The Korean War is one of the most comprehensive and significant wars that took place within almost the 60 odd years following World War II. It began on the morning of 25th June 1950 with a surprise assault initiated by the North Korean Armed Forces who had been preparing for an offensive for a long time, without any apparent pretext or provocation. Consequently, it continued to expand, with the United Nation Forces, formed for the first time in history comprising about 20 free nations including Turkey, fighting on the side of South Korea and Communist Chinese Forces fighting on the side of North Korea until 27 July 1953 on which date the war came to an end through an interim truce
Due to the political conditions prevailing at that time, Turkey was the first nation following the U.S. to respond positively to the United Nations call assigning a 5000 men strong Brigade to the United Nation Armed Forces. The Brigade; which came to be known as “ The Turkish Brigade” entered the war in late Nov 1950, at almost the same time as Communist Chinese Forces started fighting on the side of North Korea.The Brigade took an active part in numerous battles of various size until the signing of the truce. The 27-30 Nov 2006 is the 56th anniversary of “ “Kunuri Battles”. We have prepared this article in two parts, on the anniversary of this unfortunate episode to commemorate the soldiers who fought and shed blood for a sacred cause, thousand of miles from their homes, and to briefly review the operations conducted by the Turkish Brigade, which was renowned for its exploits during this war. We think that for all military and even civilian personnel, of what country they are from, there are great benefits to be obtained from recognizing and being informed about both the positive and negative aspects of operations conducted by a unit of such a small scale. Thus, it will be possible to have a better idea about the degree of impact a unit may have, regardless of his size, on the outcome of combat and indirectly, even the outcome of the war itself.
The Koreans have a 4000 years old history, they are a people bound to the infertile land of the Korean Peninsula, and are different from the Chinese, the Manchurians and Japanese. They had passed the civilization of Ancient China to Japan, and although they are very peaceful people, their geographical location caused the country to be used as a natural bridge and buffer zone, never allowing the Koreans to find the peace they sought. The history of Korea, much like that of Anatolia, which also constitutes a natural bridge between Asia, Europe and Africa, abounds with foreign invasions. Korean Peninsula is regarded both as a bridgehead for those who want to cross to Asia and as a stepping stone for those who want to cross to the Japanese Islands. For these reasons any power whose intention has been or would be to control the Far East for its national interests, must always have and want to have Korea under its control. The region of Korea has been a source of political conflict, confrontation and armed combat, initially between her close neighbors China and Japan; and later, upon Tsarist Russia gaining a foothold in the Far East in the second half of the 19th Century, between China, Japan and Russia. The original reason for conflicts could not have been only Korea; the real objective of the scramble was the reach and widespread lands of Manchuria.
China had maintained control over Korea since the reign of the Manchu’s. In the 19th Century, The Japanese Empire as early as its founding years tried to intervene economically in Manchuria. As a result, Japanese and Chinese Empires started fighting in Korea in 1894. The Japanese defeated Chinese Forces near Pyongyang and with the Shimoneski Treaty, signed on seventeen April 1895; The Manchu Empire resigned its rights over Korea and abandoned Taiwan to Japan. Although Korea came under Japanese control later, the expansionist policies of the Tsarist Russia to the north influenced Russian- Japanese relations. Russia tried to carve out a peace from Manchuria without any regard for the Japanese Empire and Seized bases and fortresses and started approaching the River Yalu in order to gain control over Northern Korea. It is interesting to note that; the idea to divide Korea along 38th Parallel between Japan and Russia first emerged in 1896, during this conflicts. When Japanese Army and Navy defeated Russians in 1904 they gained control over the entire Area.
The Koreans could not make use of Wilson’s Principles at the end of World War-I, since Japan was then in the ranks of Entente Powers. In spite of this, Korean nationalists formed two provisional governments outside Korean territory. One of these was under Dr. Syngman Ree, the other formed by Kim Kao. During World War II, the Korean issue was for the first time dealt with at 1943 Cairo Conference. The portion of the conference communiqué pertaining to Korea and signed by Chiang-Kai-Shek, Churchill and Roosevelt is as follows: “ The three major states, U.S., Britain and China, who are well aware of the captivity of the Korean People, have decided that Korea will be granted her independence due course.” At that time, Soviet Russia had not yet taken part in a war in the Far East and it was decided that Korea would be occupied only by U.S. troops at the appropriate time. Later, when it was understood at the Yalta Conference in Feb 1945 that the USSR would take part in the war in the Far East, the commanders agreed to confer the duty of ousting the Japanese from Korea jointly to Soviet and U.S. troops. As is known, in May 1945, Japan received from the Allies a call to surrender in early August. When Japan refused to oblige, Atom Bombs were dropped for the first time in history on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on 6 and 9 Aug 1945 respectively. Meanwhile, the USSR declared war against Japan on 8 August and Japanese stated they would surrender to the U.S. on August 10th.
Soviet Troops started entering Northern Korea through Manchuria on 12th August. While these troops were rapidly moving through Korea, U.S. forces were hundreds of miles away. Soviet Forces had to be stopped somewhere. Thus 38th Parallel was suggested as a border. Upon adoption of this proposal, there were suddenly two Koreas. These incidents, which took place immediately following World War-II, closely resemble incidents, which took place at the beginning of the war, during the same months six years before when the Soviets invaded Eastern Poland in much the same way they occupied Korea, while the Germans were invading Western Poland.
The developments that took place between Sep 1945 and June 1950 may be summarized as follows:
A. While the U.S. and the Free Nations were striving to settle the dispute by setting up Military Government in South Korea through democratic means and in compliance with U.N. resolutions, the Soviets were not favoring any solution short of uniting Korea under communist rule as they had intended from the outset.
B. Although the Committee, which was set up to work on a solution, was allowed to work freely in South Korea, it was not allowed to cross the 38th parallel. The Committee decided to hold elections in South Korea on 10th May 1948. The elections were held and the “ Republic of Korea” was formed five days after a constitution was accepted on 12th July. The first president elected was one of the early freedom fighters, Dr. Syngman Ree.
C. Three and a half months after the elections in the South, North Korea, which had been under the control of the “ People’s Council” since 1945, held elections on 25th August 1948 for 572 members of Parliament, supposedly representing the whole of Korea and “The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea” was formed. Thus, in 1948, two separate governments were established both claiming to be the sole representative of all of Korea.
D. In accordance with a United Nations resolution, U.S. and Soviet occupation Forces left Korea after these governments were formed.
GENERAL SITUATION BEFORE THE WAR:
The political situation in Korea at the beginning of 1950 can be summarized as follows:
Following the withdrawal of Soviet and U.S. troops, the dispute between the two Korean Republics had turned into bitter hostility due to the incompatibility of the regimes. The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea backed and encouraged by Communist China and USSR was aiming at uniting North and South Korea under a communist regime. It had prepared a large offensive army in order to realize this aim by force. The Armed Forces of South Korean Republic, on the other hand, was far from being able to defend its own country. Two-aid and security agreement were signed between the U.S. and the Republic of South Korea on 31 Dec 1948 and 26 Jan 1950 respectively. Meanwhile, the Soviets had signed a ten-year aid agreement with the Peoples Democratic Republic on 20 March 1949.
In 1950 the World witnessed to raise another great power that was to have a considerable influence on the Communist Block. The Communists, who increased their activities after World War-II, succeeded in ousting the nationalists, headed by Chiang-Kai-Shek, from the Continent by a victory they won on 8 Dec 1949, thus initiating a new epoch in the history of Asia. The Soviets withdrew their claims on Manchuria to resolve their dispute with Communist China and a 30-year “Friendship and Mutual Defense Agreement” was signed between Mao-Tse-Tung and Vichinsky, Russian Foreign Minister, on 14th Feb 1950. The Chinese now had their eyes on the islands after they consolidated their hold on the mainland on 23rd April 1950, they captured Hainan and on 16th May 1950 (almost 40 days before the beginning of the Korean War) they captured Chushan Island. Euphoric with victory, and adopting an expansionist policy they now look towards Formosa and some other islands on which Chian-Kai_Shek was confined. In view of the prevailing circumstances prior to the outbreak of war, it was obvious that North Korea would be supported by the Soviet Union and China and that the U.S. in the event of the hostilities would support the South.
OUTBREAK OF WAR:
The war broke out on the morning of June 25th 1950 at 0400 (local time), with North Korean artillery fire directed at Kumpo Peninsula to the west of Seoul and followed at 0800 by the crossing of the border at various points by North Korean Forces which seemed to be extremely well prepared for the operation. At 1100, North Korea declared war against South Korea claiming that the South Korean units had crossed the border along the 38th parallel. The objective of North Korea was to rapidly destroy weak South Korean forces and capture the peninsula as fast as they could, before the U.S. could intervene, and thus create a “Fait Accompli”. The U.N. Security Council in emergency session same day at 1400 (the USSR boycotted the Council and therefore lost its veto ability), passed a resolution, which said: “The North Korean attack has disrupted international peace. The fighting should be stopped immediately and North Korean Forces should withdraw beyond the 38 parallel.” The North Korean Forces disregarded the resolution completely and continued their rapid operations. From that moment on, a relentless race against time began between North Korea and U.N. Community. This initial phase of the operation can be summarized as a rapid advance of North Korean Forces; continuous withdrawal by the South Korean Forces and U.N. Forces trying to defend the “Pusan Bridgehead”, thus attempting to gain time for the deployment of contingencies from several U.N. countries (including Turkey). Towards the end of July 1950, the remaining South Korean Forces, and three U.S. divisions, which had deployed piecemeal had to withdraw all the way to Taegu due to the quantitative superiority and intense pressure by the North Korean Army. Thus “Pusan Bridgehead” was formed.
During the defense of the Pusan Bridgehead, which was an achievement the U.N. could be proud of, the attacking power of the North Korean Forces was diminished and the U.N. Forces assigned to the Korean Theater had started arriving. The U.N. Command gaining land, naval and air superiority, initiated a general offensive on September 15 upon orders by Gen Mc Arthur who had been commander-in-Chief since July 24th, by a landing operation conducted at Inchon, west of Seul. This may be referred to as the beginning of the second phase of the war. The U.N. attack developed rapidly. During the initial stage 6 North Korean divisions were enveloped and destroyed. The U.N. forces went beyond Seoul and advance up to the 38th Parallel. When Gen Mc Arthur was authorized to continue past the 38th Parallel after negotiation held at the U.N., the U.N. Forces crossed the 38th Parallel on 9 Oct 1950, occupied the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on 24 Oct and reached the Sinuiju- Hungnam line by the end of Oct.
In November 1950, while the U.N. Forces were getting ready to deal the final blow to North Korea, activities intensified in Communist China. In early October, Communist Chinese Prime Minister Chou-en-Lai said in a radio broadcast that: “The Chinese nation can not remain silent while her neighbors was being invaded.” And that “The Chinese Nation has always been on the side of the Korean Nation.” The propaganda that followed harped on the theme that:” The U.S., in much the same way as Japan did in the past, was intending to invade China and Asia via Korea. As an initial step, Chinese forces in Manchuria were increased. It is estimated that these forces were increased to 850.000 at the beginning of Oct 1950.
Until 15 November U.N. Forces continued north and some Communist Chinese forces were detected. The U.N. advance stopped and only minor actions took place along the entire Front” between 15-24 Nov 1950.” Regardless of Communist China’s stance at this stage, the U.N. Command was determined to occupy the whole of North Korea up to the River Yalu. The general belief of the command was that China did not have as many units in the north as has been reported, that China would not go to war unless her own territory and Manchuria came under attack, and that even if she did, she could not achieve much in the face of the much more superior U.N. Air Power. The previously planned offensive was launched on 24th Nov 1950 upon Gen Mc Arthur’s orders, with participation by the Turkish Brigade for the first time.