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The Korean War

On 25 June 1950, armed forces from communist North Korea smash into South Korea, setting off the Korean War. The US, acting under the auspices of the UN, sprang to the defense of South Korea. The forces of many nations fought a bloody and frustrating war for the next 3 years.
Korea, a former Japanese possession, had been divided into zones of occupation following WWII. US forces accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in southern Korea, while Soviet forces did the same in northern Korea. Like in Germany, however, the “temporary” division soon became permanent. The Soviets established a communist regime in North Korea, while the US became the main source of financial and military support for South Korea.
On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces surprised the South Korean army (& the small US force stationed in the country), and quickly headed toward the capital city of Seoul. The US responded by pushing a resolution through the UN Security Council calling for military assistance to South Korea. (Russia was not present to veto the action as it was boycotting the Security Council at the time—which is why the UN actually did something useful.) With this resolution in hand, President Harry Truman rapidly dispatched US land, air, & sea forces to Korea to engage in what he termed a “police action.” The American intervention turned the tide, and US and South Korean forces marched into North Korea. This action, however, prompted the massive intervention of communist Chinese forces in late 1950. The war in Korea subsequently bogged down into a bloody stalemate. In 1953, the US and North Korea signed a cease-fire that ended the conflict. The cease-fire agreement also resulted in the continued division of North and South Korea at just about the same geographical point as before the conflict. A “cease fire” doesn’t end a war, so the war technically continues. Then China became North Korea’s sponsor and now provides most of the resources that nation needs.
The Korean War was the first “hot” war of the Cold War. Over 55,000 US troops were killed. Korea was the first “limited war,” one in which the US aim was not the complete and total defeat of the enemy, but rather the “limited” goal of protecting South Korea. For the US government, such an approach seemed to be the only rational option in order to avoid a third world war and to keep from stretching finite American resources too thinly around the globe. It proved to be a frustrating experience for the American people, who were used to the kind of total victory that had been achieved in WWII. The public found the concept of limited war difficult to understand or support, and the Korean War never really gained popular support.

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