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June 25, 1948: The Korean War becomes the first military conflict of the Cold War  


Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 3814
25/06/2020 5:10 pm  

The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea and was a war between North Korea and South Korea.  In South Korea, the war is usually referred to as "625" or the "6–2–5 Upheaval", reflecting the date of its commencement on 25 June. In North Korea, the war is officially referred to as the "Fatherland Liberation War" or alternatively the "Chosǒn [Korean] War".

In China, the war is officially called the "War to Resist America and Aid Korea", although the term "Chaoxian (Korean) War" is also used in unofficial contexts.  In the U.S., the war was initially described by President Harry S. Truman as a "police action" as the United States never formally declared war on its opponents and the operation was conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.  

It has been sometimes referred to in the English-speaking world as "The Forgotten War" or "The Unknown War" because of the lack of public attention it received both during and after the war.

British UN troops advance alongside a Centurion tank, March 1951

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States liberated Korea from imperial Japanese colonial control on 15 August 1945. After the war had ended, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into two zones of occupation, the Soviets administered the northern half and the Americans administered the southern half. With the border set at the 38th parallel in 1948, two sovereign states were established as a result of geopolitical tensions of the Cold War (between the Soviet Union and the United States). A socialist state was established in the north under the communist leadership of Kim Il-sung and a capitalist state in the south under the anti-communist leadership of Syngman Rhee. Both governments of the two new Korean states claimed to be the sole legitimate government of all of Korea, and neither accepted the border as permanent.

New Zealand artillery crew in action, 1952

The conflict escalated into warfare when North Korean military (Korean People's Army, KPA) forces—supported by the Soviet Union and China—crossed the border and advanced into South Korea on 25 June 1950. The United Nations Security Council authorized the formation of the United Nations Command and the dispatch of forces to Korea to repel what was recognized as a North Korean invasion. Twenty-one countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the UN force, with the United States providing around 90% of the military personnel.


 South Korea
 United Nations


  •  United States
  •  United Kingdom
  •  Canada
  •  Turkey
  •  Australia
  •  Philippines
  •  New Zealand
  •  Thailand
  •  Ethiopia
  •  Greece
  •  France
  •  Colombia
  •  Belgium
  •  South Africa
  •  Netherlands
  •  Luxembourg
  • North Korea
  •  China
  •  Soviet Union

Men from the Royal Australian Regiment, June 1953


​"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." -Albert Pike

​"​My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.​" - Clarence Buddinton Kelland

Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 3814
25/06/2020 5:17 pm  

On 5 November 1950, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff issued orders for the retaliatory atomic bombing of Manchurian PRC military bases, if either their armies crossed into Korea or if PRC or KPA bombers attacked Korea from there. President Truman ordered the transfer of nine Mark 4 nuclear bombs "to the Air Force's Ninth Bomb Group, the designated carrier of the weapons ... [and] signed an order to use them against Chinese and Korean targets", which he never transmitted.

Many US officials viewed the deployment of nuclear-capable (but not nuclear-armed) B-29 bombers to Britain as helping to resolve the Berlin Blockade of 1948–1949. Truman and Eisenhower both had military experience and viewed nuclear weapons as potentially usable components of their military.

During Truman's first meeting to discuss the war on 25 June 1950, he ordered plans be prepared for attacking Soviet forces if they entered the war. By July, Truman approved another B-29 deployment to Britain, this time with bombs (but without their cores), to remind the Soviets of US offensive ability. Deployment of a similar fleet to Guam was leaked to The New York Times. As UN forces retreated to Pusan, and the CIA reported that mainland China was building up forces for a possible invasion of Taiwan, the Pentagon believed that Congress and the public would demand using nuclear weapons if the situation in Korea required them.

Mark 4 bomb, seen on display, transferred to the 9th Bombardment Wing, Heavy

As PVA forces pushed back the UN forces from the Yalu River, Truman stated during a 30 November 1950 press conference that using nuclear weapons was "always [under] active consideration", with control under the local military commander. The Indian ambassador, K. Madhava Panikkar, reports "that Truman announced he was thinking of using the atom bomb in Korea. But the Chinese seemed unmoved by this threat ... The PRC's propaganda against the US was stepped up. The 'Aid Korea to resist America' campaign was made the slogan for increased production, greater national integration, and more rigid control over anti-national activities. One could not help feeling that Truman's threat came in useful to the leaders of the Revolution, to enable them to keep up the tempo of their activities."

In 1951, the US escalated closest to atomic warfare in Korea. Because China deployed new armies to the Sino-Korean frontier, ground crews at the Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, assembled atomic bombs for Korean warfare, "lacking only the essential pit nuclear cores". In October 1951, the United States effected Operation Hudson Harbor to establish a nuclear weapons capability. USAF B-29 bombers practiced individual bombing runs from Okinawa to North Korea (using dummy nuclear or conventional bombs), coordinated from Yokota Air Base in east-central Japan. Hudson Harbor tested "actual functioning of all activities which would be involved in an atomic strike, including weapons assembly and testing, leading, [and] ground control of bomb aiming". The bombing run data indicated that atomic bombs would be tactically ineffective against massed infantry, because the "timely identification of large masses of enemy troops was extremely rare."

General Matthew Ridgway was authorized to use nuclear weapons if a major air attack originated from outside Korea. An envoy was sent to Hong Kong to deliver a warning to China. The message likely caused Chinese leaders to be more cautious about potential US use of nuclear weapons, but whether they learned about the B-29 deployment is unclear and the failure of the two major Chinese offensives that month likely was what caused them to shift to a defensive strategy in Korea. The B-29s returned to the United States in June.


​"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." -Albert Pike

​"​My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.​" - Clarence Buddinton Kelland

Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 3814
25/06/2020 5:26 pm  

The Korean War was among the most destructive conflicts of the modern era, with approximately 3 million war fatalities and a larger proportional civilian death toll than World War II or the Vietnam War. It incurred the destruction of virtually all of Korea's major cities, thousands of massacres by both sides (including the mass killing of tens of thousands of suspected communists by the South Korean government), and the torture and starvation of prisoners of war by the North Korean command. North Korea became among the most heavily-bombed countries in history.

Pyongyang in May 1951

Postwar recovery was different in the two Koreas. South Korea stagnated in the first postwar decade.

Following extensive USAF bombing, North Korea "had been virtually destroyed as an industrial society." After the armistice, Kim Il-Sung requested Soviet economic and industrial assistance.

Korean War memorials are found in every UN Command Korean War participant country; this one is in Pretoria, South Africa.


The Korean Peninsula at night, shown in a 2012 composite photograph from NASA

Peak strength:

  •  602,902
  •  326,863
  •  14,198
  •  8,123
  •  5,453
  •  2,282
  •  1,496
  •  1,385
  •  1,290
  •  1,271
  •  1,263
  •  1,185
  •  1,068
  •  900
  •  826
  •  819
  •  346
  •  170
  •  120
  •  105
  •  100
  •  72
  •  44

Together: 972,334


Peak strength:

  •  1,450,000
  •  266,600
  •  26,000

Together: 1,742,000


Casualties and losses

Total dead and missing: 170,927 dead and 32,585 missing (162,394 South Koreans, 36,574 Americans, 4,544 others)
Total wounded: 566,434

Total dead and missing: 398,000–589,000 dead and 145,000+ missing (335,000-526,000 North Koreans, 208,729 Chinese, 299 others)
Total wounded: 686,500

  • Total civilians killed: 2–3 million (est.)
  • South Korea: 990,968 killed/wounded
    373,599 killed
    229,625 wounded
    387,744 abducted/missing
  • North Korea: 1,550,000 killed/wounded (est.)

​"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." -Albert Pike

​"​My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.​" - Clarence Buddinton Kelland