OTD in History… June 27, 1950, President Truman orders American troops to fight in the Korean War
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
On this day in history, June 27, 1950, President Harry S. Truman gives a statement and orders the United States air and naval military troops to Democratic South Korea to defend them as part of a United Nations military effort after Communist North Korea invaded it two days prior on June 25, 1950, Korean time. After World War II Korea had been divided between North and South by the 38th parallel. Truman sent American troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who would be Commander of the U.N. forces, 15 nations fighting against North Korea. Truman’s decision came after United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea’s invasion with a 9–0 vote on June 26 and supported the Democratic Republic of Korea. On June 28, the UN voted to use force against North Korea and June 30, Truman committed ground troops to the conflict. Congress did not pass a war resolution but did extend the draft and allowed the president to call up reservists.
Truman’s decision was the first time the American history a president would send troops to a foreign conflict without Congress passing a declaration of war. Truman noted he did not need to because speaking of Congress he said, “They are all with me.” As historian Larry Blomstedt indicates in his book, Truman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America’s First Undeclared War, explains the Koran War is “historically crucial. Korea began a trend of American presidents deploying significant numbers of troops overseas without obtaining a declaration of war from Congress.” The conflict increased the power of the president.
Sending troops was also part of the post-World War II strategy of “Containment” containing the spread of Communism in the world, and part of the 1947 Truman Doctrine of foreign policy having the US intervening in foreign conflicts that do not directly involve the country. As Truman stated to the public on June 27, “Communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war.” The front line of fighting Communism shifted from Europe to Asia. Truman declared that the spread of Communism in the strategic Korean peninsula was a threat to national security. The Korean War would last three years and for most veterans considered as the “forgotten war.” It was the first American conflict with no clear-cut victory or peace, only an armistice signed July 27, 1953, with 36,516 American troops killed in the war. The boundary line altered slightly with both sides gaining territory but a continued military presence was necessary.
Recently, nuclear tensions between North Korea and the US increased under President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un. A result of the escalation and Trump’s bully diplomacy, North and Korea had a rapprochement and signed an agreement with the intention to make finally a peace agreement, 65 years after the armistice was signed. The US and North Korea are also making historic headway, with Trump becoming the first American president to meet with a North Korean leader. At their Singapore summit on June 12, the two leaders signed an agreement to denuclearize North Korea, a giant step towards finally ending the Korean War.
Blomstedt, Larry. Truman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America’s First Undeclared War. Lexington, Kentucky The University Press of Kentucky, 2016.
Brands, H W. The General Vs. the President: Macarthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War. New York : Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017.
Wainstock, Dennis. Truman, Macarthur, and the Korean War. New York, NY: Enigma Books, 2011.
Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.