A DMZ (de-militarized zone) exists between North and South Korea, depicted in this photograph. In the foreground, we see three Republic of Korea soldiers standing guard at Panmunjom (in the DMZ). Photo by Globaljuggler, online courtesy Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
By the time North and South Korea returned to the bargaining table, both sides (and their respective allies) had sustained many casualties and had spent huge amounts of money fighting to an impasse.
Rare photographs from the U.S. National Archives, presented here in chronological order, provide some evidence of the fierce fighting and its consequences.
- American men from the 24th Infantry Regiment move up to the firing line on July 18, 1950.
- Trying to disrupt North Korea's supply lines, U.S. Air Force B-29s dropped ten tons of bombs on two railroad bridges forty miles north of Pyongyang. (July 27, 1950)
- Although America had no bases in Korea at the start of the conflict, and very few available medical services, quick air evacuation helped to save lives and boost morale. (July 28, 1950)
- Thousands of American troops arrive in Korea on 6 August 1950, as part of the UN effort to assist South Korea.
- On 28 August 1950, a grief-stricken American infantryman mourns the loss of his buddy while a nearby medic fills out the paperwork.
- A woman searches through the rubble of Seoul on November 1, 1950.
- Young children (a homeless brother and sister) try to find food and keep warm in the wreckage of Seoul's railroad yards. (November 17, 1950)
- While trains were used to transport American soldiers and their equipment during the Korean War, U.S. and other U.N. forces targeted trains in North Korea. Here, U.S. forces attack rail cars south of Wonsan, North Korea, an east-coast port city. (1950)
- Korean refuges, on their way south, trudge through the snow and ice outside Kangning on January 8, 1951.
- In January of 1951, B-29s of the U.S. Far East Air Forces participated in round-the-clock attacks on strategic Chinese military targets in North Korea.
- The UN weapon North Koreans feared the most, according to prisoner interrogation, was the napalm fire bomb. In August of 1951, two napalm bombs just released from shackles underneath the wing of an F-51 "Mustang," are on their way to an industrial target.
- Sometimes the targets were enemy supply points, like this view—near Hanchon, North Korea—where thatched huts also went up in flames on May 10, 1951.
- One F-80 "Shooting Star" banks sharply as it lines up a June, 1951 target while another prepares to drop 150 gallons of napalm (75 gallons in each bomb) over a separate target.
- Commandoes of the 41st Royal British Marines plant demolition charges along the tracks of enemy supply lines. (April 10, 1951)
- A Korean girl, with her brother on her back, tries to make her way to safety on June 9, 1951.
- A high-velocity rocket, sent to its target by an F-9F "Pantherjet," in August of 1951.
- Peace talks at Kaesong, Korea, did not end the conflict in 1951.
- U.S. Air Force B-26 "Night Intruders" carried out daily bombing runs, even in bad weather, in an effort to disrupt enemy supply lines.
- Supply warehouses and dock facilities - in the North Korean east-coast port of Wonsan - are destroyed by para-demolition bombs dropped from B-26 Invaders, circa 1951.
- Korean women and children search the rubble of Seoul for anything that can be used, or burned, as fuel. (November 1, 1950)
- Despite assurances they would specially mark structures that housed UN prisoners of war, North Korean officials failed to do so for buildings situated near Chiktong. The circled areas reveal unidentified men waving at a low-flying, unarmed American reconnaissance plane. (March, 1952)
- On May 8, 1952 an F-80 drops another napalm bomb.
- President Truman, already reluctant to commit American forces to fight with the United Nations when South Korea first asked for American help, was beside himself by the spring of 1952. His diary entry for May 18 reveals a President distraught over promises made (then broken) by his Communist opposition. He was also extremely concerned with the way UN prisoners of war were being treated.
- F-86 "Sabre" jets of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing flew over Korea's mountainous terrain in October of 1952.
- C-124 cargo planes, capable of carrying 135 patients, transported critically wounded UN personnel to Tokyo. (October, 1952)
- In the spring of 1953, the UN and North Korea agreed to repatriate Prisoners of War. "Freedom Village" welcomed back UN POWs at Munsan-ni.
- On 21 September 1953, a North Korean pilot flew a MiG 15 to a US Air Force base at Kimpo, near Seoul. He had defected.
What took place in Korea, however, was not forgotten by those who were there. Clint Eastwood, a Korean-War veteran, has even made a film - "Gran Torino" - about one soldier named Walt Kowalski.