Veterans – History in the Making 11
We will all be aware of the rising tensions between the United States of America and North Korea and the veiled threats coming from the man in the white house, or golf club a lot of the time, and the unveiled threats from the young leader Kim Jong Un.
Whether you believe that one is right and the other wrong, or that these two very powerful men and both despot leaders is down to personal opinion but it is I think worth looking aback at the history of Korea in order to try to understand how this situation came about in the first place.
The Korean War, or forgotten war as it is commonly known, took place between June 1950 and July 1953. But the history of the troubles goes back a lot further than that. The history of Korea and its troubles really started in 1910 when Japan, the most powerful country at the time in Eastern Asia forced the Country into an annexation with the Japanese Emperor in total control. The rule by Japan over Korea was brutal and was completely unaffected and due to what was going on in Europe at the time, unnoticed apart from by those involved. A peaceful protest by the Korean’s was arranged in March 1919 against the Japanese regime during which around seven thousand demonstrators were killed by the Japanese Police and Army.
The Japanese rule over the Country continued and it is estimated that over five million Korean subjects were forced into labouring campsor into the Japanese military by late 1930, with nearly half a million dying as a result of treatment received during the labouring. In addition, over two hundred thousand Korean and Chinese women and girls were subjected to sexual slavery to appease the Japanese military machine.
Korea remained under the brutal ruling until Japan’s surrender at the end of the Second World War in 1945. Whilst Germany was being divided up, the same happened in Korea. The newly formed Soviet Union declared war on Japan in August 1945 and as a result of an agreement with the United States liberated the North of the Korea, whilst the US did the same to the South thus creating a divided Country. Initially this arrangement worked, but tensions grew, primarilycreated by what was going on in Germany and Berlin at the time, with the remobilisation of Soviet Union forces against the rest of Western Europe and the US. By 1948 with the start of the Cold War, as it became known, Korea was formally split into North and South, bothhaving their own Governments. And both sides declared themselves rulers of the whole of Korea, neither side recognised the central border as legitimate.
The problems escalated to the point that the forces of the North, with the support of Russia and China, invaded the South in June 1950 in a declaration of war. The newly formed United Nations authorised UN force to defend the South of the Country by repelling the advancing armies and twenty one Countries within the UN were involved, the majority of forces being supplied by the US and Britain.
After only two months of fighting the forces defending the South were on the point of defeat to the North. In September 1950 counter attacks were arranged which led to the cutting off of North Korean forces who were either captured or escaped but then in October of the same year Chinese forces marched across the China/North Korea border to join and support the North Korean troops and entered the war. The Chinese intervention forced the UN troops into a retreat that lasted until around July 1951.
The rest of the War was fought in and around the central border with both sides attempting to win by wearing down the enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and material. Wars are often won, not by the number of battles a side wins but by the side with the greater resources and in this case both sides were too close to separate. A stalemate, at least for the land forces, occurred. The air battles were not so though and the Korean War was the first time that the newly developed Jet fighters, including the North American F-86 Sabre and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 were used in aerial combat against each other.
The fighting officially ended on 27th July 1953 when an armistice was agreed, although a peace treaty has never been signed so as such the two Countries are still at war. North Korea still has the backing of China and Russia whilst the South is still backed by the US and Western Europe along with a heavy UN presence in the middle to try and keep the sides apart.
This is why we now still have the stalemate between the two sides but with increasing threats from both sides that could very realistically end in warfare particularly with the North’s development of nuclear weaponry.
I know quote a lot about Korea. My Father was in the Royal Navy and he saw active service during this War, in the early part of his own military career that spanned 19 years in the service of his Country. Like all British forces involved he was awarded the Korean War Medal’s; Her Majesty the Queen’s first award of any campaign medal which was awarded alongside the UN brass Korean medal.
Were you or any of your relatives involved in this War? If so we would like to hear from you at Forgotten Veterans UK. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.