From the U.S. Army Military History Institute, this photo depicts a 1950 attack on a North Korean train by U.S. Forces.
At four o’clock in the morning, on the 25th of June, 1950, North Korean troops crossed the 38th Parallel, commencing a full-scale invasion of South Korea. Their plan was to reunite the Korean Peninsula by force.
The UN Security Council immediately passed a resolution, calling on North Korea to cease hostilities and withdraw. North Korea refused. Seoul, South Korea’s capital, fell in four days.
As fighting continued, the Truman Administration sent in American troops to help the South. Later, the president said it was the toughest decision he ever made in his life, and for years Truman kept a bereaved father’s letter in his desk drawer.
By fall of 1950, military troops assisting South Korea had crossed the border into North Korean territory. American combat forces were among them.
In late October of that year, thousands of Communist Chinese Forces (referred to as “CCF”) slipped into North Korea from Manchuria. A fierce fighting force, they nearly crushed South Korean troops and attacked the surprised Americans.
The next month, members of the First Marine and Seventh Infantry Divisions were trapped at Chosin Reservoir. Fighting in bitterly cold and snowy weather, the Americans attempted to break out of a CCF encirclement. Some frostbitten Marines and soldiers survived. Many others did not.
Both sides fought to a stalemate. In North Korea, Kim iL Sung (the country’s leader at the time) was hailed for his efforts. He is still revered in a country which is now a nuclear power.
In this story behind the conflict, meet the combatants and their leaders. Discover annotated battle maps. Learn about chuch’e, a political philosophy (also referred to as juche) which still impacts life in North Korea. Read contemporary newspapers, from both sides, which describe the war.
See photographs from American and Chinese archives which depict fierce fighting. And ... meet Kim Jung iL, North Korea’s late leader (and son of Kim iL Sung), and the country's current leader, Kim Jong-un (son of Kim Jung iL).
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