Timeline of the Korean War

America's Forgotten War

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.

01
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Background to the Korean War: July 1945 - June 1950

Harry Truman, Josef Stalin and Clement Atlee at Potsdam, 1945
Potsdam Conference at the end of World War II, between Harry Truman, Josef Stalin and Clement Atlee (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

02
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North Korea's Ground Assault Begins: June - July 1950

Bombing of the Kum River Bridge near Taejon, South Korea. August 6, 1950.
UN forces blow up the bridge over the Kum River near Taejon, South Korea, in an attempt to slow North Korean advances. 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

03
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U.S. troops about to cede Taejon to the communists, July 21, 1950.
Last-ditch defense before the Fall of Taejon, South Korea, to North Korean forces. 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

04
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"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.
South Korean soldiers try to comfort their wounded comrades, 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

05
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Oxcarts and pedestrians flow out of Pohang, as residents flee the approaching North Korean Army.
Refugees stream out of Pohang, on the east coast of South Korea, in the face of North Korean advances. August 12, 1950. 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

06
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U.S.S. Toledo bombards east coast of Korea, 1950.
Naval bombardment off the east coast of Korea by U.S.S. Toledo, 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

07
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Village in North Korea is hit with napalm, January, 1951.
Napalm drop on a village in North Korea, 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

08
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Korean brother and sister stand near a defunct tank, Haeng-ju, Korea. June 9, 1951.
Two concerned Korean children stand in front of a tank in Haeng-ju, Korea during the Korean War. 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

09
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Heavy snow and wind hinders B-26 repairs, Korean War, 1952.
Mechanics struggle to repair a B-26 bomber during a snowstorm, Korea (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

10
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Officers leaving the Kaesong Peace Talks, July - August of 1951.
Korean officers at the Kaesong Peace Talks, 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

11
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Marine memorial for the fallen, Korea, June 2, 1951.
U.S. Marines conduct a memorial service for a fallen comrade, 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

12
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Joyful reaction as U.S. troops learn that the Korean War is over, July, 1953.
U.S. airman reacts to news that a truce has been declared, and the Korean War is (unofficially) 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