On This Day Chinese counterattacks in Korea change nature of war

On This Day, November 26th in 1950, in some of the fiercest fighting of the Korean War, thousands of communist Chinese troops launch massive counterattacks against U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) troops, driving the Allied forces before them and putting an end to any thoughts for a quick or conclusive U.S. victory.

When the counterattacks had been stemmed, U.S. and ROK forces had been driven from North Korea and the war settled into a grinding and frustrating stalemate for the next two-and-a-half years.In the weeks prior to the Chinese attacks, ROK and U.S. forces, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, had succeeded in driving deeper into North Korea and were nearing the border with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The PRC issued warnings that the Allied forces should keep their distance, and beginning in October 1950 troops from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army began to cross the border to assist their North Korean ally. Their numbers grew to around 300,000 by early November. Some bloody encounters occurred between the Chinese and ROK and U.S. forces, but the Chinese troops suddenly broke off offensive operations on November 6. This spurred MacArthur, who had always discounted the military effectiveness of the Chinese troops, to propose a massive new offensive by U.S. and ROK forces.

Alternately referred to as the “End the War” or “Home by Christmas” offensive, the attack began on November 24. The offensive almost immediately encountered heavy resistance, and by November 26 the Chinese were launching destructive counterattacks along a 25-mile front. By December, U.S. and ROK forces had been pushed out of North Korea. Eventually, U.S. and ROK forces stopped the Chinese troops and the war settled into a military stalemate.

The massive Chinese attack brought an end to any thoughts that U.S. boys would be “home by Christmas.” It also raised the specter of the war expanding beyond the borders of the Korean peninsula, something U.S. policymakers-leery of becoming entangled in a land war in Asia that might escalate into a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets-were anxious to avoid.

 

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