communism, in its bitter loss of lives and lack of successful conclusion. I’m not sure that we’ve learned better.

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