Korea: The Never-Ending War (2019) Movie Script

[Newscaster] North Korea
has achieved its goal
of becoming a rocket power...
[Newscaster] North Korea
says it now can strike
anywhere in the U.S.
including Washington D.C.
[Cumings] North Korea today is
armed with nuclear weapons and
intercontinental ballistic
missiles and anybody who
underestimates them does
so as their own peril.
[President Trump] Rocket Man
should have been handled
a long time ago...
[Terry] North Koreans truly
feel that nuclear weapons is
the only way to guarantee their survival.
[Jager] For North Korea,
it's still about an
anti-imperialist struggle
against the United States.
which the North Koreans
take back to the Korean War.
[Narrator] The Korean War was
one of the bloodiest chapters
in Korean history.
It was a civil war that nearly
ignited World War Three.
[President Truman] We
are united in detesting
communist slavery.
[Narrator] A war that took the
lives of tens of thousands
of American GIs and millions of Koreans.
[Hanley] What we did in
North Korea has never
really been acknowledged.
The Korean War set the
template for Vietnam.
[Cumings] The Korean War
was one of the most vicious,
violent, nauseating
wars of the 20th century.
[Narrator] It was a war many
Americans don't remember and
Koreans can never forget.
[Cha] The United States dropped
more ordinance on North Korea
in that three year war
than we dropped during the
entire Second World War.
For North Koreans and for the
state ideology of North Korea,
the Korean War is not a memory.
It's still very much alive.
[Terry] There's no way to
understand what's going
on today, without
understanding of the Korean War.
How can you understand
this Korean conflict that
we are having, without understanding
of the origin of that conflict.
[Newscaster] Good evening from
the White House in Washington.
Ladies and gentlemen,
the President of the United States.
[President Truman] The world
will note that the first
atomic bomb was dropped
on Hiroshima, a military base...
[Newscaster] Nagasaki. Target
for the second atomic bomb.
Just three days after Hiroshima.
[Newscaster] London newspapers
this morning are speculating
that a new surrender ultimatum
to Japan may be likely soon.

[Narrator] With the swift
conclusion of World War Two
after President Truman
dropped two atomic bombs on
the Japanese cities of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
American planners turned
their attention to Korea,
where the US military
would oversee the orderly
surrender of Japanese forces.
With Soviet troops already
deployed in northern Korea and
marching southward the US
military needed to act quickly.
[Stueck] The United States
was much further away,
its troops were much further
away than were Soviet troops.
What that meant was suddenly the Americans
had to try and establish
some agreements with Stalin,
the leader in the Soviet Union on Korea.
The Americans proposed
that the United States and
the Soviet Union establish zones.
[Narrator] On the sweltering
night of August 10th, 1945
two young army officers, on
loan to the state department,
were tasked with quickly
finding a dividing line,
before the Soviets managed
to occupy the entire country.
Armed only with a national
geographic map of Asia
colonels Rusk and Bonesteel,
neither one experts on Korea,
zeroed in on the peninsula.
[Terry] They had 30 minutes
to really divide up the country,
and they looked at the wall,
and there was a map of the
Korean peninsula, and they said,
"Well, why don't we just
kind of divide it here,
on this 38th parallel?"
[Stueck] The 38th parallel
is just north of Seoul and
they wanted the national capital
to be in the American zone,
and with very little discussion,
that decision goes up
to Truman and is made in
a proposal to Stalin.
[Narrator] The 38th parallel
was simply a line on a map.
It followed no physical features.
It divided farms and whole villages.
Severed 300 roads, and
cut across six railways.
But the Soviets accepted it.
Korea had been cut in two
without a word of input from
a single Korean.
Two Koreas created solely
to oppose each other.
[Terry] Koreans were one
people for thousands of years,
and the Koreans didn't
have a lot of choice.
You know, it's not even a big country.
It was just divided, and
that took all of 30 minutes,
it was a 30-minute decision.
[Brands] And so, the
38th parallel becomes this
temporary dividing line between
northern and southern Korea.
But the temporary
dividing line congeals into,
effectively, a permanent
dividing line when the
Soviet Union and the
United States fall out.
The cold war intervened and
American troops didn't go home.
[Narrator] With the end of World War II,
the United States and
the Soviet Union emerged
as superpowers.
By 1946, the twin godheads
of democracy and communism
collided to redraw the map of the world
along ideological lines.
In the Soviet Union,
Joseph Stalin tightened his
hold on power and without pause
continued to extend communist
influence throughout Europe.
US President Truman,
sworn in after the death of
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
was both unpopular and untested
yet determined to advance
America's post war interests,
chief among them the
containment of communism.
[Brands] The policy of the Truman
administration was that the
United States needed to focus
on containing the Soviet Union,
keeping Soviet power and Soviet ideology,
communism, from spreading.
It wasn't simply the tanks
and troops of the Soviet Union,
it was this ideology.
It was the belief system of communism.
[Narrator] For Stalin and
Truman the first rounds of
the Cold War would be fought in Europe.
And neither man was
particularly interested in
events on the faraway Korean peninsula.
[Cha] For us strategic
planners Korea really
didn't figure much in the picture at all.
To the extent that we cared about Asia,
us strategic planners
believed that the only power
in Asia would continue to be Japan.
[Narrator] The Japanese defeat
in WWII ended their occupation
of Korea, a history marred
by the brutal subjugation
of the Korean people.
[Cumings] Japan succeeded
in colonizing Korea in 1910,
that led to terrible hardships
for millions of Koreans,
and then the Japanese used
Koreans as mobile capital and
labor throughout the empire.
You have the mobilization
of 200,000 Korean soldiers
into the Japanese army,
most of them drafted,
as many as 100 to 200,000
women were dragooned
into serving dozens of
Japanese soldiers every day as sex slaves.
[Hanley] So when they
were liberated in '45,
the Koreans thought this
was the beginning of a bright,
bright future for them,
and that this division would
end very quickly.
[Narrator] Park Kyung Soon was
just nine years old when she
heard over the radio that
the Japanese had surrendered.
[Stueck] There was celebration,
relief that this period of
Japanese rule was over.
But there was a power
vacuum that opened up.
Dependent on the evolving
relationship between the
Soviets and the Americans,
and as it turned out the Soviets
and the Americans couldn't
reach an agreement on how
to unify the Korean peninsula.
[Narrator] To fill this
power vacuum the Soviets
and Americans backed their own leadership.
To preside over South Korea the
Americans chose Syngman Rhee,
an English-speaking,
Princeton-educated Christian
who had been lobbying
the American government
for the job throughout the war.
[Cumings] Syngman Rhee
haunted the halls of the
State Department in Washington,
hoping to be taken as the
odds-on titular leader of postwar Korea.
He had no faction in Korea.
He had no base in Korea,
because he had been out of
the country for 40 or 50 years,
but he had a certain charisma.
He had a great smile.
Americans tended to think he was a kindly,
old gentleman, Uncle Syngman.
[Narrator] But Rhee's kindly
manner belied an unyielding
thirst for power and desire to unify the
two Koreas at any cost.
By 1948, Rhee was elected president.
To consolidate his
authority over the South,
Rhee carried out a sustained
nationalist campaign to snuff
out political dissent,
killing Communist guerrilla
groups by the tens of thousands.
[Millett] Rhee was
as an authoritarian,
semi-thug with great contacts.
He wasn't a nice man, but Americans,
certainly of this period,
tended to believe if somebody
could speak English and
had been educated in the
United States, oh well
that means they've absorbed
all kinds of democratic values.
Well, that doesn't happen to be the case.
[Brands] Syngman Rhee just happened to be,
as Franklin Roosevelt would've said,
our S.O.B.
rather than theirs.
[Narrator] In North Korea,
the Soviets hand-picked
Kim Il-sung, a little
known Korean ex-patriot who
had been radicalized by
the Japanese occupation.
[Cha] Kim Il-sung was really unknown.
But then when the Japanese
took control of the Korean
peninsula during the
occupation in the first half
of the 20th century,
Kim Il-sung transformed.
He became known as a gorilla fighter,
fighting against the Japanese,
and China and from that point
on had basically a price
on his head as a anti-Japan
conspirator by the colonial government.
He eventually moved to the
Soviet Union where he learned
Russian and became close to a number of
key Russian generals.
[Narrator] By 1948, Kim
had transformed himself
into a fiery,
committed Korean nationalist.
[Narrator] Kim quickly
solidified his power and
amassed a formidable army.
By 1949, Kim had burnished
his image as supreme leader
by embellishing his history
as a fearsome guerilla fighter
who single-handedly defeated the Japanese.
[Lankov] Idea was "Our
country has suffered for
generations because
we had no great leader,
and then great leader emerged.
He liberated us from
the Japanese occupation."
It was patently untrue,
because Kim Il-sung,
during the war with
Japan, the decisive stage,
was far away from the
front line in a small Soviet
military base.
[Cumings] Kim Il-sung was one
of the shrewdest politicians
of his era, but a
particularly brutal and ruthless
person who knew how to
gain power and hold onto it.
[Millett] There are striking
similarities between Rhee
and Kim Il-sung.
Both are the same types of
expat nationalist leaders,
who have big plans with
themselves at the center.
Both of them had a strong
vision of a unified Korea,
and both of them believed that
their fundamental power came
from their ability to
manipulate outside sponsors,
in Rhee's case, the United States,
and in Kim Il-sung's
case, the Soviet Union.
[Narrator] In 1949, after
Mao Zedong's Communist victory
over the American-backed
nationalists in China,
Kim Il-sung was emboldened.
The time was right to
execute his plan to unify
Korea in his mold.
That March, Kim had traveled
to Moscow to lobby Stalin to
back an invasion of the South,
only to be rebuffed by the Soviet leader,
who believed the American presence there
made a war too risky.
But then, only months
later, in January 1950,
Stalin suddenly had a change of heart.
[Stueck] Now, what happened in between say
September of 1949 and
the end of January 1950?
Dean Acheson, who was the
American Secretary of State,
in January of 1950, January 12,
made a major speech to
the National Press Club
in Washington D.C.,
and in the speech,
he left South Korea out of
the American defense perimeter
in the Pacific, and
Stalin, obviously noticed that.
[Jager] Stalin now believes
that the Americans will not
get involved in Korea.
He's absolutely convinced.
So he says "Okay, I'll
give you my blessing but
you have to ask Mao
for the final decision."
He says something like "If
you shall get kicked in the
teeth I shall not lift a finger.
Mao will have
to do all the help."
[Lankov] Stalin's
position was something like,
"Well, comrades, you say
that you will win soon,
it's your idea, and we will
provide you with ammunition
and money and everything, but
it will be your responsibility.
If something gets really bad,
don't count on our support."
[Narrator] In May of 1950,
Kim traveled to China to meet with Mao.
[Cummings] Mao is one of
the most experienced leaders
in the word, with his
own gigantic army that
had just proceeded to clear
the mainland of nationalist
forces and who had many allies
who had fought with Kim Il-sung
and other guerillas throughout the 1930s.
I think Kim Il-sung had
good reason to believe that he
would have plenty of comrades
in China that would help him.
Kim was masterful at
maneuvering between Stalin
and Mao and then ended up getting support
from both of them.
[Narrator] By the summer of 1950,
Kim Il-sung was prepared
for an invasion of the South,
assuring Mao that he would
be greeted as a liberator,
and that he would take the
peninsula in a matter of days.
[Newscaster] News that
communist troops have invaded
southern Korea...
[Newscaster] Invading their
fellow countrymen to the South,
to bring another
international crisis to the
already long-suffering world.
[Narrator] At 4 am on the
morning of June 25th, 1950,
the border separating North
and South Korea erupted with
the repeated crash of artillery.
With hundreds of Soviet-made T-34 tanks,
North Korean troops, part
of the Korean People's Army,
raced across the 38th parallel.
Kim's invasion of the South had begun.
[Cumings] Basically the South
Korean army either couldn't
fight or didn't fight or ran away.
The North Koreans were
in Seoul in three days.
[Narrator] Some South Korean
men who did not escape were
forced into hiding, rather
than face conscription into
the Communist army, others
were put on trial in town
squares, in what were
known as people's courts,
where men were publicly
shamed for not pledging
allegiance to the party.
Beatings, kidnapping and
executions were routine.
[Hanley] The South Koreans
just couldn't stop them,
and they just fell apart.
The reaction in
Washington was one of shock.
[President Truman] Gentlemen,
we face a serious situation.
We hope we face it in the cause of peace.
[Narrator] By now, news
of the invasion had reached
the Supreme Commander
for the Allied Powers,
stationed in Japan.
Douglas MacArthur was a
genuine American war hero,
one of the nation's most
famous living generals,
whose face had graced
the cover of Time magazine
no fewer than six times.
[Brands] Douglas MacArthur was
the scion of a military family.
His father had fought in the Civil War and
won the Medal of Honor.
Douglas MacArthur was a
brilliant student at West Point,
he was a gallant soldier in World War I,
he won all of the medals any
one of his generation could win.
He was the supreme
commander of Allied forces in
the southwestern
Pacific during World War II.
He was clearly brave.
He was brilliant.
He was also quite egotistical,
and he tended to believe that
the world revolved around him.
And MacArthur convinced
himself that he understood
what he called, the Oriental mind,
that he understood how
Asians thought about the world.
[Cummings] MacArthur was a
very proud, self-confident,
vainglorious individual who
had a complete belief in his
own truths, whether they
were based on fact or not.
He considered himself a man of destiny,
and he had an ego the size of China,
but he was a master on the battlefield.
[Narrator] From his perch in Tokyo,
MacArthur famously assured
Washington that he could
handle the North Koreans with
one arm tied behind his back.
But after World War Two the
Truman administration was
intent on shrinking the
defense budget and only a
small advisory team was
left behind in Korea.
By June of 1950 most
branches of the military were
undermanned and ill-equipped.
[Brands] After World War II,
America built down its military
not expecting that it
would have to be used again,
at least nothing on that scale.
So at the time of the outbreak
of the Korean War the American
military was a shadow of what
it had been in World War II.
[Steuk] As long as we had a
monopoly of nuclear weapons,
we could relax a little bit
in terms of the manpower we had
in the army, and that's
what happened really from 1945
to 1949, there was a
continued reduction in the
size of the US army.
[Carey] We had to very quickly
put together two regiments.
They took half of my platoon and filled me
up with reserves.
Many of whom had never
even been to boot camp.
[Garza] I had just turned 17.
And I was sent to camp
Drake, in Japan there,
outside of Tokyo and all
we'd done was processed and
trained to make an amphibious
landing and head for Korea.
[Newscaster] On them,
world peace depends...
They will not fail.
They never have.
[Stueck] The Americans
were pretty confident.
You could even argue they
maybe were a little bit cocky.
Their first encounter was
with North Korean troops that
had Soviet T34 tanks,
and the American forces had no weapons.
The bazookas they had
would not penetrate the armor
of a T34 tank.
[Hanley] And so when
they entered into battle,
at first, they ran.
They saw their comrades
being killed around them.
And it gradually got a name.
It was called "bugging out."
They would "bug out."
[Garza] When we were still
in Camp Drake in Japan,
we were told at that time
that it was going to be
an easy war to finish, you know.
We were told that the North Koreans,
"slant eyes" they
couldn't see to the right
or the left flank.
They could only see to the front.
That you could actually sneak
in behind the North Koreans
and get them, you know,
but we found out that,
that wasn't true, you know.
Them suckers had eyes in the
back and also in the front.
All we could do was just
run back as fast as we could
and they were right after us, you know.
[McCarthy] I'm getting very,
very weary of sitting here and
acting as though we're
playing some little game.
We've got to clean up,
those who were responsible,
Mr. Chairman, covering up
communists and traitors,
not dead ones but live ones...
[Narrator] Half a world away
from the frontlines of Korea,
the United States was in
the throes of a panic about
the spread of communism
within American society.
[McCarthy] Even if there
were only one communist in
the state department,
that would still be one
communist too many.
[Narrator] President Truman's
policy of containing communism
was being pushed to its
limits around the world.
[President Truman] World
conquest by Soviet Russia
endangers our liberty, and
endangers the kind of world
in which the free
spirit of men can survive.
[Narrator] By now the Soviet
Union had an atomic bomb,
was tightening its grip on Eastern Europe,
and in Asia had forged a powerful alliance
with Mao's China.
At home, Truman stood accused
by Republicans of losing China
to an unchristian ideology.
[Brands] It wasn't a good thing
that China went communist.
This was a dire threat
to the United States.
And so, when communist forces
of North Korea invaded South
Korea Truman figured, I need
to do something about this.
If politically, the Truman administration,
loses South Korea it's going
to appear, first of all,
"to my domestic critics that
I am a terrible president,"
and there's the whole question
of American credibility.
[Stueck] Our potential
allies like in Europe,
which was our top priority,
would say, well, in the end,
the Americans can't be depended upon.
[President Truman] Korea is
a small country thousands of
miles away, but what is
happening there is important
to every American.
[Stueck] It was really
inevitable that the Americans
were going to do
whatever they could to stop
the North Koreans.
[President Truman] We
are united in detesting
communist slavery.
We know that the cost of freedom is high,
but we are determined
to preserve our freedom
no matter what the cost.
[Brands] The Korean War
came to America within the
decade of World War II.
And what Americans most wanted
after World War II was to come
home and to have families
and to get about the business
of peacetime affairs.
And then just five years later the world
needs re-saving again.
Harry Truman recognized that
if a lot of Americans started
getting killed in Korea the war could turn
unpopular very quickly.
To share the burden
would make the war in Korea
politically more acceptable.
[Narrator] In a show of
presidential resolve,
Truman bypassed Congress
while also appealing directly
to the newly-formed United Nations.
[President Truman] The
armed invasion of the
Republic of Korea continues.
This is, in fact, an attack
on the United Nations itself.
[Narrator] And on June 27,
the Security Council passed
a resolution authorizing
military intervention.
By June 30, Truman had approved the use of
American troops, the first
time an American president
had unilaterally
committed the country to war.
For a generation of young
men who never thought they'd
see another war, the news came as shock.
[Odell] I didn't know
where Korea was until I heard
that we was having a war with North Korea.
[Petrey] I lied.
I was 16 when I went in, but
the second World War had just
finished and I had
no idea that I would ever
be involved in a war.
[Kinard] When the war
started in June of 1950,
early one morning I received
a telephone call saying,
"Lieutenant Kinard,
you're now in the army."
I said, "What's this?"
Because I didn't really know
where Korea was until I looked
at the map and figured out the,
it was far from my home at that time,
I wondered if I would
ever really go there.
[Brands] The term of art at
the time was a "Police Action."
There is someone who
has disturbed the peace,
you call out the police,
and the police go to it.
And so this term "Police action"
seemed to be a nice
dodge around why Truman
wasn't asking Congress for
a declaration of war.
It's not really a war.
It's just this
"Police action."
[Odell] You know, we
was Harry's police force.
Thought it was kind of funny.
Here we are fighting
a war and he's calling it a
"police action."
[Narrator] By July 1950,
some 50,000 US troops,
followed by thousands more
from Great Britain, Australia,
Thailand and 12 other
nations, headed toward Korea.
After only a month of war,
the North was streaming down
the peninsula at lightning speed,
gaining new ground by the day.
Kim Il-sung's wager that he
would take the South in matter
of days seemed to be coming true.
[Cumings] All up and down the line,
people couldn't quite
figure out the North Koreans.
John Foster Dulles, who
was Truman's roving ambassador
for East Asia policy, said
he can't figure out what keeps
these masses of troops come shrieking on,
or maybe they're on drugs,
or maybe the Soviets have found
some way to program these people,
and in fact they were fighting
and dying for their homeland,
for the unification of their homeland.
[Jager] What you have really
in this situation is this
brutal civil war overlaid
with an international war
between two ideological
foes of the Cold War,
the Soviet Union and the United States.
[Narrator] To try to slow
the North Korean onslaught,
MacArthur sent the
the US Army's 7th Cavalry
to intercept them
near the city of Taejon but
the regiment ran into resistance.
[Garza] We could see the North Koreans,
they were coming in waves.
So by the time we would
kill the first two waves,
we were fighting with
bayonets because we were
out of ammunition.
[Cumings] The North Koreans, by mid-July,
had a pincer down the
east coast from the north and
then coming around from the southwest and
along the southern coast.
And if the Marines had
not landed around that time
and stiffened the lines,
the war would've been lost.
[Stueck] They formed what
we call the Pusan Perimeter.
Which is considered basically
the last good spot across
the peninsula to
establish a defensive position.
[Narrator] Caught in the
crossfire between advancing
North Korean troops and
UN forces were hundreds of
thousands of Korean
refugees who now filled
the roads between Seoul and Pusan.
[Cha] My father and my
grandparents had to walk
the distance from Seoul to Pusan.
That's really walking the distance
from Washington D.C.
to New York.
[Terry] When the war broke out,
my grandparents talked about
how they ran to Pusan Perimeter,
the family split up.
My grandmother went with my aunts,
and my grandfather went with the boys,
my uncle and my father,
and he lost, actually,
one of my uncles during the move to Pusan.
[Narrator] For U.N. troops,
already outmanned and
overwhelmed by the
surging North Korean army,
the refugee crisis presented
yet another challenge.
North Korean soldiers
hiding amongst peasants in
order to get behind enemy lines.
[Cha] There were only a handful
of main roads along which you
could travel with tanks or
with other sorts of equipment.
On those very same roads
you had civilians that
were trying to evacuate.
American troops did
not know who was the enemy
and who was the ally.
[Jager] There was always
this fear about refugees.
That created a great deal of moral dilemma
among American soldiers.
You see a bunch of refugees.
You think that North Koreans
are hiding among them,
do you shoot against them or not?
[Narrator] In some instances,
U.S. forces did shoot and
refugees were sacrificed in the panic.
[Narrator] Yang Hye Suk was
13 in July of 1950 when war
came to Imgye-ri, a
tiny farm town 100 miles
south of Seoul.
[Hanley] 1st Cavalry Division
troops had forced the people
of these two villages called
Joo Gok Ri and Im Gae Ri,
to evacuate and get
on the main road south.
[Narrator] Chung Koo-do's
family was from the same area
as Yang, and his parents
and siblings were among the
hundreds of refugees
who were led by U.S. troops
to a place called No Gun Ri.
As refugees gathered
on nearby train tracks,
eyewitnesses remember American
planes beginning to circle
and then opening fire.
[Narrator] Refugees ran
for cover under a railroad
overpass where for three
days and three nights they say
they were fired upon by the 7th Cavalry.
Fearful North Korean
soldiers were among them.
Yang Hye Suk, surrounded
by casualties was hiding under
her mother's hemp skirt
when she heard her uncle
cry out in pain.
[Hanley] Every war is horrible.
But the Korean War, among American wars,
was the war that had
the greatest proportion
of civilian casualties.
[Cumings] It was a very dirty war,
and that also demoralized
American soldiers.
They didn't quite know
what they were fighting for,
and they were forced to
do things that they didn't
do in World War II.
[Narrator] For U.N. troops it
was becoming increasingly clear
by the day that they
were mired in a bloody conflict
unbound by modern rules of engagement.
Atrocities could be found
on all sides of the fight.
[Hanley] Early in August
there was a massacre of
captured American troops
by the North Koreans,
as the North Koreans
left a hilltop, Hill 303.
They, they simply bound and then
shot in the back of the head
about 30 American prisoners.
Photos of this were run in
the Stars and Stripes newspaper,
which was getting to the troops in Korea,
and some of them cut
the photo out and carried it
in the inside of their helmets.
So once something like that happens,
that sort of frees some men
at least to do the same thing
to the enemy.
[Garza] We would capture 15,
20 enemy and supply one or
two men to escort this
POWs back to the rear.
I says, "If they try to get away from you,
open up with your machine
guns and your rifles.
Don't let them get away."
And they would be gone
for 10 or 15 minutes when
we would hear the machine gun going off.
[Narrator] While casualties
continued to mount through the
summer of 1950, the
North Korean army maintained
their advantage.
[Newscaster] Already America
has suffered 500 casualties.
Five short years after a global war,
Americans again pay in blood...
[Cumings] All the high American
officers had been heroes
of World War II, whether
it's General MacArthur or
Curtis LeMay or Matthew Ridgway.
These were people who were
famous in the battles that
defeated the Nazis and the Japanese...
[Newscaster] The tide of battle
still favors the aggressors.
The United Nations' forces
in Korea are forced to improvise
their defense...
[Cumings] And here it is
1950, only five years later,
and they're getting their butt whipped by
rough peasant armies.
[Narrator] United Nations
commander General MacArthur
was used to fighting with
his back against the ropes.
From his headquarters in Japan,
he was quietly putting
together a plan for a bold
counter attack that
he believed could break
the North Korean army.
He hoped to utilize the
element of surprise by
attacking the communist
forces from behind,
landing at the port of Inchon
and cutting off supply lines.
With extreme tides
and a shallow shoreline,
the port of Inchon was a highly risky spot
for an invasion, precisely
the reason MacArthur thought
it would work.
[Jager] Nobody thought it was practical.
Everybody was against it,
because it was so impractical.
The timeframe for landing
those amphibious vehicles was
very limited to a few hours
but MacArthur really believed
that, because of its
impracticality the North
Koreans wouldn't defend.
[Brands] The Joint Chiefs
of Staff thought that this
was not a particularly good idea,
but they were in an odd position.
MacArthur was essentially
politically untouchable,
and there was nobody in
the military chain of command
who would
tell MacArthur "no."
[Millett] I think that so many
people said you can't do this,
the more you do that to
somebody like MacArthur,
it's going to increase
their resistance to change.
The more you tell them
not to do something,
the more likely it is
you're going to get it.
[inaudible radio chatter]
[Edwards] When we got on the ship,
we didn't know where we were going.
Out in the ocean,
we were told we were going
to Inchon to make a landing.
I don't think I knew enough to be scared.
[Carey] It had a 26-foot tide,
and you had to go in at high
tide, and it takes a lot of
time to get a division ashore,
total division.
So I was pretty, I was nervous, naturally.
[Narrator] On September 15th,
70,000 US troops
stood at anchor off the Korean coast,
awaiting high tide and
MacArthur's order to attack.
Nobody knew what was
in store for them once they
made it to shore.
[Millet] One admiral said
if you drew up all the things
that made amphibious operations difficult,
Inchon had them all.
The tides are bad, the harbor's all mud.
Who knew how many guns were sitting in it.
[Narrator] Lt. Richard
Carey was leading a platoon
of Marines that day,
when at 5pm MacArthur gave
his unit the order to attack.
[Carey] We only had a couple
hours before it was dark.
The only place we could
go in was into an inlet.
And when we got into
the inlet it was surrounded
by barbed wire.
I started cutting the wire.
A sniper shot off my radio,
was strapped on my shoulder.
And the guy on the
other side of me took one
right between the eye.
[Edwards] We were getting
shot at when we hit the beach,
but I don't think they expected us.
[Narrator] Despite initial resistance,
as an unrelenting waves
of troops landed onshore,
the advantage quickly shifted.
By evening, U.N. forces
had secured the beach and
headed east to cut off
North Korean supply lines.
Remarkably, MacArthur
had caught the North Koreans
by surprise.
His gamble had paid off.
[Brands] It was such a daring
strike and such a rapid strike
that it changed the
momentum in the war entirely.
The United States and
the South Koreans were
losing badly until then.
All of a sudden they were winning!
[Jager] I mean, it was
such a risky operation,
and the fact that he brought
it off without any problem.
MacArthur was viewed as a kind of god.
[Narrator] In a single stroke,
MacArthur had cemented his
reputation for military genius.
The tide of the war had shifted,
as North Korean troops
scrambled back toward
the 38th parallel.
In just two weeks, Seoul
was back in the hands of
the United Nations and
President Rhee was restored
to the capitol building.
MacArthur's forces were now
sitting at the 38th parallel,
with fresh troops, superior
airpower, and momentum.
[Newscaster] The United
Nations man of the hour,
General MacArthur, with the
capture of Seoul will have the
Communist aggressors
between a crushing millstone.
[Newscaster] MacArthur had
planned one daring master
stroke and turned
the whole tide of battle.
[Stueck] There's a drastic alteration of
the military situation.
Suddenly, the Americans
and South Koreans are on the
verge of going across the 38th
parallel and into the north,
and obviously, military
leaders want to take advantage
of the immediate situation.
[Narrator] With the
course of the war changing
so dramatically,
General MacArthur saw an opening
to widen the conflict into North Korea.
It would allow him to unite
the peninsula in the name
of democracy, and to issue
a decisive blow against
communism in Asia.
The general's aggressive
worldview was always at odds
with President Truman's
ideas of containment,
and of a limited war.
But with MacArthur's success at Inchon,
Truman suddenly saw an opportunity.
[Brands] MacArthur says give
me just a little bit more time
and I can end the war.
I can capture or destroy
all the North Korean forces.
Truman, who just weeks
before had worried about the
fact that he was going to
be charged with losing more
ground to the Communists,
thought "I can do something
that no president before me has ever done.
I can take ground back
from the Communists."
[Narrator] On October 7th 1950,
MacArthur's troops
stormed across the border.
Victories came quickly as
UN forces pursued the remnants
of the North Korean
army and continued to pound
them from the sky.
[Cumings] People were lighting
cigars all over Washington
and Seoul when American
troops were marching up
the peninsula in October 1950.
MacArthur arrived in Pyongyang,
the capital of North Korea,
he gets off his plane,
and he says "Where's Kim Buck too?
Isn't he here to greet me?"
Referring, of course, to Kim Il-sung.
[Narrator] Only two months
after U.N. troops had faced
annihilation at Pusan,
their flag flew above Kim's
capital city, Pyongyang.
[Edwards] We had already taken Pyongyang.
We didn't have too much resistance from
the Koreans at all.
[Narrator] A devastating
blow against communism
seemed within reach.
MacArthur's forces moved
with lightning speed.
Each day, they pressed
closer to the Yalu River,
North Korea's border with China.
[Stueck] MacArthur argues
that really he needs American
forces to go all the way to
the Yalu in order to clean up
the situation and do it quickly,
and the administration back in Washington,
faced with strong Republican
attacks on the Democratic
administration being weak on Asia.
The Truman administration
does not say no to MacArthur.
[Narrator] Saying no to
MacArthur was becoming
increasingly difficult for
Truman an unpopular president,
who was seen at home as badly
mismanaging the war in Korea.
But needing assurances
from his general on the future
course of the war,
Truman requested a meeting.
Since MacArthur would not
travel more than a half-day
from Tokyo, Truman flew to
Wake Island in the Pacific,
where he was greeted
by his general not with
a traditional salute
but with a civilian handshake.
[Brands] MacArthur had
been overstating his authority
for many months, he
would hold news conferences,
and he would speak very
often as the United Nations
commander and not report directly to the
president of the United States.
So Truman flies all the
way out to Wake Island
in the Pacific hoping on
the basis of MacArthur's
repeated assurances,
the war is nearly over and
Korea will be liberated.
And he puts the question to MacArthur,
if American troops get
close to the border will the
Chinese enter the war,
and MacArthur says they won't
dare and if they do
I will annihilate them.
[Carey] We were pumped up.
MacArthur put it out, he said,
"We're going as far as
the Yalu, probably you're
going right into China."
So, we were, we were pretty enthusiastic.
We said, "This is
going to be the end of it.
We'll win the war right here."
[Brands] MacArthur is
assuring them that the
war is nearly over.
He kept saying that
American troops will be
home by Christmas,
that the war is wrapping up.
When American troops had
their Thanksgiving dinner
and they're thinking,
"Christmas, that's only a month away.
We're all going
to get to go home."
[Narrator] A final victory,
and an end to the war,
was in sight.
In late November, 1950,
30,000 United Nations troops
paused their advance and
sat down in the frozen hills
and valleys that surrounded
the Chosin Reservoir.
There they enjoyed a hot
Thanksgiving dinner courtesy
of the U.S. government.
[Odell] We was dug
in in the hills up there.
Headquarters had set up cooks and
we had our Thanksgiving dinner.
They didn't have serving trays at the time
I got through there, and I just went ahead
and took my helmet liner out of
the helmet and used my helmet,
and I had my Thanksgiving
dinner in 1950 in a helmet.
And then when we moved out
of where we was dug in after
Thanksgiving, we went
on up through Yudam-II.
That's when all hell broke loose.
[Narrator] The U.N. forces had
been caught in a massive trap,
sprung by the Chinese.
MacArthur it seemed had miscalculated.
Mao's army had entered the war.
Attacking at night to retain
the element of surprise and
to avoid aerial bombardment,
hundreds of thousands of
Chinese troops stormed the
frontline in an overwhelming
display of force.
[Brands] Over 200,000 Chinese
managed to infiltrate across
the Yalu River.
When the Americans are taken
by surprise they find that
they're basically surrounded,
and instead of fighting for
victory they're fighting for their lives.
[Odell] We could hear the
bugles sounding and all the
screaming and what have you,
and the Chinese coming at you in hordes.
We was outnumbered
probably 5 to 1, 10 to 1,
something like that.
And their sole purpose
was to annihilate the
1st Marine Division.
[Carey] When they came,
they came in waves.
A wave, a wave, a wave, a wave.
The platoon sergeant and
I were in a foxhole together.
So, he took the grenades out
all night, handed them to me,
I counted "one-thousand-one,
and threw them.
I threw three cartons
of grenades that night.
That night was bitterly cold.
God, it was cold.
It was below 50 below zero.
[Brands] Many of these soldiers,
they pretty much consigned themselves
to die one way or the other.
They were going to get
killed by a Chinese bullet
or a mortar round or
they were going to freeze,
and it was merely a matter
of how long can we put this off.
[Narrator] Homer Garza and
the Army's 7th Cav were west
of Chosin battling two enemies,
the Chinese and the cold.
[Garza] Our fingers would crack
as you tried to close your
hand with it being so
damn cold and we got the old
blanket sleeping bags and
we cut strips of the blankets
and wrap it around our
feet to try to keep our
feet from freezing,
but it was so cold
that it wouldn't take more
than four or five minutes
after a guy was killed that he
was froze solid, if we were
staying in the same hill for
a while, we would get the dead Chinese and
the dead Koreans and stand them up against
the trees frozen solid.
[Odell] When you saw one of those Marine's
bodies frozen stiff, that was sad.
Arms sticking out, legs sticking out.
You really knew you was at war then.
[Carey] It's hard to describe it truly is.
You had to be careful
how you picked them up.
If you pick them up
by an the arm, for example,
you can break the arm off.
[Narrator] There was
no option but to retreat.
Over ten days, U.N. troops
fought their way out of
the reservoir, suffering 18,000
casualties along the way.
[Brands] The whole ethos
of the American approach to
war was advance, attack,
and when the soldiers saw
that we can't attack.
In fact, it's going to be
everything we can do simply
to escape, to flee
and get out of this alive,
it was exceedingly disorienting.
These were soldiers,
many of them whom were in
their first combat.
They hadn't seen anything like this.
They had never really
confronted the basic questions
of life and death.
[Odell] They told us to
straighten up as we was coming
in to Hagaru-ri, we come
in their like real Marines,
we was singin' the Marine Corps Hymn,
all gong ho, you know?
[Narrator] The tide of the
war had changed yet again.
U.N. troops were forced back
below the 38th parallel,
and within weeks, Seoul
had fallen to the combined
North Korean and Chinese forces.
Bloody fighting in and around
Seoul would see the capitol
change sides four times.
With an American public
growing restless with bad news
from the frontlines and body
counts of American servicemen
increasing everyday,
Truman was forced to confront
a war that seemed unwinnable
with conventional forces.
[Brands] No one seriously
talked about the use of
atomic weapons in Korea
until the end of November,
beginning of December, 1950,
when American forces were
fleeing for their lives
upon the Chinese entry into
the war, then it certainly
occurred to members of
the public to ask, well, "How can we lose
to North Korea, how can
we lose to China when we've
got the bomb and they don't?"
[Narrator] In the press,
General MacArthur made clear
his belief in expanding
the conflict into China.
And in the war room,
he was making plans for
the use of the atomic bomb.
[Cumings] MacArthur
wanted an unlimited war.
He wanted to use 24 atomic bombs.
In December 1950, he said,
I want 24 atomic bombs to
establish a radiation
cordon along the Yalu River,
you know, using cobalt, which
has a half-life of 90 years,
and the two places will
be separated, you know,
for a long time, generations to come.
[Hanley] In November of '50,
Truman was asked about the
use of atomic weapons, and he said
"Yes, this would have
to be considered."
That was the first mention by him.
[Brands] Then the next question is, well,
who is going to determine whether the bomb
will be used or not?
Truman said, without
thinking very clearly,
"The decision will be made
by the commander in the field."
Well, everybody realized
the commander in the field
is Douglas MacArthur.
Harry Truman has just
announced this policy that
the atom bomb is
available for use in Korea and
that Douglas MacArthur
is going to make the decision.
Oh, boy, what have
we got ourselves in for?
[Newscaster] The president
has stated that the use of
the atomic bomb is
being considered to halt
the communist onrush...
It may well precipitate World War III...
[Narrator] News of Truman's
consideration of using the
atomic bomb set America's allies around
the world on edge.
[Brands] Clement Attlee is
the British prime minister and
he is in a meeting of
parliament and he hears this
stir in the back and kind
of wonders what's going on
and somebody passes him a note
explaining that the president
of the United States
has threatened the use of
the atom bomb in Korea.
[Newscaster] A new war
brought prime minister Attlee
to Washington for
talks with president Truman...
[Stueck] The prime minister
of Great Britain raced across
the Atlantic to try
and bring some sanity back
into the situation.
[Narrator] At home,
Truman's confusing remarks
only deepened the public's
skepticism of his abilities
as commander in chief.
And General MacArthur's public
campaign for the expansion
of the war into China increasingly put the
two men at odds.
[Cumings] MacArthur wanted a rollback.
He wanted to keep on
going into China and try
to settle the hash
of the Chinese revolution.
That was his great error in Truman's eyes.
Truman wanted a limited rollback.
He wanted to roll North
Korean communists back and
unify the peninsula.
[Jager] MacArthur feels
like this is the place where
we're going to have to
have this great battle against
communism, even to
the extent that he's willing
to risk World War III.
[Brands] Truman said to
MacArthur "If this war gets
any bigger, we don't have the resources,
we don't have the military
establishment to do that.
General MacArthur,
your job is to buy time."
Well that cut against
everything MacArthur.
No, no, in war there is
no substitute for victory.
We fight to win.
Not simply to hold ground.
[Jager] Truman learned from
Hiroshima and Nagasaki that
no true victory in that
sense is possible anymore and
so he really wanted to limit the war.
MacArthur couldn't deal with that defeat.
Truman had given him a
directive on December 5th not
to say anything publicly
against the policy of the
Truman administration,
and MacArthur consistently
defied that directive.
[Narrator] On April 11th 1951,
President Truman addressed the nation.
[President Truman] I have
considered it essential to
relieve General MacArthur
so that there would be no doubt
or confusion as to the real
purpose and aim of our policy.
It was with the deepest personal regret
that I found myself
compelled to take this action.
General MacArthur is one of our
greatest military commanders.
But the cause of world
peace is much more important
than any individual.
[Brands] For Truman this
was an issue that transcended
the moment in Korea.
This had everything to do
with how America was going to
be governed in the Cold War.
Truman recognized that
the Korean War was not
one of a kind.
There would be other challenges like this.
And so he made a point
of relieving MacArthur simply
because his view of
what American policy should
be was different than the president's.
[Narrator] General MacArthur
was far from wounded.
On April 16th, he boarded
his plane and left Japan.
In New York, he was given
a ticker tape parade down
Broadway, and he was invited
to give a speech in front of
a joint session of Congress.
For many, MacArthur was
the personification of
American exceptionalism, the
last great World War II hero.
And in living rooms across the country,
Americans hung on his every word.
[Brands] MacArthur knows
that this audience is primed
to approve of him.
[MacArthur] I stand on
this rostrum with a sense of
deep humility and great pride.
[Brands] And he speaks in
a very stentorian voice
and he plays the crowd.
[MacArthur] But I still
remember the refrain of one
of the most popular barrack
ballads of that day which
proclaimed most proudly that
"Old soldiers never die;
they just fade away."
And like the old soldier of that ballad,
I now close my military
career and just fade away.
[Brands] And there was not
a dry eye in the house.
[Narrator] In private, Truman fumed,
calling the speech quote,
"A bunch of damn bullshit."
But his decision to
fire MacArthur nearly cost
him his presidency.
[Jager] I think his
popularity rate sank to 22%.
I mean he was an extremely
unpopular leader because
he didn't see in terms
of victory or defeat.
He said we had to limit this war.
[Narrator] Despite continued
pressure from Republicans
to expand the war
against communism into China
and beyond, Truman stayed the course.

By the spring of 1951,
the Korean War had reached a stalemate.
Under the new leadership
of General Matthew Ridgway,
UN forces were dug in
around the 38th parallel,
trading ground against
North Korean and Chinese forces
one bloody battle at a time.
[Kinard] What we were doing
at that time was very different
than what had been earlier in the war.
They called that the
stalemate at the time,
which is what it was,
but living in the trenches
there is like living as animals.
You're living in the dirt.
You ate in the dirt.
That was a little bit hard on the morale.
[Brands] It was a terribly bloody and
demoralizing experience.
There was a dynamic
that basically meant that
neither side could win.
Most of the casualties
take place in this period,
for no good purpose.
[Narrator] Armistice
talks between the UN, China,
and North Korea, which had
begun in the summer of 1951,
dragged on for months, then years.
At every venue the Soviet Union continued
its stonewalling.
[U.N. delegate'] United Kingdom?
[Man] Yes.
[U.N. delegate] United States?
[Man] Yes.
[U.N. delegate] Union of
Socialist Republics?
[Man] No.
[Narrator] For Stalin
and the Communist forces,
keeping the Americans stalled
in East Asia was preferable.
[Stueck] Stalin was willing
to fight the Korean War to
the last Chinese soldier.
It was keeping the Americans
engaged in Korea rather
than building up in Europe.
[Narrator] In order to
break the Communists' will,
Americans stepped up their
air campaign in North Korea.
[Hanley] All of the
cities in North Korea were
essentially flattened.
It got so that the pilots
and the squadron leaders,
et cetera, were complaining
they had no more targets.
A written directive to the
5th Air Force in North Korea,
had ordered that every
installation, every town,
every village be destroyed.
[Cumings] They dropped a lot of napalm.
Napalm had been invented
at the end of World War II,
but not used much.
It was used indiscriminately
across North Korea.
[Jager] And they thought
that that was the price that
you had to pay to avoid
a larger war, World War III,
with China.
And so basically North Korea
became that kind of victim,
to force the communists
to negotiate the armistice.
[Newscaster] The Republican
party is back in power.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
is elected!
[Narrator] Even President
Dwight D. Eisenhower,
a Republican who had won the 1952 election
on a pledge to go to Korea to end the war,
could do little to change
the situation on the ground.
[Brands] The mere fact
that Dwight Eisenhower,
the hero of the European
side of World War II,
was going to go.
He was going to put his mind to it.
Now, in fact, the end came
not because Eisenhower went
to Korea, he went, he looked
around, basically came home.
But the key was the death of Josef Stalin.
[Narrator] In March of 1953,
the Soviet dictator died
unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Stalin's successors wasted no time.
[Millett] Once Stalin's gone,
his body's hardly cold when
the reigning central
committee, the presidium,
sends a message to the
Chinese and North Koreans,
"Get an armistice."
[Stueck] It took several months
to agree on an armistice line.
The communists initially
argued for the 38th parallel,
which was an indefensible line on a map.
The Americans insisted on another line,
a line that was defensible.
They wanted the armistice to survive.
[Narrator] Even as negotiators
argued over the last details,
battles continued to rage.
At Pork Chop Hill, an
800-foot-high ridge near
the 38th parallel, the US
army lost nearly 1,000 men
to death or injury
fighting over a plot of land
of no strategic or tactical value.
To the soldiers in the trenches,
it seemed the fighting would never end.
[Kinard] We didn't know too
much about what was going
on with negotiations
except they were happening.
All of us hoped and
thought any day we were going
to have a treaty signed.
You always thought, I
don't want to be the last
one to die in this war.
[Steuk] Eventually the two
sides agreed not to accept
the 38th parallel.
They would accept a
demilitarized zone on each
side of the line of battle, so
there would be a minor retreat
of anywhere from three
to five kilometers at the end
of the war, but it would be
essentially the battle line.
[Newscaster] Then the exodus begins,
and from the disputed hills
hundreds of thousands of men
pull back, and there's not
a regret in a truckload...
[Narrator] While US forces
were happy to pull back,
for many Koreans the
location of the new border
had serious consequences.
Families would be permanently
separated as territory once
situated in the south suddenly
came under northern control.
Park Kyung Soon's hometown
of Kaesong was one such
city that was now
caught behind enemy lines.
Kyung Soon lived at home
with her two younger siblings.
Her mother, fearing what
might happen to her daughter
in North Korea, told her to flee.
[Narrator] On July 27th, 1953,
an armistice was finally
reached between the UN,
China and North Korea.
It called for a cessation of
hostilities and armed force
until an official peace treaty is signed.
[Terry] North Korea
was completely destroyed,
not a building left standing.
South Korea was completely destroyed.
China lost a million people.
Mao lost his own son.
And U.S. too,
what do we accomplish after
three years of destruction?
We're left with where we started,
with the, with the DMZ and
the 38th parallel.

Some people love to love
While some people seem to wait...
[Kinard] Most of us when we came
back really felt like
we had not accomplished much.
The American people generally,
most of them really didn't
even know where we'd been.
A number of the Korean
veterans that I know of that
came back home would
walk down the street and
their friends would ask
them, 'Where have you been?'
And they said, 'Oh, we've
been in a war in Korea.'
'Where's Korea?'
[Brands] No one could gin
up enthusiasm for a victory
parade because there wasn't a victory.
In fact, when the troops came
home there was this armistice.
There was the possibility
that they might have to go back.
[Narrator] Despite
the end of major combat,
the Korean War was far from over.
There was no official peace treaty,
thousands of POWs were
still awaiting repatriation
and tensions along the DMZ would require
President Eisenhower
to commit tens of thousands
of troops to act as a standing
force along the border.
But at home, Americans were
tired of war and had long lost
interest in events in Korea.
[Brands] Americans
conclude that not that much
was at stake in Korea.
We're not going to World
War III over Korea,
and the Communists aren't
going to take over South Korea.
It didn't seem to be
threatening to America's
actual life and livelihood.
Let's just forget about this.
[Nat King Cole]
Some people dream of you
[Narrator] The luxury of
forgetting the war was not
possible on the Korean peninsula.
Three years of bloody
conflict had left both
Koreas devastated,
their cities flattened and
their economies destroyed.
[Cha] After the armistice was signed,
the Korean peninsula was
basically a field of rubble.
The United States dropped
more ordinance on North Korea
in that three-year war than
we dropped during the entire
Second World War,
basically leveled the country.
The southern side of
the peninsula was no better.
Everything was leveled.
They were starting very much from scratch.
[Narrator] Despite an influx
of millions of American dollars
to rebuild South Korea,
the country remained among
the world's poorest.
Syngman Rhee, who after
the armistice continued his
authoritarian regime, ruled
over a government rife with
corruption and mismanagement.
[Cha] Syngman Rhee ruled
the country ostensibly as a
constitutional democracy, but
really in a very brutal and
ruthless way, very cliquish,
focusing on providing benefits
to his followers,
punishing his detractors,
and he essentially sought
economic assistance from the
United States and from other countries,
but was using it largely
to subsidize his own rule and
was not really putting
it into an economic plan.
[Narrator] In the countryside
and in major cities food
and basic resources
remained scant for years.
[Terry] I was raised in Gangnam,
Apgujeong-dong in Gangnam,
with Psy, the singer,
sings about it.
So, I have a memory of that,
when it was just a field,
and had none of these buildings.
South Korea, people forget,
was one of the poorest
countries in the world.
[Narrator] In North Korea,
despite the complete
destruction of its infrastructure,
Kim Il-sung quickly oversaw
the complete transformation
of his country and
rebuilt it in his image.
[Cha] After the end of the Korean War,
the North Korean economy
developed quite rapidly
because they had a great
deal of support from the
Soviet Union and from Communist China.
[Stueck] Economic growth in
North Korea through the '50s,
after the armistice and
really into the early '60s,
was clearly greater
than that of South Korea.
[Narrator] Kim Il-sung
used the memory of the war
to double down on his authority.
In his re-writing of history,
America and South Korea were
the aggressors who instigated
the war and it was he who
lead North Korea to
victory over American tyranny.
[Terry] The way the North
Koreans learn about the
Korean War is that the
United States, first of all,
divided the Korean peninsula,
then invaded North Korea,
but under the great
leadership of Kim Il-sung,
the North Koreans emerged victorious,
yet you have to continually
fight against the Americans,
because the Americans are bent
on destruction of North Korea,
and this is sort of repeated
over and over and over.
[Narrator] To strengthen
this mythology and consolidate
his power, Kim enforced
a series of brutal purges.
[Jager] After the war,
Kim Il-sung was in a very
vulnerable position, because
he led the country into this
disaster but Kim Il-sung is a
survivor and he then begins to
consolidate his power
and then a huge purge happens
in '58 and '59.
Some people say like
100,000 people then are killed,
by '61, he's totally in power.
[Narrator] Kim even created
his own political philosophy
in order to govern the country.
He called it "Juche" a
revolutionary theory that
focused on independence, nationalism
and most importantly self-defense.
[Narrator] Before he defected
to the south in 2004,
Jang Jin Sung was a prominent
member of the North Korean
propaganda wing and was
raised under the influence
of Kim Il-sung.
[Narrator] Though increasingly isolated,
Kim Il-sung's vision for
his country remained true,
to build an army strong enough
to defend itself from America
and South Korea and to
one day unify the peninsula.

[Singing in native language]
By 1968 South Korea
had emerged from the era of
corruption and economic
stagnation that had marred
Syngman Rhee's administration.
Under the leadership
of General Park Chung Hee,
a military leader with
an eye toward modernity,
South Korea's economy was booming.
[Jager] By the late 1960s and early '70s,
Park Chung-hee implemented
an export-oriented economy and
it was through his guidance
that South Korea as we
know it really began
to take off economically.
I mean he was also a dictator,
but he was able to create the
economic platform from
which South Korea could
then develop into a democracy.
And of course South Korea's
rise and global power and
success then reflected back on the success
of the American war.
[Narrator] While South Korea's
prosperity was heralded across
the Western world, to Kim Il-sung
and North Korea
it was a threat.
[Jager] As South Korea started to take off
economically, North Korea
then saw the window for
reunification closing
because it had surpassed
North Korea's economy.
North Korea was going down economically,
South Korea was going up.
With thousands of American
troops sitting on its border,
and a well-armed South Korean military,
Kim Il-sung saw his
opportunities to unite the
peninsula under his own
control shrinking by the day.
[Lankov] Between 1967 and 1972,
it did look like that
North Koreans really wanted
to restart hostilities and
maybe create havoc by
successful assassinations
of high level officials.
So, a short period which
is sometimes called
the second Korean war began.
[Jager] And it was at that
point that North Korea then
begins a series of
provocative actions in order
to unify the peninsula
under Kim Il-sung's rule.
[Narrator] On January 21st 1968,
Kim Il-sung ordered his most
brazen military operation
since the signing of the 1953 armistice.
A unit of highly trained North
Korean commandos cut their way
through barbed wire along the
DMZ and snuck into the south.
Donning South Korean military
uniforms and credentials,
the commandos stormed the Blue House,
the private residence
of President Park Chung Hee.
The commandos' orders,
which came directly from
Kim Il-sung, were concise and explicit.
[Cha] The instructions were basically,
to go to the Blue House
to kill the South Korean
president, Park Chung-Hee,
to cut off his head and
bring it back to North Korea.
[Narrator] The North
Koreans got within yards of
the president before they were discovered,
and the assassination was thwarted.
[General Bonesteel] And I
sincerely hope Kim Il-sung
and his people up north
recognize the futility and
the unwisdom of continuing this action.
[Narrator] But just days later,
North Korea captured the USS
Pueblo which had been sailing
off of the coast of Korea.
The 82-man crew was bound, blindfolded,
and transported to Pyongyang,
where they were charged as spies.
For eleven months, the
ship's crew was tortured
and subjected to harsh interrogations.
[President Johnson] The
North Koreans committed yet
another wanton and aggressive act by
seizing an American ship and its crew.
Clearly, this cannot be accepted.
[Narrator] By the winter of 1968,
it seemed America was
once again being pulled into
the conflict in Korea just
as their war in Vietnam
was heating up.
[Cumings] The seizure of
the Pueblo happened almost
conterminously with the Tet
offensive and was designed
to put pressure on the
US by the North Koreans,
who were helping the North Vietnamese
as pilots and things like that.
[Stueck] The Pueblo incident
kind of illustrates
the dilemma that the
Americans have always been in,
because we do have
major interests in Korea,
but we have global interests as well.
So the Americans were
deeply engaged in Vietnam,
and were scared to death that
Park Chung Hee would take some
kind of action that would
create a renewed Korean war.
[Jager] Park Chung-hee is furious.
He wants to go north.
He wants to seek revenge
for the Blue House raid,
but all the other powers
around the Korean Peninsula,
of course, are not interested
in restarting the Korean War.
The Americans are bogged down in Vietnam.
The Soviet Union has
distractions in Eastern
Europe, it invades Czechoslovakia in 1968,
and the Chinese are involved
in their cultural revolution,
so the outside powers outside
of the Korean Peninsula have
no interest in starting the Korean War,
but the two Koreas want,
again, to start a war.
[Narrator] With pressure
from America Korean
President Park stood down.
The American crew of the
Pueblo were released in
December 1968 but the
ship was never returned.
[Cha] I think it's fair to say
that after the initial hot war
between North and South Korea,
there was a cold war
competition between the
North and the South
that was quite intense.
Lots of hostilities day
to day along the border,
and every time in that history
whenever we saw the south
Koreans doing something good,
the North Koreans would always
seek to spoil that party.
[Narrator] Simmering tensions
between the two Koreas
continued throughout the 70's and 80's.
Then as the decade wound down,
North Korea would strike yet again,
this time while the whole world watched.
[Lankov] These games were
widely seen worldwide as
a triumph of the south
Korean anti-communist regimes.
And well, North Koreans
wanted to spoil the show.
[Narrator] In November of 1987,
just weeks before South Korea
was to hold its first
democratic elections while
busily preparing for the Olympic games,
two North Korean agents
working under orders from
the Kim regime planted a bomb
aboard Korean air flight 858.
All 104 passengers and
11 crew members were killed.
[U.S. official] The republic of
Korea has produced evidence
that KAL 858 was destroyed
by an act of terrorism
by North Korea.
[Lankov] This bombing of
the Korean Airlines plane was
just a part of their efforts
to create a climate of fear,
to prevent people from going
to the Seoul Olympic Games.
[Narrator] But the
desperate act of terror by
Kim Il-sung backfired.
[Jager] And it's at that
point, that really,
you can say that the
Korean War has been won
by South Korea.
[Announcer] The world to
Seoul, Seoul to the world...
[Jager] And then the Soviet
Union establishes diplomatic
relations with South Korea in 1990.
China follows in 1992.
So North Korea is now
diplomatically isolated,
humiliated by the Seoul Olympics,
and unable to deal with
South Korea on any equal terms.
And it's that time then,
that the North Korean regime
seeks its nuclear program
for its own security.

[Narrator] On July 8th
1994, Kim Il-sung died.
Ordinary North Koreans
were forced into a state
of prolonged mourning.
[Narrator] Kim's son,
Kim Jong-il was made supreme leader.
He inherited a country in crisis.
The collapse of the Soviet
Union in the early 90's
devastated the North
Korean economy and a series
of successive famines killed an
estimated one million Koreans.
But even as his people were starving,
Kim doubled down on his father's expensive
nuclear ambitions.
[Jager] So everyone really
thinks at that point that
North Korea's going to
collapse and yet it doesn't.
Kim Jong-il continues
with his nuclear program and
he knows that is the only
leverage he has for survival.
[President Clinton] The
situation in Korea is serious,
we are examining what we can do,
we're talking to our
South Korean partners...
[Narrator] In 1994, after
it was discovered that the
North was secretly
producing plutonium for a bomb,
President Bill Clinton
dispatched a team of American
diplomats to Geneva to defuse the crisis.
[President Clinton] We
are pursuing our sanctions
discussions in the United Nations.
[Narrator] After months of negotiations,
Kim Jong-il consented to
freeze his nuclear program
in exchange for increased aid.
They called it the
"Agreed Framework."
Bill Clinton referred
to the deal as the first step
on the road to a nuclear
free Korean peninsula.
[Terry] So, that was sort
of the height of diplomacy.
Madeleine Albright as
the Secretary of State went
to North Korea.
The problem is that
North Koreans were pursuing
a separate track, a
uranium enrichment program,
before the 1994 agreed framework,
during the negotiation, and
after the agreed framework.
So, North Koreans were always
bent on keeping some aspect
of their nuclear program.
[Cha] For North Korea,
nuclear weapons are not only
the ultimate sign of strength,
but they have meaning for
North Korea and their history
because Kim Il-sung saw how
Japan's occupation of Korea,
which looked like it would never end,
suddenly being terminated
by two atomic bombs
that the United States dropped on Japan.
They saw China explode a
nuclear device in 1964 and
then become a permanent member
of the U.N. Security Council.
These are the interpretations,
the lessons the North Koreans
learned from the ability
to have nuclear weapons.
[Narrator] As North Korea
retreated further and further
into isolation, South Korea
was becoming a paragon of
capitalism, and democracy.
Even though the war between
the two had not ended,
memories of it receded behind
glowing monuments to economic
progress, spearheaded by
the success of companies
like Samsung and Hyundai.
But by the late 90s, as
democracy ripened and with it
a free press, harrowing truths
about the war finally came
to light and threatened
to strain the long standing
alliance between America and South Korea.
[Narrator] Choe Sang-Hun was
reporter for the Associated
Press in Seoul in the late '90s.
[Narrator] Choe partnered
with a team at AP's New York
bureau, led by Charles Hanley.
[Hanley] The investigation
was a very detailed,
very arduous, onerous,
drawn-out investigation.
It wasn't easy.
[Narrator] The team began
to interview survivors who
described atrocities
perpetrated by American
military in the earliest days of the war.
One of the worst was the
massacre at No Gun Ri where
hundreds of South Korean
civilian refugees were killed
while they huddled under a train overpass.
[Hanley] The stories from
the Korean survivors
were just horrible.
And the key thing then was
to find the Americans involved.
We needed to find corroboration.
My colleague Martha
Mendoza and I began making
cold calls to these veterans.
[Narrator] Homer Garza was
a 17 year old private with
the Army's 7th Cavalry.
He says he arrived at No Gun Ri
just after the massacre ended.
[Garza] There was two
tunnels side by side.
When we got there,
there must've been about
300 South Korean civilians
that were killed there.
One thing I'll never forget,
there was a woman, a mother,
laying there on her back.
And she had a little baby
about, probably about,
not more than 8 or 9 months
old trying to nurse on the
dead body there, you know.
[Narrator] Garza contends
American soldiers were not
to blame for the massacre
but along with other veterans
he has confirmed that their orders during
the war were clear.
[Garza] We received orders
that anything in front of us
was the enemy, no matter
who was in front of us.
If they didn't shoot at you,
you would shoot at them.
Whether they was a male or a female.
[Narrator] Choe, Hanley, and
a team of AP reporters dug
into the Pentagon's files,
many of them formerly classified
what they found there supported
the survivors' accounts.
[Hanley] There were orders
flying around the warfront
to treat civilians as enemy.
Orders from the very top
command, the 8th Army,
to stop any refugee movement across lines.
This was just a prima
facie case of a war crime.
Targeting noncombatants
has always been considered
a war crime,
and these were the
first documents like this
to be turned up.
[Narrator] On September 29, 1999,
the AP published the first piece of
their investigative report.
[Hanley] By the next day,
Defense Secretary
William Cohen had ordered
an Army investigation,
which dragged on for many months.
[Garza] Somehow my name got
all the way to the Pentagon.
And I got on the phone and he said,
"This is Colonel so-and-so."
Says, "We want to talk
to you about No Gun Ri."
I says, "Neither one of
you have been in combat so
you don't know what the
hell you're talking about.
You're fighting to keep your ass alive.
That's what you're doing."
[Narrator] Outraged South
Koreans demanded an official
apology from the
U.S. but one never came.
[President Clinton] We
know things happen which
should not have happened.
And that things happen which were wrong.
[Hanley] President Clinton
did not offer an apology.
An apology would be
an admission of culpability.
What Clinton issued
was a statement of regret.
Which of course simply says,
"It's too bad this thing
happened to you, we really
feel sorry for you."

[Newscaster] A major disaster
is occurring in New York City
this morning.
If you are a New York City firefighter,
drop what you're doing.
Report to your company.
[President Bush] Every
nation, in every region,
now has a decision to make.
Either you're with us.
Or you are with the terrorists.
[Narrator] In a speech after
the devastating terrorist
attacks on September 11th, 2001,
President Bush thrust North
Korea back into America's
consciousness, using the rogue
nation as justification for
his broader war on terror.
[President Bush] North Korea is
a regime arming with missiles
and weapons of mass destruction while
starving its citizens.
States like these, and
their terrorist allies,
constitute an axis of
evil arming to threaten
the peace of the world.
[Narrator] President Bush
took a hardline approach to
North Korea, applying
economic sanctions to force
Kim Jong-il to give
up his nuclear program,
but his efforts failed.
On October 9, 2006, Kim
achieved the goal that he and
his father had long hoped for,
the successful test of a nuclear weapon.
[President Bush] What we
don't know is his intentions.
And so, I think we've
got to plan for the worst
and hope for the best.
And planning for the worst
means to make sure that we
continue to send a unified
message to Kim Jong-il that,
you know, we expect you to
adhere to international norms.
[Narrator] Kim Jong-il
continued to defy the
international community,
refusing to allow nuclear inspections.
And after his sudden death in 2011,
his son Kim Jong-un vowed
to carry on the family's
nuclear dreams.
At just 28 years of age,
Kim Jong-un became the
youngest leader in North Korean history.
In order to solidify his authority he drew
on the imagery of his iconic grandfather.
[Jager] You know, here is
this guy, who's a young guy,
educated in the west, he
was not introduced to the
North Korean public
until a year before his
father's death in 2011.
And yet, he comes in there
and is able to consolidate
his power so quickly.
That just shows the power
of the Kim Il-sung myth,
and how it's still alive.
His power has something
to do with the fact that he is
Kim Il-sung's grandson.
[Terry] He knows that Kim Il-sung
had popularity and
love of the Korean people,
North Korean people.
So that's why he wanted
to sort of even look like
his grandfather, the
way he dresses, his haircut,
just the whole outer
appearance looks like his
grandfather, and his
behavior is also more like
his grandfather.
[Narrator] By 2016, President Obama,
hoping to pressure the
young leader to end his pursuit
of nuclear weapons,
piled on more sanctions.
[President Obama] North Korea's
continued pursuit of nuclear
weapons is a path that
leads only to more isolation.
It's not a sign of strength.
[Narrator] But rather than capitulate,
Kim Jong-un ratcheted up
his nuclear program invoking
the memory of the Korean War.
[Narrator] In the final
weeks of Obama's presidency,
North Korea tested
their 5th nuclear warhead,
their most powerful yet.
[Stueck] The North Koreans,
the message that their leaders
give them is that we're not
going to let the United States
to do us what they did
between 1950 and '53,
and that's why we need
nuclear weapons and that's
why we need to have
missiles that can deliver them
to the continental United States.
[President Obama] I just
had the opportunity to have
an excellent conversation
with President-elect Trump,
it was wide ranging...
[Narrator] In a meeting
in the Oval Office,
Obama told his successor
Donald Trump that North Korea
would be his greatest
challenge as president.
Soon after, President Trump
went on the offensive...
[President Trump] North Korea
best not make any more threats
to the United States.
They will be met with fire and fury.
[Narrator] Starting a war of
words with the North Korean
leader, that pushed the two
nations toward World War III.
[Man, archival] From Kim Jong-un,
a first message in English,
vowing to make
President Trump quote "pay dearly",
calling him a "mentally deranged dotard"
or senile old man.
[President Trump] Rocket man
should have been handled
a long time ago.
Little rocket man.
[President Trump] North Korea
better get their act together,
or they're going to be in trouble,
like few nations ever
have been in trouble,
in this world.
[Cumings] To call Trump
a bull in a China shop
is an understatement.
[President Trump] The United States
has great strength and
patience, but if it is forced
to defend itself or its
allies, we will have no
choice but to totally destroy,
North Korea.
[Cumings] Threatening to
totally destroy North Korea,
at the UN, without anybody
pointing out that we already
did that during the Korean War.
[Narrator] But underneath
the fiery rhetoric,
Trump was preparing a
step none of his predecessors
were willing to take.
[Blitzer] President Trump
and Kim Jong-un
are scheduled to shake hands and
sit down for a summit meeting.
The whole world will be watching.
[Narrator] Against the
backdrop of North Korean
and American flags,
Trump and Kim shook hands,
the first time in
history leaders from these
two countries had ever met in person.
The two men spoke for a
few hours and later signed
a declaration vowing to work toward peace
and denuclearization.
Despite the vague and tepid
language of the document,
Trump left Singapore proclaiming victory.
[President Trump] They're
gonna get rid of their nuclear
weapons, I really believe that
he will, I've gotten to...
[Stephanopoulos] Did
he tell you that?
[President Trump] In a short
period of time, yeah sure,
it's denuc-denuclearize,
he's denuking the whole place,
and he's going to start very quickly,
I think he's going to start now.
[Terry] Trump administration
thinks if Kim Jong-un is
saying, "I'm now interested
in denuclearization of the
Korean peninsula," that
he's now willing to give up
North Korea's nuclear weapons,
but that's not what
Kim Jong-un is talking about.
Kim Jong-un is talking about
concluding a peace treaty,
ending US/South Korea alliance,
and then he's saying, only then,
when the regime's security is guaranteed,
he will think about
giving up nuclear weapons.
[Reporter] US
intelligence says,
'no significant signs
of denuclearization',
contradicting this
tweet from President Trump
one day after Singapore.
Declaring, "There is
no longer a nuclear threat
from North Korea."
[Reporter] The Trump
administration is being
taken for a ride.
[Reporter] I think it's
becoming increasingly clear
that he got played.
[Graham] Are they playing us?
I don't know.
This is the last, best
chance for peace right here.
[Cha] The United States started
entering negotiations from
the Clinton administration onwards.
And in all of these cases
what the United States has put
on offer is remarkably
consistent which is the promise
of normal political relations,
the promise of a peace treaty
ending the Korean war,
economic assistance,
energy assistance.
All of these things would
be on offer to North Korea
if they did one thing which
is give up their nuclear weapons
and ballistic missiles.
But I think the main lesson
we've learned from all of this
is that the problem
is not the United States.
The problem is that
North Korea doesn't want
to give up its weapons.
[Narrator] In the end, the
prospects for peace may depend
not on the United States,
but on the two leaders of
this long-divided nation
and on its people,
still separated by
a never-ending conflict.
[Narrator] For these Koreans
who wish for reunification,
their hope to see
their families may only be
fulfilled with an official end to the war.
[Terry] This is a blip
in the history of Korea.
This division since 1945 and then the
Korean war since 1950.
It's the same ethnic make-up,
same language, same culture.
The two Koreas were one
Korea for thousands of years.
So I'm hoping that this division is
the anomaly in history.
[Cha] We don't get fairy tale endings on
the Korean peninsula.
So whether it is the
Japanese occupation of Korea,
the start of the Korean war in 1950,
democratization in South Korea in 1987,
the list goes on and on.
History has shown that change
on the Korean peninsula
always comes suddenly,
it never comes gradually.