The Korean War was fought between June of 1950 and July of 1953. Also known as the Korean Conflict, the Forgotten War and the Fatherland Liberation War, it officially began after North Korea invaded South Korea by crossing the boundaries of the two regions known as the 38th parallel. Beginning as a civil conflict between two provisional governments competing for control, the war quickly escalated into a multi-national conflict. It ended with a ceasefire between the two warring factions, North and South Korea, but without the security of a formally established peace treaty. The North Koreans found backing from Russia and China while sympathies for the South lay with the United Nations and the United States.
Some refer to the Korean War as the “Forgotten War” because it occurred between the bloodier and more globally devastating conflicts of World War II and the Vietnam War on the timeline. The biggest military weakness of North Korea, despite the success of its 135,000 troops, was its inability to transport much needed supplies south to follow the war’s progression. Many civilians who were forced to carry supplies across the enemy lines of the 38th parallel during the Korean War were killed by air attacks. In fact, of the 600,000 Koreans who lost their lives in the war, 85 percent of them were civilians. While North Korea lacked the stability of adequate transportation lines, South Korea had fewer and more poorly armed troops, numbering about 65,000.
President Truman ordered American naval and sea forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur into the fray to counteract North Korea’s advances, making the Korean War the very first armed confrontation of the Cold War. Backed by a United Nations command calling all members to support the struggle of South Korea, MacArthur’s military might secured South Korea, thus confronting communism’s bold global challenge and warding off the intervening forces of China and Russia.
This war represents the first unified effort on the part of the free world to thwart communist aggression. Prisoners of war on both sides were badly treated and many died terrible deaths. The conflict started by the Korean War more than half a century ago continues to this day, not in military battle, but in a tense, heavily armed standoff along the Demilitarized Zone, also known as the DMZ.