On this day in 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea beginning a conflict which remains unresolved to this day. After the end of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied Korea north of the 38th parallel and the United States controlled the land in the south. Both North Korea, a socialist republic, and South Korea, a Western-style regime, believed their government to be the rightful government of the country.
The United Nations condemned this invasion calling for North Korea to withdraw to the 38th parallel. With the fear of the spread of communism and the possibility of a third world war, President Truman ordered U.S. troops to South Korea only five years after the end of World War II.
Early in the war, territory often changed hands with Seoul changing hands four times. The last two years of the war were stagnant with each side's territory remaining mostly the same. This stalemate resulted in an armistice signed on July 27, 1953 establishing the Demilitarized Zone which physically divided Korea and allowed for the release of prisoners. Even though the armistice was signed, no peace treaty was ever signed.
Aerial warfare had advanced since the end of WWII from the propeller plane to the fighter jet in air-to-air combat. The use of helicopters was new to warfare and necessary due to Korea’s rough terrain. Helicopters, along with the advancement of triage techniques learned in WWII helped to reduce the rate of fatal casualties during the war. Approximately 33,739 U.S. troops perished in battle and another 2,835 perished from non-battle deaths.
This product of the Cold War is also termed “The Forgotten War.” Despite this moniker we have plenty of documents published by the U.S. Government, many from the Department of Defense, the State Department, and Congressional Committee Hearings here at the Worcester Public Library. Browse our Korean War reading list today.