Korean War - "an entirely new war"
China, finding the UN Command occupation of North Korea unacceptable and its diplomatic efforts ignored, announced the formation of the Chinese People's Volunteer Army in October 1950. The Chinese People's Liberation Army massed some 850,000 "volunteer troops" north of the Yalu River. The UN force's advance had continued despite warnings of a massive Chinese intervention by the huge Chinese force assembled across the Yalu in northern China. Mao Tse Tung feared that the Allies would not stop in Korea, but would continue across the Yalu River into China and attempt to overthrow communism in mainland China.
In late October and through the middle of November, MacArthur was still confident on his forces ability to conduct offensive operations. He felt the North Koreans were near defeat and that the chances of Chinese intervention were minimal. On 3 Nov, MacArthur's Intel Chief believed Chinese intervention consisted of a small number of volunteers no more than 10,000. MacArthur felt he could not be stopped. As the days passed in November, it was obvious that the Chinese intervention was more than a small number of volunteers.
The Chinese loved to fight at night. This maximized their strengths (stamina, stealth, and large numbers) and minimized their weaknesses (susceptibility to air strikes, lack of transport, and nonexistent or limited artillery support. On signal (usually a flare, bugle, or pipe call), the first wave of attackers would surge forward in an effort to pin Americans to their position, while other columns attempted to find the weakest point in the line in order to turn a flank or gain a position in the rear.
During the night of 25 November 1950 strong attacks by more than 300,000 Chinese combat troops virtually destroyed the ROK II Corps and uncovered the central core of the 8th Army. By 26 November the 8th Army was in full retreat. This forced MacArthur to notify Washington "We face an entirely new war."
As the Chinese offensive gained momentum, American and other UN forces retreated. In the history of modern warfare only two nations have demonstrated their ability to leave a hostile shore with any semblance of order. At Dunkirk in 1940, the British faced with a choice, wisely elected to save their men and to forgo the hope of saving their equipment. At Hungnam in December 1950, the X Corps was able to withdraw its units intact with all equipment -- over 100,000 Soldiers, 17,500 vehicles, and 350,000 tons of bulk cargo. The Navy used 109 ships (some twice) in transporting 192 shiploads. In addition, over 98,000 refugees were evacuated.
On 4 January 1951, the capital city of Seoul changed hands for the third time within a six month period. UN forces along the western front were forced to withdraw once again; however, the Chinese did not aggressively follow-up and contact with the enemy dropped off. While this sector of the front remained uneasily quiet after the capture of Seoul, the central and eastern fronts experienced a series of grim battles fought in sub-zero degree temperatures. Again, some ground was lost. By mid-January the military situation along the central and eastern fronts improved as enemy pressure gradually subsided. The primitive Chinese logistical system permitted offensive operations for no more than a week or two before a pause for replacements and new supplies. Exploiting this weakness, the US Eighth Army counter-attacked, recapturing Seoul by mid-March 1951, and by the first day of spring advancing to just below the 38th parallel.
MacArthur had the agreement of President Harry S Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take over the whole of North Korea. However, they did not agree to his suggestions of bombing China, including use of the atomic bomb. After MacArthur publicly advocated widening the war, President Truman recalled MacArthur on 11 April 1951 and named General Ridgway as successor. No significant change was made in the policy developed between President Truman's decision to intervene in June 1950 and the beginning of Armistice negotiations at Kaesong in July 1951.
During the war the Soviets sold China military equipment, including artillery and MIG fighter planes. The USSR also provided advisers and military hardware to the North Koreans, and Soviet pilots flew MiGs against US planes. However, Stalin was unwilling to become involved with the United States in a war over Korea, just as Truman was unwilling to become involved there in a war with the USSR.
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