Korea, occupied by Japan for thirty-five years, was liberated from Japan after World War II and divided into North Korea, a socialist dictatorship, part of the Soviet sphere of influence, and South Korea, a right-wing dictatorship, in the American sphere. There had been threats back and forth between the two Koreas, and when on June 25, 1950, North Korean armies moved southward across the 38th parallel in an invasion of South Korea, the United Nations, dominated by the United States, asked its members to help "repel the armed attack." Truman ordered the American armed forces to help South Korea, and the American army became the U.N. army. Truman said: "A return to the rule of force in international affairs would have far-reaching effects. The United States will continue to uphold the rule of law."
The United States' response to "the rule of force" was to reduce
Korea, North and South, to a shambles, in three years of bombing
and shelling. Napalm was dropped, and a BBC journalist described
As for the rule of law Truman spoke about, the American military
moves seemed to go beyond that. The U.N. resolution had called for
action "to repel the armed attack and to restore peace and security
in the area." But the American armies, after pushing the North Koreans
back across the 38th parallel, advanced all the way up through North
Korea to the Yalu River, on the border of China-which provoked
the Chinese into entering the war. The Chinese then swept southward
and the war was stalemated at the 38th parallel until peace negotiations
restored, in 1953, the old boundary between North and South.
- Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States