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Timeline of the Korean War

America's Forgotten War

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At the close of World War II, the victorious Allied Powers did not know what to do with the Korean Peninsula. Korea had been a Japanese colony since the late nineteenth century, so westerners thought the country incapable of self-rule. The Korean people, however, were eager to re-establish an independent nation of Korea.

Instead, they ended up with two countries: North and South Korea.

Background to the Korean War: July 1945 - June 1950

Harry Truman, Josef Stalin and Clement Atlee at Potsdam, 1945
Library of Congress
Potsdam Conference, Russians invade Manchuria and Korea, US accepts Japanese surrender, North Korean People's Army activated, U.S. withdraws from Korea, Republic of Korea founded, North Korea claims entire peninsula, Secretary of State Acheson puts Korea outside U.S. security cordon, North Korea fires on South, North Korea declares war

North Korea's Ground Assault Begins: June - July 1950

Bombing of the Kum River Bridge near Taejon, South Korea. August 6, 1950.
Department of Defense / National Archives
UN Security Council calls for ceasefire, South Korean President flees Seoul, UN Security Council pledges military help for South Korea, U.S. Air Force shoots down North Korean planes, South Korean Army blows up Han River Bridge, North Korea captures Seoul, First U.S. ground troops arrive, U.S. moves command from Suwon to Taejon, North Korea captures Incheon and Yongdungpo, North Korea defeats U.S. troops north of Osan

Lightning-Fast North Korean Advances: July 1950

U.S. troops about to cede Taejon to the communists, July 21, 1950.
National Archives / Truman Presidential Library
U.S. troops retreat to Chonan, UN Command under Douglas MacArthur, North Korea executes U.S. POWs, 3rd Battalion overrun at Chochiwon, UN headquarters moved from Taejon to Taegu, US Field Artillery Battalion overrun at Samyo, South Korean President gives ROK military command to UN, North Korean troops enter Taejon and capture Major General William Dean

"Stand or Die," South Korea and the UN Hold Busan: July - August 1950

Wounded Republic of Korea soldiers are tended by their fellows, July 28, 1950.
National Archives / Truman Presidential Library
Battle for Yongdong, Fortification of Jinju, South Korean General Chae killed, Massacre at No Gun Ri, General Walker orders "Stand or die," Battle for Jinju on Korea's south coast, US Medium Tank Battalion arrives at Masan

North Korean Advance Grinds to a Bloody Halt: August - September 1950

Oxcarts and pedestrians flow out of Pohang, as residents flee the approaching North Korean Army.
National Archives / Truman Presidential Library
First Battle of Naktong Bulge, Massacre of U.S. POWs at Waegwan, President Rhee moves government to Busan, US victory at Naktong Bulge, Battle of the Bowling Alley, Busan Perimeter established, Landing at Incheon

UN Forces Push Back: September - October 1950

U.S.S. Toledo bombards east coast of Korea, 1950.
National Archives / Truman Presidential Library
UN forces breakout from Busan Perimeter, UN troops secure Gimpo Airfield, UN victory in Battle of Busan Perimeter, UN retakes Seoul, UN captures Yosu, South Korean troops cross 38th Parallel into North, General MacArthur demands North Korean surrender, North Koreans murder Americans and South Koreans at Taejon, North Koreans murder civilians in Seoul, U.S. troops push toward Pyongyang

China Stirs as UN Takes Most of North Korea: October 1950

Village in North Korea is hit with napalm, January, 1951.
Department of Defense / National Archives
UN takes Wonsan, Anti-communist North Koreans murdered, China enters war, Pyongyang falls to UN, Twin Tunnels Massacre, 120,000 Chinese troops move to North Korean border, UN pushes to Anju in North Korea, South Korean government executes 62 "collaborators," South Korean troops at Chinese border

China Comes to North Korea's Rescue: October 1950 - February 1951

Korean brother and sister stand near a defunct tank, Haeng-ju, Korea. June 9, 1951.
Photo by Spencer for Department of Defense / National Archives
China joins war, First Phase offensive, US advances to Yalu River, Battle of Chosin Reservoir, UN cease fire declared, General Walker dies and Ridgway assumes command, North Korea and China recapture Seoul, Ridgway Offensive, Battle of Twin Tunnels

Hard Fighting, and MacArthur is Ousted: February - May 1951

Heavy snow and wind hinders B-26 repairs, Korean War, 1952.
Department of Defense / National Archives
Battle of Chipyong-ni, Siege of Wonsan Harbor, Operation Ripper, UN retakes Seoul, Operation Tomahawk, MacArthur relieved of command, First big airfight, First Spring Offensive, Second Spring Offensive, Operation Strangle

Bloody Battles and Truce Talks: June 1951 - January 1952

Officers leaving the Kaesong Peace Talks, July - August of 1951.
Department of Defense / National Archives
Battle for the Punchbowl, Truce talks at Kaesong, Battle of Heartbreak Ridge, Operation Summit, Peace talks resume, Line of demarcation set, POW lists exchanged, North Korea nixes POW exchange

Death and Destruction: February - November 1952

Marine memorial for the fallen, Korea, June 2, 1951.
Department of Defense / National Archives
Riots at Koje-do prison camp, Operation Counter, Battle for Old Baldy, North Korean power grid blacked out, Battle of Bunker Hill, Largest bombing raid on Pyongyang, Outpost Kelly siege, Operation Showdown, Battle of the Hook, Fight for Hill 851

Final Battles and Armistice: December 1952 - September 1953

Joyful reaction as U.S. troops learn that the Korean War is over, July, 1953.
Department of Defense / National Archives
Battle of T-bone Hill, Battle for Hill 355, First Battle of Pork Chop Hill, Operation Little Switch, Panmunjom talks, Second Battle of Pork Chop Hill, Battle of Kumsong River Salient, Armistice signed, POWs repatriated
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