8 Things You Should Know about the Korean War

On July 27, 1953, an armistice was signed that ended the Korean War after three years of heavy fighting. More than 36,000 Americans died in the conflict, along with millions of Koreans and at least 150,000 Chinese. It’s often referred to as the “Forgotten War.”

Korea was split in half after World War II.

After World War II, the Soviet Union occupied the northern half of the peninsula and the United States occupied the south. The United Nations called for elections in 1947, but the Soviet Union refused, setting up a communist government in the North. The North and the South both wanted to unify Korea under their own rule. Fights along the border left thousands dead.

The U.S. Congress never declared war, thereby establishing a precedent.

When North Korea invaded the South on June 25, 1950, the United States got involved in the Korean War immediately. On June 27, President Harry S. Truman ordered U.S. naval and air forces into action. Congress did not formally declare war, setting a precedent for future military actions. The United States hasn’t declared war since World War II.

The United Nations played a major role.

The United Nations Security Council demanded that North Korea stop fighting and withdraw to the border along the 38th parallel. North Korea ignored this warning, so the U.N. passed a second resolution asking member states to assist South Korea. The U.N. established a military command under U.S. General Douglas MacArthur.

Long retreats marked the early stages of the war.

The invading North Korean troops captured South Korean capital Seoul within three days. That September, U.N. troops then pushed deep into North Korea. China entered the war on the side of North Korea and sent the American troops into the longest retreat in U.S. military history.

MacArthur was fired for insubordination.

The Truman administration was willing to negotiate with the Communists, but MacArthur wanted to continue fighting. In 1951, he declared that there was no substitute for victory. Truman fired him a few days later. “We are trying to prevent a world war—not to start one,” Truman said at the time.

Truce talks went on for most of the war.

Official ceasefire negotiations began in July 1951. Within months both sides had agreed to divide the country along the existing battle line instead of the 38th parallel. There was a dispute over the repatriation of prisoners of war. Finally, in March 1953, the Communists gave in and the armistice was signed.

The U.S. military integrated during the war.

In July 1948 President Truman desegregated the military with an executive order that called for “equality of treatment and opportunity” for all soldiers. It took six year for all the armed forces to fully integrate.

No permanent peace treaty has ever been signed.

The July 1953 armistice may have ended the war, but the two sides are still separated by a heavily fortified 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone, and there are tensions between them.

Source: 8 Things You Should Know about the Korean War
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