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(The KOREAN WAR – continued)

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The KOREAN WAR (6 of 8)

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The Chinese push into South Korea

On November 26 the Chinese invaded in earnest, with approximately 300,000 men against a UN force numbering 423,000 (224,000 South Koreans, 178,500 from the US, almost 15,000 from Turkey, 11,000 from Britain and 1,000 Australians). It was the beginning of an unusually cold winter. Many of the Chinese movements were at night, out of sight of UN air power. They were not well equipped with radios, and during their assault they communicated to an extent with bugles and other instruments.

The Chinese enveloped the US 2nd Division near Anju on the west side of the peninsula. Troops from Turkey stood their ground and fought until forced to surrender. The Chinese, holding the sides of a pass, mauled UN forces retreating southward, the dead mixed with shattered trucks. Napalm from US air strikes trickling down from the hillsides. This was the Battle of Chongchon, which ended on November 28. The US Commander in Korea, General Walton Walker, called for a renewed drive to the Yalu. But, in Tokyo, MacArthur, realized that "an entirely new war" had begun, and he informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington that his plan was now "to pass to the defensive."

called by U.S. Marines the Frozen Chosin.

The Changjin ("Chosin") reservoir Enlarged photo of the Chosin reservoir

US Marines fought their way from the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir area, some US Army troops helping the 1st Marine Regiment withdraw to Hagaru, their last point before leaving the reservoir area. The 1st, 5th and 7th Marine regiments, with Army and British Marine Commandos, marched and fought their way south, reaching the port city Hungnan in mid-December, where they were picked up by the US Navy.

On December 6, the Chinese overran Pyongyang, the UN forces leaving the city in a bumper to bumper column of vehicles, with a massive number of refugees and a mile-high column of smoke rising above the city from burning supplies and fuel.

Responding to the first news of China's massive entry into the Korean War, President Truman at a press conference stated that the United States would take "whatever steps are necessary to meet the military situation." Asked if this meant the use of nuclear weapons, Truman replied that it included "every weapon we have."

Europeans were aghast. Britain's socialist prime minister, Clement Atlee, came rushing to Washington, arriving on December 4. After four days of talks with the Truman Administration it was agreed that extending the war against China was to be avoided. Atlee was interested in taming China, suggesting that Communist China be recognized and brought into the United Nations. The Truman Administration and US public opinion were not prepared for that, but Truman was ready to return to his strategy of containment of communism, which in Korea meant holding the communists at the 38th Parallel – in other words, fighting a war with a limited objective. On December 16, Truman coupled this with a declaration of a State of National Emergency.

By December 16, 1950, the US Eighth Army had reached the 38th Parallel, after covering 120 miles southward in ten days. The Chinese drive was now weakened because of their slow supply system. The Chinese were moving by foot, oxcart, pack horse and camel.

Calls could now be heard from unaligned nations for talks between the warring sides. China's Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai claimed that only by a withdrawal of US forces from Korea and from around Taiwan could a cease fire be realized. He stated that China would reunite Korea by force. The Soviet Communist Party newspaper, Pravda, was gloating over the US pullback in Korea, and an editorial announced that the paper was looking forward to the "American aggressors" being "totally defeated and annihilated."

On New Year's Eve, Chinese forces moved across the 38th Parallel to accomplish their goal of uniting Korea, and with them were North Korean units. On January 4 they reached Seoul. Disturbed by the war, rats were running through streets jammed with people trying to flee southward. At the Han River a US force halted refugees at gunpoint to prevent them from jamming the US withdrawal. US troops destroyed their pontoon bridges across the Han River and as they withdrew they torched the port of Inchon.

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Copyright © 2001-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.

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