UNITED NATIONS COMMAND
The predawn quiet of a rainy, peaceful Sunday morning, June 25, 1950, was abruptly shattered by artillery, mortar and automatic weapons fire as North Korean forces attacked without warning. The invading North Koreans quickly breached the 38th parallel and forcing lightly-armed Republic of Korea Army forces to retreat toward their capital of Seoul.
Two days later, acting on a request from the United States, the United Nations Security Council called on the countries of the world to unite and assist in driving the invader from the ROK. In its resolution, the UN Security Council named the United States as executive agent to implement the resolution and direct UN military operations in Korea.
Even before the UN resolution passed, President Harry S. Truman, recognizing a threat to the free world, determined the U.S. could no longer remain neutral while communist powers trampled the free nations of the world ordered General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Commander-in-Chief, Far East Command, to provide whatever assistance was needed to repel this invasion. General MacArthur committed U.S. air and naval forces within hours of the attack. Following passage of the UN resolution, on July 24, in Tokyo, General MacArthur established General Headquarters, United Nations Command.
By then, the UN had issued a further appeal to all member nations to provide what military and other aid they could to assist the ROK Government in repelling the invaders. The first ground troops to enter battle on the side of the ROK were advance elements of the U.S. 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. Units were airlifted from occupation duties in Japan to form “Task Force Smith.” The unit was committed on July 5th a few miles north of Osan.
The first battles were a disaster so, in the face of overpowering enemy strength, the UNC fought delaying actions as ROK and U.S. units withdrew down the peninsula. Outnumbered and out-gunned, they traded lives and space for time as they waited for the pledged assistance from other countries of the UN.
On August 29, 1950, the British Commonwealth’s 27th Brigade arrived at Pusan to join the UNC, which until then included only ROK and U.S. forces. The 27th Brigade moved into the Naktong River line west of Taegu.
Troop units from other countries of the UN followed in rapid succession; Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and Turkey. The Union of South Africa provided air units which fought along side the air forces of other member nations. Denmark, India, Norway, and Sweden provided medical units. Italy provided a hospital, even though it was not a UN member.
During the three years of the Korean War, military forces of these nations fought and died together as members of the UNC. They fought for the freedom of the Korean people and to demonstrate UN resolve to stop unprovoked aggression.
Through the freezing winters and the sweltering heat of the Korean summers, men from Britain, Ethiopia, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Turkey, United States, and other contributing countries demonstrated individual and collective heroism in facing human waves of north Korean and Chinese aggressors. Few battles in the history of modern warfare have wrought the heartbreak and the frustration of this struggle.
Bloody Ridge, Chosin Reservoir, Hamhung, Heartbreak Ridge, Hwachan Reservoir, Iron Triangle, Punch Bowl and Pusan Perimeter — all were mileposts in the seesaw battle for Korea’s freedom. The dust of Old Baldy was crimsoned with blood of valiant members of the UNC; the Han and Imjin Rivers ran red with blood of UN fighting men.
On July 27,1953, the shooting ended. An armistice was signed at Panmunjom which provided for the end of the fighting and eventual political settlement of the war. The shooting ended, but the troops remained, each side pulling back 2,000 meters from the last line of military contact to insure peace, to watch the Demilitarized Zone, and to guard against any resumption of hostilities.
In a green field at Tanggok, located near the port of Pusan, stand myriad reminders of the Korean War. Simple white crosses, standing near the sign of the “Crescent and the Star” and the “Star of David” are bleak, symbolic representatives of the 33,629 Americans, numberless Koreans, 717 Turkish soldiers, and 1,109 soldiers of the United Kingdom who gave their lives during the struggle. Also sharing this place of honor are the symbols for the dead of the 12 other nations whose fighting men died to keep Korea free.
- Peak strength for the UNC was 932,964 on July 27, 1953 — the day the Armistice Agreement was signed:
- Republic of Korea 590,911
- Columbia 1,068
- United States 302,483
- Belgium 900
- United Kingdom 14,198
- South Africa 826
- Canada 6,146
- The Netherlands 819
- Turkey 5,453
- Luxembourg 44
- Australia 2,282
- Philippines 1,496
- New Zealand 1,385
- Thailand 1,204
- Ethiopia 1,271
- Greece 1,263
- France 1,119