On June 25, 1950 ten divisions of North Korean infantry invaded South Korea. In its narrowest sense, the invasion marked the beginning of a civil war between peoples of a divided country. In a far larger sense, it represented a break in tensions between the two dominant power blocs that had emerged from the Second World War.
These well-illustrated pages appeared in QUICK MAGAZINE two weeks after the hostilities commenced and serves to summarize the events in Washington and at the United Nations. Within the first twelve hours of the war President Truman committed U.S. air and naval forces to the defense of South Korea and signed a bill to widen the draft pool. Apprehension soon spread that a Soviet invasion of the American West Coast was a possibility; assorted U.S. cities re-instituted their civil defense organizations and some measure of comfort was found in the fact that an H-Bomb could be manufactured within a year.
The possibility of W.W. III was very much on the minds of Americans during the summer of 1950; by September an article appeared in print forecasting how such a contest might begin - click here to read it.
The Korean War ended in 1953. Click here to read about the military results of that war.
••This is an Excellent Color Documentary about the Korean War••
The Korean War was all of two weeks old when this column went to press describing the combustible atmosphere that characterized the Nation's Capitol as events unfolded on the Korean peninsula:
"A grim Senate voted the $1.2 billion foreign arms aid bill. Knots of legislators gathered on the floor or in the cloakrooms for whispered conversations. Crowds gathered around news tickers...
On everyone's lips was the question: "Is this really World War III?"
Click here to read about the need for Army women during the Korean War.
"[In Washington] the U.S. defense effort snowballed. Looking beyond the Korea showdown, the U.S. had to plan against new Russian surprises... There would be no appeasement, even at the risk of W.W. III. U.S. intelligence indicated a ten year Russian military plan designed to bleed America white. The aim would be to keep the U.S. in a semi-mobilized state for years."
Policy makers in Washington were divided into two groups during the early Cold War days: one held that Communist expansion was most dangerous in Asia while the other believed that Europe was the spot most deserving of attention. This short editorial by John Gunther (1901 – 1970) argued that Asia was the vulnerable zone and if Korea was lost to the Reds - the whole world would follow.
This editorial was one of the first of its kind and many more would follow on its heels. The opinions expressed would be repeated in American schoolrooms, barrooms, dinner tables and state houses all the way up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It was not merely the parents of draftees who wondered aloud as to the whereabouts of the U.N. signatories in times of crises, but practically the whole nation:
- from Amazon:
"For two months the American and South Korean ground forces fought it out alone. For two months they fought without even the promise of help from other major powers..."
This snippet appeared on the newsstands shortly after Halloween, 1950. It will give you a sense of the great relief that was felt not simply in the halls of Congress and the Pentagon, but all across the country. The journalist wrote this report as if decades had past and a distant memory was being recalled about a five month-long war that was once fought and won by the all-suffering Americans and their U.N. Allies, but the Communists learned their lesson, so we don't have to worry about them anymore. The war's turning point is hailed (The Inchon Landings), as is General MacArthur, American casualty figures are listed and mention is made of the South Koreans moving into the recently liberated towns of the North. But this same reporter would write a very different article for the next issue of the magazine when he would relay that the war had expanded, and casualty figures had ballooned with the intervention of the Chinese Army.