Striking Back: Combat in Korea, March-April 1951

By William T. Bowers | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
KOREA AND THE COLD
WAR WORLD

March 1951 opened with UN forces on the move across the Korean peninsula. Two months earlier the situation was much different. The success of the Inch’on landing in September 1950 and the subsequent destruction of much of the North Korean army and its equipment had turned to stunning failure for UN forces with the massive Chinese intervention in November. Battlefield defeat and a hasty withdrawal from North Korea in late November and early December were costly in terms of manpower and material losses. Even more important, potentially, was the effect on morale among soldiers and their leaders at all levels, from the battlefields in Korea to Washington. The Chinese intervention dramatically changed the nature of the war. What had been termed a “police action” in June 1950, indicating a measured response to an unlawful but limited threat by North Korea, had now become a full-scale war, with the potential for escalation to a Third World War between the United States, its allies, and the Communist world.1

Almost from the beginning, the conflict in Korea had been of secondary concern to the United States and many of its allies, who saw the greatest threat in Europe, not in the Far East. The Soviet Union, which had exploded a nuclear device in September 1949, seemed poised to invade the almost defenseless Western European countries from its Eastern European satellite states. National Security Council (NSC) paper 68, a wide-ranging study of the global situation facing the United States completed shortly before the North Korean invasion, concluded that the Soviet Union was a di

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