After 1949, the focus of the Cold War moved to the Far East. There, too, the Communists were getting powerful – China turned Communist in 1949 – and President Truman was worried that, if one country fell to Communism, then other would follow, like a line of dominoes. Stalin, also, was involved in the Far East. In 1949, Kim Il Sung, the ruler of north Korea, had persuaded Stalin and Mao Tse Tung, to allow him to attack South Korea..
In 1950, Syngman Rhee – the South Korean head of state – boasted that he was going to attack North Korea. It was a good enough excuse – in June 1950, the North Koreans invaded South Korea.
At first, the North Korean People's Army (NKPA) was very successful. Many of the NKPA had fought in the Chinese Revolution and were battle trained. They easily defeated the Republic of Korea's army (the ROKs). By July they captured most of South Korea, apart from a small enclave round Pusan in the far south of the peninsula.
This alarmed the Americans, who persuaded the United Nations to support South Korea. Out of the 300,000 UN troops, 260,000 were Americans. In July 1950, the UN Army, led by General MacArthur, went to Korea. It landed at Pusan, and made an amphibious landing at Inchon (near Seoul). MacArthur drove back the North Koreans and recaptured South Korea. 125,000 NKPA prisoners were captured. Then the Americans invaded North Korea and advanced as far as the Chinese border.
Now the Chinese were alarmed. 200,000 Chinese troops ('People's Volunteers') attacked. They had modern weapons supplied by Russia, and a fanatical hatred of the Americans. In December, 500,000 more Chinese troops entered the war. Using ‘human wave’ tactics, they drove the Americans back, recaptured North Korea, and advanced into South Korea.
MacArthur urged Truman to use of the atomic bomb. Truman refused. Instead, in February 1951, he sent more troops and stepped up the bombing raids. The Americans drove the Chinese back (the Chinese lost between 390,000 and a million men), but lost 54,000 men killed in the process. The war was not popular in America.
MacArthur reached the 38th parallel in March 1951. There, Truman told MacArthur to stop, and sacked him when he publicly criticised Truman’s order. In 1953, Eisenhower became American president. He made a formal truce. It is estimated that 10 million people died in the war.