U.N. Troops Surprised by China’s Entry into Korean War
The Korean War began when North Korean troops crossed the 38th Parallel to invade South Korea on June 25, 1950. Less than four months later the war appeared to be ending, as a South Korean offensive—aided by United Nations forces led by U.S. troops—pushed the North Korean army northward up against the Russian and Chinese borders. Just as the western newspapers were speculating how Korea would be administered now that the war was all but over, the People’s Republic of China did the unexpected: on Oct. 19, 1950, tens of thousands of Chinese troops poured into North Korea to oppose the South Korean and U.N. forces, and the war escalated into a new phase. Instead of a quick Allied victory it became a bloody three-year stalemate, not ending until an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. By the end of the conflict China had used a million troops and suffered over half a million casualties.
On Oct. 19, 1950, the day the Chinese troops crossed into North Korea, the South Korean Army and the Eighth United States Army captured Pyongyang, the North Korean capital city. With their morale low, their army in tatters and their capital city lost, the North Koreans were on the verge of defeat. All that changed, however, with the Chinese intervention.
The following two newspaper articles describe the situation in Korea during October 1950. The first article, published on October 22 before the Allies had any idea Chinese troops were in North Korea, speculates on post-war Korea and asserts “it is too late for either Communist China or Russia to do anything militarily to help the North Korean Reds now…” The second article, published on October 25, reveals the startling news that a captured Chinese soldier admitted that Chinese troops were now in North Korea ready to take up the fight.
This copyrighted article was published by the Sunday Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) on Oct. 22, 1950:
Outcome of Anti-Red Fight throughout Asia May Hinge on Korea
By William L. Ryan
Associated Press Foreign Staff
The destiny of all Asia may swing today on this hinge: What next in Korea?
Emerging blood-spattered from the agony of war, the “land of morning calm” gives the United Nations its greatest test—and possibly its greatest opportunity.
Korea now becomes the pilot project of the world’s anti-Communist nations acting in concert. The world—and particularly chaos-ridden Asia—waits to see whether Korea will become a lasting monument and a beacon for the future, or an admission of defeat for U.N. ideals.
…There are strong hints that the big western powers will stop well short of the Russian and Chinese frontiers to avoid the possibility of a clash with Russian or Chinese land forces. China has a stake in the extreme northern part of Korea, where hydroelectric works feed power to some Manchurian industries. A threat to these plants might cause a clash which the West wants to avoid.
Americans in Tokyo are generally in agreement that it is too late for either Communist China or Russia to do anything militarily to help the North Korean Reds now without risking general war. Indeed, the Soviets have indicated they decided to abandon the lost cause in Korea. Informed sources in Tokyo believe the Russians lack enough ground troops in the Far East to throw into a Korean land campaign now. It would take months to move such troops across Siberia. The Chinese could afford perhaps 60,000 troops from Manchuria for immediate action, and these would be subjected to slaughter by the allied air power. But there has been no indication, since the Inchon landings, that either Russia or China would go to the Koreans’ aid.
This copyrighted article was published by the Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington) on the front page of its Oct. 25, 1950, issue:
20,000 China Reds Cross into North Korea from Manchuria, Says Captive
By Earnest Hoberecht
United Press Staff Correspondent
Tokyo, Oct. 25.—An unconfirmed report attributed to a war prisoner said today that 20,000 Chinese Communist troops had entered North Korea and taken up defensive positions.
A United Press correspondent with the United States I. Corps in Korea said the South Korean army reported that it had captured a Chinese Communist soldier in Korea and he told of the mass entry into Korea by his fellow troops.
Intelligence officers at Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters said they had not received any reports along that line from the South Koreans. Tokyo observers were inclined to move cautiously in evaluating the report.
The South Korean report was described as “verified” by the United States I. Corps headquarters, which did not clarify what was meant by “verified.”
The report of the Chinese Communist border-crossing was one of a flurry of reports that the shattered North Korean army remnants might be preparing for a last and hopeless stand in the border belt next to Manchuria.
None of the reports carried any implication that the Korean Communists would be able to check more than momentarily the Allied forces totaling some 100,000 men moving northward toward the frontier.
The United Nations vanguard was only 30-odd miles from Manchuria in the mountainous region of North Central Korea. American, British and other forces were pushing up the west coast, and South Korean troops were advancing on the east coast.
…Glenn Stackhouse, United Press Correspondent with the United States I. Corps in Korea, sent a dispatch which began:
“A.R.O.K. (Republic of Korea) report verified by I. Corps headquarters said a captured Chinese Communist soldier said 20,000 of his fellow soldiers were in defensive positions in North Korea.”
The prisoner was captured today in fighting near Unsan, in Western Korea, 27 miles northeast of Anju, at the mouth of the Chongchon River, the dispatch said.
The dispatch said the prisoner told his captors that 20,000 Chinese Communist troops began crossing into Korea October 19, and they were “taking up defensive positions” south of the Yalu River, the Korean-Manchurian boundary.
Three Chinese Reds Found
The South Korean report gave no indication of how far south of the border the purported Chinese Communist force had moved.
The report said three Chinese Communist soldiers were found in the Unsan area. Two were killed and the third captured, according to the report.
The dispatch said I. Corps headquarters “verified the reports but could give no further details.”
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