Marines honor their fallen comrades at the division’s cemetery in Hamhung, Korea. Source: Flickr
65 years ago today, nearly 75,000 North Korean soldiers from the People’s Army crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea. The surprise attack not only marked the start of the Korean War, but it was also the first military action of the Cold War—meaning the United States had to get involved. In July 1950, U.S. troops began a defensive mission to defend South Korea from North Korea and, in turn, from communism.
The first months of fighting took place during one of the country’s hottest summers, making the land a brutal battlefield for both sides. At the direction of President Truman, what started as a defensive mission eventually turned into an offensive attack. Finally, three years later, the Korean War came to an end when both sides agreed to armistice after years of negotiations. A peace treaty was never signed, so technically the nations are still at war.
The Korean War had no victor, which was a tough pill for many Americans to swallow. Around 1.2 million lives were lost on all sides. North and South Korea remain divided countries and bitter enemies. Unlike the Vietnam War, the Korean War gained little attention from the media. Still, these moving photographs help paint a picture of the atrocities faced by soldiers from around the world.