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Narratives: 1950-1953

At the end of World War II, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel. Russia occupied the North and the United States the South. On 25 June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea in an attempt to unify the country under communism. The United Nations demanded a withdrawal. When North Korea refused, United Nations military forces, under American leadership, went to war. Twenty-two countries joined the United Nations “Police Action” against North Korean and later, Chinese troops.

In July 1950, the North Korean Army advanced south to capture the South Korean capital of Seoul, and tried to push retreating Allied Forces into the sea at Pusan. To stop the advance and gain time, the United States flew in a task force of 500 men. Heavily outnumbered, and without weapons capable of penetrating North Korean tanks, they fought a delaying action and fell back seventy miles in seventeen days. This tactic allowed U.S. troops and equipment to land on the southeastern 140-mile front, which became known as the Pusan Perimeter.

One of the most brilliant strategies in military history was the amphibious invasion at the Port of Inchon, Korea, 15 September 1950. A battalion of United States Marines went in on a 30-foot tide and captured the off shore island of Wolmi-Do, which protected Inchon. On the next tide, nine hours later, United Nation troops climbed the Inchon sea walls and fought into the heart of the city. The Inchon landing turned the war’s course in favor of the Allies.

After the landing at Inchon, September 1950, the South Korean capital city of Seoul was recaptured. Simultaneously, United Nations Forces broke out from the Pusan perimeter and drove the communists north toward the Yalu River and the Chinese border. UN Forces were told victory was at hand and they would be home for Christmas. This did not happen for two more years.

In November 1950, as United Nation Forces approached the Chinese border, the Chinese army attacked with over 300,000 troops and surrounded UN Forces near the Chosin Reservoir. These UN troops broke out and were evacuated to Pusan by sea. Other UN Forces on the western front retreated south of the 38th parallel by land. After a period of rebuilding, a counter offensive brought UN Forces back to the 38th parallel and they retook the capital city of Seoul.

Peace talks in Korea began 10 July 1951. A two-year stalemate followed with brutal battles such as Heartbreak Ridge, Pork Chop Hill, the Iron Triangle, and Old Baldy. Continuous battles resulted in constantly changing truce lines. A major issue was the repatriation of Chinese and North Korean prisoners-of-war, who did not wish to return to their country. On 27 July 1953, the United Nations, North Korea, and China signed an Armistice. South Korea refused to sign. The fighting ended but, as of 25 June 2000, a peace treaty has never been signed and North and South Korea remained divided.

Black Americans were initially recruited to serve in the Revolutionary War. Post-war laws first denied Blacks access to military service, but they eventually fought and served valiantly in all of the wars since 1812. Initially denied freedoms, suffering rejection and segregation, they proved themselves capable and courageous in fulfilling escalating responsibilities in recognition of their abilities. Fully integrated at the start of the Korean conflict and since, Black Americans confirmed their ability to perform in battle and at high levels of responsibility.

Women have played important military roles since the Revolutionary War. Although unfairly treated in early wars, they distinguished themselves in teaching sanitation, nursing and spying. Disguised as men, they fought on battlefields. Although women were authorized to serve as nurses in 1861, they were not eligible for health care, salary and a uniform until 1899. During World War II, opposition to women in the military was strong. In May of 1942, the Women’s Auxiliary Corps was formed to serve with the Army but did not receive military status until August 1943. The Nurse Corps was denied rank until 1947 and veteran status until 1977. Women are now integrated into the military and serve in all capacities and levels of command.

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