This Day in History
Korean Winter

On a day like this in the winter of 1950-1951

At the Cairo Conference of 1943, the allied leaders pledged, “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 to 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 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 the South. The United Nations denounced the invasion and called on its members to resist it. 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 and, late in November, unleashing a ferocious counterattack, sent the United States forces reeling back across the 38th Parallel.

That winter saw some of the cruelest warfare in American history-a treacherous terrain and a ferocious enemy equipped with Russian-made tanks and planes. When MacArthur threatened to bomb mainland China, Truman recalled him. Finally the United Nations forces came out on top in South Korea; and when the next June the Soviet Union suggested an armistice at the 38th parallel, Washington welcomed the proposal.

March's Archived Features:

Monday March 1, 2021
Tuesday March 2, 2021



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.