Korea: Looking Back — and Looking Ahead

By:  John F. McManus
Korea: Looking Back — and Looking Ahead

Considering the experience of the Korean war, the U.S. response to the current crisis on the Korean peninsula should be handled according to the Constitution and without UN interference.

In June 1950, communist-led North Korea invaded non-communist South Korea. World planners had arranged the splitting of the large Asian peninsula into two separate governments only a few years earlier. It didn’t take looking into a crystal ball to predict trouble ahead.

The initial push of communist forces into South Korea almost succeeded. But U.S. troops under General Douglas MacArthur — always operating under overall United Nations command, as he was soon to realize — acted alone and conducted the astounding (some said impossible) amphibious landing at Inchon. (Forty foot tides had to be overcome.) They rapidly cut the North’s supply lines and turned looming defeat into victory in a matter of days. U.S. forces then proceeded northward, where they liberated North Korea from its Red leaders and the war was essentially over. The communists had been routed and freedom could now be enjoyed by all Koreans.

But overwhelming numbers of Chinese troops then swooped across the Yalu River into North Korea and drove America’s outnumbered forces back into the South. General MacArthur protested a series of incredible restrictions he was forced to obey and his frustration led to him being fired by President Truman. Back in the United States, he uttered his famous summation: “In war, there is no substitute for victory.” Even more revealing was the statement of the Chinese Communist General Lin Piao, who stated:

I would never have made the attack and risked my men and military reputation if I had not been assured that Washington would restrain General MacArthur from taking adequate retaliatory measures against my lines of supply and communication.

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