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date: 24 March 2017

The Korean War

Summary and Keywords

On June 25, 1950, North Korea’s invasion of South Korea ignited a conventional war that had origins dating from at least the end of World War II. In April 1945, President Harry S. Truman abandoned a trusteeship plan for postwar Korea in favor of seeking unilateral U.S. occupation of the peninsula after an atomic attack forced Japan’s prompt surrender. Soviet entry into the Pacific war led to a last minute agreement dividing Korea at the 38th parallel into zones of occupation. Two Koreas emerged after Soviet-American negotiations failed to agree on a plan to end the division. Kim Il Sung in the north and Syngman Rhee in the south both were determined to reunite Korea, instigating major military clashes at the parallel in the summer of 1949. Moscow and Washington opposed their clients’ invasion plans until April 1950 when Kim persuaded Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin that with mass support in South Korea, he would achieve a quick victory.

At first, Truman hoped that South Korea could defend itself with more military equipment and U.S. air support. Commitment of U.S. ground forces came after General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. occupation commander in Japan, visited the front and advised that the South Koreans could not halt the advance. Overconfident U.S. soldiers would sustain defeat as well, retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, a rectangular area in the southeast corner of the peninsula. On September 15, MacArthur staged a risky amphibious landing at Inchon behind enemy lines that sent Communist forces fleeing back into North Korea. The People’s Republic of China viewed the U.S. offensive for reunification that followed as a threat to its security and prestige. In late November, Chinese “volunteers” attacked in mass. After a chaotic retreat, U.S. forces counterattacked in February 1951 and moved the line of battle just north of the parallel. After two Chinese offensives failed, negotiations to end the war began in July 1951, but stalemated in May 1952 over the issue of repatriation of prisoners of war. Peace came because of Stalin’s death in March 1953, rather than President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s veiled threat to stage nuclear strikes against China.

Scholars have disagreed about many issues surrounding the Korean War, but the most important debate continues to center on whether the conflict had international or domestic origins. Initially, historians relied mainly on U.S. government publications to write accounts that ignored events prior to North Korea’s attack, endorsing an orthodox interpretation assigning blame to the Soviet Union and applauding the U.S. response. Declassification of U.S. government documents and presidential papers during the 1970s led to the publication of studies assigning considerable responsibility to the United States for helping to create a kind of war in Korea before June 1950. Moreover, left revisionist writers labeled the conflict a classic civil war. Release of Chinese and Soviet sources after 1989 established that Stalin and Chinese leader Mao Zedong approved the North Korean invasion, prompting right revisionist scholars to reassert key orthodox arguments. This essay describes how and why recent access to Communist documents has not settled the disagreements among historians about the causes, course, and consequences of the Korean War.

Keywords: 38th parallel, border clashes, North Korea’s attack, Pusan Perimeter, Inchon Landing, Chinese intervention, truce talks, prisoner repatriation, left revisionism, right revisionism

Popular wisdom dates the start of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, when a North Korean Communist army invaded South Korea. Another assumption holds that the Soviet Union ordered the attack as part of its plan to use military means to achieve global conquest. President Harry S. Truman provided support for this perception just two days after the hostilities began. On June 27, he told the American people that North Korea’s attack on South Korea demonstrated that world “communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war.”1 This assessment reflected Truman’s conviction that North Korea, like the nations of Eastern Europe, was a puppet of the Soviet Union and its leader Kim Il Sung was acting on instructions from Moscow. Top administration officials, as well as the general public, fully shared these assumptions.2 Prior to the 1970s, few histories of the war challenged this traditional explanation, providing only brief, if any, coverage of events in Korea before the day of North Korea’s attack. Once scholars began to gain access to primary sources, however, they reached a firm consensus that the origins of the Korean War date from at least the end of World War II. Moreover, the new evidence revealed that developments inside Korea were as important as international factors in determining the causes, course, and consequences of the conflict.

Origins of the Korean War

Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910 created the circumstances that led ultimately to the Korean conflict. As a result of Japan’s conquest, Korea’s liberation necessarily became an objective of the Allies in World War II. Before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States had no vital interests in this remote East Asian country and was largely indifferent to its fate, although it had been the first Western nation to sign a treaty with Korea in 1882. After December 7, 1941, however, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, recognizing the importance of this strategic peninsula for the preservation of future peace in the Pacific, advocated a postwar trusteeship to achieve Korea’s independence. At the end of the Cairo Conference in December 1943, Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and China’s Jiang Jieshi announced that the Allies, “mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.”3 Some writers have faulted Washington for not supporting Korean exiles in China and recognizing their Korean Provisional Government (KPG), but others argue that the United States was realistic in promoting a multinational trusteeship to manage Korea’s postwar transition to independence.4

Korea would not regain its sovereignty after World War II. For years after the Korean War began, the standard narrative was that at the Yalta Conference early in 1945, Roosevelt struck a deal with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin to divide Korea.5 In fact, at that meeting, the president gained Stalin’s endorsement for his four-power trusteeship plan to avert a revival of past Sino-Russian competition for control over the peninsula. The emerging Soviet-American rivalry, however, would produce a different and unfortunate outcome. When Harry S. Truman became president after Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, he expected Soviet actions in Korea to mirror Stalin’s expansionist policies in Eastern Europe. Almost immediately, he began to search for an alternative to trusteeship that would remove any chance for a repetition of “sovietization.” The atomic bomb seemed to offer a solution. Japan’s prompt surrender after an atomic attack would preempt Soviet entry into the Pacific war and allow the United States to occupy Korea unilaterally. But Truman’s gamble failed. When the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 8 and sent the Red Army into Korea before U.S. leaders expected Moscow to do so, Truman proposed and Stalin accepted Korea’s division into Soviet and American zones of military occupation at the 38th parallel.6

U.S. military occupation of southern Korea began on September 8, 1945. Historians continue to debate whether the U.S. Army deserves either direct or indirect responsibility for the violent clashes that disrupted the U.S. zone for five years after the end of World War II. Without much preparation, the War Department had redeployed the XXIV Corps under the command of Lieutenant General John R. Hodge from Okinawa to Korea to accept the surrender of Japanese forces. While the hasty U.S. occupation was a tactical military success, the U.S. government’s failure to provide Hodge with a specific plan for reunification and civil administration contributed to creating conditions resulting in the emergence of a Korean civil war. Comprised of approximately forty-five thousand soldiers who were ignorant about Korea’s history or culture, the U.S. occupation force was unable to maintain order because Koreans wanted independence, rather than occupation. But the onset of the Cold War in Europe, historians agree, raised the odds against realizing the U.S. objective of creating the foundation for postwar prosperity and democracy in a united Korea.

Studies of the American occupation of southern Korea from 1945 to 1948 have advanced very different assessments of the performance of the U.S. military. Hodge’s defenders blame his failures on U.S. officials in Washington, who waited until nine months after arrival before providing him with detailed instructions to govern his operations. Moreover, despite very limited resources, the U.S. Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK) was successful in its efforts to relieve human suffering, revive the economy, and introduce an administrative infrastructure. In addition, the USAMGIK promoted land reform, while American military advisors built a constabulary force after 1946 that became the nucleus for a future national army.7 Some scholars, however, fault the USAMGIK for not acting promptly to bring the KPG back from exile in China and placing it in power in the south alone. The United States then could have avoided the ill-advised decision to resurrect a trusteeship that ignited internal warfare among the people of southern Korea.8

Serious mistakes, however, would have a greater impact than the USAMGIK’s positive accomplishments. For example, the U.S. military established in southern Korea an authoritarian government that imitated the Japanese colonial model. American occupation officials also relied for advice on rich landlords and businessmen who could speak English, leading to appointment of them to top positions in an interim government. Many of these individuals had collaborated with the Japanese and were insensitive to the demands of Korean peasants and workers for economic and social reforms.9 Ultimate responsibility for the failures of the occupation rests with Hodge as a consequence of his administrative inexperience, instinctive anti-communism, and fixation with maintaining security. Sharing his fears, U.S. military advisors recruited rightwing extremists who had served in the Japanese army as officers in the Korean constabulary army. Determination to build an anti-Communist bulwark in South Korea explained the USAMGIK’s toleration of rightist paramilitary groups waging a reign of terror against leftist politicians and alleged supporters.10

Meanwhile, Soviet military forces in northern Korea, after initial acts of rape, looting, and petty crime, acted purposefully to build popular support. U.S. government publications for two decades after World War II emphasized that the Soviet Union had entered Korea with a pre-conceived plan to create in northern Korea a Stalinist state modeled after those it was installing in Eastern Europe. Adding to this orthodox interpretation, initial historical accounts would define Stalin’s postwar goals in Korea as first to realize an historic Russian objective of acquiring warm-water ports and second to create a buffer zone against an expected revival of Japanese aggression.11 Subsequent release of Soviet documents showed, however, that Stalin had not developed plans for postwar Korea because he did not expect to occupy the country.12 Upon arrival, Soviet occupation officials, in contrast to their American counterparts, recognized the authority of local people’s committees that the Koreans had formed after Japan’s surrender. But they also put selected leaders in places of national authority, notably wartime guerrilla leader Kim Il Sung.

During the fall of 1945, Soviet occupation officials rejected U.S. requests for cooperation and coordination across the 38th parallel. Deterioration of Soviet-American relations in Europe reinforced Moscow’s determination to consolidate Communist control in northern Korea. Hoping to prevent Korea’s permanent division, the United States persuaded the Soviet Union to accept a revived trusteeship formula at the Moscow Conference in December 1945. Bilateral negotiations in the spring of 1946 in Korea’s capital at Seoul failed to reach an agreement on a representative group of Koreans to form a provisional government, primarily because Moscow refused to allow and Washington insisted upon consultation with anti-Soviet politicians who opposed trusteeship. Talks adjourned in early May with neither side willing to acquiesce in an agreement that might strengthen its adversary in Korea. By then, Soviet occupation officials, partnering with Korean Communists, implemented comprehensive political, social, and economic changes. The reform program included expropriation of land that belonged to Japanese collaborators, large landlords, and the church. In addition to nationalization of all industry, transportation, communications, and banking, it also mandated an eight-hour workday and declared sexual equality.

Two Koreas in Conflict

Reform measures in northern Korea had a dramatic negative impact on southern Korea, as members of the propertied classes fled southward and added to escalating distress in the U.S. zone. Unable to halt political and economic deterioration, U.S. occupation officials strongly urged Washington to order prompt withdrawal. Intensifying pressure on the United States to leave was a steady decline in defense spending as part of postwar demobilization. In September 1947, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) added weight to the argument for withdrawal when, in response to a State Department request, they advised that Korea had little strategic significance for the United States. But with Communist power growing in China, the Truman administration was reluctant to desert southern Korea, fearful of political criticism at home and damage to U.S. credibility abroad. Seeking an answer to its dilemma, the United States decided to refer the Korean dispute to the United Nations in September 1947, which resulted in passage of a resolution on November 14 calling for reunification of Korea after internationally supervised nationwide elections.

Predictably, the Soviet Union refused to cooperate with this plan, denying UN access to northern Korea. The Truman administration anticipated this action, having shifted its policy after Soviet-American negotiations to reunite Korea collapsed in August 1947 to pursuing formation of a separate government in southern Korea ultimately capable of defending itself. While the United States provided military and economic assistance, a stamp of legitimacy from the United Nations would enhance further South Korea’s prospects for survival. Bowing to intense American pressure, the United Nations supervised and certified as valid elections in the south alone during May 1948, resulting in formation of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in August. The Soviet Union followed suit, sponsoring creation in September of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). And so the postwar great powers created two Koreas. In the south, President Syngman Rhee built a repressive, dictatorial, and anti-Communist regime, while Kim Il Sung emulated the Stalinist model for political, economic, and social development in the north.

These events amplified the need for prompt U.S. withdrawal, as did a UN request for both occupiers to leave Korea. Stalin raised the ante when he announced that Soviet troops, fulfilling a DPRK request, would leave the north by the end of 1948. The Truman administration already had taken steps to provide the ROK with the ability to defend itself against anything less than a full-scale invasion. U.S. military advisors had supervised the formation and training of a National Police Force in South Korea. Also, a U.S. Army advisory team had trained and equipped an army cadre of twenty-five thousand men. Despite these internal security forces and the continuing presence of U.S. troops, Rhee’s new government faced violent opposition within weeks after its creation, climaxing in October 1948 with the Yosu-Sunchon Rebellion. U.S. military advisors played a central role in helping purge leftists from South Korea’s military. The Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG), comprised of about five hundred U.S. officers and enlisted men, then supervised a dramatic improvement in the ROK Army before and after the departure of U.S. forces. Postponing plans to leave South Korea at the end of 1948, U.S. military withdrawal did not occur until June 29, 1949.

KMAG training of the ROK Army succeeded in building confidence among South Korean officers, who unfortunately began to stage aggressive assaults northward across the 38th parallel during the summer of 1949. These attacks ignited a number of clashes with North Korean forces that often saw fighting between battalion-sized units. Warfare between the Koreas therefore was already underway before June 1950 when North Korea’s invasion started the conventional phase of the conflict. Fearful that Rhee might initiate an offensive to achieve reunification, the Truman administration denied ROK requests for tanks, heavy artillery, and warplanes. Many writers have claimed that the U.S. failure to build a stronger South Korean military force invited an attack from North Korea.13 Others counter that limited resources required Washington to implement a policy of qualified containment in Korea. Rather than shirking its responsibilities in South Korea, the Truman administration had undertaken a commitment to train, equip, and supply a security force strong enough to maintain internal order and deter an attack from the north. It also submitted to Congress a three-year program of economic aid for recovery and self-sufficient growth.14

On January 12, 1950, Secretary of State Dean G. Acheson attempted to generate support in Congress for the Korean assistance package during an address before the National Press Club where he offered an optimistic assessment of the ROK’s future. Six months later, critics charged that his exclusion of South Korea from the U.S. “defensive perimeter” in the Pacific gave a “green light” to the Communists to launch an invasion. Defenders of the Truman administration at that time stressed as more important initial congressional rejection of the Korean aid bill as a more influential motivator, while other observers noted Democratic Senator Tom Connally’s publicized comment in May that the demise of the ROK was certain. Nevertheless, many historians persist in highlighting Acheson’s Press Club speech as a key trigger for the Korean War, while countless South Koreans accept this explanation as an article of faith. Soviet documents have confirmed, however, that Acheson’s words had almost no impact on Communist planning for the invasion.15

Stalin in fact was worried throughout 1949 about South Korea’s threat to North Korea’s survival. Consequently, he consistently refused to approve Kim Il Sung’s persistent requests to authorize an attack on the ROK. Developments in South Korea during the first six months of 1950 provided additional justification for the Soviet leader to be concerned, as the U.S. policy of containment in Korea through economic means appeared to be experiencing marked success. The ROK had acted vigorously to halt spiraling inflation and genuinely free elections in May gave control over the legislature to Rhee’s opponents. Just as important, the ROK Army virtually had eliminated guerrilla operations disrupting domestic order, causing the Truman administration to consider a significant increase in military aid. While Washington was willing to wait for Moscow’s artificial client state in the north to collapse, Rhee publicly stated his intention to pursue military reunification. Given its rising strength, the ROK posed a real threat to the DPRK’s survival.

By early 1950, Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War the prior fall placed pressure on Stalin to support a similar outcome in Korea. Late in January, he discussed with Kim Il Sung in Moscow plans for an invasion, but the Soviet dictator still withheld final consent. However, he did approve a major expansion of the DPRK’s military capabilities. At another Moscow meeting in late April, Kim Il Sung persuaded Stalin, who feared U.S. intervention, that a military victory would be quick and easy because of southern guerilla support and an anticipated popular uprising against Rhee’s regime. The Soviet leader authorized the attack, but on the condition that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) also agreed. In May, Kim Il Sung went to Beijing and obtained Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s reluctant approval, who had no choice but to support Stalin’s decision and Communist “liberation” of Korea. Like Stalin, he expected the United States would act to defend South Korea, threatening his aspirations to establish Chinese regional hegemony. Then, on the eve of the attack, fear that the war might not be won fast enough to avert U.S. entry led Stalin to modify the invasion plan that provided for a limited strike to provoke a counterattack before a full-scale invasion. On June 21, word that the ROK had learned of the impending attack caused Stalin to approve Kim’s proposal to launch the massive, tank-led assault that would cause U.S. and West European leaders to equate it with Nazi Germany’s attacks igniting World War II.

Koreans Invade Korea

Truman and Acheson gave no thought to the domestic origins of North Korea’s decision to invade South Korea. Cold War assumptions governed the immediate reaction of the president and his advisors, as they instantly concluded that Stalin had ordered the invasion as the first step in his new plan for military conquest of the world. “Communism,” Truman explained later in his memoirs, “was acting in Korea just as [Adolf] Hitler, [Benito] Mussolini, and the Japanese had acted ten, fifteen, and twenty years earlier.”16 Acting on the history lesson learned in the 1930s, Truman concluded that inaction would constitute appeasement and only encourage more Soviet-inspired aggression. Early accounts of the war would heap praise on the president for acting with swiftness and courage to halt the Communist invasion, but he in fact delayed for a week before committing U.S. ground forces after U.S. aerial attacks on invading army proved ineffectual. Instead, Truman referred the matter to the UN Security Council. At a meeting with his top advisors on June 25, 1950, to consider the Korean crisis, he approved air support for evacuation of Americans from Korea, sending a survey team, and shipment of more military supplies to the ROK Army, which he hoped could repel the North Koreans on its own.

On June 25, the UN Security Council passed its first resolution, calling upon North Korea to halt its invasion, accept a ceasefire, and withdraw from South Korea, but the Korean People’s Army (KPA) continued its advance. Two days later, a second resolution requested that member nations provide support for the ROK’s defense. On June 29, Truman, still optimistic that he could avoid full military intervention, agreed during a press conference with a newsman’s description of the conflict as a “police action.” His actions were consistent with the policy in place of seeking to block Communist expansion in Asia without using U.S. military power, thereby avoiding enlarged defense expenditures. General Douglas MacArthur, the U.S. occupation commander in Japan, provided support for the president in his desire to stay the course when, after a visit to the Korean battlefield on June 29, he reported that the ROK Army had regrouped and was fighting effectively. But early the next day, Truman reluctantly approved deployment of U.S. ground troops to Korea after MacArthur advised in a new report that not doing so guaranteed Communist destruction of the ROK.

On July 7, 1950, the UN Security Council passed a resolution providing for creation of the United Nations Command (UNC) and authorizing Truman to appoint the UNC’s commander, who immediately selected MacArthur. The resolution required the UNC commander to submit periodic reports to the United Nations on developments in the war. Truman had vetoed a proposal for the formation of a UN committee that could contact the UNC commander directly, instead adopting a procedure whereby U.S. Army Chief of Staff General J. Lawton Collins would convey instructions to MacArthur and receive reports from him on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Since MacArthur’s reports to the United Nations required U.S. government approval, they in practice were after-action summaries of information that was common knowledge because newspapers already had printed coverage of the same developments. Although the UNC would consist of military units from fifteen other nations, the United States and the ROK contributed 90 percent of the manpower. Moreover, the United States provided the weapons, equipment, and logistical support to save South Korea.

On June 27, the KPA occupied Seoul, located thirty miles below the 38th parallel. On July 5, the KPA routed U.S. forces in their first military engagement, initiating a string of humiliating defeats. By July 20, the North Korean invaders had shattered five U.S. battalions and moved one hundred miles south of Seoul. Six days later, MacArthur went to Korea to deliver an ultimatum to Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker, commander of the U.S. Eighth Army, that further retreat was unacceptable. In response, Walker issued a “stand or die” order to his troops, but the KPA’s advance continued. As the United States delivered more troops, equipment, arms, and supplies, U.S. forces established defensive positions along the Pusan Perimeter, a rectangular area in the southeast corner of the peninsula. By then, Walker was the target of blame for battlefield defeats. Later historians instead would fault MacArthur for sending into battle untrained and poorly armed troops who suffered from low morale and had no sense of purpose. Furthermore, they criticized him for running the war by “remote control” from Tokyo and not relieving ineffective officers.17

Despite the UNC’s seemingly desperate situation in July, MacArthur devised plans during that month for a counteroffensive in coordination with an amphibious landing behind enemy lines. The JCS had serious reservations about his intention to land at the coastal port of Inchon, twenty miles west of Seoul, because of its narrow access, high tides, mudflats, and seawalls. MacArthur insisted that surprise alone guaranteed success. Justifying his optimism, the Inchon Landing on September 15 was a stunning triumph that reversed the course of the Korean War. It allowed Walker’s forces to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and advance north to join with the X Corps, liberating Seoul two weeks later and forcing a routed KPA to retreat above the parallel. Orthodox writers would credit MacArthur’s brilliance for the success at Inchon. Since the landing—labeled “Operation Common Knowledge” in press reports at the time—was no secret, they insist that this military victory was the direct result of the superior planning, leadership, courage, determination, and luck of MacArthur.18 More recently, scholars have dismissed as exaggerated claims that the operation was risky, while maintaining that MacArthur crushed an already beaten enemy.19

During the last week of September 1950, UNC forces were in position to advance across the 38th parallel. Historians concur that the subsequent UNC offensive into North Korea was an extraordinary blunder because it provoked Chinese intervention. Truman administration officials later tried to shift blame to MacArthur for the disastrous consequences of invading North Korea, which transformed a three-month war into one lasting three years. Early writers would attribute the U.S. decision to cross the parallel to “military momentum” and “a surge of optimism” after the exhilarating Inchon Landing.20 Scholars now blame Truman. Some identify a political motivation, arguing that the president was hoping to boost his party’s prospects in the November elections.21 For others, the motive was to score a geopolitical victory in the Cold War.22 One more reason was maintaining U.S. credibility, which required pursuit of Korea’s reunification.23 Finally, Truman’s decision may have been the result of his belief that eliminating the DPRK would allow a united Korea to choose freely to follow the U.S. model of economic, social, and political development.24

To be sure, MacArthur was determined to “compose and unite” Korea. However, several State Department officials had begun to lobby during July for forcible reunification once the UNC had pushed Communist forces back into North Korea. They advocated pursuit and destruction of the North Korean army, which then would allow the United Nations to sponsor free elections for a government to rule a united Korea. On July 17, Truman instructed his staff to consider what to do when UNC forces reached the border at the 38th parallel. Acheson, who initially had defined the U.S. goal as restoring the prewar status quo, soon endorsed an offensive into North Korea. U.S. military leaders, however, were hesitant to support this drastic change in war aims, worrying that it would trigger Soviet intervention. But after defensive lines in Korea stabilized, the JCS advised Truman on July 31 that occupying North Korea would be desirable. During early August, Truman authorized the development of plans to achieve forcible reunification. On August 17, Warren R. Austin, in a speech at the United Nations where he was U.S. ambassador, asked this question: “Shall only a part of this country be assured that freedom?” His answer was “I think not!”25

An Entirely New War

U.S. leaders realized that extending hostilities northward risked Soviet or Chinese entry and possibly a global war. Therefore, the U.S. plan for elimination of the DPRK, which Truman approved on September 1, 1950, included two significant precautions. First, only Korean forces would occupy the most northern provinces. Second, Washington would obtain explicit UN support for reunification. Perhaps unwittingly, General George C. Marshall, newly appointed secretary of defense, proceeded to undermine the Truman administration’s emphasis on a cautious approach. On September 27, he sent an ill-advised cable to MacArthur affirming his orders to invade North Korea. Marshall then elaborated that his superiors “want you to feel unhampered strategically and tactically to proceed north of the 38th parallel.” He advised MacArthur against advance announcements that might precipitate a premature vote in the United Nations. After the DPRK refused to surrender, the United Nations passed a resolution of October 7, providing specific authorization for MacArthur to “ensure conditions of stability throughout Korea.”26

China considered U.S. actions in Korea a serious threat to its national security. Worse, on June 27, Truman moved the Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait, preventing the PRC from destroying its Guomindang rival on Taiwan. MacArthur visited the island in late July and stated plans to strengthen the military capabilities of Jiang Jieshi’s regime. Much to Truman’s chagrin, the militant anti-Communist general then sent a message to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which seemed to threaten China. Nevertheless, Beijing attempted to avoid war. On October 2, Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai warned the Indian ambassador that China would join the fighting in Korea if U.S. forces entered North Korea. U.S. officials thought the Chinese were bluffing. At a meeting on Wake Island on October 15, MacArthur assured Truman that China would not intervene. Four days later, the Chinese People’s Volunteers Force crossed the Yalu. Even after the first clash between UNC troops and Chinese forces later that month, MacArthur remained supremely confident.

Early in November, the PRC delivered a final warning when Chinese forces launched a sharp attack against advancing UNC and ROK units, then broke contact and retreated into the mountains. In response, MacArthur ordered air assaults on the bridges over the Yalu without seeking approval from Washington. Upon learning this, the JCS suspended the decision until Truman gave his approval. MacArthur then asked permission for U.S. pilots to engage in “hot pursuit” of enemy aircraft fleeing from Korea into Manchuria. After MacArthur predicted that allowing the enemy free movement of men and supplies into North Korea risked destruction of his forces, Truman approved the strikes, but only against the Korean side of the bridges. Strenuous opposition from U.S. allies, however, led to dropping the “hot pursuit” proposal over the objections of U.S. military leaders. These decisions infuriated MacArthur. Desperate to avoid a total war with China, Britain advanced a “buffer zone” proposal that would halt the UNC offensive short of the Yalu. MacArthur was livid when informed of what he judged a proposal for appeasement.

On November 24, MacArthur launched his “Home by Christmas Offensive” to the Yalu with U.S. troops in the vanguard. The JCS questioned, but did not countermand, the general’s breech of Truman’s instructions. The Chinese then counterattacked in force with an estimated 300,000 troops, sending UNC forces into helter skelter retreat southward. On November 28, the National Security Council met to consider what MacArthur reported was “an entirely new war” and Truman decided to pursue a ceasefire. At a press conference two days later, the president, responding to a newsman’s question, divulged that his civilian and military advisors had use of atomic bombs in Korea under consideration since the outset of the war. MacArthur, he elaborated, would decide whether to use these weapons against the Chinese. Truman’s comments ignited panic among U.S. allies who feared nuclear war was at hand. British Prime Minister Clement Attlee hurried across the Atlantic to Washington to express European anxieties that use of atomic weapons in Korea would widen the conflict. Attlee suggested ending the war through negotiations with Moscow and Beijing resulting in a UN seat for the PRC, a proposal that Truman flatly rejected. Attlee left with only the promise from the president that he would try to consult with U.S. allies before ordering any escalation.

During early December 1950, MacArthur publicly defended his advance to the Yalu as a “reconnaissance in force” that had exposed a Communist trap and averted a military disaster. He also complained about the extraordinary limits on his command, highlighting his inability to attack sanctuaries in Manchuria. Truman later explained that he should have fired MacArthur at that juncture, but did not want to embarrass the general in the aftermath of defeat. Amid deep pessimism, he sent General Collins to Korea to provide him with a firsthand assessment. Upon his return, Collins reported that the UNC would halt the enemy’s advance. Truman now thought that he could fight a “limited war” in Korea to restore the prewar status quo. As for MacArthur, he approved issuance on December 6 of a directive, clearly aimed at the general, that informed all U.S. officials that State Department approval was required for any public comments about the war.

On December 29, the JCS sent new instructions to MacArthur to retreat to defensible positions with the goal of avoiding evacuation of the peninsula. In reply, MacArthur pressed for adoption of his “Plan for Victory” that called for blockading China’s coast, air assaults on military installations in Manchuria, deploying Chinese Nationalist ground troops in Korea, and assaulting China’s mainland from Taiwan. Despite later denials, the JCS seriously considered implementing MacArthur’s proposals. In fact, on January 12, 1951, they finished a draft memorandum listing possible future courses of action that included all these recommendations. In its response to MacArthur, however, the JCS only repeated the most recent directive, advising him that he would receive no reinforcements. On January 10, MacArthur had shifted responsibility back to Washington, stating that complying with these instructions was impossible without lifting the “extraordinary limitations” on his command. He insisted that escalation or evacuation were the only options in Korea.

Meanwhile, in Korea, Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway, having replaced Walker who died in a jeep accident late in December, was displaying astonishing leadership in restoring the discipline and fighting spirit of American forces. After ending “bug-out fever” and halting the UNC retreat, he ordered the first counterattacks. At the end of February, UNC forces were near reoccupying Seoul. Truman no longer faced a choice between abandoning Korea or escalation of the war, but instead could focus on punishing the enemy to force it to accept a ceasefire. The president also could ignore the now discredited “Sage of Inchon.” Indeed, from this point onward, the JCS contacted Ridgway directly about the conduct of the war. Then, on March 7, Ridgway staged a major offensive that pushed enemy forces above the parallel. Truman and his advisors saw this as creating the opportunity to achieve an armistice. The administration’s preparations to end the Korean War short of total victory set the stage for Truman’s final clash with MacArthur.

Talking and Fighting for Peace

On April 11, 1951, Truman relieved MacArthur of his commands in Korea and Japan in response to two acts of insubordination. On March 20, the general’s issuance to the Chinese of a demeaning public ultimatum demanding their immediate surrender scuttled Truman’s planned peace initiative. Then, two weeks later, Republican Congressman Joseph W. Martin Jr. read a letter from MacArthur on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives charging the Truman administration with appeasement in Korea. This directly violated the December 6, 1950, directive requiring clearance for public comments on the war. Historians reached an early consensus that still commends Truman for preserving the constitutional principle of civilian control over the military.27 But more important reasons related to military strategy and alliance politics. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) wanted to make atomic weapons available to the commander of the United Nations Command (UNC) to counter a major enemy escalation in Korea, but feared that MacArthur might provoke an incident to widen the war. Also, U.S. allies never would consent to providing the UNC commander with discretion to order atomic retaliation so long as MacArthur held the position.

MacArthur’s recall ignited a firestorm of public criticism against Truman and the war. The general returned home to ticker-tape parades and, in a televised address before a joint session of Congress, defended his actions, declaring that there was “no substitute for victory.” Republicans and critics of Truman’s China policy demanded an investigation that resulted in a hearing before members of two Senate committees. The first witness on May 3, 1951, was MacArthur himself, who testified for three days. He insisted that the JCS was in full agreement with him on policy, but Truman and Acheson had made it impossible to win the war. Thereafter, six administration witnesses, including Marshall and the members of the JCS, refuted his testimony, emphasizing the importance of fighting a limited war in Korea and the necessity for civilian control over the military. U.S. Army General Omar N. Bradley, the JCS chair, stated succinctly that doing what MacArthur advocated would lead to “the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy.”

In April and May 1951, the UNC repulsed two massive Chinese offensives, establishing defensive positions just north of the 38th parallel. The ensuing military stalemate on the battlefield persuaded the combatants to seek an armistice. On June 23, two days before the conclusion of the MacArthur Hearings, Soviet UN Ambassador Jacob A. Malik advocated in a radio address a ceasefire in the Korean War. Armistice negotiations opened on July 10 at Kaesong, just north of the 38th parallel. The Truman administration was determined to limit the discussions to military matters alone, thus preventing the PRC from exploiting the talks to gain admission to the United Nations or control over Taiwan. As a consequence, the belligerents appointed military officers, rather than diplomats, as the main negotiators, reducing prospects for flexibility and compromise. Archival records demonstrate that both sides arrived at Kaesong expecting rapid achievement of a settlement. Instead, the negotiations would be highly rancorous, resulting in regular temporary adjournments. More than two years would pass before an armistice ended the Korean War.

There were several reasons for the failure to reach a prompt agreement on the terms for peace. First, the main belligerents had no direct contact between governments. Second, the conference site was isolated and austere. Third, cultural and ideological differences contributed to misperceptions and distrust. Fourth, domestic politics on both sides restricted options. Most important, sharply divergent national interests made compromise difficult. The Communist side created an acrimonious atmosphere at the outset with efforts to humiliate its adversary, but the United States raised the first major roadblock when it proposed a demilitarized zone extending deep into North Korea. The Communists suspended the talks in August after fabricating a UNC violation of the neutral zone. Two months later, talks resumed at Panmunjom, six miles east of Kaesong, after Ridgway demanded a new negotiating site. Expeditious agreement followed that the line of battle would divide the center of the demilitarized zone. Negotiators then approved inspection procedures to enforce the cease-fire and a postwar political conference to arrange for withdrawal of foreign troops and reunification. Ten months after talks began, negotiators reached a deadlock on repatriating prisoners of war (POWs), preventing them from signing an armistice.

For Americans who served on the UNC delegation, negotiating with the Communists at the Korean armistice talks was an exasperating experience. Without exception, they condemned the Chinese and North Koreans for tenacious rigidity in delaying a settlement. In his account of the negotiations, Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy, chief UNC negotiator until May 1952, also criticized the Truman administration for instructing him to make needless concessions at the truce table. Other U.S. participants shared Joy’s disgruntlement, blaming Washington for imposing limitations both on the negotiators and on the battlefield that prevented a more aggressive stand against the Communists, preventing an early settlement and unnecessarily prolonging the war.28 Rosemary Foot, in her authoritative account, exposes these assessments as exaggerated, describing how the Communists made many major concessions. She instead characterizes the United States as obstreperous because, accustomed to total victory, it had no interest in serious negotiations with an enemy that had demonstrated its ability to resist U.S. military power. Raising a different issue, other historians have faulted the United States for ignoring the United Nations in determining both the conduct of military operations and the course of the peace negotiations in Korea.29

Events at the armistice negotiations influenced how U.S. civilian and military leaders made decisions about conducting the war. For example, after the Communist side adjourned the talks in August 1951, Washington ordered U.S. B-29 bombers to stage mock atomic bombing test flights over North Korea in September and October to scare Communist negotiators into resuming negotiations and accepting UNC demands. For its part, the PRC began to publicize accusations early in 1952 that the United States was waging bacteriological warfare in Korea. Secretary of State Acheson vehemently denied these allegations and demanded an international investigation, but North Korea and China stymied International Red Cross efforts to do so. Historians initially endorsed as accurate U.S. denials of the Communist accusations that the UNC was using both biological and chemical warfare, but some later scholars pointed to evidence of American guilt.30 Soviet documents have shown, however, that China’s germ warfare charges were false. Moscow even told its Korean and Chinese allies to cease making unsubstantiated accusations.

Truman was responsible for the UNC delegation assuming an inflexible position against forcing unwilling Communist POWs to return to China or North Korea, arguing that humanitarian principles required providing them with asylum. Orthodox works on the Korean War judged his decision as correct and his justification as sincere. More recent writers, however, have asserted that the president’s main goal was to win a propaganda victory in the Cold War, which required misrepresenting the facts. Voluntary repatriation directly contradicted the Geneva Convention, which mandated, as the Communist side demanded, return of all POWs. Far worse, the Truman administration encouraged the belief that those Communist prisoners rejecting repatriation were defecting to the “Free World.”31 In fact, thousands of Chinese prisoners were Nationalist soldiers trapped in China who now had the chance to escape to Taiwan. As for the North Korean POWs, a large majority were actually South Koreans who either had joined the KPA voluntarily or been conscripted. U.S. supervisors at UNC camps also allowed Chinese Nationalist guards to wage a terrorist “reeducation” campaign to force POWs to refuse repatriation, beating or killing resisters. Non-repatriates even tattooed prisoners wanting to return home with anti-Communist slogans.

A Substitute for Victory

Stalemate in the truce tent and at the fighting front in Korea frustrated U.S. leaders. In May 1952, the UNC’s brutal suppression of a Communist prisoner uprising at the UNC’s Koje-do POW compound seemed to substantiate the Communist side’s charges of inhumane treatment. That summer, massive UNC bombing raids devastated North Korea, but brought no changes in the Communist negotiating position at Panmunjom. Despite intense efforts at the United Nations, the armistice talks adjourned in October 1952. The next month, angry American voters elected Dwight D. Eisenhower president largely because they expected him to end what had become the very unpopular “Mr. Truman’s War.” Fulfilling a campaign promise, the general visited the Korean battlefront in December, concluding that a new ground offensive would be pointless. Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution proposing the formation of a neutral commission to resolve the prisoner dispute. Rather than support the plan, Eisenhower, after assuming office in January 1953, seriously considered staging nuclear strikes on China to force a settlement.

Eisenhower initiated a new confrontational approach toward China on February 2 when he ordered the U.S. Seventh Fleet to withdraw from the Taiwan Strait, implying that he supported a Guomindang attack on the mainland. What influenced China more was the devastating domestic impact of the war. By summer 1952, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) faced enormous internal economic problems and probably had decided to seek peace after Truman left office. Major food shortages and physical devastation motivated Pyongyang to advocate an armistice even earlier. But Stalin ordered his allies to continue fighting because the war weakened the United States. By early 1953, however, both China and North Korea were ready to resume the truce negotiations, although they wanted the Americans to initiate the process. That came on February 22 when the UNC, reviving a Red Cross proposal of the previous fall, suggested exchanging sick and wounded POWs.

A critical turning point arrived on March 5 when Stalin suddenly died. His successors, in a policy reversal, urged the Chinese and North Koreans to act on their desire for peace. On March 28, Communist negotiators accepted the UNC proposal. Two days later, Zhou Enlai publicly proposed that a neutral state assume responsibility for POWs rejecting repatriation. On April 20, Operation Little Switch, the exchange of sick and wounded prisoners, began and six days later negotiators reconvened at Panmunjom. Pointed differences then emerged about the final details of the truce agreement. Late in May, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles allegedly told India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that unless there was progress toward peace, the United States would end the existing limitations on its conduct of the war. Some historians still accept as valid Eisenhower’s claim later that the Chinese, in response to this veiled nuclear threat, agreed to an armistice on U.S. terms, although no documentary evidence currently exists to validate his assertion. Nehru, for his part, denied that he conveyed the U.S. warning to the Chinese.

Washington and Beijing moved toward ending the Korean War in the spring of 1953 for a number of reasons. First, they both had grown weary of the economic burdens and military losses, as well as the political and military constraints ruling out options to break the deadlock. Second, they worried about the consequences of accidentally expanding the war. Third, pressure from allies and the world community pushed the belligerents toward ending the unpopular conflict. For the United States, continuation of the Korean War threatened to inflict irrevocable damage on its relations with allies in Western Europe and non-aligned members of the United Nations. Most recently, in May 1953, there was an outburst of world criticism in reaction to U.S. air assaults on North Korea’s dams and irrigation system. Later that month and early in June, Chinese forces staged powerful attacks against ROK defensive positions. Far from being intimidated, Beijing thus displayed its persistent resolve, utilizing military means to convince its adversary to make concessions on the final terms. Before the belligerents could sign the agreement, Rhee released twenty-seven thousand North Korean POWs in an attempt to bulldoze the impending truce. Eisenhower bought Rhee’s acceptance of the armistice with promises of financial aid and a mutual security pact.

Many historians consider the conflict in Korea the most important event in world affairs after World War II because it dramatically altered the course of the Cold War. In response, U.S. leaders implemented enormous increases in defense spending, strengthened the North Atlantic Treaty Organization militarily, and pressed for rearmament of West Germany. In East Asia, it prevented the demise of Jiang Jieshi’s regime on Taiwan and made South Korea a long-term client of the United States. U.S. relations with the PRC were hostile for two decades, especially after Washington persuaded the United Nations on February 1, 1951, to condemn China as an aggressor in Korea. Ironically, the war aided Mao’s regime in consolidating control in China, while elevating its regional prestige. U.S. leaders, acting on what they thought was Korea’s primary lesson, resorted to military means to meet this emerging challenge, leading infamously to the disastrous intervention in Vietnam.

Discussion of the Literature

Harry S. Truman explained in his memoirs that North Korea’s attack on June 25, 1950, “was a new and bold Communist challenge” because “for the first time since the end of World War II, the Communists openly and defiantly embarked upon military force and invasion.”32 For the next twenty years, nearly every study of the Korean War endorsed the president’s description of the reasons for the conflict. Cold War assumptions influenced these authors in affirming the traditional interpretation of the Korean War prior to the declassification of archival documents. During the first decade after the armistice, accounts of the conflict congratulated the United States for acting to halt Soviet-inspired Communist expansionism.33 T. R. Fehrenbach established the initial interpretive baseline in 1963 when he argued in his account that the United States was not prepared militarily or mentally to fight a limited war in Korea. Nevertheless, he applauded military intervention as necessary to preserve U.S. credibility and prestige. British historian David Rees conducted research in documents available at the time to publish in 1964 what would be the standard history of the conflict for two decades. He praised the Truman administration for successfully waging a limited war that defeated aggression.34 During the next decade, histories of the Korean War affirmed conventional wisdom, as writers seemed to think that they had received the last word on the reasons for the conflict, as Korea earned its nickname as the forgotten war.35

Surprisingly, a few writers during the Korean War rejected the Truman administration’s description of the conflict’s origins. One dissenter claimed that North Korea “jumped the gun” and attacked South Korea before the date the Soviet Union had selected for the invasion. For proof, he pointed to the Soviet boycott of the UN Security Council that prevented Moscow from blocking UN measures to defend the ROK. I. F. Stone, the famous leftist journalist, published a book in which he charged that Rhee purposely had initiated a border clash to provoke a North Korean retaliatory attack. He depicted the orderly retreat of South Korean forces as a military debacle to dupe the United States into saving his corrupt regime.36 Revival of these arguments came after former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev reported in 1970 that Stalin approved the invasion with great hesitancy because he feared U.S. intervention.37 A new study soon claimed that Moscow and Pyongyang had decided on August 15, 1950, as an invasion date, but the attack came two months earlier because of a power struggle in North Korea. Some writers even boldly charged that South Korea struck first and North Korea counterattacked in self-defense.38 Lack of supporting primary source evidence weakened the validity of these first revisionist accounts.

Early histories of the Korean War devoted little attention to discussing events prior to the North Korean invasion of South Korea because authors assumed that Stalin made the decision to attack for reasons having nothing to do with Korea. Historical explanations for the Korean War would experience a fundamental shift in the 1970s, as classified U.S. documents for the prewar years through 1950 became available. Soon, scholars were asserting that the origins of the war dated from at least the start of World War II, emphasizing the centrality of domestic factors in fueling an existing conflict. Rejecting Truman’s characterization of North Korea’s attack as the result of external aggression, Bruce Cumings insisted that in 1945, the United States intruded on a civil war in the first postwar act of containment, preventing the triumph of a leftist revolution on the peninsula and then imposing a reactionary regime on southern Korea, which would lead to the conventional war that started on June 25, 1950.39 Others writers who reassessed postwar U.S. policy toward Korea arrived at less harsh conclusions. Referencing U.S. documents, they wrote detailed studies of U.S. involvement in Korea from the start of World War II to the North Korean invasion that dismissed Truman’s simplistic description of the causes of the Korean War.40

During the 1980s, many historians, after reading new primary sources, agreed with Cumings that the Korean conflict was a classic civil war. Several writers published histories of the war stressing its domestic origins, as well as insisting that North Korea made the decision to attack South Korea.41 In 1988, Cumings and coauthor Jon Halliday, reviving Stone’s argument, made the provocative claim that South Korea attacked northward across the parallel first to incite a Communist invasion that would prompt U.S. intervention and open the way for its conquest of North Korea. Two years later, Cumings described this “trap theory” in more detail in the second volume of his The Origins of the Korean War.42 Release of Soviet documents after 1991 revealed, however, that contrary to these left revisionist claims, Stalin played a central role in approving and supporting North Korea’s attack. Almost immediately, a right revisionist perspective on the Korean War emerged which reemphasized the significance of international factors, resulting in a revival of key orthodox arguments. For these writers, domestic causes were less important than Stalin’s obsession with aggressive expansion in explaining the origins of the conflict.43 But other scholars who read the same sources disagreed. They insisted that Kim Il Sung made the decision to attack. An unenthusiastic Stalin gave his consent after concluding that any further delay only would lead to the emergence of a South Korea strong enough to absorb North Korea.44

During the 1980s, scholars armed with primary sources wrote new histories of the Korean War challenging orthodox judgments about the conventional phase of the conflict from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953. British historians Callum MacDonald, Max Hastings, and Rosemary Foot discredited the traditional portrayal of it as an example of the United States using its power with wisdom and restraint to prevent Communist expansion.45 Later writers also questioned accounts that either lauded MacArthur for his success at Inchon or damned him for his reckless advance to the Yalu and insubordination in trying to escalate the war.46 That MacArthur no longer occupies a central place in histories of the Korean War constitutes a significant shift in the literature on the conflict. But China’s rationale for entering the Korean War has emerged as a subject of intense debate, with recent studies minimizing Allen S. Whiting’s traditional explanation that preserving national security was the main motivation. Chinese scholars instead emphasize Mao’s desire to display ideological purity, consolidate domestic authority, and assert regional hegemony, as well as to repay the North Koreans for their help in the Chinese Civil War.47 Whether Eisenhower’s atomic threat ended the war remains contested terrain, but recent studies have advanced alternate reasons for an armistice.48 Publication of two new histories of the Korean War in 2014 and 2015 indicates that scholars have not reached a consensus on explanations for most of the events and issues in the conflict.49

Primary Sources

Historians have an enormous array of primary sources available to them in the English language to explain the origins of the Korean War, as well as specific issues and events during the conflict. Unquestionably the most important collections are located at National Archives II in College Park, Maryland, which houses U.S. government documents. The records of the State Department, U.S. Army, Defense Department, and Central Intelligence Agency in descending order have the highest valuable. Rebecca L. Collier has compiled a comprehensive guide that describes all holdings related to the Korean War at National Archives II.50 Much more accessible are a selection of these same U.S. government documents that the U.S. State Department has reprinted in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS). Annual volumes for Korea, China, and the East Asia region present cables, policy papers, and meeting minutes primarily from State Department records that relate to U.S. policy toward Korea from 1941 to 1951, with documents on Korea for the last two years of the war reprinted in a single volume. The University of Wisconsin Library had made available electronic access to these FRUS volumes.

Manuscript collections of the central U.S. decision makers during the Korean War are located at the presidential libraries of Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower in Independence, Missouri, and Abilene, Kansas, respectively. In addition to the papers of each president, holdings include the records of the National Security Council and major foreign policy advisors. Selected documents and other primary sources are accessible electronically at both repositories.51 The private papers of several influential U.S. military officers who commanded troops in the Korean War are located at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Of particular value are the manuscript collections at the Douglas MacArthur Memorial Library in Norfolk, Virginia. In addition, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, holds useful personal papers of individuals involved with U.S. policy toward Korea from 1941 to 1953. British archives at Kew Garden in London contain the most valuable primary sources among other nations who participated in the conflict.

Researchers also will find helpful the multivolume official U.S. Army history of the Korean War, which references primary documents related to the conduct of military operations. Two initial volumes provide coverage of the first five months of the Korean War from different perspectives, the first describing the military engagements and the second explaining the development and direction of U.S. military strategy. A third book traces events during the next nine months of the war. The last volume covers the war’s final two years, discussing the truce talks and continued intense fighting at the front.52 Another U.S. Army publication provides details on the activities of the Korean Military Advisory Group in training South Korea’s army before and after the North Korean invasion.53 Also featuring citations of primary documents are the official histories that describe the contributions of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, as well as the military operations of the U.S. Marines.54 Historians still find useful the third volume of the official history of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which exceeds the U.S. Army studies in value because it references a fuller array of primary sources. A volume in the official history of the Office of Secretary of Defense also cites key telegrams and policy papers in presenting a different perspective on mainly the first year of the Korean War.55

Writers of the early histories of the Korean War had to rely on published primary sources that remain valuable for those researching the conflict. The State Department, for example, published several pamphlets presenting narratives describing the events leading to North Korea’s attack from the U.S. government’s perspective, often including a selection of reprinted documents. Perhaps the most insightful of these publications is North Korea: A Case Study in the Techniques of Takeover, which presented evidence allegedly proving that North Korea was a Soviet satellite.56 Before and during the war, the U.S. Department of State’s Bulletin reprinted speeches, meetings summaries, and policy decisions related to Korea. Similarly, the annual volumes of the Public Papers of the Presidents contain reprints of Truman’s and Eisenhower’s presidential addresses and transcripts of their press conferences. Finally, contemporary newspapers, especially the New York Times, are a valuable source of primary information, reporting events in Korea before the North Korean attack and on the course of the war thereafter.

Access to Soviet and Chinese primary sources about the Korean War are far more limited, while North Korea has released none at all. The ROK government has published a three-volume history of the Korean War that includes references to South Korean documents.57 The PRC government has published in the Chinese language a selection of archival documents concerning its involvement in a number of official collections that include reprints of telegrams, letters, and the minutes of meetings. Firsthand accounts are available in the published memoirs of Chinese directly involved in the war, some in English translations.58 With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian government began releasing documents confirming Stalin’s direct involvement in planning the North Korean invasion.59 In June 1994, Russian President Boris Yeltsin presented to the ROK government a collection of additional Soviet documents related to the Korean War. The next year, the Russian government allowed the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Columbia University’s Korea Research Center to obtain copies of approximately twelve hundred pages of high-level documents on the war, which was twice as large as the Yeltsin gift. The CWIHP has printed English translations of the most important of these documents in its Bulletin. These primary sources are essential for understanding the Korean War.60

Further Reading

Brune, Lester H., ed. The Korean War: Handbook of the Literature and Research. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.Find this resource:

Casey, Steven. Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950–1953. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Chen Jian. China’s Road to the Korean War: The Making of the Sino-American Confrontation. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Collins, J. Lawton. War in Peacetime: The History and Lessons of the Korean War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969.Find this resource:

Cumings, Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War. Vol. 1: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945–1947. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.Find this resource:

Cumings, Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War. Vol. 2: The Roaring of the Cataract, 1947–1950. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Foot, Rosemary. The Wrong War: American Policy and the Dimensions of the Korean Conflict, 1950–1953. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985.Find this resource:

Foot, Rosemary. A Substitute for Victory: The Politics of Peacemaking at the Korean Armistice Talks. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Goncharov, Sergei N., John W. Lewis, and Xue Litai. Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Kaufman, Burton I. The Korean War: Challenges in Crisis, Credibility, and Command. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986.Find this resource:

Matray, James I. The Reluctant Crusade: American Foreign Policy in Korea, 1941–1950. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985.Find this resource:

Matray, James I. “Korea’s War at Sixty: A Survey of the Literature.” Cold War History 11.1 (February 2011): 99–129.Find this resource:

Matray, James I., and Donald W. Boose Jr., eds. The Ashgate Research Companion to the Korean War. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014.Find this resource:

Merrill, John. Korea: The Peninsular Origins of the War. Wilmington: University of Delaware Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Millett, Allen R. “Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Korean War: Cautionary Tale and Hopeful Precedent.” Journal of American-East Asian Relations 10.3–4 (Fall–Winter 2001): 155–174.Find this resource:

Millett, Allen R. The War for Korea, 1945–1950: A House Burning. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005.Find this resource:

Millett, Allen R. The War for Korea, 1950–1951: They Came from the North. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010.Find this resource:

Pearlman, Michael D. Truman and MacArthur: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Pierpaoli, Paul G., Jr. Truman and Korea: The Political Culture of the Early Cold War. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Rees, David. Korea: The Limited War. New York: Macmillan, 1964.Find this resource:

Shen Zhihua. Mao, Stalin and the Korean War: Trilateral Communist Relations in the 1950s. Translated by Neil Silver. New York: Routledge, 2012.Find this resource:

Stueck, William. The Road to Confrontation: American Foreign Policy toward China and Korea, 1947–1950. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981.Find this resource:

Stueck, William. The Korean War: An International History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Stueck, William. Rethinking the Korean War: A New Diplomatic and Strategic History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Weintraub, Stanley. MacArthur’s War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero. New York: The Free Press, 2000.Find this resource:


(1.) Harry S. Truman, “U.S. Air and Sea Forces Ordered into Supporting Action,” U.S. Department of State Bulletin 23 (July 3, 1950), 5.

(2.) Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (New York: W. W. Norton, 1969); John M. Allison, Ambassador from the Prairie or Allison Wonderland (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973); Mark W. Clark, From the Danube to the Yalu (New York: Harper, 1954); J. Lawton Collins, War in Peacetime: The History and Lessons of Korea (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1969); Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964); and Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War: History and Tactics (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967).

(3.) Final Text of the Communique, November 26, 1943, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran 1943 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1961), 448–449.

(4.) Mark E. Caprio, “The Eagle Has Landed: Groping for a Korean Role in the Pacific War,” Journal of American-East Asian Relations 21, no. 1 (Spring 2014), 1–29; Park Hong-kyu, “From Pearl Harbor to Cairo: America’s Korean Diplomacy, 1941–1943,” Diplomatic History 13, no. 3 (Summer 1989), 343–358; Liu Xiaoyuan, “Sino-American Diplomacy over Korea during World War II,” Journal of American-East Asian Relations 1, no. 2 (Summer 1992), 223–264; and James I. Matray, “An End to Indifference: America’s Korean Policy during World War II,” Diplomatic History 2, no. 2 (Spring 1978), 181–196.

(5.) Robert T. Oliver, Syngman Rhee: The Man Behind the Myth (Tokyo: Tuttle, 1955); George M. McCune and Arthur L. Grey, Jr., Korea Today (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950); and E. Grant Meade, American Military Government in Korea (New York: King’s Crown Press, 1951).

(6.) Mark Paul, “Diplomacy Delayed: The Atomic Bomb and the Division of Korea, 1945,” in Child of Conflict: The Korean-American Relationship, 1945–1953, ed. Bruce Cumings (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1983), 67–92; and Michael C. Sandusky, America’s Parallel (Alexandria, VA: Old Dominion Press, 1983).

(7.) Donald Stone Macdonald, The Koreans: Contemporary Politics and Society (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1988); Allen R. Millett, The War for Korea, 1945–1950: A House Burning (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2005); and Gregg Brazinsky, Nation Building in South Korea: Koreans, Americans, and the Making of Democracy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007).

(8.) Cho Soon-sung, Korea in World Politics, 1940–1950: An Evaluation of American Responsibility (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1967); and Choi Sang-Yong, “Trusteeship Debate and the Korean Cold War,” in Bonnie B.C. Oh (ed.), Korea Under the American Military Government, 1945–1948 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002), 13–40.

(9.) McCune and Grey, Korea Today; Carl Berger, The Korea Knot: A Military-Political History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1957); and Gregory Henderson, Korea: The Politics of the Vortex (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968).

(10.) James I. Matray, “Hodge Podge: U.S. Occupation Policy in Korea, 1945–1948,” Korean Studies 19 (1995), 17–38; and Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War. Vol. 1: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945–1947 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981).

(11.) Dae-suk Suh, “A Preconceived Formula for Sovietization: North Korea,” in The Anatomy of Communist Takeovers, ed. Thomas T. Hammond (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975), 475–489; and Eric Van Ree, Socialism in One Zone: Stalin’s Policy in Korea, 1945–1950 (Oxford, UK: Berg, 1989).

(12.) Shen Zhihua, Mao, Stalin and the Korean War: Trilateral Communist Relations in the 1950s, trans. Neil Silver (New York: Routledge, 2012); and James I. Matray, “Korea’s Partition: Soviet-American Pursuit of Reunification, 1945–1948,” Parameters 28, no. 1 (Spring 1998), 150–162.

(13.) Berger, The Korean Knot; Cho, Korea and World Politics; and Charles M. Dobbs, The Unwanted Symbol: American Foreign Policy, the Cold War, and Korea, 1945–1950 (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1981).

(14.) James I. Matray, The Reluctant Crusade: American Foreign Policy in Korea, 1941–1950 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985); Russell D. Buhite, “‘Major Interests’: American Policy Toward China, Taiwan, and Korea, 1945–1950,” Pacific Historical Review 47, no. 3 (August 1978), 425–451; and Ronald L McGlothen, Controlling the Waves: Dean Acheson and U.S. Policy in East Asia (New York: W. W. Norton, 1993).

(15.) James I. Matray, “Dean Acheson’s National Press Club Speech Reexamined,” Journal of Conflict Studies 22, no. 1 (Spring 2002), 28–55.

(16.) Harry S. Truman, Memoirs, Vol. 2: Years of Trial and Hope (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1956), 463.

(17.) Robert A. Cole, “Leadership in Korea: The War of Movement, 1950–1951” and Uzal W. Ent, “Walton Walker: Defender of the Pusan Perimeter,” The New England Journal of History 60, nos. 1–3 (Fall 2003–Spring 2004), 163–211; Geoffrey Perret, Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur (New York: Random House, 1996); and Stanley Weintraub, MacArthur's War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero (New York: Free Press, 2000).

(18.) For representative examples, see Walt Sheldon, Hell or High Water: MacArthur’s Landing at Inchon (New York: Macmillan, 1968); and Michael Langley, Inchon Landing: MacArthur’s Last Triumph (New York: Times Books, 1979).

(19.) Joseph C. Goulden, Korea: The Untold Story (New York: Times Books, 1982); Bevin Alexander, Korea: The First War We Lost (New York: Hippocrene, 1986); Max Hastings, The Korean War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987); Stanley Sandler, The Korean War: No Victors, No Vanquished (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999); and Allan R. Millett, The War for Korea, 1950–1951: They Came from the North (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010).

(20.) David Rees, Korea: The Limited War (New York: St. Martin’s, 1964); Martin Lichterman, “To the Yalu and Back,” in American Civil-Military Decisions: A Book of Case Studies, ed. Harold Stein (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1963), 569–642; and Ridgway, The Korean War.

(21.) Ronald J. Caridi, The Korean War and American Politics: The Republican Party as a Case Study (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968); and Trumbull Higgins, Truman and the Fall of MacArthur: A Precis on Limited War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960).

(22.) Walter LaFeber, “Crossing the 38th: The Cold War in Microcosm,” in Reflections on the Cold War: A Quarter Century of American Foreign Policy, eds. Lynn H. Miller and Ronald W. Pruessen (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1974), 71–90; and Barton J. Bernstein, “The Policy of Risk: Crossing the 38th Parallel and Marching to the Yalu,” Foreign Service Journal 54 (March 1977), 16–22, 29.

(23.) William W. Stueck Jr., The Road to Confrontation: American Foreign Policy toward China and Korea, 1947–1950 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981); and Burton I. Kaufman, The Korean War: Challenges in Crisis, Credibility, and Command (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986).

(24.) James I. Matray, “Truman’s Plan for Victory: National Self-Determination and the Thirty-Eighth Parallel Decision in Korea,” Journal of American History 66, no. 2 (September 1979), 314–333.

(25.) Warren R. Austin, “President Malik’s Continued Obstruction Tactics in the Security Council,” U.S. Department of State Bulletin XXIII (August 28, 1950), 330–331.

(26.) James I. Matray, “Fighting the Problem: George C. Marshall and Korea,” in George C. Marshall: Servant of the American Nation, ed. Charles F. Brower IV (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 79–115.

(27.) Richard Rovere and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The General and the President and the Future of American Foreign Policy (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1951); and John W. Spanier, The Truman-MacArthur Controversy and the Korean War (New York: W. W. Norton, 1959).

(28.) C. Turner Joy, How Communists Negotiate (New York: Macmillan, 1955); William H. Vatcher Jr., Panmunjom: The Story of the Korean Military Armistice Negotiations (New York: Praeger, 1958); Herbert Goldhamer, The 1951 Korean Armistice Conference: A Personal Memoir (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1994).

(29.) Rosemary Foot, A Substitute for Victory: The Politics of Peacemaking at the Korean Armistice Talks (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Donald W. Boose Jr., “The Korean War Truce Talks: A Study in Conflict Termination,” Parameters 30, no. 1 (Spring 2000), 102–116; and Sydney D. Bailey, The Korean Armistice (New York: St. Martin’s, 1992).

(30.) John Gittings, “Talks, Bombs and Germs: Another Look at the Korean War,” Journal of Contemporary Asia 5, no. 2 (Spring 1975), 205–217; Conrad Crane, “‘No Practical Capabilities’: American Biological and Chemical Warfare Programs During the Korean War,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 45, no. 2 (Spring 2002), 241–249; and Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998).

(31.) Foot, A Substitute for Victory; Barton J. Bernstein, “The Struggle over the Korean Armistice: Prisoners of Repatriation,” in Child of Conflict: The Korean-American Relationship, 1945–1953, ed. Bruce Cumings (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1983), 261–307.

(32.) Truman, Years of Trial and Hope, 464.

(33.) Rutherford B. Poats, Decision in Korea (New York: McBride, 1954); John Dille, Substitute for Victory (New York: Doubleday, 1954); Robert Leckie, Conflict: The History of the Korean War, 1950–1953 (New York: Putnam, 1962); and Glenn D. Paige, The Korean Decision, June 24–30, 1950 (New York: Free Press, 1968).

(34.) T. R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War: A Study of Unpreparedness (New York: Macmillan, 1963); and Rees, Korea: The Limited War.

(35.) Harry J. Middleton, The Compact History of the Korean War (New York: Hawthorne, 1965); Edgar O’Ballance, Korea 1950–1953 (London: Faber, 1969); and James McGovern, To the Yalu: From the Chinese Invasion of Korea to MacArthur’s Dismissal (New York: Morrow, 1972).

(36.) Wilbur W. Hitchcock, “North Korea Jumps the Gun,” Current History 20, no. 115 (March 20, 1951), 136–144; and I. F. Stone, The Hidden History of the Korean War (New York: Monthly Review, 1952).

(37.) Nikita S. Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers, trans. Strobe Talbott (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970).

(38.) Robert R. Simmons, The Strained Alliance: Peking, Pyongyang, Moscow and the Politics of the Korean Civil War (New York: Free Press, 1975); Joyce Kolko and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1945–1954 (New York: Harper and Row, 1972); and Karunakar Gupta, “How Did the Korean War Begin?,” China Quarterly 52 (October–December 1972), 699–716.

(39.) Cumings, Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945–1947.

(40.) John Merrill, Korea: The Peninsular Origins of the War (Wilmington: University of Delaware Press, 1989); Stueck, The Road to Confrontation; and Dobbs, The Unwanted Symbol; Matray, The Reluctant Crusade.

(41.) Prominent examples include Peter Lowe, Origins of the Korean War (New York: Longman, 1986); Kaufman, The Korean War; Callum A. MacDonald, Korea: The War Before Vietnam (New York: Free Press, 1986); Gavan McCormack, Cold War/Hot War (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1983).

(42.) Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings, Korea: The Unknown War (New York: Pantheon, 1988); Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 2: The Roaring of the Cataract, 1947–1950 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990).

(43.) Kathryn Weathersby, “Korea, 1949–50: To Attack or Not to Attack: Stalin, Kim Il Sung, and the Prelude to War,” Cold War International History Project Bulletin [hereafter, CWIHPB], no. 5 (Spring 1995), 1–9; Kathryn Weathersby, “New Findings on the Korean War: Translation and ‘Commentary,” CWIHPB, no. 3 (Fall 1993), 1, 14–18; Kathryn Weathersby, “The Soviet Role in the Early Phase of the Korean War: New Documentary Evidence,” Journal of American–East Asian Relations 2, no. 4 (Winter 1993), 425–458; William W. Stueck, The Korean War: An International History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995); and William W. Stueck, Rethinking the Korean War: A New Diplomatic and Strategic History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).

(44.) Allan R. Millett, The War for Korea, 1945–1950: A House Burning (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2005); Shen Zhihua, “Sino-Soviet Relations and the Origins of the Korean War,” Journal of Cold War Studies 33, no. 2 (Spring 2000), 44–68; Evgueni Bajanov, “Assessing the Politics of the Korean War, 1949–1951,” CWIHPB, nos. 6–7 (Winter 1995/1996), 54, 87–91; Alexandre Y. Mansourov, “Enigmas of D-Day,” The Korean War at Fifty: International Perspectives, ed. Mark F. Wilkinson (Lexington: Virginia Military Institute, 2004), 40–65; and Sergei N. Goncharov, John W. Lewis, and Xue Litai, Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993).

(45.) MacDonald, Korea; Hastings, The Korean War; Rosemary Foot, The Wrong War: American Policy and the Dimensions of the Korean Conflict, 1950–1953 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985). See also, Alexander, Korea; Richard L. Whelan, Drawing the Line: The Korean War, 1950–1953 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1990); and Steven Casey, Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950–1953 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

(46.) Russell D. Buhite, Douglas MacArthur: Statecraft and Stagecraft in America’s East Asian Policy (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008); Michael D. Pearlman, Truman and MacArthur: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008); and Millett, They Came from the North.

(47.) Allen S. Whiting, China Crosses the Yalu: The Decision to Enter the Korean War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1970); Chen Jian, China’s Road to the Korean War: The Making of the Sino-American Confrontation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994); Shu Guang Zhang, Mao’s Military Romanticism: China and the Korean War, 1950–53 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1995); and Michael M. Sheng, Battling Western Imperialism: Mao, Stalin, and the United States (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997).

(48.) Elizabeth A. Stanley, Paths to Peace: Domestic Coalition Shifts, War Termination and the Korean War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009); Edward C. Keefer, “President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the End of the Korean War,” Diplomatic History 10, no. 3 (Summer 1986), 267–289; and Thomas Allen, “No Winners, Many Losers: The End of the Korean War,” in Security in Korea: War, Stalemate, and Negotiation, eds. Phil Williams, Donald M. Goldstein, and Henry L. Andrews Jr. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994), 110–126.

(49.) Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014); and Masuda Hajimu, Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

(50.) Rebecca L. Collier, National Archives Records Related to the Korean War (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 2003).

(51.) Access to selected primary sources on the Korean War at the Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower presidential libraries.

(52.) Roy E. Appleman, South of the Naktong, North to the Yalu (June–November 1950) (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1961); James F. Schnabel, Policy and Direction: The First Year (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1972); Billy C. Mossman, Ebb and Flow: November 1950–July 1951 (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1990); and Walter J. Hermes, Jr., Truce Tent and Fighting Front (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1966).

(53.) Robert K. Sawyer and Walter G. Hermes Jr., Military Advisors in Korea: KMAG in War and Peace (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1962).

(54.) James A. Field Jr. History of the United States Naval Operations Korea (Washington, DC: Director of Naval History, 1962); Robert F. Futrell, The United States Air Force in Korea, 1950–1953 (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Air Force History, 1983); and Lynn Montross, Nicholas A. Canzona, Hubard D. Kuokka, N. W. Hicks, Pat Meid, and James M. Yingling, History of U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950–1953. 5 vols. (Washington, DC: Historical Branch, G-3, Headquarters, Marine Corps, 1954–1972).

(55.) James F. Schnabel and Robert J. Watson, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 3: The Korean War (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1979); and Doris Condit, History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Vol. 2: The Test of War, 1950–1953 (Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1988).

(56.) See, for example, U.S. Department of State, Korea’s Independence, Far Eastern Series, No. 18 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1947); U.S. Department of State, United States Policy in the Korean Crisis, Far Eastern Series, No. 34 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950); U.S. Department of State, The Fight Against Aggression in Korea, Far Eastern Series, No. 37 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950); U.S. Department of State, The Conflict in Korea: Events Prior to the Attack on June 25, 1950, Far Eastern Series, No. 45 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951); U.S. Department of State, The Record on Korean Unification 1943–1960: Narrative Summary with Principal Documents, Far Eastern Series, No. 101 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960); and U.S. Department of State, North Korea: A Case Study in the Techniques of Takeover, Far Eastern Series, No. 103 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1961).

(57.) Korean Institute of Military History, The Korean War, 3 vols. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001).

(58.) See Yafeng Xia, “The People’s Republic of China,” in Ashgate Research Companion to the Korean War, eds. James I. Matray and Donald W. Boose Jr. (Farnham, UK: Ashagate, 2014), 61–63.

(59.) In 1993, Sergei N. Goncharov, John W. Lewis, and Xue Litai reprinted the Soviet documents Russia released in Uncertain Partners.

(60.) Researchers can examine the copies of these Soviet documents at the National Security Archive of the George Washington University.