The U.S. Marine Corps In Korea: Pusan

Carl | January 28, 2014 

On June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army–organized, equipped, and abetted by the Soviet Union–lunged across the 38th Parallel to subdue its countrymen to the south. This flagrant action impelled President Harry S. Truman to commit U.S. forces, unprepared as they were, to the defense of South Korea. The United Nations Security Council simultaneously called upon member states to do likewise. Twenty other nations were to heed that call, fifteen providing combat units and five, medical support. For the only time in its history the United Nations authorized establishment of a multi-national force, flying its banner, to repel communist aggression, and requested the United States to provide the Commander. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was appointed Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command.

The North Korean offensive drove the defenders to the southeast corner of the peninsula. There, the Pusan perimeter was established and reinforced by American divisions, held in bitter battles. That stout defense made possible a brilliantly conceived amphibious landing at Inchon which enveloped the over-extended North Korean army and recaptured the capital city of Seoul. UN forces advanced north to compel capitulation of the aggressor and set the stage for the long-delayed reunification of the Korean people. But these laudable aims were to be denied.

Massive intervention of the Chinese Communist Forces in November 1950 profoundly altered the nature of the war. Savaged by vastly superior numbers and ill-equipped for combat in sub-zero weather, the UN forces retreated to a line well south of Seoul, regrouped, and by March 1951 had fought back to the 38th Parallel. In April and May, the Chinese launched successive major offensives to drive the UN forces from the peninsula. They were repelled at staggering cost to the attackers.

With battle lines now astride the pre-invasion boundary, proof that aggression had failed, negotiations were initiated to terminate armed hostilities. Opposing forces remained locked in combat, at great loss of lives, for the two years required to forge a Military Armistice Agreement, effective July 27, 1953. In the absence of a political settlement, that agreement still regulates the de facto boundary between the two Koreas.

When the guns fell silent over the war-torn Korean peninsula, the final tally evidenced cost beyond measure in life, limb, and material treasure. Many questioned the value of our involvement. Four decades later, an independent, economically prosperous nation of 44 million people–scene of the greatest ever Olympiad–stands free. What a better answer! Truly a VICTORY for all time, replacing the history book image of the forgotten war with a well-deserved remembered victory.

Moreover, the war’s consequences extended well beyond Korea. They were measured by dramatic changes to the shape and content of post-WWII national security policy:

–America would not be caught off guard again. We are determined to maintain multi-service forces of requisite power to deter Soviet aggression at all levels.

–The political and military components of NATO were greatly strengthened to make it the principal instrument for maintaining the security and confidence of Western Europe.

–Collective security arrangements were forged by bilateral and multi-lateral treaties with the free nations of Asia. Buttressed by substantial U.S. presence and aid, they ensured the stability and forward progress of the entire Pacific Rim.

The resultant strategic posture, coupled with national resolve, contained the Soviet empire for decades and planted the seeds for the demise of communism.

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