This Day in History
Korean Winter

Korean Winter
November 28, 1950

At the Cairo Conference of 1943, the Allied leaders pledged that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” Russia’s last-minute entry into the war against Japan - it came on August 9, 1945 - enabled her to move troops into the Korean peninsula, and at the surrender negotiations Korea was divided into zones of occupation - United States and Russian - at the 38th parallel. That did not, at the time, seem alarming and when in January 1950, Secretary of State Acheson outlined a “defensive perimeter” vital to our security, he did not include either Formosa or Korea. Just five months after that speech, North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations denounced the invasion and called on its members to resist it. President Truman reacted instantly by ordering American ships and troops to Korea. For almost two months the North Koreans had things all their own way; but by mid-September General MacArthur had seized the offensive, recaptured Seoul, and stormed across the 38th parallel on the way to the northern border at the Yalu River. China responded by massing troops on the Yalu River and, late in November, unleashing a ferocious counter-attack which sent the United States forces reeling back across the 38th parallel to face disaster.

That winter saw some of the cruelest warfare in American history - a treacherous terrain, a ferocious enemy equipped with Russian-made tanks and planes and with almost unlimited Chinese manpower. When MacArthur threatened to retaliate by bombing mainland China, Truman recalled him. Finally the United Nations forces managed to restore supremacy in South Korea; and when the next June the Soviet Union suggested an armistice at the 38th parallel, Washington welcomed the proposal.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.