U.N. Troops Surprised by China’s Entry into Korean War

The Korean War began when North Korean troops crossed the 38th Parallel to invade South Korea on 25 June 1950. Less than four months later the war appeared to be ending, as a South Korean offensive – aided by United Nations forces led by U.S. troops – pushed the North Korean army northward up against the Russian and Chinese borders.

Photo: soldiers from the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division in action near the Ch’ongch’on River during the Korean War, 20 November 1950
Photo: soldiers from the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division in action near the Ch’ongch’on River during the Korean War, 20 November 1950. Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration; Wikimedia Commons.

Just as western newspapers were speculating how Korea would be administered now that the war was all but over, the People’s Republic of China did the unexpected: on 19 October 1950, tens of thousands of Chinese troops poured into North Korea to oppose the South Korean and U.N. forces, and the war escalated into a new phase.

Instead of a quick Allied victory it became a bloody three-year stalemate, not ending until an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953. By the end of the conflict China had used a million troops and suffered over half a million casualties.

On 19 October 1950, the day the Chinese troops crossed into North Korea, the South Korean Army and the Eighth United States Army captured Pyongyang, the North Korean capital city. With their morale low, their army in tatters and their capital city lost, the North Koreans were on the verge of defeat. All that changed, however, with the Chinese intervention.

The following two newspaper articles describe the situation in Korea during October 1950. The first article, published on October 22 before the Allies had any idea Chinese troops were in North Korea, speculates on post-war Korea and asserts “it is too late for either Communist China or Russia to do anything militarily to help the North Korean Reds now…” The second article, published on October 25, reveals the startling news that a captured Chinese soldier admitted that Chinese troops were now in North Korea ready to take up the fight.

An article about the Korean War, Oregonian newspaper article 22 October 1950
Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 22 October 1950, page 2

Here is a transcription of this article:

Outcome of Anti-Red Fight throughout Asia May Hinge on Korea

By William L. Ryan
Associated Press Foreign Staff

The destiny of all Asia may swing today on this hinge: What next in Korea?

Emerging blood-spattered from the agony of war, the “land of morning calm” gives the United Nations its greatest test – and possibly its greatest opportunity.

Korea now becomes the pilot project of the world’s anti-Communist nations acting in concert. The world – and particularly chaos-ridden Asia – waits to see whether Korea will become a lasting monument and a beacon for the future, or an admission of defeat for U.N. ideals.

…There are strong hints that the big western powers will stop well short of the Russian and Chinese frontiers to avoid the possibility of a clash with Russian or Chinese land forces. China has a stake in the extreme northern part of Korea, where hydroelectric works feed power to some Manchurian industries. A threat to these plants might cause a clash which the West wants to avoid.

Americans in Tokyo are generally in agreement that it is too late for either Communist China or Russia to do anything militarily to help the North Korean Reds now without risking general war. Indeed, the Soviets have indicated they decided to abandon the lost cause in Korea. Informed sources in Tokyo believe the Russians lack enough ground troops in the Far East to throw into a Korean land campaign now. It would take months to move such troops across Siberia. The Chinese could afford perhaps 60,000 troops from Manchuria for immediate action, and these would be subjected to slaughter by the allied air power. But there has been no indication, since the Inchon landings, that either Russia or China would go to the Koreans’ aid.

This brings up the question of how long United Nations troops will occupy Korea. Some Washington officials say the U.S. hopes to get all American troops out by the end of 1952. Already American soldiers in Korea are shouting “When do we go home?”

Whatever happens in Korea, it will be watched closely by the leaders in Asia. Since the Korean campaign set the pattern for United Nations resistance to aggression, American sources say, Oriental peoples are looking to the United States to demonstrate its kind of world leadership.

Whatever happens in Korea will have a fateful bearing on events elsewhere in Asia, particularly in Indochina, where the French and Vietnamese are fighting the Communist-led Nationalists of Vietminh. American arms aid is going to that country.

East to Be Guarded

The difference in Indochina, however, is this: The war in Korea was started by an open, naked act of aggression in which the forces of one government crossed the boundary into territory of a government set up under U. N. auspices. In Indochina, it would probably take an open act from Communist China to bring about direct U. N. intervention on the military level.

Thus far, while there are well-based reports that the Vietminh troops are trained and equipped across the border, there has been no open participation by Chinese troops on Indochinese soil.

Informed sources say President Truman and General MacArthur agreed at Wake Island that further Communist thrusts must be blocked in Asia by military force. MacArthur is said to have predicted the Communists would strike again in trouble spots, including Indochina, and that defeat in Korea would not alter the Communist expansion program.

Thus, while the president and General MacArthur agreed on removal of troops from Korea as quickly as possible, there was no thought of cutting down Far East forces. MacArthur told the president that, having won in Korea, the U. S. could not afford to retire now and let the Communists conquer elsewhere. MacArthur contends, for instance, that Formosa, the Nationalist Chinese island bastion, if in unfriendly hands, would threaten the American defense line in the Far East.

An article about the Korean War, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 25 October 1950
Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 25 October 1950, page 1

Here is a transcription of this article:

20,000 China Reds Cross into North Korea from Manchuria, Says Captive

By Associated Press

WONSAN Korea, Oct. 26. – (Thursday) – United States marines swarmed ashore today at previously liberated Wonsan. They are the vanguard of a 50,000-man striking force expected to be ashore within hours.

The landing was unopposed. It has been delayed six days while mine sweepers cleared the harbor. Wonsan recently was captured by the South Koreans, who now are far north of the port.

(This dispatch gave no clue to the assignment of the marines, who have been unreported in action since United Nations forces crossed the 38th Parallel into North Korea.)

At Wonsan the marines are about 160 miles from the Manchurian border.

The first waves ashore were from the veteran 1st Marine Division. This is the same outfit that stormed the beaches at Inchon some five weeks ago in the operation that led to the enemy’s defeat in South Korea.

The rest of the 1st Division was scheduled to unload quickly. It was to be followed by the United States 7th Infantry Division and two battalions of South Korean marines.

Meanwhile, the South Korean 6th Division had pushed to within 20 miles of the Manchurian frontier, reports to 8th Army headquarters said. Opposition was reported light.


By Earnest Hoberecht
United Press Staff Correspondent

TOKYO, Oct. 25. – An unconfirmed report attributed to a war prisoner said today that 20,000 Chinese Communist troops had entered North Korea and taken up defensive positions.

A United Press correspondent with the United States I. Corps in Korea said the South Korean army reported that it had captured a Chinese Communist soldier in Korea and he told of the mass entry into Korea by his fellow troops.

Intelligence officers at Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters said they had not received any reports along that line from the South Koreans. Tokyo observers were inclined to move cautiously in evaluating the report.

The South Korean report was described as “verified” by the United States I. Corps headquarters, which did not clarify what was meant by “verified.”

The report of the Chinese Communist border-crossing was one of a flurry of reports that the shattered North Korean army remnants might be preparing for a last and hopeless stand in the border belt next to Manchuria.

None of the reports carried any implication that the Korean Communists would be able to check more than momentarily the Allied forces totaling some 100,000 men moving northward toward the frontier.

The United Nations vanguard was only 30-odd miles from Manchuria in the mountainous region of North Central Korea. American, British and other forces were pushing up the west coast, and South Korean troops were advancing on the east coast.

(The Associated Press reported that informed sources said United States and British troops in Korea will stop at least 20 miles short of the Manchurian border. South Korean forces will go on to the border in pursuit of Korean Communist remnants, these sources said. Intelligence officers at General MacArthur’s headquarters in Tokyo said reports that a South Korean force already had reached the Korean-Manchurian border “are in error.”)

Glenn Stackhouse, United Press Correspondent with the United States I. Corps in Korea, sent a dispatch which began:

“A.R.O.K. (Republic of Korea) report verified by I. Corps headquarters said a captured Chinese Communist soldier said 20,000 of his fellow-soldiers were in defensive positions in North Korea.”

The prisoner was captured today in fighting near Unsan, in Western Korea, 27 miles northeast of Anju, at the mouth of the Chongchon River, the dispatch said.

The dispatch said the prisoner told his captors that 20,000 Chinese Communist troops began crossing into Korea October 19, and they were “taking up defensive positions” south of the Yalu River, the Korean-Manchurian boundary.

Three Chinese Reds Found

The South Korean report gave no indication of how far south of the border the purported Chinese Communist force had moved.

The report said three Chinese Communist soldiers were found in the Unsan area. Two were killed and the third captured, according to the report.

The dispatch said I. Corps headquarters “verified the reports but could give no further details.”

Note: An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – the old newspaper articles also help you understand American history and the times your ancestors lived in, and the news they talked about and read in their local papers. Did any of your family members serve in the Korean War? Please share your stories with us in the comments section.

Related Articles:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.