The Korean War
Following World War II, the
United States and the Soviet Union agreed in 1945 to divide Korea into U.S. and Soviet occupation zones,
with the U.S. staying south of the thirty-eighth Parallel. Tension began to mount in early 1950
following the failure of efforts to unite the country. In 1947 the U.S. submitted the Korean question to
the U.N. General Assembly for disposition, but Russia refused to go along. South Korea held elections
anyway in May 1948 under U.N. supervision, while the Russians set up a puppet government in the north.
On June 25, 1950, North Korean troops crossed the thirty-eighth parallel in force. Within hours of
the attack, the United States responded. It pushed a resolution through the U.N. Security Council that
gave the U.N.'s approval and support for military action against North Korea. The U.S. began to support
the South Koreans with air and sea units. However, the North Korean Army continued to drive the South
Korean Army down the peninsula, the American bombing missions having virtually no effect on slowing the
North. In response, The U.S. sent in the American troops that were stationed in Japan. Arriving just in
aided the South Koreans in holding the Pusan bridgehead through June and July. By August it was clear
that the U.S. troops under General MacArthur would be able to hold the North Korean, and possibly even
roll them back. On September 15, MacArthur outflanked the North Koreans with an amphibious landing at
Inchon, far up the Korean peninsula. In a little more than a week, MacArthur's troops took the South
Korean capital, Seoul, back, an action which cut off the North Korea n forces around Pusan.
U.S. Marines climb ladders during the assault at Inchon.
Credit: Compton's 1998 Interactive Encyclopedia
American authorization to conduct military operations north of the thirty-eighth parallel, MacArthur
crossed the parallel in an effort to invade North Korea. That same day, October 7, the U.N. approved an
American resolution endorsing the action. The Chinese issued a series of warnings to the United States,
saying that they would not "sit back with folded hands and let the Americans come to the border." The
U.S. ignored this and continued to invade North Korea. Finally, China made a public statement on
October 10 that they would become involved in the conflict if the Americans continued north. MacArthur
advanced into North Korea by two separated routes, leaving his middle wide open. The Chinese poured
thousands of "volunteers" into the gap, and sent the Americans reeling back. Within two weeks, the
Chinese had cleared much of North Korea.
In January and February 1951, MacArthur resumed the offensive, and drove the Chinese and the North
Koreans back. He reached the thirty-eighth parallel by March. Peace talks began on July 10, 1951. They
broke down on July 12. For the rest of the year they were on again, off again. The lines began to
stabilize around the thirty-eighth parallel. By July 1953, North Korea and America reached an armistice
that restored the pre-war conditions.
For more information on the Korean War go to:
Korean War Project
50th Anniversary of the
Korean War 1950-1953
The Vietnam War began in 1957, and was divided into Communist ruled North Vietnam and non-Communist
South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese and some of their South Vietnamese supporters fought to take over
The ruler of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, became increasingly unpopular when he ended local elections
and appointed his own village officials. In 1957 members in the south began to rebel against Diem. Diem
called these rebels Viet Cong, meaning Vietnamese Communists. North Vietnam supported the revolt from
the early stages, and began to develop a supply route to South Vietnam in 1959, which came to be known
as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States sent several hundred U.S. civilian and military advisors to
By 1960, discontent with the Diem government was widespread, and the Viet Cong had about 10,000 troops.
They soon began to attack South Vietnamese army bases, and threatened in 1961 to overthrow Diem's
government. In response, President John F. Kennedy greatly expanded economic and military aid to South
Vietnam. From 1961 to 1963, he increased the number of U.S. advisors in Vietnam from 900 to over 16,000.
In May 1963, unrest broke out within the Buddhist population of South
Vietnam. They were upset that
Diem's government was restricting their religious practices. The government responded with mass arrests
and raids on Buddhist temples after large protests were staged. A group of generals who opposed Diem's
harsh treatment and policies overthrew the Diem government and murdered him. A period of political
disorder followed, with new governments coming in rapid succession. North Vietnam stepped up its supply
of war materials and began to send its own army units into the South. By late 1964, the Viet Cong
controlled up to 75 over cent of South Vietnam's population.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson
announced that the U.S. destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy had been attacked in the Gulf
of Tonkin, off the coast of North Vietnam. Some Americans doubted that the attack had occurred, and the
never been confirmed. Johnson ordered immediate air strikes against North Vietnam, and received power
from Congress to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United
States and to prevent further aggression." In M arch 1965, John used this power to send a group of U.S.
Marines to South Vietnam. The war grew. The United States forces rose from about 60,000 in mid-1965 to
a peak of over 543,000 in 1969. They joined 800,000 South Vietnamese troops and about 69,000 men from
Australia, New Zealand, the Philippine, South Korea, and Thailand. The North
Vietnamese and the Viet Cong had over 300,000 troops.
The American leaders hoped that superior
U.S. firepower would force the enemy to stop fighting, and thus relied on bombing missions over North
Vietnam, and "search and destroy" missions on the ground in the south. The Viet Cong and North
Vietnamese prefer red guerilla tactics, including ambushes and hand-laid bombs. They had knowledge of
the terrain and large amounts of war equipment from the Soviet Union and China. The two sides fought to
a destructive draw between 1965 and 1967. The highly destructive bombing of the north did not affect
the enemy's willingness or ability to keep fighting.
Opposition to the war began to mount in
America. Increased casualties and taxes produced a large drop of support for the war. The Tet offensive
also had a major impact. This new phase of the war began on Jan. 30, 1968 wh
cities of South Vietnam. This caused Johnson to call for peace negotiations.
These peace talks
failed to produce an agreement, so President Nixon, feeling he had to reduce the U.S. involvement in the
war, announced a new policy known as Vietnamization. This policy called for stepped up training programs
of South Vietnamese forces and a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops in Vietnam.
In March 1972, North Vietnam began a major invasion of South Vietnam, which was stopped by the Americans
just short of Saigon, South Vietnam's capital. Peace negotiations ensued, and on Jan 27, 1973 a cease
fire agreement was signed, in which the U.S. agreed to withdraw its troops. It also called for
internationally supervised election to decide the future of South Vietnam. The last U.S. troops left on
March 29, 1973, but peace talks broke down and the war resumed. No American troops returned to the war,
and the U.S. reduced its aid. The war ended on April 39, 1975 when South Vietnam surrendered.
Vietnam: Yesterday and Today
The Wars for Vietnam
The Cuban Missle Crisis
Before the Cuban Missle Crisis occurred, the Soviet Union were way ahead
in the technology race. They didn't believe they needed to make ICBMs (see Technology)
because of the present state of their economy, and so the Soviets started production of
MRBM's (Medium Range Balistic Missle) and IRBM's (Intermediate Range Balistic Missles).
With the advice of the Strategic Rocket Forces, a Soviet organization, and the
backing of premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, 42 MRBM's and 24 IRBM's were shipped to
Cuba, escorted by about 22,000 soldiers in the early months of 1962.
On October 22, 1962, Kennedy announced to the public that the Soviet
Union had placed nuclear missles in Cuba, close to 90 miles from the American
coast. For months the Soviet union had been shipping a couple thousand vehicles
and around 22,000 men to Cuba in an offensive attempt to attack the US.
For this Kennedy put Cuba under quarantine. He had only two other choices, a surgical air strike or doing nothing, and the these would be
either too much or too little action. During that week, meetings went on inside the White House as Kennedy's
administration prepared for a possible nuclear war. Finally on October 28, 1962
Khrushchev announced that the missles were placed on Cuba for offensive reasons
and that now the construction of the sites had stopped. World War III had been averted.
Multimedia files about the Cuban Missle Crisis
*Audio files from the Executive Committee Meeting on October 18, 1962.
For more information on the Cuban Missle Crisis see:
14 days in October
The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Bay of Pigs
About a year before the Cuban missle crisis, an incident occurred in Cuba that
raised the idea of conspiracy in the U.S. government. On April 15, 1961, bombings
occurred in Cuba by what seemed like cuban planes. That Saturday morning, three
Cuban Military Bases were bombed by B-26 bombers. 54 people died in this attack.
After the bombings, two of the B-26's flew to Miami. A statement was released by
the Cuban Revolutionary Council in New York saying that the bombings in Cuba
were "carried out by 'Cubans inside Cuba' who were 'in contact with' the top
command of the Revolutionary Council."
The planes landed in Miami, one at the Key West Naval Air Station and the
other at Miami international, both in terrible condition with their gas tanks
nearly empty. A picture of one f the pilots was shown in the New York Times,
hiding behind a baseball cap and dark sunglasses. Even his name was withheld
from the newspaper.
On April 17, the assault on the Bay of Pigs began. A team of frogmen set up
landing lights and cleared the area for the main assault force. Between 2:30 and
3:00 AM, two battalion arrived at Playa Girón and one battalion at Playa Larga.
The area at which they landed was swampy which was hard on the troops.
Fidel Castro reacted quickly and sent T-33 trainer jets, two Sea Furies, and two
B-26's to stop the invaders. They destroyed the supply ships, including the Houston,
and the command vessel the Marsopa.With the supply and command ships lost, the
invading forces' logistics of the operation soon broke down.
Castro's T-33 took out the invaders' B-26's. By Wednesday, 10 of the invader's 12
planes were shot out of the sky. After 72 hours of fighting, the invader's surrendured but 114
had already died. Another 36 died in Cuban prison cells being held as men plotting to overthrow
Castro's reign. The Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations were blamed for this assault
as an attempt not to lose Latin America's resources that are exported to the USA
to be exploited by the Soviets.
For more information on the Bay of Pigs invasion see:
Bay of Pigs
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End of War