Korean War in Perspective
John R. Bishop
This article is an overview
of the entire conflict almost 55 years after commencement of the Korean
War. As this significant event took place only five years after WWII,
all the senior commanders were most experienced in the art of war. This
meant that the conduct of the war was carried out most aggressively and
the overall casualty rate will confirm this fact. In the interests of
clarity and reader understanding, vital events will be numerically
referenced to the following map.
big a conflict was
Korea? It was
Bloodiest Conflict, after WWI and WWII, with 516 killed and 1558 wounded
between 1950 and the date of the Cease-fire in 1953.
Not quite true: A minimum of 33 of those who were killed occurred after
the cease-fire during the Peacekeeping Medal phase, 1953 to 55/56,
making it Canadaís Bloodiest Peacekeeping Mission.
casualties including civilians in Korea
were more than
four million. Let us now make a comparison of casualties for the US
show the intensity of each conflict to place history in its proper
Korea, over 3
50,000 fatal casualties. In
over 10 years,
60,000 were killed. Therefore, if
had been at
the same overall intensity as Korea
over 10 years,
US casualties would have been over 150,000 killed in Vietnam.
Not quite true! 8,207
missing in action (MIA) in
are still not
included in the above official
Total casualties including civilians in
approximately two million. President Clinton made an official
proclamation in 1998 that indeed the Korean Conflict was a war.
big a country is
where most of
the fighting took place on the
is a peninsula
North Korea. The distance
to the north
approximately 250 kms, the same length (N/S) as South Korea. South Korea
is more than
twice as wide as
Island; however, as most fighting was up or down the peninsula, like an
accordion being played, it is a useful comparison.
Canadaís Contribution? First of all, I should mention
that Canadaís armed forces were not large enough to easily
meet the authorized commitment in
Korea. I am sure that statement is no surprise to the
average Canadian. Our Navy commitment was three ships almost
immediately, with a total of eight ships during the course of the war.
In the case of the army in 1950, depending on which reference you
use, fewer than 7,000 at the sharp end to as low as approximately 5,000.
The army commitment on the ground in
Korea, six months after commencement of the conflict,
was an infantry battalion to be followed later by the balance of an
Infantry Brigade. The RCAF; immediately provided a transport squadron
followed by 22 RCAF pilots who flew with the U.S. Fifth Air Force.
is important to note that
third largest foreign commitment of the 22 nations on the UN side, after
and U.K. Sixteen countries provided combat troops. Two were not UN
who paid the
highest price in all respects. One other interesting fact, Canadaís agreed to
land commitment, a Brigade, arrived in the front line almost one full
year after the conflict commenced. We, who were in Korea
at the time,
were glad to see them arrive; however, even 2PPCLI had only been in
country for six months, prior to the arrival of the complete Brigade.
conflict officially started with the crossing of the 38th
parallel by North Korean forces on
25 June 1950
map). This statement is not entirely true as
sizable land incursions into the North prior to that date. Policy of
Syngman Rhee was to march North at a time of his choosing. In fact, the
provide major weapons, such as, tanks, long range artillery and aircraft
to South Korea
as they were
afraid Syngman Rhee would attack North Korea
approval by the U.S.
Korean Forces capture Seoul on 28 June (Circle 2 on map), just three
days after crossing the 38th parallel, forcing US and South
Korean Forces to retreat to the South.
Seoul is only 40 kms
from the North Korean border, so it was not a lightening strike by
highly mechanized forces from
North Korea. A comparison:
if you pretend for a moment that
Victoria, B.C. is
Seoul, the border
with North Korea
would be a
on the West
During the period 4 August
to16 September (Circle 3 on map), US and South Korean Forces
established a defensive perimeter around
Pusan. The North Korean advance was stopped only 80 kms north of Pusan
(now called Busan). In perspective, if Pusan was Victoria, the Pusan Perimeter to the North would be about Ladysmith, just north
Duncan. To the west, the North Koreans were less than half that distance from
Pusan, that is, 40 kms, approximately the
US Forces landed at Inchon
15/16 September (Circle 4 on map) with one of the largest amphibious
landings in history. In perspective, Inchon
would be around Quatsino Sound on the West coast of
, just South of Port Hardy, distance of 175 kms north of
. A brilliant operation opposed by almost everyone in Washington
at MacArthurís Headquarters. General MacArthurís forceful personality
carried the day. A considerable portion of the landing craft and fighting
ships were Japanese and; in fact, one Japanese Minesweeper was sunk by
North Korean forces.
UN Forces break out of Pusan Perimeter, attack north and recapture Seoul
between 16 and
22 September 1950
(Circle 5 on map). U.S. Army history shows that, but in fact the Marines,
advancing from Inchon
, also played a major role in the capturing of Seoul
. (Relative history!) It is
interesting to read the United States Air Force (USAF) history of the war
that seldom gives aircraft and personnel casualties. I was able to find
one reference that states the USAF lost a total of 300 aircraft in the
war. Records show that the USAF had 1,198 battle deaths, 5,884 non-battle
deaths, 368 wounded and 929 missing in action. Therefore, the loss of 300
aircraft could be reasonably accurate.
On 25 November (Circle 6 on map) the Chinese Army enters North Korea
and pushes UN Forces back from the Yalu River. Actually the Chinese entered the war approximately 1 November but
MacArthur was in denial. At this time, UN forces totaled 425,000 troops (US
178,000) and the Chinese had 180,000 troops.
25 November is also the exact date that 2PPCLI,
Canadaís initial land commitment departed
on the Private J.P. Martinez, a troop ship.
on page two