Korean War Armistice turns 60 July 27
July 24, 2013
CAMP RED CLOUD -- Saturday, July 27 marks the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended full-scale hostilities during the Korean War of 1950-1953.
By the time the fighting stopped the entire Korean peninsula -- North and South -- was a war-ravaged ruin and millions had died.
"You've got to remember, five years removed from World War II you saw ground combat that rivaled the intensity of battles fought in World War II or, as far as that goes, any war in history," said Ron Miller, Eighth Army command historian.
The war began June 25, 1950 when around 4 a.m. North Korean forces struck south across the 38th Parallel that divided North and South Korea.
In response to the invasion, President Harry Truman ordered immediate U.S. naval and air action to try to slow the North Korean advance and avert the capture of South Korea's capital, Seoul.
Within three days the North Koreans had captured Seoul, and pressed their drive south.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council the night of June 27 voted for military action to repel the invasion.
Eventually 16 member-nations sent military forces or some other form of direct aid to the effort.
By June 30, the first American ground troops had been rushed to Korea from occupation duty in Japan, and more units continued arriving thereafter.
But though at times the North Korean advance was slowed it could not be stopped and by August U.S. forces were backed into a corner of the southeastern peninsula in what came to be called the Pusan Perimeter.
The Perimeter was an 80-by-50-mile front bounded on the north and west by the Naktong River, on the south by the Korea Strait, and on the east by the Sea of Japan.
North Korean forces kept the Perimeter under intense pressure and for most of the desperate battle there was fear the enemy might carry out their boast to drive UN forces into the sea.
But it was while that battle raged that the war reached one of its several turning points.
UN forces under command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur carried out an amphibious landing Sept. 15 on South Korea's west coast at Inchon, cutting off the enemy's lines of communication and resupply
The North Korean forces were outflanked and soon began a flight north. This also enabled U.S. forces to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and drive at the North Koreans from the south.
By October 1950 North Korean forces had been expelled from South Korea.
But what came next soon led to one of the worst reversals in American military history, one that changed the entire scale and duration of the war: UN forces pursued the enemy into North Korea itself.
U.S. and South Korean troops captured North Korea's capital, Pyongyang on Oct. 19, and by Oct. 26 elements of the South Korean 6th Division reached the Yalu River, where North Korea borders China.
It was then, only days later, that a massive Chinese ground force sprang a surprise offensive that threw UN forces into a retreat that continued all the way back into South Korea.
Seoul fell once again to the enemy, on Jan. 4, 1951.
Command of the Eighth U.S. Army had meanwhile passed to Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, a veteran combat leader who soon got demoralized UN ground forces back on the offensive.
Ridgway took command after Eighth Army's previous commander, Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, was killed in a jeep accident Dec. 23. Camp Walker in Daegu is named in his honor.
After weeks of back-and-forth fighting, UN troops reentered Seoul in mid-March.
See-saw fighting continued for several more months but by June 1951 UN forces had pushed the enemy out of South Korea and the war entered a new phase, one of mainly static, positional warfare. Both sides now faced each other from entrenched positions on the slopes and ridgelines in the vicinity of the 38th Parallel.
Truce talks began July 21, 1951, and continued stop-and-go for two years, with one of the main sticking points being disagreement over the terms governing prisoner exchange.
But, at last, agreement was reached and an armistice signed at Panmunjom 10 a.m. July 27, 1953.
According to figures compiled by the U.S. Forces Korea Command History Office, military casualties for North Korean and Chinese forces combined are estimated at 615,000 - 750,000 killed and 789,000 wounded. South Korean forces killed, 137,899; wounded 450,742. U.S. dead, 36,940, of which 33,665 were killed in action and 3,275 were non-combat deaths; wounded, 103,284. Military casualties for other UN forces: more than 3,700 killed; wounded, more than 12,500.
Civilian casualties -- dead and injured -- on both sides have been estimated at 2.5 million.
"The suspension of full-scale hostilities definitely brought an end to the high casualty rates," said Miller. "Unfortunately, the civilian population suffered almost as much as frontline Soldiers," he said. "It divided families, it rendered many homeless. It definitely was a hardship."