The Korean War

The Korean War was a war between South Korea (with support from the United States) and North Korea (with the support of China and the Soviet Union) that began on June 25, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea following a series of clashes along the border. As a result of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, Korea was split into two sovereign states with both governments claiming to be the sole legitimate government over all of Korea and neither accepted the border as permanent. This conflict escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces moved into the south on June 25, 1950. In response, the United Nations Security Council authorized the formation and dispatch of UN Forces to Korea to repel what was recognized as the North Korean invasion.

After the first two months of war, South Korean and United States forces rapidly dispatched to Korea were on the brink of defeat, forced back to a small area in the south known as the Pusan Perimeter. In September 1950, an amphibious UN counter-offensive was launched at Incheon and cut off many North Korean troops. Those who escaped envelopment and capture were forced to retreat back north. UN forces rapidly approached the Yalu River – the border between Korea and China – but in October, mass amounts of Chinese forces crossed the river and officially entered the war. This surprise intervention triggered a retreat of UN forces that continued until mid-1951.

After these reversals of fortune, during which Seoul changed hands four times, the final two years of fighting became a war of attrition with the front line close to the 38th parallel. The war in the air, however, was never at a stalemate. Throughout the war, North Korea was subject to a massive bombing campaign. For the first time in history, jet fighters confronted each other in air-to-air combat, and Soviet pilots covertly flew in defense of their communist allies.

The fighting ended on July 27, 1953, when an armistice was signed. This agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate North and South Korea and allowed the return of prisoners. However, no peace treaty has been signed, and according to some sources the two Koreas are still technically at war, just engaged in a frozen conflict. In April 2018, the leaders of North and South Korea met at the demilitarized zone and agreed to sign a treaty by the end of the year which would formally end the Korean War.