The Korean War
Korea had been under Japanese control for about 50 years. After Japan was defeated in WWII, The Big Three had agreed that Korea would be occupied by Soviet and American forces. The Soviets would occupy the Northern part and the Americans would occupy the Southern part. The border between the two would be the 38th parallel. Originally, The Big Three wanted elections to be held in 1948 with the goal of uniting all of Korea. The Soviets did not hold those elections and the North and South established separate governments.
Later in 1948 both the Soviets and the Americans left Korea. North Korea was Communist, ruled by Kim Il-Sung and South Korea was democratic, ruled by Syngman Rhee. Neither man was a popular ruler. Both wanted to rule all of Korea, and fighting along the 38th parallel was common. In 1950, Kim Il-Sung ordered his troops to attack South Korea. As North Korean troops poured across the border, the surprised South Koreans were soon in a full retreat.
President Truman and his advisors were sure that the invasion was part of a bigger Communist plot to conquer the world. They figured that Stalin had ordered the invasion of South Korea. This event would be the first major test of not only the Truman Doctrine, but of the United Nations as well. Remember, the United Nations was formed to take the place of the League of Nations, which had proved it was not strong enough to back up what it told nations. The US went to the United Nations for help, the United Nations ordered North Korea to stop their invasion. When North Korea failed to follow that direction, the United Nations sent troops from 16 nations to help South Korea. In a short time Kim Il-Sung’s army had retreated north to the Chinese border, complete victory appeared imminent.
In 1949 China had become Communist. Before South Korea and the United Nations could claim victory Chinese communists poured across the border and forced the South Korean and United Nation forces into a disorganized retreat. A few months later an American counter-attack drove the communists back to the 38th parallel. For the next two years the war would not move much from this point.
In 1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President of the US. When he came to office in 1953, Eisenhower knew that the only way to win Korea was to take drastic action. Not wanting to directly attack China his only other choice would be to use nuclear weapons. Eisenhower chose not to do that either. Eisenhower worked hard to negotiate a settlement. The negotiations dragged on and thousands of men continued to fight and die along the 38th parallel. Then in March of 1953 Joseph Stalin died. Although The Soviet Union was not directly fighting in the Korean War, they were considered to be home base for all communist countries. By July of ’53 the Korean War was finally over. Korea remained divided along the 38th parallel. Three long years of war had ended in a stalemate. China and North Korea’s willingness to negotiate was attributed to Stalin’s death.