Causes Of The Korean War Essay Research

Causes Of The Korean War Essay, Research Paper Causes of the Korean War Andrew Glass Global Studies Period Seven The Korean War, 1950-1953 After the USSR installed a Communist government in North Korea in

Causes Of The Korean War Essay, Research Paper

Causes of the Korean War

Andrew Glass

Global Studies

Period Seven

The Korean War, 1950-1953

After the USSR installed a Communist government in North Korea in

September 1948, that government promoted and supported an insurgency in

South Korea in an attempt to bring down the recognized government and

gain jurisdiction over the entire Korean peninsula. Not quite two years

later, after the insurgency showed signs of failing, the northern

government undertook a direct attack, sending the North Korea People’s

Army south across the 38th parallel before daylight on Sunday, June 25,

1950. The invasion, in a narrow sense, marked the beginning of a civil

war between peoples of a divided country. In a larger sense, the cold

war between the Great Power blocs had erupted in open hostilities.

The western bloc, especially the United States, was surprised by the

North Korean decision. Although intelligence information of a possible

June invasion had reached Washington, the reporting agencies judged an

early summer attack unlikely. The North Koreans, they estimated, had not

yet exhausted the possibilities of the insurgency and would continue

that strategy only.

The North Koreans, however, seem to have taken encouragement from the

U.S. policy which left Korea outside the U.S. “defense line” in Asia and

from relatively public discussions of the economies placed on U.S. armed

forces. They evidently accepted these as reasons to discount American

counteraction, or their sponsor, the USSR, may have made that

calculation for them. The Soviets also appear to have been certain the

United Nations would not intervene, for in protest against Nationalist

China’s membership in the U.N. Security Council and against the U.N.’s

refusal to seat Communist China, the USSR member had boycotted council

meetings since January 1950 and did not return in June to veto any

council move against North Korea.

Moreover, Kim Il Sung, the North Korean Premier, could be confident that

his army, a modest force of 135,000, was superior to that of South

Korea. Koreans who had served in Chinese and Soviet World War II armies

made up a large part of his force. He had 8 full divisions, each

including a regiment of artillery; 2 divisions at half strength; 2

separate regiments; an armored brigade with 120 Soviet T-34 medium

tanks; and 5 border constabulary brigades. He also had 180 Soviet

aircraft, mostly fighters and attack bombers, and a few naval patrol

craft.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Army had just 95,000 men and was far less

fit. Raised as a constabulary during occupation, it had not in its later

combat training under a U.S. Military Advisor Group progressed much

beyond company-level exercises. Of its eight divisions, only four

approached full strength. It had no tanks and its artillery totaled

eighty-nine 105-mm. howitzers. The ROK Navy matched its North Korean

counterpart, but the ROK Air Force had only a few trainers and liaison

aircraft. U.S. equipment, war-worn when furnished to South Korean

forces, had deteriorated further, and supplies on hand could sustain

combat operations no longer than fifteen days. Whereas almost $11

million in materiel assistance had been allocated to South Korea in

fiscal year 1950 under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program,

Congressional review of the allocation so delayed the measure that only

a trickle of supplies had reached the country by June 25, 1950.

The North Koreans quickly crushed South Korean defenses at the 38th

parallel. The main North Korean attack force next moved down the west

side of the peninsula toward Seoul, the South Korean capital, thirty-

five miles below the parallel, and entered the city on June 28.

Secondary thrusts down the peninsula’s center and down the east coast

kept pace with the main drive. The South Koreans withdrew in disorder,

those troops driven out of Seoul forced to abandon most of their

equipment because the bridges over the Han River at the south edge of

the city were prematurely demolished. The North Koreans halted after

capturing Seoul, but only briefly to regroup before crossing the Han.

In Washington, where a 14-hour time difference made it June 24 when the

North Koreans crossed the parallel, the first report of the invasion

arrived that night. Early on the 25th, the United States requested a

meeting of the U.N. Security Council. The council adopted a resolution

that afternoon demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities and a

withdrawal of North Korean forces to the 38th parallel.

In independent actions on the night of the 25th, President Truman

relayed orders to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur at MacArthur’s

Far East Command headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, to supply ROK forces with

ammunition and equipment, evacuate American dependents from Korea, and

survey conditions on the peninsula to determine how best to assist the

republic further. The President also ordered the U.S. Seventh Fleet from

its current location in Philippine and Ryukyu waters to Japan. On the

26th, in a broad interpretation of a U.N. Security Council request for

“every assistance” in supporting the June 25 resolution, President

Truman authorized General MacArthur to use air and naval strength

against North Korean targets below the 38th parallel. The President also

redirected the bulk of the Seventh Fleet to Taiwan, where by standing

between the Chinese Communists on the mainland and the Nationalists on

the island it could discourage either one from attacking the other and

thus prevent a widening of hostilities.

When it became clear on June 27 that North Korea would ignore the U.N.

demands, the U.N. Security Council, again at the urging of the United

States, asked U.N. members to furnish military assistance to help South

Korea repel the invasion. President Truman immediately broadened the

range of U.S. air and naval operations to include North Korea and

authorized the use of U.S. Army troops to protect Pusan, Korea’s major

port at the southeastern tip of the peninsula. MacArthur meanwhile had

flown to Korea and, after witnessing failing ROK Army efforts in

defenses south of the Han River, recommended to Washington that a U.S.

Army regiment be committed in the Seoul area at once and that this force

be built up to two divisions. President Truman’s answer on June 30

authorized MacArthur to use all forces available to him.

Thus the United Nations for the first time since its founding reacted to

aggression with a decision to use armed force. The United States would

accept the largest share of the obligation in Korea but, still deeply

tired of war, would do so reluctantly. President Truman later described

his decision to enter the war as the hardest of his days in office. But

he believed that if South Korea was left to its own defense and fell, no

other small nation would have the will to resist aggression, and

Communist leaders would be encouraged to override nations closer to U.S.

shores. The American people, conditioned by World War II to battle on a

grand scale and to complete victory, would experience a deepening

frustration over the Korean conflict, brought on in the beginning by

embarrassing reversals on the battlefield.

More far reaching was the war’s impact on the two Great Power blocs. The

primary result for the western bloc was a decided strengthening of the

NATO alliance. Virtually without military power in June 1950, NATO could

call on fifty divisions and strong air and naval contingents by 1953 a

build-up directly attributable to the increased threat of general war

seen in the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. With further reinforcement

in the NATO forecast at the end of the Korean War, USSR armed aggression

in western Europe became unlikely. For the east, the major result was

the emergence of Communist China as a Great Power. A steady improvement

in the Chinese army and air force during the war gave China a more

powerful military posture at war’s end than when it had intervened; and

its performance in Korea, despite vast losses, won China respect as a

nation to be reckoned with not only in Asian but in world affairs.

Kaiser, Robert. Korea from the Inside. New York, 1980

Lawrence, John. A History of Korea. New York, 1993

Seeger, Elizabeth. The pageant of Korean History. Canada, 1967