On January 12, 1950 United States Secretary of State Dean G. Achesson (1893-1971) a lawyer trained at both Yale and Harvard, told the National Press Club that the America's Pacific defense perimeter was made up of the Aleutians, Ryukyu, Japan, and the Philippines implying that the United States would not fight over Korea, and that the country was outside of American concern in the Pacific. This omission, which was not deliberate, encouraged the North and the Soviets.
South Korean President Syngman Rhee and North Korean General Secretary Kim Ill Sung were both intent on reuniting the peninsula under their own systems. Partly because of Soviet support, the North Koreans were the ones able to go on the offensive, while South Korea, with only limited American backing, had far fewer options. Hundreds of forays by South Korean forces into the north might have convinced North Koreans that an invasion was imminent. Documents show that both leaders were eager to escalate hostilities.
The Korean War officially started on June 25, 1950. It was a terrible war. Whole towns and cities, and most of the Japanese industrial development, were destroyed. More than 80 percent of the industrial and public facilities and transportation works, 75 percent of the government offices, and 50 percent of the houses were destroyed. Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, was bombarded with more than one thousand bombs per square kilometer. When the armistice was settled, there were only two buildings left in the city where 400,000 people had once lived. The total number of Koreans, North and South, killed during the war now seems to exceed 5 million people, or about 17 percent of a total 30 million population at the beginning of the war. This kill ratio of one in three may be the heaviest loss due to war any nation has ever endured in history.
- Next >>