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The Korean War (1950-1953)

Important Terms, People, and Events

Context

Timeline

Terms

Blair House  -  Normally the Vice President's residence, Truman lived in Blair House because the White House was being renovated. It was in Blair House that Truman and his key advisors met to discuss the Korean War.
Demilitarized Zone  -  A buffer zone between North and South Korea created under the terms of the armistice signed on July 27, 1953 which ended the war. Though the zone was supposed to be free of both troops and weapons, in practice it is heavily militarized, with over 1 million North and South Korean troops facing off.
Formosa  -  Today called Taiwan, Formosa was the seat of Chiang Kai- Shek's Chinese nationalist government-in-exile after it was defeated by Mao's Communist forces.
Inchon  -  A port on the West Coast of Korea. On September 15, 1950, MacArthur made a surprise amphibious landing here which allowed his X Corps to retake Seoul and the rest of South Korea.
Iron Triangle  -  Area in North Korea bounded by Pyonggang (not Pyongyang), Chorwon, and Kumhwa. The Iron Triangle was the Communists staging area for attacks into South Korea.
Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS)  -  High-ranking American military council, comprised of the chairman, the vice chairman, the chief of staff of the army, the chief of naval operations, the chief of staff of the air force, and the commandant of the Marine Corps.
Kwantung Army  -  Japanese Army that occupied Manchuria before and during World War II.
Manchuria  -  A valuable industrial and agricultural center, Manchuria lies to the north of Korea, and has variously belonged to Imperial China, Imperial Russia, the Soviet Union, Japan, and the People's Republic of China.
NSC-81/1  -  National Security Council document that gave a rationale by which the UN Commander (i.e. MacArthur) would cross the 38TH Parallel and invade North Korea. NSC-81/1 stated that, if possible, the US should try and bring about complete unification of an anti-Communist Korean state. The document has been criticized for espousing faulty logic.
North Korean People's Army (NKPA)  -  The official army of North Korea.
Open Door  -  An 1899-1900 foreign policy of the US in reference to China, under which all countries would have equal trade privileges in China.
Panmunjom  -  The location of the second half of the peace-treaty negotiations during the Korean War. Near the 38th Parallel.
People's Republic of China (PRC)  -  Communist China.
PRK  -  Democratic People's Republic of Korea. (North Korea)
Pusan  -  Located on the southeast tip of the Korean peninsula, it is one of Korea's greatest ports. After the initial North Korean invasion in 1950, ROK forces were pushed back to Pusan.
Pyongyang  -  The North Korean capital.
Quemoy  -  An island belonging to the Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai- Shek.
ROK  -  Republic of Korea. (South Korea)
Seoul  -  South Korean capital.
Suwon  -  Location where the ROK Army established a temporary command during the early stages of North Korea's invasion.
United Nations (UN)  -  An international peace-keeping organization established after World War II.
X Corps  -  MacArthur's Marines, responsible for the Inchon invasion.
Yalu  -  A river dividing North Korea from Manchuria.

People

Dean Acheson  -  Truman's secretary of state. Acheson came under attack during McCarthyism.
Mark W. Clark  -  Allied commander in North Africa and Italy during World War II . General Clark was commander of UN forces in Korea from 1952 to 1953.
John Foster Dulles  -  Eisenhower's secretary of state. He was hawkish and highly anti-Communist.
James Van Fleet  -  Army commander who, during World War II, led the D-Day invasion of Utah Beach. In Korea, he served as Ridgway's field commander, controlling the Eighth Army.
Kim Il-sung  -  The Communist leader of North Korea. Kim developed a massive personality cult around himself, and ruled until his death in 1994.
Douglas C. MacArthur  -  General who commanded the Allies in the Southwest Pacific during World War II, he oversaw the post-war occupation of Japan, and commanded the UN forces during the first phases of the Korean War. It was MacArthur who engineered the amphibious assault on Inchon. Becoming increasingly egotistical as he got older, MacArthur began countermanding Truman's orders in Korea. With the backing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Truman relieved MacArthur of his command on April 11, 1951.
John Muccio  -  US ambassador to South Korea.
Syngman Rhee  -  "Democratically elected" leader of South Korea. Actually something of a dictator, Syngman Rhee was a committed nationalist obsessed with the idea of ruling a unified, independent Korea.
Matthew Ridgway  -  Commander of the Eighth Army under MacArthur, Ridgway rallied the US/UN/ROK forces and pushed the Communists back. Ridgway became Allied Commander of the Far East after MacArthur's dismissal.
Dean Rusk  -  John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson's secretary of state. After World War II, it was Rusk, a former Rhodes scholar, who chose the 38th Parallel as the dividing line between North and South Korea.
Peng Teh-haui  -  Commander of the Chinese Communist "volunteers" in Korea.
Maxwell Taylor  -  US General who pioneered airborne warfare during World War II. He was commander of the UN forces and the Eighth Army in Korea during the last phases of the Korean War (1953).
Walton Walker  -  Lieutenant General who had served under Patton in World War II, Walker was commander of all UN ground forces under MacArthur. In December 1950, Walker was killed in a car accident, and Ridgway took his place.

Events

Boxer Rebellion  -  A 1900 movement in China to expel foreigners. The name "Boxer" was the nickname given to the secret Chinese organization "the Harmonious and Righteous Fists."
Russo-Japanese War  -  1904-1905 conflict between Imperial Russia and Japan primarily over Manchuria. The Japanese routed and embarrassed the Russians and defeated their fleet. At the Battle of Mukden, which the Japanese won, more soldiers (624,000) were involved than in any battle before or since. The Treaty of Portsmouth, mediated by US President Teddy Roosevelt, ended the war, and gave Japan a protectorate in nominally-independent Korea.
Sino-Japanese War  -  1895 war in which the Japanese soundly defeated China, and began looking to expand into China's traditional sphere of influence.
Wake Island  -  Island in the middle of the Pacific where MacArthur and Truman met on October 15, 1950. Truman wanted to remind MacArthur of the importance of keeping the Korean conflict limited, and of the importance of ending the war as soon as possible. MacArthur thought Truman wanted to appear in pictures with him for political reasons, so he wore old clothes, didn't put on a tie, and refused to salute his President lest a photographer take a picture. The Wake Island meeting increased MacArthur's hatred for Truman. The meeting also suggested to the Chinese that the Americans were preparing a major operation, and perhaps attempting to reopen the Chinese Civil War. The meeting may have therefore inadvertently helped lead to Chinese involvement in the war.

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