In the 1950s, the United States fought in a war that the country never officially declared. About 5 million people, mostly Koreans, died in a three-year conflict that no one won. This conflict is known as the Korean War.
The Korean War is sometimes called America’s forgotten war. Perhaps that’s because no one wants to remember it.
DIVIDING AN ANCIENT NATION
Japan invaded the Korea Peninsula in 1910. It controlled Korea for 35 years, until the end of World War II. When Japan lost World War II in 1945, the Allies who won the war divided Korea in half from east to west at the 38th parallel of latitude.
The United States took charge of South Korea. The Soviet Union took charge of North Korea. The Soviet Union and the United States had been allies during World War II. But after the war, they became enemies.
INVASION OF SOUTH KOREA
Relations between the two Koreas were tense from the beginning. Neither liked being divided. After months of fighting along the dividing line, North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950.
Tens of thousands of North Korean soldiers rushed south. They captured Seoul, South Korea’s capital. They drove American and South Korean troops all the way to the southern tip of the peninsula.
INVASION OF NORTH KOREA
Late in 1950, U.S. troops launched an invasion by sea into the enemy-occupied part of South Korea. They soon fought their way into North Korea.
China, North Korea’s powerful friend and neighbor, then sent its army to stop the Americans and push them back into South Korea.
In the summer of 1951, both sides dug in along the original dividing line, the 38th parallel. For 18 months, the armies fought terrible battles. Two of the bloodiest fights were called Pork Chop Hill and Heartbreak Ridge.
THE FIGHTING ENDS
On July 27, 1953, the United Nations, North Korea, and China agreed to stop fighting. South Korea did not agree. A neutral zone 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide was established along the 38th parallel. Soldiers faced each other on each side of the zone.
KOREA STILL DIVIDED
Because South Korea refused to sign the agreement that ended the fighting, the two Koreas are still technically at war.
The dividing line at the 38th parallel is called the demilitarized zone. Nearly 1 million soldiers from the two Koreas stand guard there.
Nearly 2 million Americans served in Korea, and nearly 37,000 died. As many as 4 million Korean soldiers and citizens may have died during the fighting. China lost about 1 million people. The war that nobody won was one of the most destructive of the 20th century.
Source: Microsoft ® Encarta