Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Korean War - Part III 
 F-86 Sabre jet interceptors

Towards the end of 1950, war in the air also intensified and became a major worry for the United Nations Command. The appearance of Soviet Mig-15 jet fighters, flown by Soviet pilots masquerading as Chinese and North Koreans, stopped most of the daytime raids on North Korea. In response the US sent F-86 Sabre jet interceptors to Japan in their bid for supremacy in the skies.

All the time this was happening the Chinese were building up their forces. On November 25, they launched a major offensive of 180,000 troops against the UN soldiers, which would prove to be one of the most important turning points in the war. Fighting at night the Chinese maximized their strengths of stealth and large numbers, whilst minimizing their weaknesses of susceptibility to air strikes, or lack of artillery.

Attacks focussed on cutting off supply and withdrawal routes and ambushing counterattacking forces. Casualties were severe, and with the onset of a bitter winter, General Macarthur, realising he was facing an entirely new war, ordered a retreat. By mid-December the UN troops had been pushed back to the 38th Parallel and continued fighting forced them South.

The Chinese People's Volunteer Army

On New Year’s Eve, the Chinese along with North Korean units crossed the 38th Parallel and by January 4, 1951, they had reached Seoul. They managed to push a further 50 miles south but the victory for the communist forces was shortl-lived as the were unable to cope with the superior firepower of the UN.  Seoul was retaken by UN troops on March 14 and ten days later they had advanced to the 38th Parallel.

General Macarthur at this point became a strong voice advocating a strategy of complete victory, which put him at odds with Truman, who had declared he was now willing to sign a ceasefire. By making his views public Macarthur had ultimately signalled his own demise and he was relieved of his command to make way for General Matthew Ridgway. Talks began between the sides on July 10, 1951, but were unsuccessful and continued to flounder for the next two years as they remained locked in a stalemate position.