Korean War 1950-3

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US Successes

  • Achieved objective of containing Communist aggression: the tide of Communist advances of 1945-50 in Europe and Asia had been halted
  • Prosperity and demoracy of SK compared with NK today suggests the war was worthwile
  • Less than 37,000 US soldiers were killed compared with over 200,000 NK's (according to US estimates) and over 400,000 Chinese
  • Support of the UN and 16 ther countries showed solidarity against Communism and the prestige and power in the world which the USA then enjoyed - USA gained credibility with its NATO allies
  • Ridgeway turned things round in 1951: repelling the Chinese advance and restoring the morale of the UN forces
  • Drove a wedge between China and the USSR; China resented the fact that the USSR didn't send significant military aid until Autumn 1951 and insisted on payment
  • USA saved Taiwan: NK invasion of SK prompted Truman to guarantee US support for the Nationalist (KMT) regime in Taiwan 2 days later
  • Helped Japan to recover economically from WW2 and therefore (indirectly) helped US trade
  • Successful compared with Vietnam: the USA could not regard Vietnam as a victory because they hadn't saved SV as they saved SK
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US Failures

  • 1st war that the USA had ever failed to win and showed there wre limits to US power despite its victory in WW2 and its economic dominance. NK has been a problem ever since, currently because it is trying to build nuclear weapons
  • US lives were needlessly sacrificed: nearly 37,000 soldiers killed and around 100,000 wounded (nearly half of these casualties occuring after the peace talks had started)
  • Short term: the war bought China and the USSR together, with the USSR supplying military aid to China from 1951 onwards
  • Communist China showed that she was a great power and had to be taken seriously - threat
  • US soldiers were unclear of what they were fighting for and the public at home did not regard it as a victory
  • British experience of the Korean War may have contributed to her refusal to send in troops to Vietnam later
  • USA learnt the wrong lessons from Korea: thinking it could successfully defend an unpopular and incompetent anti-Communist regime at tolerable cost and that its superior firepower would always defeat an Asian enemy
  • USSR and China learnt not to give USA a moral justification like the NK invasion and not to fight them head on but indirectly as in Vietnam
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