When Japan fell in the Second World War, it left Korea divided. As part of the former Japanese Empire, Korea was freed at the end of WWII. Most Koreans called for a united country, but the Soviet Union and US did not agree. The Soviets wanted to expand into Korea and the US wanted to establish another democracy to contain the spread of communism. This brought about the war between North and South Korea years later. The Soviet Union backed the North and the US backed the South.
Korean War Timeline (1894-2008)
The Eulsa Treaty makes Korea a protectorate of Japan.
Japan formally annexes Korea as a colony despite protests by an exiled Korean provisional government.
During World War II, the Allied leaders discuss the fate of Korea without consulting the Korean government. The country was divided into two at the 38th Parallel. North Korea would be occupied by the Soviet Union to expand communism and the US occupied South Korea to secure a democracy and prevent the spread of communism in the region.
The Soviets arrive in North Korea and support Kim il-Sung. The Americans will not arrive until later.
Japan accepts terms for an unconditional surrender to the Allies.
Soviet forces complete their occupation of North Korea, honoring the 38th Parallel border.
The Japanese surrender Korea to the United States, just below the 38th parallel. Japanese rule officially ends in Korea.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives his 'Iron Curtain' speech at a college graduation in the US, declaring that an 'iron curtain' has fallen across the European Continent. Behind the curtain lay Soviet rule and influence.
US President Harry S. Truman pledges the US will assist any country under the threat of communism.
America's plan in South Korea was to establish an independent democracy under the rule of pro-American conservative, Dr. Syngman Rhee.
The uprising takes place south of the Korean Peninsula. South Korean soldiers attacked Koreans sympathetic to Kim Il Sung, fearing the North's influence on South Korea. Over 14,000 were killed in the protest.
Rhee's South Korean regime declares itself the independent Republic of Korea, claiming the entire Korean Peninsula, ignoring North Korea's existence.
As stipulated in the Potsdam Conference, North Korea holds parliamentary elections. Communist Kim Il Sung proclaims Korea the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, claiming the entire country as Rhee had done.
A rebellion breaks out among left-leaning South Korean soldiers who disagreed with how the Jeju Uprising was handled. The US decides to stay in South Korea because of the unrest and an ill-prepared South Korean military.
Communist China is formed under Mao Zedong. This is pertinent because of the role North Korea took during the Chinese Civil War in backing the communists.
South Koreans kill up to 88 people and blame communists for the act.
This defeat cuts off all US aid to South Korea.
Secretary of State Dean Acheson pledges in a speech that the US will fight to defend all territory within the 'defensive perimeter' including Japan and the Philippines, not Korea. Stalin misinterprets the speech to mean he can take over South Korea with little to no US interference.
Voters oust most conservatives in office in favor of moderates.
North Korea asks permission from Stalin for an invasion of South Korea. Stalin backs the plan believing the US has no interest in South Korea.
North Korea crosses the 38th Parallel and invades South Korea. This marks the start of the Korean War.
Truman holds two days of meetings to discuss the Korean situation and decides to offer military aid to South Korea without seeking a declaration of war from Congress.
Resolution 83 passes calling all members of the UN to lend military aid to the Republic of Korea. All aid falls under US military command.
In response to the invasion, South Korean President Rhee orders his military and special police to eliminate threats posed by political prisoners and dissidents. Rhee's forces execute more than 100,000 people in the 'Summer of Terror.'
North Korean forces capture the South Korean capital city of Seoul.
The first US ground combat forces, Task Force Smith, arrive in Korea. This includes the 1st Battalion, 21st and 24th Infantry Divisions.
The USS Junea, HMS Black Swan and HMS Jamaica encountered four North Korean torpedo and gunboats in the Sea of Japan. The ships engage and it is a clear US/UN victory. It is the only battle between surface combatants.
American ground troops engage North Korean forces south of Seoul. North Koreans win the battle, stunning America. It is the first ground action of the war. US suffers 150 casualties, from injury and death.
It is the second US engagement and second North Korean victory. North Korean forces continue their advance south.
The 25th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions begin deployment to Korea from Japan. The 29th Regimental Combat Team sails from Okinawa. And the 2d Infantry Division deploys from Seattle.
The 19th, 24th and 34th Infantry Regiments engage North Korean forces at Kum River Line and delay their advance.
24th Infantry Division begins their defense of Taejon. The town is captured by the North Korean People's Army (NKPA) the following day.
The US 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions capture Yechon.
NKPA continues its southward advance through Korea, driving the US back at Daejeon located 100 miles south of Seoul.
American and South Korean forces establish a stable, defensive line outside Pusan. This ends a month of retreat at the hands of the NKPA. All US, UN and South Korean forces pull behind the Pusan Perimeter, leaving nearly 90% of Korean under communist control. For six weeks, NKPA launches brutal assaults on the Perimeter, but the US holds the line.
NKPA tries to break the Pusan Perimeter and is forced back by the US 24th, 2nd and 25th Infantry Divisions and Marines.
Another attempt by the NKPA to break the Pusan Perimeter was of Taegu. They are repelled by the 23rd and 27th Infantry Regiments and South Korean 1st Division.
The NKPA infantry divisions began crossing the Naktong River near the Ohang ferry site in a surprise attack. US forces engaged. A month of fighting left heavy losses on both sides. There were two waves of battle, the second of which began August 19. The enemy finally departs the area after the Inchon landing on September 15.
General MacArthur commands one of the greatest military victories in US history. He orders a massive amphibious landing of thousands of soldiers and Marines at Inchon, located west of Seoul. The move surprises the NKPA, forcing them into retreat. Ten days after Inchon, the US retakes Seoul. The victory changes US strategy for the war.
US 8th Army begins its offensive north of the Pusan Perimeter.
1st Marine Division drives northeast across Han River.
X Corps 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division moves east from Inchon and links up with the 8th Army's 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division located south of Suwon.
Truman approves MacArthur's plan to pursue the NKPA above the 38th Parallel, as long as he doesn't encounter Soviet or Chinese opposition. MacArthur is confident of victory in the war.
South Korean President Rhee reestablishes government and resumes control.
South Korean troops cross the 38th Parallel, followed by more troops in the following week.
The US 8th Army crosses the 38th Parallel north of Kaesong and advance toward Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
MacArthur assures President Truman the Chinese will not get involved in the Korean conflict.
The US 1st Cavalry Division enters Pyongyang, taking the North Korean capital. The soldiers rejoice at a quick victory and begin planning their return home.
More than 100,000 Chinese soldiers sneak into North Korea through the Yalu River. They defeat the South Korean army at Pukchin. This marks the start of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) operations against South Korea.
The 1st US Marine Division, X Corps, lands at Wonsan.
China enters the war because Mao Zedong fears the consequences of a US victory along his country's border. The bolster flagging NKPA army in places they are overwhelmed by US forces.
The PLA engages the US at Unsan and wins.
The UN forces battle against Communist Chinese. The PLA wanted to cut off Australian and British forces in the area to prevent them from withdrawing.
The PLA attacks the 8th Army on November 25, 1950.
The X Corps advances from the west to support the 8th Army against the Chinese. The PLA engages the X Corps at Chosin Reservoir.
The 8th begins general withdrawal from the Chongchon River Line and retreats to Pyongyang.
The 2nd Infantry was guarding the 8th Army retreat when it is attacked and devastated by the PLA.
The PLA attacks the South Korean Army Infantry Division along the 38th Parallel. The US 8th Army, commanded by General Mathew Ridgway, evacuates Seoul on January 3, 1951. The Chinese capture Seoul by the end of the third battle on Seoul on January 7th. The attack does spur the UN to increase aid to South Korea.
The X Corps evacuates to Pusan via ships. Lt. General Almond sets sail for Korea on Christmas Eve.
The commander of the 8th Army, Lt. General Walton H. Walker was killed in a Jeep accident in Seoul not long after defying MacArthur by pulling the 8th Army out of battle. He was about to be relieved of command when he died; however, Walker managed to save most of the 8th Army with his unauthorized retreat.
Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway arrives in Korea as the new 8th Army commander.
The PLA change the war for South Korea and its allies. By December, US, UN and South Korean forces were pushed below the 38th Parallel. The PLA and NKPA take Seoul on January 4 for the second time.
The first half of 1951 sees the war settle into a stalemate. Both sides advance and retreat, until US forces organize a defensive line close to the 38th Parallel. Both side entrench and make no significant progress.
Army Chief of Staff General J. Lawton Collins visits Korea and says the US is 'going to stay and fight.'
The 8th Army launches a counterattack on the PLA and NKPA in Operation Thunderbolt. It starts in the west and moves eastward. The goal was to test enemy resolve and intentions.
The UN, recognizing a stalemate in the Korean War, calls for a negotiated end to the conflict. The first peace talks between the US, China, North Korea and South Korea don't begin until August 1951, but drag on for two years. More than half of US losses occurred after the start of peace talks.
The military operation took place at Hongch'on and Yangp'yong. It was designed to expand the offensive line to the central section of the front and protect the right flank of Operation Thunderbolt.
Inchon is captured just as I Corps approaches the Han River.
Chinese forces attack X Corps and force a retreat to Wonju.
China's PLA and NKPA launch a major offensive on US and South Korean lines, including at Chipyong-ni.
Major General Bryant E. Moore reports to Ridgway his troops encountered no enemy and found empty foxholes and abandoned weapons. Confirmed reports showed no enemy along the entire 8th Army central front.
The US 8th Army launches Operation Killer, which included a general advance north for the IX and X Corps. This operation marked a major counter offensive by Allied forces.
Enemy resistance south of the Han River collapses.
General Ridgway begins Operation Ripper to establish Line Idaho, just south of the 38th Parallel. It is also known as the Fourth Battle of Seoul and included the largest artillery bombardment of the war. UN troops liberated Seoul for the 4th and final time.
The US Air Force sends 120 C-119s and C-46s to drop 3,437 paratroopers into Munsan-Ni near the 187th Regimental Combat Team in the biggest operation of the war.
This US Army operation was designed to drop a large number of communist troops between the Han and Imjin Rivers. The Chinese had 136 casualties and 149 soldiers taken prisoner. The operation included 3,500 paratroopers and armored elements from the 3rd and 24th Infantry Divisions. The PLA retreated with the US in pursuit.
General MacArthur makes his frustration with Truman's war strategy known in a public statement. Truman barred him from attacking China directly or using nuclear weapons. Truman and his Joint Chiefs of Staff call the act subordination and could expose the US to a larger war. Truman wants to fire MacArthur, but recognizes the General is a popular public figure, which complicates the situation.
Ridgway launches Operation Rugged to move the offensive line to Line Kansas, approximately 10 miles above the 38th Parallel.
Republican House Minority Leader Joseph W. Martin reads a private letter from General MacArthur to Congress and American people. Though a private missive, MacArthur had not requested confidentiality. In the letter, MacArthur advocates 'meeting force with massive counterforce' in Korea, directly countering Truman's order and threatening China.
The White House makes a special late-night announcement that General Douglas MacArthur has been relieved of duty. MacArthur learns of the situation when one of his aides hears about it on the radio and calls him. MacArthur is replaced by General Matthew Ridgway as Supreme Commander in Korea.
The Marine I and IX Corps reach the Kansas line and move northward, along with South Korean forces.
Truman addresses the nation about dismissing General MacArthur and giving his reasons. Truman focused on policy and not wanting to initiate another world war, not bringing up MacArthur's insubordination.
General Van Fleet assumes command of Eighth Army following Ridgway's promotion.
General MacArthur returns to the US a hero. When he addresses a joint session of Congress, he receives a standing ovation. During his 34-minute speech, he is interrupted 30 times for applause.
The public sides with MacArthur and treat him to parades across the country. In New York, 7.5 million people turn out for a ticker-tape parade.
The offensive is fought in two battles: the Battle of Imjin and the Battle of Kapyong. The strongest attacks are in the west.
Chinese troops attack the UN base on the lower Imjin River in an attempt to recapture Seoul. The British and Begium forces hold their position despite being vastly outnumbered. It was the bloodiest engagement for the British Army since WWII.
UN forces halt the NKPA and Chinese Army advance despite being vastly outnumbered. The Canadian and Australian Battalions took the brunt of the attack in defending the Kapyong River Valley. Truman awarded both the Canadians and Australians the US President Unit Citation for their actions.
The Spring Offensive was stopped north of Seoul. The UN and South Korean forces held the capital.
The Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees held joint hearings to investigate the dismissal of General MacArthur. Testimony in the hearings do more to discredit the General than help him. He is deemed arrogant, reckless and subordinate after one month of hearings. Most Americans change their minds and back Truman's decision, thus ruining MacArthur's chance to run for president or hold any role in public affairs.
The Chinese PLA and NKPA focus on the east-central region of South Korea. General Van Fleet launches a counterattack by sending in the 2nd, 3rd and 25th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Marine Division. The communist regime fails to take territory.
General Van Fleet fortifies the Kansas line and sends forces farther north, toward Wyoming Line.
The NKPA start a ground battle against UN, Philippine, South Korean and US forces in the Battle of Bloody Ridge, which was part of a system of outposts north of the 38th Parallel on the Taebaek Mountain. The Chinese had built underground bunkers. The US 2nd Division retreated in defeat after massive losses (2,700 casualties for UN forces, representing most of the 2nd Division). The Chinese and NKPA lost 8,000 men and had another 7,000 wounded. This battle marked a change in the war from large advances to brutal battles for small to insignificant gains.
Peace talks cease as the Chinese and North Koreans break off negotiations.
The NKPA withdraw from Bloody Ridge after UN forces outflank them.
This month-long campaign covered a seven-mile-long stretch of land with three sharp peaks and steep valleys below. The South Korean, French, US and Philippine forces face off against the Chinese PLA and NKPA. The battle began when the 2nd Infantry Division, using the 72nd Tank Battalion, seized Heartbreak Ridge. The US captured the terrain. In the end, American and French troops saw 3,700 casualties while the Chinese and NKPA had more than 25,000.
Five UN divisions advance four miles beyond Wyoming Line to take Jamestown Line and secure the Seoul-Chorwon Railway.
General Ridgway orders General Van Fleet to cease offensive operations and assume an 'active defense' instead.
The US and Filipino forces fight side-by-side against the Chinese. The battle was fought in three phases. The first in March when US troops tried to take the hill. They failed and withdrew. In May, the Philippine Battalion Combat Team inflicted heavy Chinese casualties and took the hill. The third and final attack was an attempt by the Chinese to capture the hill. They were denied by the Philippine Army.
General Mark W. Clark assumes command of the UNC.
This battle was a series of five engagements between China and the US, South Korean and Columbian forces. The battle name came from the trees on the crest that had been decimated by artillery fire and wildfire during the engagement. The battle began on June 6 with air strikes. UN forces secured the outposts on June 26.
This was another battle in an attempt to gain an advantage over the Chinese by securing a dominant hill position. The US, French and South Korean forces faced off with the Chinese. The hill changed hands 24 times in ten days of battle. The UN forces take the hill as the Chinese withdraw.
With a lack of progress, the UN delegation calls an indefinite recess to peace talks.
Also known as Operation Showdown. The US attempted to take control of the 'Iron Triangle'–a forested ridge of high ground near the 38th Parallel. The battle lasted nearly a month. US and South Korean forces tried to take Triangle Hill and Sniper Ridge. The company on Sniper Ridge suffered more than 4,000 casualties in just ten days of fighting. Over the entire battle, the US had 1,500 casualties and many more casualties among South Korean troops. The UN called off the operation and China declared it a victory for them.
Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower is elected with more votes than any previous candidate in history. He received 34 million votes. He won with a promise to seek an honorable truce in the Korean war and bring US troops home soon.
Lt. General Maxwell D. Taylor takes command of the 8th Army.
Officially the hill was designated as Hill 255, but the shape of it inspired the name Pork Chop Hill. It was the longest battle of the Korean War on a single battlefield. It also was one of the most controversial battles because the land held no strategic or tactical advantage. The Chinese suffered 1,500 dead and 4,000 wounded. The US had 347 killed, 1,036 wounded and 9 captured.
This was a British operation that combined the Duke of Wellington's Regiment's 1st Battalion (known as the Dukes), supported by the US Army 1st Corps and Turkish troops against at least 6,500 Chinese troops. The hook was named for the crescent shape of the ridge. It was an important location because of its tactical advantage as a staging ground for assaults on Yong Dong and invasions into Seoul. The Dukes held The Hook with immense shelling. The Dukes had 24 men killed and 20 missing, with 105 wounded. The Chinese lost more than 1,000 men and had 800 wounded. This victory helped give the UN bargaining power at the peace talks.
General Taylor abandons Pork Chop Hill, deciding it was not worth fighting for.
This the last battle that lead to an armistice agreement for all parties. After North Korea refused talks, the Chinese launched an attack on the Kumsong River. It was a clear victory for the Chinese Army that broke the UN Coalition defenses in the area, but heavy losses prevented the Chinese from retaking the area. They ended their offensive on July 20, but fighting in the region continued.
After two years of negotiations, an armistice is reached by all parties. They end the conflict without a formal peace treaty. Both sides claimed victory and Korea remained divided at the 38th Parallel.
From August through February, there were ongoing exchanges of Prisoners of War. The Little Switch, from April 20-May 3, 1953 was the exchange of sick and wounded prisoners of the war. The communist side repatriated 684 wounded UN troops, while the UN Command returned 1,030 Chinese and 5,194 North Koreans, as well as 446 civilians. The issue of not forcibly repatriating POWs remained and caused conflicts and delays in exchanges. Operation Big Switch from August 5-December 23, was the final prisoner exchange. The UN Coalition returned 75,823 POWs and the Communists repatriated 12,773 POWs (7,862 Koreans, 3,597 Americans and 946 British). Approximately 22,600 prisoners refused to be repatriated, mostly Chinese. Only 137 Chinese agreed to return to their homeland. A total of 357 UN forces chose to remain in Communist territory, including 333 Koreans, 23 Americans and 1 British citizen.
Diplomats from the US, China and North Korea meet in Panmunjom (Peace Village located on the 38th Parallel) to finalize a permanent peace treaty to end the war. Talks break down with no resolution or treaty achieved.
Talks fail again at a high-level conference in Geneva. The armed stalemate at the 38th Parallel would remain indefinitely.
A typhoon uncovers a mass grave for the victims of the 1950 'Summer of Terror,' making it difficult for the South Korean government to deny the executions.
The South Korean government establishes a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the 'Summer of Terror' killings.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission returns a finding against South Korea. The President Roh Moo-hyun formally apologizes for the atrocities of the 'Summer of Terrror' that occurred under Rhee's reign. Moo-hyun calls them 'illegal acts the then-state authority committed.'