During war, it is the job of a nation’s media to stir up nationalism and support the troops. When this happens, often the enemy is demonized on both sides, which stirs paranoia and hate, but the truth is more complicated.
Considering China’s history since the First Opium War in the early 19th century to 1949 (a century of war, rebellions and civil war), when UN forces neared China’s border, China’s leaders feared an invasion and reacted.
It’s possible if the UN had not moved beyond the Chongchon River and allowed North Korea’s communist government to survive in the area between that river and the Yalu River, China might not have attacked. It also didn’t help that the US moved forward to attack the Chinese positions after both sides had retreated after China’s first assault.
Meanwhile, at the Chosin Reservoir, the troops of the US 10 Corps celebrated Thanksgiving and dealt with the cold and harsh conditions. An offensive was planned for November 27. Having heard what was happening to the UN forces to the West, the Marines got ready for the worst possible combat situation. The objective of the operation was to take the city of Kanggye where the North Korean government had fled.
The offensive stalled against stiff Chinese resistance and the 10th Corps fell back. Then the Chinese attacked with six divisions.
Soon the 10th Corps was surrounded. The commanding General Oliver P. Smith said, “Gentlemen, we are not retreating. We are merely attacking in another direction.”
The situation was dire. On December 1, elements of the 10th Corps moved from the Chosin taking the wounded with them. The Chinese attacked from all sides.
After thirteen days of fighting while moving toward the ocean and the waiting US Navy, the first of the 10th Corps reached safety.
McArthur wasn’t near the combat as the UN forces retreated from North Korea with great losses. To make matters worse, the UN field commander General Walker was killed in a jeep accident.
Walker was replaced with General Matthew B. Ridgway. His levelheaded wisdom and experience brought a vital balance to the battlefield. He quickly discovered that the moral and confidence of UN troops was poor.
Ridgway attempted to hold the line at Seoul but on January 3, 1951, Seoul fell for a second time.
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