Throughout the history of mankind there has always been war. Nations have always had disagreements with one another and the result is the death of many young soldiers. Although many men die in war, not as many men die if the war was fought to win and not only to stop the enemy. However, the wars that have not been fought to win, but only to stop a force, have had much greater a loss than those fought to win. In the Korean War the United States did not fight to win but just to subjugate the North Korean forces that were annihilating the landscape and its people. Although the Korean War was fought to protect the defenseless people, the casualties and other catastrophes that were brought upon the United States soldiers outweighed the “obligation” to protect those people, and is evidence that the United States should not have gone to Korea.
On June 25, 1950, the Peoples Army of North Korea crossed the 38th parallel into South Korean territory. North Korea plowed through the South Korea forces that were out numbered and out gunned. The United Nations called for an immediate meeting that day and called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities” that same day, and also for the North Korean army to return back over the 38th parallel that separates the two countries (A Short History of the Korean War 56). Even though the United Nations had warned North Korea, they kept cutting through the Southern forces. President Truman later ordered American troops to Korea for a “limited war” meaning we would only stop North Korea, not destroy it. The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953 and was the first major conflict that the United Nations had intervened with. Troops from United States, Ethiopia, Colombia, Luxemburg, and Great Britain fought in this war.
United States troops first landed in Pusan, a city in South Korea. These first soldiers were sent to hold off the North Korean troops until more reinforcements could arrive. The troops that were first sent were almost all in between the ages of 18 and 20 years old and were naturally arrogant, having not seen a real battle. They all thought that they would soon see a bunch of farmers with guns walking down and that the enemy would be no match for them. They thought this even though almost all of them were inexperienced. The United States troops engaged the North Korean army first at a spot north of the town Osan. Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw next. Thirty-five heavily armed T34/85 tanks led the North Korean armies march right towards the American troops. Behind those tanks were well over a hundred foot soldiers ready to kill.
The American soldiers tried everything they could to stop the tanks, but it was useless, their M16A1 carbines were no match for the heavy armor of the T45/85 tanks. The American troops tried to hold them off but had to retreat a little further back to escape from the tanks. By that time it was raining and their ammunition was no good along with their communications. But after some fighting it was useless against the North Korean forces so the American troops were given the order to withdraw, but some of them did not get the order and were totally consumed by the awesome power of the North Korean army. The American army withdrew to the Kum River. While they were waiting for reinforcements, General Walker came and told the troops that “if North Koreans come across the river, the Americans are to stay here and fight to the death” (A Personal Narrative of the Korean War 33). Right after General Walker had said that, he got into his jeep and sped off. Almost all the troops were either out of ammunition or low on it. The American troops held of the North Koreans for a total of seven hours. Everybody was trying to help the guy next to him the best they could against the massive enemy. People stayed behind to lay down cover fire and picked up guys who had been shot in the legs to take them out. They never had a chance.
The United Nations were doing well up until October 1950, as well as the American troops that were led by General MacArthur at age 70. in fact the was looked near end. Then the North Korean troops were reinforced by thousands of Chinese soldiers (ROZ Remembers the Forgotten War Korea 45). but it was not juse the enemy that the American troops faced. The American troops faced a “second” enemy, the brutal weather. During the winter monthes of the Korean War, it would get to sub-zero conditions. But the real problem with the cold was the wind. There were barely any trees are any type of windbreaker at all in the areas they were fighting. All of this while holding of to cold hard steel rifles. The American troops also had the communications working against them. When it rained the radios along with their ammunitions would get ruined, leaving them helpless and unable to call for help.
On March 26, 1953, the Chinese launched an attack with mortar fire while 3500 chinese infantrymen charged at the American troops. Shortly after this battle, there was a cease-fire, which only stopped the gunshots and not the war itself (Korean War Remembered 7). During his first Presidential Campaign General Eisenhower had promised to bring an end to the Korean War if elected. Once elected, Eisenhower set to work on this promise even before he took office. On November 29, 1952, President-elect Eisenhower secretly flew to Korea. The trip was planned with the utmost security to guard against any assassination attempts. Aides to accompany him were quietly picked up at obscure locations scattered throughout New York City. During his absence various dignitaries and staff members made “visits” to his home pretending to see him in his office. While in Korea Eisenhower revived the stalled peace talks and visited American soldiers near the front lines. It was not until December 6th, when Eisenhower was on his way home that the public learned of the trip. As a result of his peace seeking mission an armistice was signed in July 1953, eight months after his return. Under the terms of the Armistice signed in Panmunjom, the two Koreas were separated by a demilitarized zone at the 38th parallel, roughly the same border that existed prior to the war. The war was seen as proof that the United Nations could be counted on to resist aggression and that modem warfare could be conducted without resort to nuclear weapons. Ending the war was also of a personal interest to Eisenhower since John Eisenhower, the President-elect and Mrs. Eisenhower’s only living child was serving as an officer in Korea. This was the first American conflict with another country that ended in our defeat.
There were very mixed feelings about this war on if we should have or should have not gone into war. Many people at the time of the war thought that we should have intervened with the countries. People thought that going to war would benefit both countries in that it would turn North and South Korea into growing democratic countries (U.S. Courses of Action in Korea 38). Also by going to war with Korea we would be able to establish trade and other policies alliances with the two countries. Also, even more optimistic people thought that this war would unify the two Korean nations and establish a lasting peace.
Pro war citizens of the United States also felt that it was our duty to help a defenseless country just because we had the power to do so. Moreover, this was would be beneficial to the United States government as well. It would be beneficial because when the war ended we could strategically put military bases on the peninsula ensuring that the North Koreans could not attack again (The United States Should Not Make Peace with North Korea 23).
There is besides the fact that many United States citizens were pro war because the North Korean armies along with the countries backing them were communists. Because they were communists, North Korea was unpredictable and dangerous to every country in the world (North Korea’s Military Threat has been Exaggerated 52). Given that the communists feelings were so negative, many pro war people felt that in the long run we would have gone to war anyway. By going to war we would be putting an end to communism in that part of the world which many people saw as the right thing to do.
While there were many pro war groups, there were just as many who opposed the war as well. The reason why some people were opposed to the war was because the United States was not sent there to win (The Korean Decision 13). The way that the United States fought this war was basically just to sit there and take the “hits”. These hits could sometimes be thousands of troops backed by heavily armed tanks a mortar fire charging at the American troops.
There were some people who were against the war simply because it was a war. The things that happened in war are bad enough let alone the Korean War. On the Korean peninsula it is mainly rice patties and other flat land. It was very barren and there was not much natural cover for the soldiers to hide behind when shot at. In addition, due to the communication problems faced by the United States troops, many platoons of soldiers would get butt off and surrounded by the enemy. In one case, the fifth marines defended three outposts named Carson, Reno, and Vegas. All taking massive casualties but one of the locations did not get the order to pull out. They were completely surrounded in the middle of winter with nothing to defend themselves but the butt of their rifles. However, they were still somehow able to trek fifty miles back to their own troops (Two Excerpts on the POW/MIA Issue 57).
Many people were against the war because they knew the hardships that the soldiers would have to face. But since the United States was not trying to win the war, there was a massive shortage of supplies from food to ammunitions. What was even worse was that they did not even have the weaponry they needed to defeat the North Korean tanks which were destroying the United States and the United Nations lines of defense (The Korean War “The Forgotten War”).
Although there is a good deal of evidence that the United States along with the United Nations should have intervened with Korea, it is obvious that they should not have. It is obvious because of the misfortunes and all the other mishaps that have happened to our soldiers in the Korean War. The fact that the American soldiers faced horrible conditions from the weather and the enemy is bad enough. In additions to that, the American soldiers were low on ammunitions and did not have some vital equipment that they needed to fight in the war, let alone win. While pro war citizens said that if the United States did not intervene with Korea communism would spread, the fact is that it probably could not have if it tried. If you look at a map it is obvious that the countries are surrounded by a world of democracy or some other form of it. It is simply common sense that the United States along with the United Nations should not have gone to war with North Korea.
The casualties and other tragedies that happened during the Korean War were not worth protecting a defenseless nation. As a nation of great power, the United States needs to realize that it does not need to “police” the world. If it does indeed get involved in world affairs, it should fight to win and not just to stop another force at a line drawn into the ground by countless bodies. The reason why the United States lost the Korean War was because it sent troops “as needed” which were not enough. When they “expired” the United States would simply send more and more units, but not enough to wipe out the opposing force. Even today there are still historians that debate about the Korean War. They dispute whether the United States should have interfered with Korea and about the way it was fought. Mankind should learn as a whole that it should not come to blows with each other, and that almost no good can come from war. Moreover, political leaders everywhere should learn that once a war is declared, they should focus fully on winning the war and ending it as soon as possible. I believe it was General Douglas MacArthur that said, “Once a war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end”
No one knows exactly how many people died in this war. In a sense it was a civil war fought out with foreign participation on both sides. It was the first military test of the United Nations and also the last martial adventure of the old Commonwealth. The American Department of Defense acknowledges that almost 40,000 of its servicemen died, either in battle or of other causes. British casualties were 1,078 killed in action, 2,674 wounded and 1,060 missing or taken prisoner.
The true casualty figures for the North and South Koreans and Chinese will never be known. It is estimated that some 46,000 South Korean soldiers were killed and over 100,000 wounded. The Chinese are estimated by the Pentagon as having lost over 400,000 killed (including Mao Tse-tung’s son) and 486,000 wounded, with over 21,000 captured. The North Koreans lost about 215,000 killed, 303,000 wounded and over 101,000 captured or missing.
British veterans of the campaign were left with abiding memories of a South Korea which had been deprived of its dignity, fought over and ruined, its demoralized population brought to beggary and its infrastructure destroyed. Since 1953, the Republic of Korea has transformed into a modern state. In the North, however, the Stalinist regime created by Kim Il-sung is only now beginning to move out of its hermit state. The economy is in ruins and famine stalks the land. It is too early to say if the tentative moves towards reconciliation will result in attainment of the unity so deeply desired by many Koreans.
In summary, the U.S. attempted to fight the Korean War the way it fought World War Two. However, circumstances surrounding this particular conflict were different. The nature of limited war precluded airpower from being used in a manner that would have led to a decisive military engagement. Furthermore, a true joint command was not empowered to provide guidance in the employment of airpower. In the end, no coherent air campaign was implemented against North Korea. In the aftermath of Korea, many leaders believed the limited war was an aberration that would not be repeated. The popular position was that the United States would never fight, nor prepare to fight, another war like Korea. Air Force leaders were only too willing to put Korea to rest and get on with the Cold War. Once again, deterrence became the watchword for the politicians and military strategists for the coming decades. The Air Force retained its stance on strategic nuclear bombing of the homeland and virtually disregarded the lessons from the limited war in Korea. When the United States entered the conventional war with Vietnam, the nuclear posture of the defense department, once again, left the Air Force ill-prepared to wage a conventional air war.