70 Cold Winters

70 years ago today, June 25, 1950, North Korean forces, supported by Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao Zedong’s new established Peoples Republic of China, invaded the Republic of Korea (ROK), which, because of the Cold War still had American and other allied forces located there. The NK Army managed to move almost the entire distance of the peninsula and appeared just about ready to overrun and conquer the entirety of the ROK.

President Harry S Truman responded almost immediately and the American military in Korea and occupied Japan, together with ROK army units, established a defensive perimeter surrounding an area centered on the southern port of Pusan. The United States moved the UN Security Council to authorize a United Nations response to this aggression. Because the Soviet Union was boycotting Security Council over other issues at the time, it was not able to use its veto against the UN resolution. Thus, the United Nations Command was established and authorized to respond militarily.


In September of that year UN forces, now under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur, simultaneously broke out of the Pusan perimeter and landed forces at Inchon near the mouth of the Han River near the ROK capital of Seoul, subsequently routing the NK forces.

By November, American soldiers, Marines, and allies — mainly British — had pushed the NK Army all the way out of the South and almost to the Chinese border at the Yalu River. Then, Chinese forces, ostensibly “volunteers” but actually Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army, counterattacked and drove the UN forces out of the north and back in to the South where they established another defensive line of Seoul. The full weight of Americans and allies was able to push the RK/PRC forces back into the north by February 1951. After that, a stalemate for the next two years until a shaky armistice was signed, establishing a demilitarized zone, which remains in place to this day.

The attempt of North Korean leader at the time, Kim Il Sung, to unify Korea by force failed. But Korea remained divided, and still is. In the interim the north has been ruled by Kim (until his death in 1994), his son Kim Jong-il (1994 – 2011), and his grandson Kim Jong-un (2011 – present). It has been, and is, a totalitarian state that makes George Orwell’s Oceania pale by comparison. It continues to exist only by virtue of Chinese support, and its acquisition of nuclear weapons, which the United States and other nations should never allowed to happen. (The Soviet Union also provided a measure of support until it collapsed in 1990-91. Was that collapse an opportunity missed?)


For comprehesive histories of the war, see T. R. Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War (1963); David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter (2007). Fehrenbach, a noted Texas historian (Lone Star and Fire and Blood, histories of Texas and Mexico respectively), served as an infantry platoon leader in the Korean War. Halberstam was a journalist who covered both the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Also see: https://bobreagan13.com/2017/04/15/now-hes-too-rich-to-kill/

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