President Harry S. Truman Found Essay

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[. . .] The sides eventually became divided along the original 38th parallel line and the war settled down into a battle along this line for the remainder of the next two years as representatives from the United Nations and the North Korean government began protracted peace talks. An armistice agreement, maintaining the divided Korean peninsula, was signed at Panmunjom on July 27th, 1953. A horribly bloody conflict was thus ended but Truman was able to at least stall the feared Communist expansion and to avoid a third World War breaking out.

Throughout the entire Korean conflict Truman was forced to address concerns that the United States would be forced to address for most of the next thirty years. The War revealed how difficult it was for any force, no matter how large and powerful, to defeat an enemy that is fiercely determined. The United States and the United Nation forces greatly outnumbered the North Koreans; they enjoyed a huge advantage in military equipment and technology; and the United States possessed the ultimate weapon: the atomic bomb. None of these advantages, however, were enough to defeat the determined North Koreans.

The War also displayed how difficult it is to fight a limited war. Truman and the U.S. military was never able to establish clear objectives and fought the entire war fearing the likelihood that other forces, primarily the Soviet Union and Red China, would intervene in the war. These two factors caused severe morale problems for the American forces. The U.S. military leaders never fully bought into the approach advocated by the Truman administration and there was considerable political pressure in the U.S. Congress, led by the controversial Joseph McCarthy, suggesting that Truman's approach was inappropriate for the circumstances. Finally, the Korean War also demonstrated how difficult it often is to end military conflicts. Truman entered the Korean conflict attempting to send a message to the Soviet Union and Red China that the United States would go to great lengths to defend democracy throughout the World but the War never officially ended as the best the United States could do was to negotiate an armistice. The Communist government in North Korea remained in place and the United States, just a few years later, found itself engaged in another similar conflict in Vietnam.

On a positive note, Truman was able to successfully maintain a democratically elected government in South Korea and to do so without hostilities developing into an escalated worldwide war. He was also able to withstand the pressures from his military advisors who suggested that the United States use atomic weapons in their battles with the North Koreans. There was pressure applied to him, just like in the waning days of the Second World War, by military leaders to bomb the North Koreans into submission but Truman adopted a policy that eschewed the use of such weaponry. It was a policy that has been adopted by subsequent administrations as well and one that likely avoided, at a minimum, a possible world war.

Works Cited

Griffith, Robert. "Truman and the Historians: The Reconstruction of Postwar American History." The Wisconsin Magazine of History (1975): 20-47.

Jervis, Robert. "The Impact of the Korean War on the Cold War." The Journal of Conflict Resolution (1980): 563-592.

Leffler, Melvyn P. A Preponderance of Power: National Security the Truman Administration and the Cold War. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010.

Marra, Robin F. "Foreign Policy and Presidential Popularity: Creating Windows of Opportunity in the Perpetual Election." The Journal of Conflict Resolution (1990): 588-623.

Matray, James I. "Hodge Podge: America Occupation Policy in Korea, 1945-1948." Korean Studies (1995): 17-38.

-- . "Truman's Plan for Victory: National Self-Determination and the Thirty-Eight Parallel Decision in Korea." The Journal of American History (1979): 314-333.

McCormick, Thomas J. America's Half-Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War and After (The American Moment). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Pearlman, Michael D. Truman and MacArthur: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2008.

Ridgway, Matthew B. The Korean War. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1986.

Snyder, William P. "Dean Rusk to John Foster Dulles, May-June 1953: The Office, the First 100 Days, and Red… [END OF PREVIEW]

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