The Korean War in 47 Black & White Photos, Netizen Reactions

2012 is an election year in South Korea. Images of the Korean War frequently reemerge at this time to stir up patriotic/nationalist sentiment amongst the electorate which can often be highly effective at gaining support from the young, particularly as all Korean men are required to undergo at least 2 years of compulsory military service.

The following series of photographs has been doing the rounds on many popular Korean portals and forums.

From TodayHumor:

The Korean War Photo Memorial

June 25th [commonly used to refer to the Korean War], the tragedy that happened 60 years ago in the Republic of Korea. It was the first deployment of UN Armed Forces. 21 countries in all participated, led by Western countries like the United States and the United Kingdom all the way to faraway countries like Ethiopia.

Girl with brother during Korean War

The most emblematic photo of the Korean War, a photo of a girl with her younger brother taken in front of a North Korean M-26 tank. Taken on the 9th of May, 1951, perhaps she is evacuating or searching for food.

US Marine bound and shot

10th of July, 1950. A US G.I. executed with his hands bound.

POWs

By the date (26th of September, 1950), this is probably somewhere near Incheon. The tank supporting the US Marines is leading the DPRK POWs.

New recruits shipped to the front

The newly conscripted being transported to the training camp, exposed to the elements. July 1950.

Army Helicopter

During the early days of the war, the army helicopters are evacuating the injured soldiers to the rear.

North Korean dies beside tank

A dead DPRK solider adjacent to his destroyed tank. The unstoppable Soviet tanks used by the DPRK gradually grinds to halt near the Nakdong River defence line. Taken on the 13th of August, 1950, Andong.

Bridge bombing

The US Navy dive bomber AD-3 is dropping 2000 lbs bomb. The location is Shinwooju  and the bridge being bombed is the Yalu River Railroad Bridge. The left-hand side is North Korea. The bombing targeted the North Korean side of the bridge, which has created a lunar landscape. Dated November of 1950, these aerial bombing campaigns agitated the PRC and led to their intervention.

Makeshift command centre

Make-shift command center set up by the US military which was on retreat to south. This photo is taken on the 12th of July, 1950. The rice-sheaf camouflage is interesting.

Bombing from the air

On the attached document the name of the location is Agok, but there is no such a place by that name. During the retreat of the early stage of the War, the photo is taken by the aerial reconnaissance team.

Captured POWs

Two POWs captured attacking the rear the Nakdong River by the US Army in September 1950.

Massacre of POWs by US forces

This has been classified Top Secret by the US Army, which has been recently declassified. According to the attached description, in Danjeon area approximately 1,800 political prisoners were summarily executed by the ROK military over 3 days. They were suspected to be communist sympathizers or the DPRK spies. Some of them survived the massacre to this day and claim they were innocent civilians.

Incheon invasion

After the success of the Incheon amphibian attack in Incheon, the military supplies are being unloaded, dated 15th of September, 1950.

General McArthur

General MacArthur. Dated 15th of September, donning a thick leather jacket.

Urban city centre destroyed

Well-paved road of the urban center of Dajeon. This is only 60 years ago.

Captured POWs

DPRK soldiers captured during a search mission. Dated 16th of November, 1950 somewhere in North Korea.

M.A.S.H. at work

M.A.S.H at work.

Smoking them out

Taken during the recapturing of Seoul by the US and ROK. A North Korean hideout reported by civilian led to the clean-out operation. Another soldier is preparing his machine gun in case of a fire fight.

Massacre of Prisoners

This is war. Roughly 400 bodies were discovered in Dajeon Prison. As the DPRK retreated, POWs and civilians were all massacred. They were forced to dig their own graves. The person on the left is a war correspondent. The photo is dated September of 1950.

Dead and Alive

After the Seoul Recapture, the dead and alive.

Paratroopers

Advancing deep into the DPRK territory in November of 1950, the US military conducts airborne operation with C-119. I wonder what their mission was about.

Paratroopers

Sukchon and Sunchon area in North Korea. A massive airborne mission underway.

Tank hits sandbags

Outskirt of Seoul, US Army is driving out the DPRK partisans using the tank. October of 1950.

Mountain vegetation destroyed

Unspecified location but obviously signs of heavy fire-fight. Aerial bombing and shelling left the area with virtually no vegetation.

Dead soliders

Inside the mine in Kumbong Mt., 60 civilian bodies were discovered. Confirmed massacre by the North Korean soldiers in October, 1950.

Soldiers

Hwangju, just north of Pyongyang in October, Australian and French soldiers.

Amphibious attack

The Bay of Wonsan about to witness the landing of the US Army. This mission was to support the Eastern Front and total of 50,000 US troops landed in October, 1950.

IDPs crossing a destroyed bridge

Taken on the 4th of December, 1950. The news of the PRC intervention reached Pyongyang and the citizens evacuating by the destroyed Daedong River rail bridge to head south.

Mountain pass

Chinese POWs held by the US Army, dated 9th of December.

Distant shelling

Dated 26th of December. Confronting the Chinese force being bombarded by F4U-5 Corsairs.

Dead bodies

The bodies of US, UK and ROK soldiers. They are collected for burial. The location is Gotori, North Korea. Dated 8th of December.

US Air Force

F86 Sabre attacking the enemy formation, dated 28th of January, 1951.

ROK soldier reaches through snow

Hands of the dead ROK solider covered in snow.

Reading news from home

Canadian soldiers reading newspaper from back home in February, 1951.

Ammo supply explosion

B-26 Invader bombing the enemy main supply depot in Wonsan.

Flamethrower attack

Attacking the enemy hideout with the flame-thrower, dated March of 1951.

British special forces

British SAS unit infiltrated behind the enemy line to sabotage the railway. Over 30 meters of railway were destroyed due to this operation, significantly slowing down the supply line coming from China to North Korea.

Air raid

Napalm dropped by B-26. The location is somewhere in North Korea, dated 10th of May, 1951.

Mounted Turkish soldier

Uijeongbu, Turkish soldier riding a donkey.

Fishermen surrendering

Three North Korean soldiers surrendering on fishing boat.

The fallen

Chooncheon, May of 1951. Bodies of the Chinese soldiers, still smouldering.

Anti-air measures

Anti-aircraft lights pointing the sky against the US bombing. These lights in fact helped identify the military targets. After the first wave of attack, bellowing stacks of smoke guided the next wave of attack.

Shelling

Hiding in the trench against the mortar attack, dated April of 1952.

Mountain of Shells

Collected shells of North Korean army. Where did they use all these?

Signing the armistice

Panmunjom, where the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement is signed. Ceasefire means war is simply on hold, could resume anytime.

Reading about the end of the war

Four US Marines are clearly elated by the news of ceasefire, the war is over finally.

Modern soldier stands guard

A Marine stands guard on Baengnyeong Island.

Korean War memorial

The names of those who died during the war are engraved, including the Cheonan servicemen. Only their names remain, but they were human beings with families and loved one – can you imagine how terrified they must have been at their last minute?

Comments from TodayHumor:

니카:

I hope no one still confuses which country invaded which?

헬레니즘:

Some bitch is calling our Navy a pirate Navy. And others called us guard dogs. We need to use those bitches as live targets.

진정한외길:

We are still at war lest we forget.

젊은허씨:

Wars are started by old men, but young men pay the price. May those who died early find peace in their sleep. And please do not use war and national security as a way to keep your political position…

ㅇr르:

One of the pictures above that said about the summary execution of 1,800 political prisoners… That is not true at all. It is fabricated by Syngman Rhee and the US military. The reason why it was classified as top secret is because they are actually civilians. The US military has the tendency to massacre if they suspect if there is just ONE enemy. The Iraq and Afghanistan War have ample examples. If one US soldiers die, there will be a ruthless retaliation against the nearby village. The same goes for the Korean War. President Rhee enrolled those anyone who deemed left-wing or sympathetic to communism in the Bodo League after independence. Of those, majority was those just interested in receiving rice ration with no interest or understanding in ideology. As soon as the War breaks out, the US military and our army start to massacre them left right and center. They were sure that among them some will become their enemy. The Daejeon Massacre is one of them. The massacres were carried out in the mountain and prison. Their bones still are coming out. The more infamous one is the Kyongsan Massacre next to Taegu. There are still thousands of bodies left there, and the local GNP MP wants to build a golf course to keep them under cover. I am a young man from Daejeon who has no relation to the ones in the picture and NOT siding with North Korea. I did my research for my class and did in-site survey so I just wanted to tell you the truth. During the War, many massacres were carried out by police, army and the US military, pure and simple. From the perspective of Rhee and the US, those civilians were to be feared, since they did not know who they sided with. But that is no excuse for massacre. The US knew about it so that is why it was top-secret. Many survivors are still aggrieved by this to this day and many already died without any closure. The conservatives in South Korea and the US are doing their best to cover it up since this would tar their War history. In 10 to 20 years, those survivors will die out and we can all forget this forever. But I wish to raise awareness to this issue and remember those who died. And the most important thing is that there should never be another war here. Those who suffer the most are the innocent civilians and they are us. Let us do our best for peace ~~^^

별의목소리:

As someone born in the 90s, I cannot imagine this…I have been to the army… the pictures, they are haunting…

사이클링히트:

The fact that the US, Soviet, China, Europe and the rest of the world gathered in Korea to blow things up from one end to the other makes me sad.

이어달리기:

What is really important is that our nation killed each other, not who invaded who. I know the general election is coming up soon so we are seeing lots of stuff related to North Korea. We ought to do our best in our national defence never to repeat the tragedy, and avoid the party like GNP [link] which uses North Korea only as an electoral spoil. Our citizens are not so easily fooled by the framing of North Korea as an existential threat, and make sure that the electoral promises are kept. The North Korean military and their leadership is our chief enemy. But the North Korean residents are our people and object of unification. If we focus on war strategy, the people of North Korea will cling to their military. What we need is the Sunshine policy. China and the US have supplied them with more provision than we did. Do not indulge in that binary thinking that assumes that what we offered them has led to their building the nuclear weapon. FYI President Lee has given them more than President Kim and Noh combined. As a part of peace negotiation there’s a rumor that they even bribed the North Korean officials. Cutting down the defence budget, stalling the military reform, LotteWorld building permit, the corruption over the FX Deal, etc… This administration has absolutely NO interest in our defence and security.

이어달리기:

As soon as the election season comes around, anti-communism are all out. I wonder why?

착한_악마:

Someone wrote about the Bodo League, and my two cents…In terms of number of casualty, 560,000 – a million if you could the missing as well. Those who were murdered by the order of President Rhee are estimated to be minimum 200,000 and maximum 1,000,000. I am not defending North Korea nor do I want to forgive North Korea. All I am saying is that we should not be manipulated. Those slaughtered in the Bodo League Massacre are just poor citizens, just like the 4.03 Jeju Massacre. Even if they are communists, no one has the right to execute them without any trial. Loud voice for security and patriotism are made by those who want to market themselves and make name. I believe that when our citizens love our nation, when our citizens love our neighbors, true security will be realised.

이등병의편지:

There are quite a few errors here. The M26 is not North Korean, but American M47 Patton. The last picture with the mountain of shells is not war spoils, but the empty shells left after the Van Fleet Operation, mostly 105mm and 155mm shells. The Van Fleet Operation is… after the first spring campaign by the Chinese annihilated the ROK Second Division and the succeeding campaign annihilated the ROK Third Division in the Eastern Frontier, the US Second Army General Van Fleet took over the field operation. The operation famously involved bombarding the hell out of the Chinese stronghold continuously for a full day with + 41,000 rounds, causing over 30,000 Chinese casualties and forcing them to retreat.

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  • Jess

    A strangely sombre topic for a site called “TodayHumor”…
    How come the photo captions don’t get the mouse-over original text dealio?

    • James

      They did – there was just a little gremlin somewhere stopping it! Should work now.

  • Dr. Dust Cell

    Aside from the North-South tension, I wondered what other decades-long conflicts still existed:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ongoing_conflicts

    ooh.

  • Killswitch

    I’ve always wondered what the position of the average Chinese person was to this war. Apart from the usual patriotic stance, I wonder how they celebrate the fact that they saved the North Korean regime from extinction. A regime that has since become one of the most fucked up regimes imaginable. It must be hard celebrating a war anoversery knowing that the side that your countrey men died for ended up being the evil one. The Sourh Korean regime had its faults at the time it’s completely obvious which people are better off now.

    • achan

      actually, i would VERY MUCH love to hear about it too…. not to get mad or anything, but just curious! having read the documents from that period, I do think that chinese leadership had very little option (since the US seriously debated the merit of full-escalation at the behest of Koumintang, etc), but it would be interesting to hear how they say about that decision now – but then, what US says about Cuba is….. meh….. well, let’s hear it :D

    • donscarletti

      The attitude amongst patriotic, flag waving Chinese I know is that _they_, the Chinese did well, fought bravely and handed over the hard won land to Kim Il-Sung who ran it into the ground with his idiot bangzi friends.

    • grovesman

      They call it the war against American aggression. They have been brainwashed into believing that the Americans started the war. When I tell them that it was the North Koreans who crossed the 38th parallel to invade ROK they don’t believe it.

      • achan

        man, the +3 countries (japan, south korea, china) need to work on joint-history textbook like in EU. I am not a fan of EU education policy but it’s probably one of those things that could really use in northeast asia

        but when there’s so much quick political cash to be made, why would they…. politicians are skanks

        • 404 name not found

          or just fucking let it go..

  • Tiffany

    Those faces are so young and haunting. The ones showing the soldiers in moments before death, their futures and memories extinguished with them is really heart wrenching. Just so sad. And unfair.

    Reminds me of a poem by Langston Hughes:

    Ice-cold passion
    And a bitter breath
    Adorned the bed
    Of the youth and Death-
    Youth, the young soldier
    Who went to the wars
    And embraced white Death,
    the vilest of whores.

    Now we spread roses
    Over your tomb-
    We who sent you
    To your doom.
    Now we make soft speeches
    And sob soft cries
    And through soft flowers
    And utter soft lies.

    We would mould you in metal
    And carve you in stone,
    Not daring to make statue
    Of your dead flesh and bone,
    Not daring to mention
    The bitter breath
    Nor the ice-cold passion
    Of your love-night with Death.

    We make soft speeches
    We sob soft cries
    We throw soft flowers,
    And utter soft lies.
    And you who were young
    When you went to the wars
    Have lost your youth now
    With the vilest of whores.

  • bopopap

    if america stayed out of it, china would have unified all of korea under the glorious leadership of Jong-Il tribe.

    Rest in peace, those who died for freedom and a free Korea.

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  • 잆음러름

    I know the Koreans loathe and despise the U.S. Military presence. But I think N. Korea is a prime example of what would have happened had foreign forces not intervened.

    • katie k

      Koreans loathe and despise the US military presence? All of them? In general? I’ve never heard that

  • josh

    Honestly, it’s strange that several of the comments want to blame the Americans for the war or atrocities perpetrated by the South (because Korean soldiers would never do anything bad, like using a puppy as a punching bag for instance). The South would be eating the bark off of trees if it weren’t for the people of other nations who came here “just to blow things up.”

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  • kittyksin

    ive seen plenty of photos about wars and the horrors of them but ive only felt disgust and sadness…. while i was looking at these photos…i honestly CRIED. i didnt even realize that i was crying.. war is horrible in general but idk why these photos affected me the most? maybe its because im korean…but i feel like its because of the fact that with the help of a lot of other countries, koreans were killing each other by the thousands… north and south koreans are still technically blood, they all came from mongolia back back backk in the day and i guess that the fact that theyre killing their own brothers and sisters breaks my heart. plus the fact that i barely learned about the korean war in school so i didnt know how gruesome and morbid it actually was…gosh i dont think i can think about this without tearing up…

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