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December 15, 1950 – Edward R. Murrow – Hear It Now – CBS Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
December 15, 1950 – It was all about Korea, this December day in 1950. What was initially described as a “police action” was rapidly spiraling out of control and there was talk, from Seoul to Pennsylvania Avenue that World War 3 was staring us in the face.
After the surrender of Japan, at the end of World War II, on 15 August 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into two zones of occupation. The Soviets administered the northern half and the Americans administered the southern half. In 1948, as a result of Cold War tensions, the occupation zones became two sovereign states. A socialist state was established in the north under the totalitarian leadership of Kim Il-sung and a capitalist state in the south under the authoritarian leadership of Syngman Rhee. Both governments of the two new Korean states claimed to be the sole legitimate government of all of Korea, and neither accepted the border as permanent.
North Korean military (Korean People’s Army, KPA) forces crossed the border and advanced into South Korea on 25 June 1950. The United Nations Security Council denounced the North Korean move as an invasion, and authorized the formation of the United Nations Command and the dispatch of forces to Korea to repel it. These UN decisions were taken without participation of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, both of which supported North Korea. Twenty-one countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the UN force, with the United States providing around 90% of the military personnel.
After the first two months of war, South Korean Army (ROKA) and the US forces rapidly dispatched to Korea were on the point of defeat. As a result, the ROKA and US troops retreated to a small area behind a defensive line known as the Pusan Perimeter. In September 1950, an amphibious UN counter-offensive was launched at Incheon, and cut off many KPA troops in South Korea. Those who escaped envelopment and capture were forced back north. UN forces invaded North Korea in October 1950 and moved rapidly towards the Yalu River—the border with China—but on 19 October 1950, Chinese forces of the People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) crossed the Yalu and entered the war. The surprise Chinese intervention triggered a retreat of UN forces and Chinese forces were in South Korea by late December.
This premier episode of Edward R. Murrow’s Hear It Now series for CBS Radio, focuses on the events for the week ending December 15th; the urgent nature and the cold reality that, some five years after it was over, another world war was in the offing.
There was other news, less serious news of the popular culture variety. Reviews of films being released that week, the goings-on of every day America in the midst of another war. All reported by the legendary Edward R. Murrow.