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Chapter 6 - The Korean War, The Final Phases, 1951-1953



Discussion Questions

  1. Could the Korean War have been won solely with air power? Were ground troops necessary? Should the United States have used atomic weapons?
  2. What role did the media play in Korea?
  3. Why did Truman relieve General MacArthur? Do you agree or disagree with his decision? Who replaced him?
  4. What was the Army's rotation policy in Korea? Did this have a positive or negative effect?
  5. Why did the United States and United Nations decide to halt the advance of forces in the spring of 1951? What were the repercussions of this decision? Do you believe this was the best decision given the circumstances?
  6. Why was the Korean War unpopular in the United States? Why did support of the American people deteriorate throughout the war?
  7. How did Eisenhower bring the war in Korea to an end? Why was Truman unable to bring the war to an end?
  8. Was the Korean War a limited or total war? Consider the war from the perspective of North and South Korea, from the perspective of China, and from the perspective of the United States and the Soviet Union.
  9. How did the American public feel about the Army's performance in the Korean War? How did the Army feel it had performed?
  10. Explain the outcome of the Korean War. Did the United States win or lose the Korean War?


Published transcript of interview. “Strategic Air Warfare; an Interview with Generals Curtis E LeMay, Leon W. Johnson, David A. Burchinal, and Jack J. Catton.”

Article from Airpower Journal, Winter 1988.  “Tactical Employment of Strategic Air Power in Korea,” by Robert F. Futrell.

Video. Military Channel Video. “Top Ten Fighters: MiG15 vs F86 Sabre.”

Website U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission.“The Korean War.”

Air Force Magazine.com “MiG Alley,” by John T. Correll.

Naval History and Heritage Command. “The Korean War, June 1950-July 1953.”

“TV News and the Korean War.”

George Mason University’s History News Network. “Why did Truman Really Fire MacArthur? The Obscure History of Nuclear Weapons and the Korean War Provides the Answers, by Bruce Cummings.”

History of Selective Service on its website.

On-line book. Marshall, S.L.A., Pork Chop Hill; The American Fighting Man in Action; Korea, Spring, 1953.

100 Milestone Documents. “Executive Order 9981: Desegregation of Armed Forces (1948).”


The Korean War

Prelude to the Korean War


8 August

USSR enters war against Japan, and enters Korea.


15 August

US General Order No. 1 calls for US to take Japanese surrender in Korea south of the 38th parallel, and USSR forces to take Japanese surrender north of the 38th parallel.


15 August

Republic of Korea (ROK) inaugurated in Seoul, under President Syngman Rhee.


9 September

Democratic People's Republic of Korea inaugurated in Pyongyang under Premier Kim Il Sung.

1950 Invasion and the Pusan Perimeter (Phase One)


25 June

At 0400 on Sunday morning the North Korean People's Army (NKPA) attacked across 38th parallel. At 0930 Kaesong was taken. United Nations Security Council called for an end of aggression and withdrawal of NKPA forces.


27 June

President Truman orders United States air and naval forces under the command of General MacArthur to help the ROK repel the NKPA. The US Seventh Fleet is ordered to defend the Formosan Straits. The UN adopted a US resolution, with the Soviet Union absent, proclaiming the NKPA attack a breech of world peace. UN member nations are asked to assist the ROK repel the NKPA invaders. Fourteen nations sent ground troops to assist the US and the ROK.


28 June

NKPA take Seoul, the Capital of South Korea. 40,000 ROK soldiers are missing, captured, or dead.


29 June

President Truman authorizes General MacArthur to send ground forces to Korea.


30 June

President Truman receives Congressional authorization to call into active service any or all reserve components of the Armed Forces for a period of 21 months.


1 July

First US Army combat unit, "Task Force Smith" (1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, 24th Infantry Division) arrives in Korea.


3 July

Inchon, a major port facility, falls to NKPA.


5 July

TF Smith fights first engagement in Korea to gain time for the deployment of the 25th ID and 1st Cavalry Division. The NKPA breaks through at Konji.


7 July

UN Security Council authorizes formation of a UN Command (UNC). UN flag flies over primarily American forces.


8 July

21st Infantry stalls NKPA advance at Chochiwon.
General MacArthur named Commander-in-Chief of UNC.


10 July

25th ID and 1st CD begin movement from Japan to Korea; 29th Regimental Combat Team sails from Okinawa for Korea; 2nd ID at Fort Lewis, Washington prepares to embark for Korea.


12 July

Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker appointed Commanding General Eighth US Army in Korea (EUSAK). US Army falls back to Kum River near Taejon.


14 July

NKPA crosses Kum River. All ROK forces are placed under MacArthur's command.


18 July

US reinforcements arrive in Korea.


19 July

President Truman authorizes the Department of Defense to call up reserve units and individuals.


20 July

US Army continues to retreat. NKPA takes Taejon. Major General William F. Dean reported missing.


24 July

NKPA in western Korea advance to southern coast, take Suchon, and attack toward Pusan, the last major port facility in South Korea.


31 July

Walker orders: "There will be no more retreating." First reinforcements from the United States arrive in Korea. MacArthur goes to Formosa to consult with Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist. This meeting was not approved by Truman, and was not in concert with his foreign policy.


1 August

Walker forms the Pusan defensive perimeter with US and ROK forces.


3 August

US and ROK forces retreat to Naktong River. NKPA attack to within forty miles of the Pusan--the only major port in South Korea.


6-8 August

MacArthur confers with Truman's military and political officials from the US (Generals Norstad, Almond, and Ridgway, and Averall Harriman) regarding the Inchon Landing.


7 August

US forces conduct limited counter-attack toward Chinju, west of Pusan.


16 August

X Corps activated for the Inchon Landing. It consisted of 1st Marine Division and 7th Infantry Division. It was commanded by Major General Ned Almond who was still MacArthur's chief of staff. The X Corps was constituted as a separate command, independent of Walker's EUSAK -- a violation of the principle of war unity of command.


29 August

First British troops arrive from Hong Kong. By the end of August UN strength is about 180,000 soldiers. NKPA strength is about 92,000 soldiers.


1 September

NKPA establish bridgeheads across the Naktong River and push to within thirty miles of Pusan. Walker's Pusan Perimeter holds.

Inchon Landing (Phase Two).


15 September

The Inchon Landing was a turning movement that landed UN forces in the rear of the NKPA, causing it to fight in two directions at the same time.


16 September

Inchon captured by X Corps. Walker's EUSAK attacks out of the Pusan Perimeter up the Korean Peninsula.


19-25 September

NKPA troops retreat from Pusan. NKPA troops trapped between EUSAK and X Corps.


26 September

Seoul retaken by X Corps. EUSAK links up with X Corps near Osan.


30 September

UN forces recapture almost all territory south of the 38th Parallel. Chou En Lai, Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China (PRC) warns: "The Chinese people will not supinely tolerate seeing their neighbors being savagely invaded by the imperialists."

Advance to the Yalu (Phase Three)


1 October

ROK Third Division cross the 38th Parallel.


7 October

UN General Assembly authorizes UN Forces to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea to complete the destruction of the NKPA.


9 October

US 1st Cavalry Division cross the 38th parallel.


10 October

Wonsan port on the east coast of North Korea captured by ROK Third Division. Chinese repeat warning of intervention in the Korean war. UNC ignores warning.


15 October

Truman and MacArthur meet at Wake Island. MacArthur informs the President that he does not believe the Chinese will intervene, and that if they do his forces can handle them.


16 October

Chinese Communist Forces (CCF), the "People's Volunteer" army secretly enter the Korean peninsula from Manchuria.


19 October

Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, captured by UN forces.


20 October

US 187th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team jumps at Sukchon and Sunchon, about twenty-five miles north of Pyongyang.


24 October

MacArthur orders his commanders to advance. He removed all restrictions on non-Korean forces. This was in violation of instructions received from the JCS.

Chinese Intervention (Phase Four)


26 October

ROK Sixth Division reaches the Yalu River at Chosan. CCF attack ROK forces.


27 October

CCF launch first phase of offensive.


1 November

UN forces reach the Yalu River on the Chinese border. UN pilots opposed for the first time by Soviet built MIG-15 jet fighter.


2 November

US 1st Cavalry Division suffers heavy casualties when attacked by CCF at Unsan, causing a withdrawal across Chongchon River.


5 November

MacArthur notifies UN that CCF are conducting operations in Korea.


6 November

MacArthur warns JCS that movement of CCF across Yalu threatens the position of UN forces.


7 November

CCF forces break contact with UN forces.


15 November

Elements of 1st Marine Division reach Chosin/Changin Reservoir.


21 November

Elements of US 7th Infantry Division (7th ID) occupy Hyesanjin on banks of Yalu River.


24 November

MacArthur flies from his headquarters in Tokyo to Korea to announce "end of war" offensive, having concluded that, "the Chinese are not coming in." EUSAK again advance toward the Yalu.


26 November

CCF, under command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, launches a violent counter-offensive on both the EUSAK in the west and X Corps in the east. UN forces caught totally unprepared to defend, even after numerous warnings of a pending attack. UN forces start to withdraw. 1st Marine Division cutoff at Chosin Reservoir.


28 November-11 December

1st Marine Division breaks out of encirclement, and move south to rejoin the X Corps at Hungnam.


30 November

EUSAK and X Corps in general retreat. Truman suggests that the Atomic Bomb might be used.


4 December

Pyongyang captured by CCF.


11 December

UN forces begin evacuation of Hungnam, Songjin, and Wonsan.


15 December

UN forces begin establishing a defensive line near the 38th parallel.


23 December

CG EUSAK, General Walker, is killed in a jeep accident. Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway named new commander.


24 December

Navy completes evacuation of 105,000 soldiers of X Corps from Hungnam beachhead.


26 December

Ridgway arrives in Korea and takes command of all UN ground forces -- X Corps and EUSAK.


29 December

CCF prepare for major new attack across the 38th parallel into South Korea.


1 January

CCF attack across 38th parallel. Ridgway orders retreat.


3 January

CCF take Seoul.


7-15 January

UN forces on Pyongtaek-Wonju Line halt CCF offensive.

Ridgway's Offensive (Phase Five)


21 January

Ridgway initiates a series of offensives designed to halt the retreat, restore the confidence of the Army, destroy enemy forces, and regain lost territory south of the 38th parallel. The first limited offensive was "Operation Thunderbolt."


5 February

Ridgway launches offensive, Operation Roundup.


13-17 February

CCF launch offensive. US 23rd Infantry Regiment of the 2nd ID with an attached French Battalion is surrounded at Chipyong-ni. In a desperate battle the CCF offensive is defeated.


21 February

Ridgway launches Operation Killer, a general offensive to annihilate enemy forces and re-establish UN line east of Wonju.


7 March

Ridgway launches Operation Ripper to outflank Seoul and capture Chunchon.


14 March

Seoul retaken by UN forces.


23 March

US 187th Regimental Combat Team jumps at Munsan to cut off enemy forces south of Han River.


31 March

Advanced elements of UN forces reach 38th parallel.


8 March

UN forces in Operation Ripper clear most CCF from South Korea, south of Imjin River.


11 April

President Truman relieves General MacArthur of command for insubordination.


12 April

General Ridgway becomes Supreme Commander of UN forces. General James A. Van Fleet assumes command of EUSAK. Ridgway places tight control measures over Van Fleet's operations.


15 April

UN forces establish defense along 38th parallel, the Kansas Line. CCF establish the "Iron Triangle" assembly area, Chorwan-Kumhwa-Pyonggang.


22 April

CCF launch all-out spring counter-offensive.


29 April

UN forces halt CCF advance, after a limited withdrawal, just north of Seoul and 40 miles south of the 38th parallel.


3 May

UN forces launch a limited offensive to regain former positions and reestablish contact with the enemy.


16 May

Second phase of CCF spring offensive initiated. CCF penetrate 15 to 20 miles into the south along a 75 mile front.


19 May

UN forces halt enemy drive on western front and conduct a counter attack.


20 May

Far East Air Force (FEAF) initiates Operation Strangle, a massive air effort to interdict logistic and other types of resources flowing from the north to CCF at the front.


21 May

UN forces counter-attack.


30 May

UN forces regain Kansas Line.


13 June

UN forces take Chorwon and Kumhwa in the Iron Triangle. UN forces start to construct a deliberate defense along the 38th parallel--generally along the same line that existed before the NKPA invasion.

Truce Talks, Negotiating while Fighting (Phase Six)


24 June

Jacob Malik, Soviet UN representative, calls for cease-fire in radio speech.


30 June

Ridgway proposes meeting with CCF leaders to discuss armistice, suggest Danish hospital ship in Wonsan harbor as site.


1 July

CCF commander proposes meeting at Kaesong near 38th parallel.


10 July

First meeting takes place between UN and CCF delegations. Admiral C. Turner Joy heads the UN delegation. LTG Namm Il, NKPA heads the CCF delegation.


26 July

After ten meetings, the two delegations announced agreement on five-point agenda.


5 August

UN delegation suspends armistice negotiation because of CCF violations into neutral area.


15 August

FEAF continue Operation Strangle.


23 August

CCF break-off talks because of FEAF violations of neutral area.


13 September

UN forces begin attack at Heartbreak Ridge.


25 October

Armistice talks resume at Panmunjom. Delegates meet for the 27th session.


28 October

Military demarcation line agreed upon. The line of contact is the cease-fire line.


12 November

Ridgway orders EUSAK to cease all offensive operations, and initiate active defensive operations. Stalemate develops. Both sides begin to construct substantial defenses that makes taking the offensive extremely costly.


18 December

Prisoner lists are exchanged. UN listed 132,474 communist soldiers, Chinese and Korean; and the CCF listed 11,559 UN soldiers.


2 January

UN delegation proposes principle of "voluntary repatriation" in POW exchange.


3 January

CCF rejected proposal.


24 January

Negotiations stalemated.



POWs uprising in UN camps on Koje.


22 February

CCF charge UN forces with using "germ warfare."


7 May

Brigadier General Francis T. Dodd, commander of UN Prisoner of War Camp Number One on Koje-do, is taken hostage by prisoners, and held for 78 hours.


12 May

General Mark W. Clark takes over from General Ridgway as Supreme Commander. Ridgway assumes command of NATO from Eisenhower.


22 May

Major General K. Harrison succeeds Admiral Joy as chief UN negotiator.



General stalemate along front. Armistice talks deadlock on POW issue.


19 June

Operation Break-up, the resettlement of Koje Island prisoners into 500 inmate stockades, is completed.


23 June

FEAF destroy majority of North Korea's power plants.


10 July

Truce talks enter second year.


29 August

FEAF attack North Korean capital, Pyongyang with 1,403 sorties, the largest one day air assault of the war.


4 September

Air Force reports record one day kill of thirteen MIGs.


6 October

CCF launch largest attack of the year.


8 October

Truce talks suspended indefinitely, deadlock over POW return policy.


4 November

Eisenhower elected President.


2 December

Eisenhower begins three-day tour of Korea.


2 February

President Eisenhower ends neutralization of Formosa Strait with the 7th Fleet, creating the possibility that Chiang Kai-shek's forces might be used against the PRC. Eisenhower also made known to the Chinese that the war might be expanded in areas and methods of his choosing. In other words, he threatened to use the atomic bomb if an armistice agreement was not reached in an expeditious manner.


11 February

General Maxwell D. Taylor takes command of EUSAK.


5 March

Stalin dies.


6 April

UN and CCF delegates open talks on exchange of sick and wounded prisoners.


11 April

Agreement reached on limited prisoner exchange, 605 UN soldiers and 6,030 CCF and NKPA soldiers.


26 April

Operation Little Switch, the exchange of POWs takes place at Panmunjom. The exchange consisted of 471 South Koreans, 149 Americans, 32 British, 15 Turks, 6 Colombians, 5 Australians, 2 Canadians, 1 Netherlanders, 1 Filipino, 1 South African, and 1 Greek. Truce talks resume at Panmunjom.


7 May

CCF accept UN proposal that war prisoners unwilling to return to Communist control be placed in neutral custody within Korea.


28 May

Fighting intensifies as negotiations approach final phase.


8 June

CCF and UN delegates sign agreement on prisoners of war exchange policy. President Syngman Rhee and South Korean government vehemently oppose the agreement. Rhee wants Korea unified.


9 June

ROK National Assembly unanimously reject truce terms. General Clark attempts to negotiate with President Rhee.


11 June

CCF renew attacks along the front.


18 June

South Koreans release 25,000 North Korean anti-communist prisoners in the general population. President Rhee ordered the release demonstrating his opposition to the armistice agreement.


20 June

CCF accuses UNC of conspiring with the ROK to release the prisoners, and suspend negotiations.


25 June

CCF attack ROK position. Anti-armistice demonstrations take place in Seoul. Walter Robinson, US Assistant Secretary of State, and General Clark negotiate with Rhee to gain his compliance.


8 July

CCF agree to resume talks.


11 July

Robinson announces that he has gained the support of President Rhee.


13-20 July

CCF launch major attack, driving back ROK forces to adjust the cease-fire line.


27 July

Armistice agreement signed at Panmunjom. Fighting ends at 2200. No permanent treaty was ever signed. In the days following the CCF returned a total of 12,773 UN prisoners, including 3,597 American (General Dean among them), 7,862 ROKs, 945 British, 229 Turks, and 140 others. The UN returned a total of 75,823 prisoners, including 70,183 of the NKPA and 5,640 of the CCF. The US suffered 54,246 dead (32,629 killed in combat and 20,617 from other causes). The Pentagon estimated that military casualties on both sides were approximately 2.4 million. Korean civilian casualties were roughly 2 million men, women, and children.



Thousands of US soldiers and airmen currently serve in Korea.