Arc of Empire: America's Wars in Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam

By Michael H. Hunt; Steven I. Levine | Go to book overview

3 Korea, 1950–1953
DOMINANCE CHALLENGED

At precisely 10:00 A.M. on 27 July 1953, U.S. Army general William K. Harrison Jr. and Korean People’s Army general Nam II entered from opposite sides of a specially constructed building in the border village of Panmunjom, the site of longrunning truce talks aimed at ending the Korean War. They represented, respectively, the U.S.-led sixteen-nation U.N. coalition and North Korean and Chinese forces backed by the Soviet Union. Without uttering a word to each other, the two men affixed their signatures to nine blue-covered and nine maroon-covered copies of an armistice agreement. Twelve hours later, when the cease-fire took effect, Sergeant William D. Dannenmaier, a radio scout with the U.S. Army’s Fifteenth Infantry Regiment, was disconcerted: “The silence was startling. So was the darkness, no longer broken by the lights of exploding shells. Then, slowly, lights began appearing, a cigarette here, a flashlight there. … I never felt more desolate or empty in my life…. There were no cheers [,] no laughter.” Although both sides claimed a kind of victory, Dannenmaier’s reaction was closer to the truth.1

Several years of intense civil conflict on the Korean peninsula preceded the North Korean invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950. The ensuing war raged up and down the peninsula for more than three years, quickly drawing in the United States and its allies on the side of South Korea and China on the side of North Korea. Grinding land warfare, savage atrocities committed by both sides, and indiscriminate bombing by the U.S. Air Force inflicted massive death on civilians as well as combatants. Korea’s cities and industries were destroyed and the land itself horribly scarred. Finally, the combatants, unable to enforce their will without risking a wider war, settled for a cease-fire line that ran like a jagged scar across the midsection of the Korean peninsula, not far from the line that had separated rival regimes before the invasion. An inconclusive war doomed the divided country to a future of continued antagonism and tension.

In broader terms, the Korean War marked a distinct downward turn in

-120-

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Arc of Empire: America's Wars in Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations and Maps viii
  • Introduction - Four Wars and the Problem of Empire 1
  • 1 - The Philippines, 1899–1902 The Imperial Impulse Unleashed 10
  • 2 - Japan, 1941–1945 Securing Dominance 64
  • 3 - Korea, 1950–1953 Dominance Challenged 120
  • 4 - Vietnam, 1965–1973 Dominance Undone 185
  • Conclusion - Empire and Aftermath 251
  • Notes 281
  • Guide to the Historical Literature 305
  • Acknowledgments 325
  • Sources of Illustrations 327
  • Index 329
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