North Korea invaded South Korea at 6 a.m., June 25, 1950, using the excuse that South Korea was invading them and that they were reacting. This would be a totally idiotic excuse if it weren't for the fact that the Koreas were indeed often engaged in armed struggle (since 1945) as they both tried to dtermine the nation's future to their liking.
That Korea was "of little strategic value to the United States and that commitment to United States use of military forces in Korea would be ill-advised" was an opinion endorsed by Truman and the National Security Council a few months before Secretary of State Dean Acheson rang Truman as he was dining in his Independence, Mo. home saying "Mr President, I have very serious news."
A week later troops were on their way to one of our more difficult wars. A war that lasts to this day.
Truman was operating under the assumption that Stalin had ordered the war and said "The attack upon Korea, makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now used armed invasion and war."
"Robert T. Oliver, an American advisor to South Korea's President Syngman Rhee, claimed, that the United States itself had unwittingly provoked the attack, by declaring that South Korea lay outside our defense perimeter." - I note this as relevant because the same type of issue was raised with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
Truman's popularity was falling at home and he faced accusations from Republicans that he lost China to the communists. How much do you think Truman's domestic political concerns factor into the decision to enter the fray?
One other possible motivation was the 1930s. Truman might have thought this was the beginning of a larger war that needed to be stopped short. His sayings indicated a belief that cOmmunism indeed had plans for global military conquest. This perception is one that can be argued forever but he apparently took it seriously enough to strengthen US forces and allow Germany to rebuild their military.
The Korean war was going comparatively well, so much so that Truman decided to "liberate" North Korea and his initial goal of repelling the invasion turned less defensive and more offensive.
This was a very important decisoon that brought the Chinese into the conflict. They felt threatened and once the Americans got to the Yalu River they helped push the drive back to the 38th parallel.
By 1952 54,246 Americans had died (including my great Uncle) and a million soldiers and between 2 and 3 million civilians had died.
The war set precendents. First of all it was a police action and raised the issue of the president's war waging powers without Congressional approval. It also launched an era in which the US was willing to militarily contain communism in Asia.
I do not know who wrote:
The war carried a number of other important lessons for the future--lessons largely ignored at the time. The Korean war revealed the difficulty of defeating determined adversaries, even with the staunch support of our allies and a virtual monopoly of sophisticated weaponry. Korea also revealed the difficulty of fighting a limited war, in which our objectives are unclear and there is a threat of intervention by other major powers. And finally, Korea revealed how difficult it is for the United States to extricate from a war. Today, over four decades after the war began, American troops and materiel remain in Korea, and the Korean peninsula remains the most heavily armed area in the world.
Questions to think about:
1. Was American involvement in Korea necessary to meet the challenge of the Soviet Union which was attempting to enlarge its Asian sphere of influence?
2. Was American intervention in what could be considered a Korean civil war unnecessary?
3. Did the war preserve a degree of stability in Asia, permitting other Asian countries to develop economic vitality and close ties to the West?