General MacArthur wades ashore in the Philippine Islands, 1940
Hundreds of thousands of Korean civilians fled south as the enemy army overwhelmed the Republic of Korea forces, some of whom went over to the enemy and joined in the assault; intellectuals and civil servants were massacred by communist cadres. The battered ROK soldiers and a few American units finally put a stop to the overwhelming surprise attack and held up the communist forces along the one hundred forty mile “Pusan perimeter,” providing a relatively safe haven covering about 10% of Korea. President Truman decided that a stabilized Korea was necessary to the peace of Japan, and found out that the Soviet Union would not retaliate if U.S. troops got involved on a large scale. By the end of August, 1950, General MacArthur had about 180,000 in the line facing about 90,000 Reds.
U.S. troops await North Korean attacks across the Nakdong River from positions on the Pusan Perimeter, September 4, 1950
General MacArthur devised one of the most daring strategic surprise attacks in American military history. Several of MacArthur’s top military advisors said it could not be done and should not be attempted. Nonetheless, in a brilliant combined operation, 40,000 American Infantry and Marines landed by sea at Incheon in September, and proceeded to cross Korea, cutting off supplies to communist forces in the south, and driving the invaders into the north, capturing 135,000 KPA soldiers and killing or wounding another 200,000. Simultaneously, ROK and U.N. forces broke out of the Perimeter in the South, driving the enemy into the trap. By October, the South Korean government had been restored to power in Seoul and the 38th Parallel had been established as the northern border.
General MacArthur and several officers observe the shelling of Incheon from the USS Mount McKinley, September 15, 1950
Multiple thousands of “Chinese volunteers” swarmed across the border in October of 1950, killing thousands of American and ROK Marines and Infantry at the Chosin Reservoir, and dozens of hilltops and valleys of the rugged North Korean terrain. President Truman fired General MacArthur for disobeying orders, and risking an all-out war with Communist China, when the General ordered bombing of the supply lines and travel routes of the Chinese soldiers flooding into Korea to kill Americans. General MacArthur’s arrogance and lack of political savvy proved too much for the Joint Chiefs and the President to endure any longer. By the end of the War in Korea, more than three million were dead, including more than two million civilians. About 37,000 American soldiers died and more than 100,000 were wounded.
President Truman and General MacArthur at the Wake Island Conference, seven months before Truman would relieve MacArthur of his command
Douglas MacArthur returned to the United States: for some, the greatest war hero ever, for others, a man with too many personal flaws and not enough political clout to take on a President just as stubborn, but in full political power.
General MacArthur is greeted by a grateful public in this joyful ticker tape parade, Chicago, IL, 1951 (MacArthur is in the second car)