Truce Tent and the Fighting Front

separator-rwb.jpg (3623 bytes)

The talks began on July 10, 1951.  Expecting the cease fire line to be exactly on the parallel, the communists balked when the U.N. refused to move back from their good defensive positions just north of the line to where none existed at the parallel.  The CCF/NKPA delegates walked out.  The U.N. renewed their offensive action, which had been curtailed to show sincerity during the peace talks.  In hard, hard fighting, the U.S. 2nd Division, the French Battalion, and some ROK troops forced the NKPA from Bloody Ridge and Heartbreak Ridge.  The North Koreans claimed it was their most difficult battle of the whole war.

The pressure brought the Communists back to the peace table on November 27, 1951, and slow, slow progress was made, although they were most difficult in negotiations.  The last item to be settled was the exchange of prisoners.  A huge number of U.N.-held prisoners did not wish to be returned to the Communist side, while the Communists naturally argued that all should be returned.  Disagreement on this point prolonged the fighting for 15 months and all the world could see that "...liberty and justice for all..." was not merely an empty phrase with the United States of America.

During the lull in U.N. offensive action, the NKPA/CCF improved their position to an extent not possible for their less mobile forces during normal activity.  They brought up artillery until they had more guns on line than the U.N.  They prepared well dug-in positions in depth, some as far back as 20 miles.

During the lull in U.N. offensive action, the NKPA/CCF improved their position to an extent mot possible for their less mobile forces during normal activity.  They brought up artillery until they had more guns on line than the U.N.  They prepared well dug-in positions in depth, some as far back as 20 miles.

Static warfare developed.  After November 1951, the U.N. forces staged no all-out offensives since the U.N. believed that peace was near at hand and ground gained would have to be relinquished.  But, small actions were initiated by both sides to improve the positions they held.  There were battles in the Punch Bowl and Iron Triangle areas, and names such as "Old Baldy," "White Horse," "Jackson Heights," "T-Bone," and "Pork Chop" became personal experiences where men were maimed, bled, and died while they struggled to be "king of the mountain," this mountain or that mountain.  They fought the blistering heat, the stench, the rats and bugs, the rain, the extreme cold, the snow and ice, and life in the bunkers.  They performed everlasting patrol duty to keep contact with the enemy.  The 4th and 40th Divisions replaced the 1st Cav and 24th Divisions, which went back to Japan.

Highly valued by the ground troops was the close support U.N. fighter-bombers provided.  Initially, the Air Force encountered difficulty in establishing a uniform system of close support for ground troops -- the most complex of its tactical missions -- from the three different systems used in World War II; one from Europe, one from Central Pacific, and one from Southwest Pacific.  Tactical Air Control Parties (TACP) were assigned to each infantry regiment which was expected to use its own artillery for any targets within 1,000 yards of its front line.  The Marines provided controllers for each rifle battalion (three battalions per regiment at full strength) which expected to use air support as its artillery, based on the invasion of small islands during WWII where sufficient artillery was often not available.  Controversy over the systems continued throughout the war.

The heavy bombing of North Korea certainly hampered their war effort, but proved to be not as decisive as its advocates claimed.  Early in the war, the U.N. Air Forces easily defeated the small North Korean Force.  B-29 Superfortress ranged over the North but by November 1950 were forced into mostly night operations as China entered the war.  Russian pilots, disguised as Chinese, flew their MiG-15 fighters from air fields in Manchuria (off limits to U.N. planes) to attack bombers over the north.  In the first aerial combat between jet aircraft, the MiGs outclassed the U.N. F-80s and F-84s.  However, the superiority of U.N. pilots maintained air supremacy until the arrival of the F-86 Saberjet, a match for the Russian plane.  A 10-to-1 kill ratio was achieved over the MiGs. Communist air was never used to support their effort on the ground.

The new Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (M*A*S*H), stationed up close to the fighting front, reduced the deaths due to battle wounds by 50% of World War II figures.  Helicopters were first used to evacuate wounded, supply and transport troops.

Most of the American POWs were captured during the first six months of the war.  About 50% died due to wounds, disease, exposure, and malnutrition.  Those that did survive in harsh, primitive, subhuman conditions were subjected to "brainwashing," a program to destroy faith in their country and convert them to Communism.  Much publicity was given to the "turncoats," the 22 (one British) who stayed behind, while 3,766 Americans and 977 British returned to their homeland.  The "brainwashing" could hardly be termed successful.

Embarrassed that so many of their POWs were refusing repatriation, the Communists instigated their hard-liners in U.N. custody to riot.  They captured a camp commandant and although he was later released, it was a very humiliating incident.  About 22,000 Communist-POWs screened by troops from neutral India refused to return.  Another 25,000 were released against U.N. wishes by President Syngman Rhee to fade into the countryside.

In May and June of 1953, the NKPA/CCF launched some of the largest attacks of the war, mostly against ROK troops, in an effort to influence the peace talks.  Rhee was refusing to sign an armistice that left his country divided.  Now with experienced leadership, better equipment, and better trained personnel, the South Korean units were no longer the undependable force they had been at the beginning, but were able to hold and inflict heavy losses on the enemy.  These greatly improved troops occupied two-thirds of the U.N. line.  Rhee agreed not to invade the north, but never did sign the cease-fire agreement which the other belligerents did on July 27, 1953.  Elected in 1952, President Eisenhower had let it be known in May '53 that if a negotiated settlement could not be reached, he was prepared to seek a military solution, implying the use of atomic bombs and earlier measures advocated by MacArthur.  How much did the March '53 death of Stalin or the May Eisenhower "promise" influence the Communists to accept the U.N. terms?

The original U.N. mission to repel the attack and restore peace had been accomplished.  Communistic military aggression had been defeated.  Communist casualties have been estimated at 500,000 North Koreans and over 1,000,000 Chinese.

A worldwide alarm had been sounded to aggressors that force would be met with counterforce.  A degree of stability came on the world scene which cannot be calculated.  The U.S. had completely shed its traditionally isolationist shell and fully accepted the role of leadership of the free world thrust upon it by the results of World War II.  Before Korea, America had only one commitment outside of the western hemisphere -- NATO.  By the mid-1950s, there were 450 military bases in 36 countries with links to 20 countries outside of Latin America, including Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.

"It was a war in which we turned the tide against
Communism for the first time.  Our defense of freedom
laid the foundation for the march of democracy we're
seeing today around the world."

President George Bush, May 1, 1990

[Footnotes:  The U.S. Army, with a strength of 591,000 in 1950, had to be tripled in order to meet international commitments and fight a war on a 150 mile-wide peninsula.  Today, with almost twice the population of then, plans are to reduce Army strength to below the 1950 level.]

Return to Previous Page

  Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library  

Of Interest to Korean War Veterans

Remember Our DMZ Veterans

What Happened to Your Vet?

Reference Desk

Vietnam Issues

Public Service Announcements

Respect Your Flag

Search Here



Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library

Home Page                  Guest Book