U.N. Involvement in the Korean War
"...furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security to the area."The Response:
Countries which furnished combat units & their peak strength in Korea -
Australia - 2,282
Canada - 6,146
Colombia - 1,068
Ethiopia - 1,271
France - 1,119
Greece - 1,263
Netherlands - 819
New Zealand - 1,389
Philippines - 1,496
Republic of Korea - 590,911
Republic of South Africa - 826
Thailand - 1,294
Turkey - 5,455
United Kingdom - Great Britain - 14,198
United States - 348,000
Countries that furnished medical units -
I. Status of Offers of Military Assistance to the Unified Command for Korea - (As of October 17, 1952)
"Special Report by the Unified Command Under the United States, Letter Dated 18 October 1952 from the Chairman of the United States Delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations, Addressed to the Secretary-General," 18 October 1952, Warren R. Austin, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Ann Whitman File, Papers of the President of the United States 1953-1961, International Series, Box 35, Korea 1952 Trip, Annex B, p.49-50."
The following statistics are based on the 1954 Department of Defense data base and the 37 month breakdowns reflect information based on the period of hostilities between June 25, 1950 and July 27, 1953 when the Armistice was signed.
*In 1994/95, the DOD added 22 more names to the hostile database (the total is now 54,268) and also made a number of corrections and reclassifications. For an overview of the latest casualty statistics for the Korean War, continue reading this Statistics Web Page for Marty O'Brien's "In a Nutshell."
Comparing the two wars, it is easy to see that the Korean War well earns its reputation as one of the bloodiest wars in American history. And, keep in mind, Americans are still dying in Korea even today.
Here is a summary comparison of the 1954 figures, 1980 figures and the 1994/95 figures for hostile casualties, upon which my Nutshell is based in part:
Estimated Casualties of the Korean War
*This history, provided by KCAC veteran Roger Bradley of New York, was written in April of l954.
The Korea Civil Assistance Command (KCAC) was created a major command of the Far East Command on 1 July 1953, as a successor to the United Nations Civil Assistance Command (UNCACK). Having personnel originating from 21 countries of the free world and specialists in nearly a dozen fields, KCAC retains the same responsibilities of UNCACK -- "the prevention of starvation, disease and unrest" -- with the added function of "rehabilitation." It has grown from a war-time, emergency effort to an organization dedicated to the relief and restoration of the Koreans -- by helping Koreans help themselves.
Basically, KCAC is a military unit of the US Army. It is, moreover, a United Nations effort, providing an outlet for member nations to provide food, supplies and technical assistance to the Republic of Korea. Initially, civil assistance took the form of a complement of 29 officers, 16 enlisted men and 18 civilians, organized as an emergency measure by the Commander-in-Chief, UNC, "to make an immediate survey to determine in what way the UNC could help the ROK to maintain stability in the face of their crisis."
Later, in October 1950, an agency was created under the Army and designated the US Public Health and Welfare Detachment. In December, it was renamed the UN Civil Assistance Command, Korea (UNCACK). The mission of UNCACK was to assume that front line action could carry on uninterrupted by unrest in the rear areas. Headquarters was established near the seat of the ROK government in Pusan. In the field, operations were conducted by provincial teams, one in each province and one each on the islands of Cheju-do and Koje-do. (Since that time the Koje-do team has been dropped and a special team added for the city of Seoul.)
Each team was so organized as to include specialists in the fields of public health, welfare, safety, economics, education, civil information and civil supply. Working in close cooperation with provincial officials, they received and made distribution of all types of relief goods. From a small organization of 63 persons, UNCACK grew to a large command of over 700. Of great importance was the contribution made by the Public Health section. Faced with the fact that more than 240,000 men, women and children had lost their lives due to disease and deprivation, medical men went to work, and through UNCACK, began to call forward huge supplies of vaccines and other emergency supplies to meet the need.
Typhoid was reduced more than 96 percent and deaths from this disease fell 97 percent in a period of a year. Typhus showed a reduction of 77 percent and diphtheria went down 87 percent in a year.
Of an estimated 40,000 lepers in Korea, more than 12,000 are now under treatment.
But the accomplishments of UNCACK and KCAC would not have been
possible had it not received the cooperation it did from many other agencies of the United
Nations. The United Nations Korea Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA) has worked hand and hand
with UNCACK and KCAC throughout their years in Korea.
Retaining some identity in internal make-up with the headquarters KCAC, the field teams utilize both military and civilian personnel to carry out their mission, and maintain advisory personnel to coordinate assistance projects with local officials. Although the size of each team may differ with locale, the typical team averages slightly over 20 persons plus Korean personnel. Each team has approximately five officers with the remainder evenly divided among civilian technicians and enlisted men.
With sections dealing in public health, welfare, housing, sanitation, and agriculture, specialists are utilized to assist the speedy and efficient expedition of the civil assistance program as it affects the individual province. In addition to giving on-the-spot relief to any area stricken by disaster, the teams offer a "grass roots" example of what cooperation can mean to the Korean people in their struggle to build a stable economy.
The primary mission of KCAC's Agriculture Branch is to rehabilitate and increase the agricultural and forestry production of South Korea.
More than 70 percent of the population derive the major portion of their incomes from this source. Therefore, it is essential that programs directed toward the rehabilitation of South Korea's agricultural and forestry activities should receive prime consideration.
Production of sufficient food to maintain the ever increasing population has become a greater problem each year. Erosion, caused as a result of the destruction of forests to produce fuel for cooking, heating and lumber for construction, has greatly decreased the amount of arable land in South Korea. As the population increases, agricultural programs must aid to (1) increase production by all available means, (2) reclaim all previously unproductive land capable of producing food, (3) prevent further erosion, (4) prevent destruction and loss from plant diseases, insects, & other pests, (5) increase livestock and (6) prevent infectious diseases.
Programs for Korean agricultural rehabilitation has become the responsibility of United Nations organizations since the Korean economy is at such a low ebb. The ROK neither has the money nor the technical knowledge to undertake projects of this nature. It is hoped the Koreans will absorb the more advanced agricultural methods introduced by the UN agencies and will strive for maximum production from their land in the future.
The basic mission of the Communications Branch is to assist the ROK in rehabilitating its communications system. Combating problems created by wartime devastation and lack of technically trained Korean personnel, this branch is endeavoring to help lay the groundwork for more ambitious programs to come. In addition to offering technical advice this branch is aiding in planning the expenditures of FOA funds allocated to reconstruct the communications system in Korea.
Under the FOA program for FY54, $4.7 million has been programmed to provide the following communications facilities (1) 20,000 lines of automatic telephone equipment for the city of Seoul, (2) a school to train communications specialists, (3) 3,000 line manual switchboard and distribution plant for Taejon, (4) 1,000 line manual switchboard and distribution plant for Masan, (5) a distribution cable plant in Seoul, (6) equipment and vehicles for maintenance of telephone plant, (7) radio equipment for the domestic radio-telegraph system. Future funds will be used for the restoration of other communication facilities, particularly toll centers and trunk circuits to link the communities together. This branch will continue to base its operations upon the local requirements, economic status of the country and technical ability of the Koreans in an endeavor to restore the maximum amount of communications possible with the FOA funds made available for that purpose.
The basic mission of the Power Branch is the restoration of present power plants and transmission systems which have been damaged by combat action, lack of maintenance and age. The secondary mission, and increasingly more important, is the new development of necessary and adequate generating plants and transmission and distributing facilities to meet the needs of an expanded industry in the ROK.
The present power system is part of a system formerly extending to the Yalu River and was not designed for the isolated type of operation now existing. There are many deficiencies in the system resulting from this isolated operation together with damages caused by war and depreciation. For the past several years, about one-third of the power used in South Korea has been produced by US owned and operated barges located at Pusan and Masan, and costing the US taxpayer about $3,000,000 per year.
A plan for future production has been prepared in conference with combined planning groups of FOA, UNKRA, KCAC and ROK, which will increase the present maximum generating capacity from 238,000 KW to 480,000 KW and provide 300,000 KW of dependable power as compared to an estimated minimum demand of 225,000 KW by 1960. This plan includes further rehabilitation of existing power and transmission facilities. In addition, 3 new thermal and 3 new hydro plants are planned. Two of these latter are FOA projects and one is by the ROK.
Public Works Branch
The Public Works Branch has the mission of advising and assisting its counterpart in the Republic of Korea government, other branches of KCAC Headquarters, when requested, on matters requiring technical guidance to promote and improve the efficiency in the field of public works.
Personnel of this branch work in close cooperation with Korean officials of various ministries on the design and preparation of plans and estimates of materials and labor necessary for the construction of hospitals, orphanages and other welfare institutions, waterworks and sanitation projects, highways and bridges, government buildings, city planning, and grain warehouses.
Since September 1951, when the first allocation of CRIK materials was
made, there has been over 100,000,000 board feet of lumber allocated for various projects.
Nails, roofing paper, cement and glass constitute the other major demands. In the FOA
program for 1954, $11 million has been set aside for public works. The major portion of
these funds will be used to rehabilitate water plants and other public utilities, streets,
roads and bridges, government buildings, and grain warehouses.
Public Health Branch
The basic mission of the Public Health Branch is to prevent disease and unrest. Under KCAC supervision, acute communicable diseases have been reduced from epidemics to small local outbreaks, water systems have been made operational, professional and health education have been initiated, stimulated and expanded, and the chronic diseases have begun to receive major attention. The branch is divided into five sections -- Preventive Medicine, Medical Care, Nursing Affairs, Environmental Sanitation and Medical Supply.
Under the Preventive Medicine Section comes the mass immunization programs aimed at reducing and preventing disease. These programs proved exceptionally successful in reducing the number of cases and the death rate from disease. The Medical Care Section is concerned with improving medical institutions and raising the caliber of professional personnel operating these institutions. Nursing Affairs Section renders consultant and advisory services to the national and provincial governments in addition to operational duties within the KCAC public health programs. The Sanitation Section primarily assists and advises the ROK Ministry of Health on coordinated sanitation programs. The Medical Supply Section is organized to advise and assist on matters pertaining to programming of medical and sanitation supplies for Korea.
Social Affairs Branch
The Social Affairs Branch is responsible for the relief and welfare
aspects of the KCAC mission in Korea, part of which is the prevention of disease,
starvation and unrest among the civilian population. The broad Social Affairs mission is
to insure minimum relief to needy refugees, war sufferers and other indigent persons in
the ROK; to promote return of refugees and other indigent persons to a productive status
in the Korean economy; to assist the ROK in development and administration of public
welfare programs and services suitable to the overall economy of the nation.
Basic policies governing the UNC relief and welfare programs dictate
that all UN relief goods must be pooled for distribution against general relief needs;
economically and effectively used to prevent starvation, disease and unrest; allocated on
the basis of greatest need; and distributed through ROK channels in accordance with
procedures jointly agreed to by KAC and responsible ROK authorities and approved by the
Combined Economic Board.
Voluntary relief agencies with established missions in Korea are authorized and encouraged to operate their programs and to import relief supplies in their direct support. The Branch furnishes technical advice and guidance to the ROK Ministry of Social Affairs on programs for needy refugees, war sufferers, and other categories of destitute persons; on programs to reduce the number of persons dependent upon relief; and helps develop effective plans for allocation and distribution of relief goods.
The primary mission of the Supply Division is to supervise the
receipt, handling and accounting for all Civilian Aid Supplies shipped into Korea,
regardless of whether they are furnished by member nations of the United Nations or by
private relief organizations in the United States and other countries. Basically, the
Supply Division is divided into four branches; Civil Supply, Movements Control, Sales and
The Civil Supply Branch acquires and develops information necessary for the proper handling and control of relief supplies. This branch maintains records of approved supply programs and forecasts, and schedules the arrival into port facilities of all supplies for Korea. A schedule of distribution throughout Korea is developed in conjunction with the forecasting and shipping. Movements Control Branch prepares the movement plan for receipt, port clearance, transportation and "in transit" storage of supplies for which KCAC has responsibility. The major supply items received are grain, coal, POL, fertilizer, lumber and cement. Sales Branch supervises the sale of CRIK materials and Army surplus and salvage items as are turned over to the command for distribution to Korean Employees Sale Stores. These facilities serve Korean employees of UN installations. The Records Branch compiles and maintains the necessary records and reports to account for receipt of all civilian supplies for Korea.
The mission of the Transportation Branch of KCAC is to rehabilitate and develop the transportation system of the ROK with an eye toward increasing its capacity to expedite goods between the principal points of use. The development of the transportation system under Japanese occupation left a marked deficiency in the lines connecting the eastern and western coasts, and normal connection was available only North and South between the principal cities of ROK.
Since all forms of transportation are inter-dependent, the development of any one form depends in large measure upon the capacity for expansion of the others. In planning for the rehabilitation of the ROK's transportation system the following factors were taken into consideration. The transportation system of Korea is comprised of the Korean National Railway (KNR) having 1,683 miles of route; 10 major and 5 secondary ports; a merchant marine of 39 vessels, 14 of which are ocean going; a network of 9,540 miles of roads which is not paved safe for Seoul and Pusan; a fleet of old trucks and buses; 2,000 small wooden vessels, and streetcar systems in Seoul and Pusan.
Taking all factors into consideration, lack of adequate transportation facilities is the greatest single factor hampering the economic recovery of Korea. The transportation program as drawn up is calculated to enable imports under the expanded aid program to be distributed properly and to promote the internal economy of the country.
The Terms of Reference provided for a commission composed of the representatives of five nations to oversee the prisoners not being directly repatriated. The neutral nations chosen to form the commission were Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, Czechoslovakia and India. The representative from India was to be chairman and executive agent for the NNRC. India was also to provide a brigade of troops to guard the prisoners while they were being held in compounds within the Demilitarized Zone near Panmunjom. Because of the refusal of the Republic of Korea to permit the Indian custodian troops to set foot on South Korean soil, the UNC carried the entire brigade to the Demilitarized Zone in one of the largest helicopter operations in military history. The Indian Custodian Force camp was named "Hind Nagar" meaning "Indian City" and the camp which housed the NNRC delegation was named "Shanti Nagar" meaning "City of Peace."
As set forth in the Armistice Agreement, all prisoners who indicated that they wanted to return to their homeland were to be repatriated within sixty days after the effective date of the Armistice. All prisoners who refused repatriation were then to be handed over to the custody of the NNRC. There, the nations to which the PWs belonged would have freedom to send representatives to explain their rights to the prisoners. The Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command (CINCUNC), activated the United Nations Command Repatriation Group (UNCREG) on 1 September 1953 to deal specifically with the Terms of Reference for the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission. The activation of the United Nations Command Repatriation Group freed the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) to deal specifically with the Armistice Agreement without dissipating its effort on the Terms of Reference. Specifically, the mission of UNCREG was to insure that all PWs have the opportunity to exercise full freedom of choice, to insure that the efforts of the Communist explainers be not coercive, and to explain to the non-repatriate UNC prisoners their rights and their freedom of choice.
The United Nations Command Repatriation Group was organized to perform one of the most vital tasks still left undone in implementing the Armistice Agreement. After completion of the exchange of those prisoners who desired repatriation, explanations to 22,951 non-repatriate prisoners was the major remaining task to be accomplished. There were no textbooks or precedents to guide the UNC in this task.
On 24 September, the Custodian Forces, India (CFI) completed taking custody of the non-repatriates when it received in its North Camp the 359 UNC non-repats from the Communist command. Two days earlier the United Nations Command completed its delivery of 7,890 North Korean and 14,702 Chinese prisoners to the South CFI camp. Meanwhile, the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC) was preparing rules for the conduct of explanations at both camps in the Demilitarized Zone.
Although the NNRC assumed custody of the prisoners of war on 24 September, explanations were not initiated until 15 October. This unexpected delay in the start of explanations came as a result of a last minute protest by the Communists that the explanation sites built by the UNC engineers at the South Camp were inadequate and did not meet their specifications. The Communists insisted that these specifications be met before any explanations would be made by their side. After several changes in NNRC construction requirements, the thirty-two new explanation points were rushed to completion and ready for explanations by midnight, 13 October.
While the hurried construction was being completed, the CFI was encountering trouble from the supposedly docile prisoners in the South Camp. The PWs, uncertain as to their ultimate fate, sitll lacked confidence in their Indian custodians. Due to the presence of Communist observers in the South Camp, the Chinese and North Korean non-repatriates demonstrated. These demonstrations created a number of touchy and difficult situations for the CFI. On two occasions the Indian guards fired into groups of demonstrating prisoners.
Lt. General K.S. Thimayya, the chairman of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission, held his first press conference on 6 October with press representatives from both the UNC and Communist camps.
Facing an imposing battery of cameras, microphones, movie and TV equipment and correspondents, General Thimayya conducted the crowded conference with competence, tact and assurance. The Communists had already begun their tirade of unreasonable demands and accusations that were to continue throughout the entire operation. While the explanation sites were being constructed, they demanded that the 90-day explanation period be counted from the first day that the prisoners and the Communist explainers actually met in the tents at the explanation area.
The NNC steadfastly opposed any extension of the explanation period beyond the termination date of 23 December as dictated by the Terms of Reference.
With three weeks already lost, time became an important factor for the Communists if they intended to persuade the thousands of anti-Communist prisoners to return to Communism. On the morning of 14 October, the Communist command requested that the NNRC deliver one thousand Chinese prisoners to the explanation sites for explanations on 15 October. The prisoners, however, did not come out for explanations until they were assured by General Thimayya that they would not be segregated. Then 491 violent, rebellious prisoners received persuasion talks from the Communist explainers that first day. And more important, only ten of the total returned to Communist control. This small percentage of defectors, which was to set the pattern throughout the entire explanation period, must have come as a crushing blow to the Communists' hopes of luring home their former troops. More encouraging but confusing to the Communists must have been the occasional "bug outs." These PWs, who asked for repatriation before they were explained to, actually outnumbered the PWs whom the Communists were able to persuade to return to their homeland.
The next day the Communists were again able to stall explanations by requesting 1,000 Koreans instead of the Chinese who were willing to come to the explanation sessions. The Indian guards could find no means to get the prisoners to come out of their compounds, short of physical force and violence. The third day, 17 October, was much the same as the first day. Although the Communists asked for 1,000 Chinese prisoners, they explained to only 430 of whom ten were repatriated. Again the Chinese prisoners were vocal in their condemnation of the communist explainers.
One of the major controversies of the explanation operations -- should physical force be used to bring the prisoners to the explanation sessions -- came as a result of these first three days of active explanations. The Communists demanded that the prisoners be dragged to the tents and forced to listen to extended sessions of intense grilling. The Swiss and Swede members of the NNRC insisted that such action would violate both the word and spirit of the Terms of Reference and the Geneva Convention.Monday, 19 October, proved to be a repetition of the second day, as 1,000 Koreans were requested but couldn't be induced to come out of their compounds. Although the Chinese non-repats actually expressed a desire to attend the explanations, the Communists persisted for Korean prisoners who would not leave their compounds. By these tactics the Communists hoped to cause the NNRC to use force on the prisoners, which would create strife and bloodshed, and would possibly cause the Republic of Korea to take action against the Indians.
During this two-week lull in explanations, the NNRC was divided over the issue of forcing the prisoners to attend explanations. The Polish and Czech members demanded the use of force. The Swiss and Swede members were equally adamant in their stand opposing the use of force.
So it was left to the Indian chairman to decide the issue, and he voted to support the Swede and Swiss view of "no force." On the afternoon of 21 October, UNCREG received Corporal Edward S. Dickenson, the only American prisoner to change his mind during the explanation period. He was validated and returned to the UNC at the exchange point near the NNRC headquarters at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone. During the ninety-day period, a total of seven ROK prisoners voluntarily were repatriated. One of these defectors was a woman, the wife of another prisoner who also was repatriated. Husband, wife and their two small children returned to the UNC on 16 November.
The first mail from home to be received for the Americans in the North Camp was delivered on 24 October to the CFI, to be distributed to the individual prisoners. Spokesmen for the American non-repats complained that some of the letters were political and coercive in nature and requested that the NNRC censor their mail. The NNRC, thereafter, censored all mail before distributing it to the PWs. Just when it appeared that the NNRC was hopelessly deadlocked over the issue of the use of force to make the non-repats attend explanations, General Thimayya announced that he had finally persuaded the Korean non-repatriates to come voluntarily to explanations. When explanations were resumed on 31 October, the North Korean explainers had but little more success than their Chinese comrades. They were able to persuade only 21 out of 459 to return to Communism. And they were even less successful on the following day when they regained only 19 out of 483. It was now apparent that the Communists were "losing face" by continuing the explanations. Observers wondered what their next move would be.
The next day the Communists requested Chinese non-repats and immediately started a series of delaying tactics. They prolonged each explanation session as long as the individual Indian chairman would permit. Some sessions lasted as long as four hours. But in spite of these "brain washing" tactics, they were able to lure back only 2 Chinese out of 205 on 4 November and 3 out of 136 on the following day.
The CFI did not separate prisoners who had already received explanations from those remaining in their compound. Realizing that the CFI would, therefore, be unable to determine which of the PWs in the compound had already received explanations, the Communists were again able to bring explanations to a complete standstill on 6 November by demanding the remainder of the compound to which they had been explaining the previous day. The Communists persisted in this demand until 16 November at which time they asked for Korean non-repatriates.
But when they were able to persuade only six out of 227 to return, they immediately brought explanations to a halt by again demanding to explain to the remainder of the compound on the following day. In this way they succeeded in bringing explanations in the South Camp to a standstill until 21 December.
It was on 2 December that the long awaited UNC explanations in the North Camp began with five Republic of Korea officers explaining to 30 South Korean non-repatriates. In decided contrast to the Communist sessions, the ROK "come home" talks were "brief, dignified and to the point." From the first day it was apparent that the PWs were hand-picked by their Communist captors, and were well versed in the doctrines of Communism.
Explanations to the South Koreans continued on a daily basis until 11 December at which time the PWs announced that they would no longer attend explanations. Surprisingly, their main complaint was that the explanation sessions were too short in that they were not given time to question the explainers on immaterial subjects or to make propaganda speeches. With a week and a half still remaining of the 90-day period, the UNC asked to start explanations to the American Prisoners on 14 December. But the Americans too, refused to come out of their compounds until the demands of the Korean non-repatriates were met. Thereafter, the UNC made a daily request for whomever the CFI was able to produce Americans, British or Koreans.
When it became apparent that the non-repatriate leaders in the North Camp would never permit any more of their number to face explainers, UNCREG turned to other means to present the UNC position to the prisoners. Mimeographed statements of the free choice principle were submitted for approval by the NNRC for distribution to non-repats.
When the NNRC ruled that the statements would have to be submitted to the prisoners under the conditions and procedures of a regular explanation, spokesmen for the PWs refused to accept them. Meanwhile, in the South Camp, the Communists again started explanations. During the last three days of the 90-day period, they explained to 742 Chinese prisoners but were able to persuade only 69 of them to return to Communism.
On 23 December--the very last day of the 90-day explanation period -- the American, British and Korean non-repatriates still persisted in their refusal to attend explanation sessions. UNCREG, therefore, resorted to still another means to fulfill its obligation to present the UNC free choice principle to the prisoners. By means of a loudspeaker, an American, British and Korean explained each presented a brief statement to the non-repats assembled in the North Camp compound... the prisoners replied by singing the Communist "Internationale."
Throughout the entire 90-day period the Communists used every propaganda device at their disposal to present their endless tirade of protests, accusations and deceits. But they were able to coax back to Communism only a little more than one percent (1.14%) of the 22,604 prisoners in the South Camp. The overwhelming majority of the prisoners expressed their desire to go to South Korea or Formosa. A few asked to go to one of the neutral countries. At the same time over two percent (2.23%) of the supposedly hard-core Communists in the North Camp voluntarily returned to the United Nation side.
In his letter of appreciation to Brigadier General Hamblen on the successful completion of "Operation Freepatriate," General John E. Hull, Commander in Chief, United Nations Command, wrote "...it has been the major responsibility of the United Nations Command Repatriation Group to guide this critical undertaking in wisdom, restraint and discretion. On behalf of the entire United Nations Command, I wish to express my personal appreciation to you and your personnel for the manner in which your organization has fulfilled its mission. I am fully aware of the many difficulties which you have successfully overcome and it has been a source of deep satisfaction to me to observe the able, enthusiastic devotion to duty which has marked the performance of your group."
Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library
Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library