Morale for UN troops was high. By March 1951, UN forces were within striking distance of the 38th parallel.
Behind the lines, famous Western actors, singers and comedians arrived with USO shows to entertain the troops. Marilyn Monroe and Bob Hope were two examples. In fact, Bob Hope entertained troops in USO shows every year from 1948 to 1990.
Once UN forces reached the 38th parallel, the politicians debated if they should cross the line into North Korea again.
US President Harry Truman (an officer and combat veteran of World War I) wanted a settlement. As he saw it, the first attempt at reunifying Korea had been a mistake and a second attempt would cost more American lives.
However, General MacArthur disagreed. He wanted the war expanded. He wanted to blockade China’s coast and bomb its cities.
Truman fired MacArthur. The president said the cause of world peace was more important than an individual.
General Ridgway replaced MacArthur as supreme commander. General James Van Fleet became the field commander.
Van Fleet had been a colonel at the Normandy Invasion of Europe in World War II, and he hated Communists.
Intelligence reported the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was massing for a spring attack.
Ridgway, having learned the PLA’s tactics, planned to move forward in stages building defensive lines on the way.
On April 22, a second major PLA assault was launched against UN forces. The heaviest attacks were against the weakest section of the UN defensive line.
Ridgway’s strategy of building a series of defensive lines worked. When one line appeared to be in danger of collapse, he ordered troops to fall back to the next fortified line.
Within a week, the PLA ran low of supplies and suffered massive casualties for small gains. Two weeks later, resupplied, the PLA attacked again. Van Fleet broke combat records for firing artillery shells into the advancing PLA troops killing 35,000 while only losing 900.
Ridgway wired Truman in Washington D.C.saying the time to talk peace had arrived. The Chinese agreed to meet in July to negotiate an end to the war.
The negotiations were not easy. Both sides treated the other as the loser.
The UN wanted to keep all occupied North Korean territory. The Chinese wanted to return the border to the 38th parallel and have all Chinese prisoners of war returned. Most UN troops taken prisoner had been killed. Of about 100,000 only 13,000 survived.
If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.