Korea 1950 - 1953

Presentation by www.army.mil and U.S. Army Center of Military History

June 25, 1950 - North Korean People's Army invades across the 38th Parallel. The South Korean people simply say "6-2-5"(pronounced yoo-gee-o), June-25th, to remember the beginning of the war that divides their homeland to this day. We salute the thousands of American and allied veterans who served and fought in war-torn Korea in 1950-1953 and beyond. Today's Soldiers are inspired by their courage and sacrifices as they too defend our freedoms around the world.


June 25, 1950

North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) invades across the 38th Parallel with 135,000 men. The outnumbered Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), which does not have effective anti-tank weapons, field artillery, or combat aircraft, suffers heavy casualties. North Korean forces enter Seoul on June 28.

July 5, 1950

First battle between the U.S. Army and the NKPA. The 24th Infantry Division’s Task Force Smith, a battalion combat team deployed from Japan, attempted to delay the advance of a NKPA division near Osan. Outnumbered and poorly equipped, Task Force Smith delays the North Koreans for only a short period before retreating with heavy casualties.

Aug. 6 - Sept. 12, 1950

Defense of Pusan Perimeter. After a series of costly delaying actions during July, the U.S. Eighth Army withdrew on Aug. 1 into a final defensive line around the key port city of Pusan. After deploying from Japan the previous month, Eighth Army had assumed command of all U.S., ROKA, and other nations’ ground combat units fighting to defeat the North Korean invasion. As reinforcements from the United States and several other nations arrive at the port, Eighth Army directed the successful defense of the perimeter against major NKPA attacks in August and September.

Sept. 15, 1950

X Corps amphibious assault at Inchon, Seoul’s port city. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, commander-in-chief of Far East Command and commander-in-chief of United Nations Command, plans to liberate Seoul and crush the NKPA between X Corps and Eighth Army begins its breakout from the Pusan Perimeter on Sept. 16.

Sept. 28, 1950

X Corps completes liberation of Seoul. Eighth Army has linked up with X Corps, and while many North Korean soldiers escape, most NKPA units are destroyed.

Oct. 19, 1950

Eighth Army seizes Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, after UN forces shift from the defense of South Korea to the destruction of the North Korean regime. The NKPA can mount only very limited and generally ineffective opposition. Meanwhile, X Corps has been withdrawn from Seoul to land in northeastern Korea.

November 26 - 30, 1950

Two army groups of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) attack and defeat outnumbered UN forces in North Korea, inflicting heavy casualties. The People's Republic of China (PRC), after warning the UN, intervenes to prevent the destruction of the North Korean regime and the establishment of an American-allied Korea on its border. After the attack, the Eighth Army breaks contact with the Chinese and retreats into South Korea; X Corps is withdrawn by sea to South Korea where it joins Eighth Army. Two significant battles during this period include the 2nd Infantry Division's harrowing withdrawal through the Kunu-ri gauntlet and the 1st Marine Division's heroic efforts in the Chosin Reservoir battle.

Jan. 4, 1951

U.N. forces evacuate Seoul after the Chinese and NKPA launch another major offensive. Eighth Army breaks contact with the enemy and withdraws to a new defensive line south of the Han River.

Jan. 24, 1951

Eighth Army begins a counter-offensive with an emphasis on using its superior firepower to inflict heavy casualties on the enemy. After defeating another major enemy attack in February, the counter-offensive continues.

March 14, 1951

Eighth Army retakes Seoul against light enemy resistance.

March 27, 1951

Eighth Army reaches 38th Parallel. Enemy resistance continues to be light, but intelligence indicates that the Chinese are massing their forces for another major offensive.

April 11, 1951

President Truman relieves Gen. MacArthur as CINCFEC/CINCUNC after MacArthur had publicly and repeatedly questioned President Truman’s strategy for the war.

April 22 - 29, 1951 & May 16-20, 1951

Chinese Spring Offensives. After forcing the outnumbered Eighth Army to make tactical withdrawals, Chinese and North Korean units in April and May are decimated by superior UN firepower. This is the last attempt by either side to win the war by inflicting a crushing battlefield defeat on the enemy’s army.

July 10, 1951

Armistice negotiations begin as both the US and the PRC decide that the costs are too high to unify the peninsula under their Korean ally, and they instead settle for a continuation of a Korea divided between two regimes. To pressure the communists and to seize better terrain for defensive lines, Eighth Army mounts a series of limited-objective attacks during the summer and autumn that are successful, but very costly because of fierce enemy resistance.

Nov. 12, 1951

Eighth Army assumes the “active defense” as the UN’s objectives in the armistice negotiations, and the growing unpopularity of the war in the United States, rule out major offensives with high casualties. In the active defense, UN forces hold a main line of resistance, protected by fortified outposts, from which units patrol and conduct raids against enemy positions.

May 7 - June 10, 1952

On May 7, NKPA prisoners-of-war at the UN POW camp on Koje Island capture the camp commander. He is released unharmed after an American officer signs a statement admitting to the mistreatment of POWs. A great propaganda victory for the communists, this incident is the most notable example of the communist strategy to turn POW camps into another battlefield of the war. During June, the UN POW camp system is reorganized to improve security, although communist POWs will continue to provoke violent incidents until the end of the war.

July 17 - Aug. 4, 1952

Battle for Outpost Old Baldy. The 2nd Infantry Division loses the outpost to a Chinese attack that demonstrates the enemy’s greatly expanded artillery force, mounts several unsuccessful counterattacks, and then finally retakes the outpost. While patrolling is now the most common form of combat, the Chinese for the next year will attempt to pressure the UN at the armistice negotiations by inflicting heavy casualties on UN units with attacks onoutposts.

Oct. 6 - 15, 1952

Battle for White Horse Mountain. The successful defense of this position by the ROKA 9th Division, with the assistance of U.S. artillery and air strikes, against heavy Chinese attacks signals the great improvements the ROKA has made, with the aid of American advisers, in its tactical and technical competence since the first year of the war.

Oct. 8, 1952

Armistice negotiations recessed because of a deadlock on the issue of repatriation of POWs. While the Geneva Convention of 1949 mandates immediate repatriation of POWs after hostilities end, the United States decides to press for allowing POWs to choose whether they will be repatriated. The U.S. takes this position because screening of enemy POWs has revealed that tens of thousands of them are either South Koreans conscripted into the NKPA or Nationalist veterans of the Chinese Civil War drafted into the PLA after the communist victory in that war. These POWs do not want to go to North Korea or the PRC after hostilities end.

April 26, 1953

Armistice negotiations resume. While both South and North Koreans still desire to defeat each other and unify the peninsula, the UN and the PRC wish to end what has become a bloody and expensive war whose objective, the status quo ante bellum, is for them not worth the cost of continuing.

May 28-29, 1953

25th Infantry Division battle for Nevada outpost complex. The Chinese repeatedly attack to take these outposts, suffering very heavy casualties, until Eighth Army decides to abandon the outposts. With an armistice agreement in sight, senior UN commanders conclude that holding an outpost, after the Chinese have demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice whatever number of soldiers required to take it, is not worth the cost in UN soldiers’ lives. The Chinese take several other outposts with this tactic, which is designed to distract from their concessions at the armistice negotiations and to keep pressuring the UN during the final stage of the negotiations.

June 8, 1953

Agreement reached at armistice negotiations on repatriation of POWs. All POWs will choose whether they will be repatriated, and both sides will be allowed an attempt to persuade its POWs to choose to be repatriated.

July 13-19, 1953

Chinese offensive against ROKA units in Kumsong Salient. A major attack breaks through ROKA lines and inflicts heavy losses, but the Chinese do not attempt to exploit the breach even though they also have suffered heavy casualties. The purpose of the attack is to punish the South Koreans for unilaterally releasing 27,000 POWs who had refused repatriation and to distract world attention from the concessions made at the armistice negotiations.

July 27, 1953

Armistice signed at Panmunjom. Both sides then withdraw slightly to create a demilitarized zone between the two Korean regimes.

Aug. 1953 - Feb. 1954

Exchange of POWs. A total of 82,493 Koreans and Chinese POWs are repatriated, as are 13,444 UN POWs (3,746 of which are Americans). 21,839 communist POWs refuse repatriation, as do 347 UN POWs, including 21 Americans.

Image Gallery (Cutlines)

An American mortar crew fires on Communist North Korean invaders near Chochiwan, Korea, July 11, 1950. Photo by Turnbull, U.S. Army Signal Corps Photo.

Soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division wade ashore in Korea, July 18, 1950. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Pfc. Letcher V. Gardner fires on an emplacement of the Communist-led North Koreans along the Naktong River near Chingu, Korea, Aug. 13, 1950. Gardner is assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division's Company D, 8th Cavalry Regiment. Photo by Meyers, U.S. Army Signal Corps.

A grief-stricken American infantryman, whose buddy has been killed in action, is comforted by another Soldier. In the background a medic methodically fills out casualty tags, Haktong-ni, Korea, Aug. 28, 1950. Photo by Sgt.1st Class Al Chang, U.S. Army.

Pfc. Robert Smith of Springfield, Colo., left, and Pvt. Carl Fisher of Ponca, Okla., 27th Infantry Regiment, are dug in and firing at Communist-led North Korean positions, Sept. 4, 1950. Photo by Pfc. Thomas Nebbia U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Sgt. 1st Class Louis F. Walz, left, a member of the 1st Cavalry Division's Company E, 5th Cavalry Regiment, and Pfc. Raymond M. Szukla, a member of the 24th Infantry Division's Company G, 5th Regimental Combat Team, receive medical aid at the 8063rd Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, attached to I Corps in Korea. Sgt. 1st Class Walz is recovering from a head wound, and Pfc. Szukla suffered a wound in the right leg while engaging Communist-led North Korean forces, Nov. 4 1950. Photo by McIntosh, U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Fighting with the 2nd Infantry Division north of the Chongchon River, Sgt. 1st Class Major Cleveland (left), weapons squad leader, points out Communist-led North Korean position to his machine crew, Nov. 20, 1950. Photo by James Cox, U.S. Army.

Men of the 25th Infantry Division's Company K, 35th Regimental Combat Team, fire a light machine gun in support of a rifle platoon attacking Chinese Communist positions north of the Han River, Korea, March 7, 1951. Photo by Fox, U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Pinned down by Chinese Communist fire, Soldiers of 3rd Infantry Division's 15th Regimental Combat Team take cover during the drive against the Communist forces near the 38th Parallel, March 23, 1951. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Second Lt. Ralph Barnes throws a hand grenade at Chinese Communist positions, as UN troops launch an offensive attack against the Communists near Uijong-Bu, Korea, March 23, 1951. Barnes, of Arlington, Va., is a platoon leader in the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Platoon, Company C, 15th Infantry Regiment. Photo by Welter, U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Paratroopers of the 187th Airborne Battalion Combat Team drop in near Munsan, Korea, March 23, 1951. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Men of the 3rd U.S. Rangers, 3rd Infantry Division, advance north of the Imjim River across the 38th Parallel in Korea, while under heavy mortar fire from the Chinese Communists, April 11, 1951. Photo by Welter, U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Men of the 1st Cavalry Division bring in Chinese Communist captives, north of the Imjin River, Korea, June 1951.

A 105-mm self-propelled howitzer, manned by five Soldiers from Cody, Wyo., speeds another projectile into Red lines in Korea, July 1, 1951. The men, all artillerymen in Battery B, 300th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, X Corps, are (left to right); Sgt. 1st Class Allen J. Helms, section chief; Cpl. Joseph Stair, gunner; Sgt. Richard N. Null, lanyard man; Cpl. Robert C. Smith, artilleryman. Photo by Durcansky, U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Sgt. Douglas D. Tompkins of the 24th Infantry Division's Tank Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team, fires a .50-caliber machine gun at Communist-held positions during an assault against the Chinese Communist forces along the east central front, Korea, July 14, 1951. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division fight in a train yard in Pyongyang, Korea, October 1950. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Soldiers of Battery C, 936th Field Artillery Battalion, U.S. Eighth Army, fire the 100,001st and 100,002nd shell at Chinese Communist position near Choriwon, Korea, Oct. 10, 1951. Photo by Kostner, U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Tanks and infantrymen of the 1st Cavalry Division pursue Communist-led North Korean Forces approximately 14 miles north of Kaesong, Korea, Oct. 13 1950. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Powder, smoke and dust billow as a recoilless rifle team of the 3rd Infantry Division's Company D, 7th infantry Regiment, fire their weapon at a Chinese Communist position on Hill 200, near Qnmong-Myon, Korea, Nov. 9, 1951. Photo by Scheinker, U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Searchlights of the 86th Engineer Searchlight Company, cut the darkness as they probe for signs of Communist forces in Korea, Feb. 24, 1952. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Soldiers of Company C, 14th Engineer Combat Battalion, 8th U.S. Army, ground the M-1 "VLA" barrage balloon, which is used to mark the Panmunjon Military Armistice Conference perimeter in Korea, March 22, 1952. The balloon is 35 feet long and 14 feet in diameter. It holds 3,000 cubic feet of helium gas, and is elevated to a height of 1200 feet. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Soldiers of the 81-mm Mortar Platoon, Co. D, 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Eighth Army, blast Communist positions in the "Punchbowl", Korea, Aug. 12, 1952. Photo by Kelemanik, U.S. Army Signal Corps.

A helicopter of the 6th Transportation Helicopter Company, U.S. Eighth Army, delivers C-rations to the 25th U.S. Infantry Division's 35th Infantry Regiment, near Panmunjom, Korea, May 23, 1953. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

The Port of Inchon, Korea, is a hub of activity on Jan. 25, 1953. A landing beach and two finger piers for dispatching small craft are visible. There is open storage area in foreground and a tank farm in background. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Capt. Sylvia Pavolvich, an Army nurse of the 8209th Mobile Surgical Hospital, U.S. Eighth Army, administers whole blood to a wounded U.S. X Corps Soldier. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Maj. Michael J. Stoke, executive officer, 79th Ordnance Aircraft Maintenance Battalion, U.S. Eighth Army, and Capt. Charles C. Blake, a chaplain known as the "flying chaplain," depart by helicopter to visit 79th Ordnance units in Korea, June 8, 1953.

First Lt. William Millward of Baltimore,a civil assistance officer assigned to the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, distributes candy to Korean children at a refugee Collecting Point in western Korea. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.