Resource Listing June 1950

The Korean War began as North Korean forces invaded South Korea. The United Nations (U.N.) Security Council called for member nations to help South Korea repel the invasion. President Truman ordered the U.S. Air Force and Navy to Korea. Later, President Truman justified U.S. involvement in the Korean War in a speech to the nation:
"We are trying to prevent a third world war ...

The communists in the Kremlin are engaged in a monstrous conspiracy to stamp out freedom all over the world. If they were to succeed, the United States would be numbered among their principal victims."
In November 1950, China entered the war, sending U.N. forces into full retreat. President Truman hinted publicly that the United States might consider using atomic weapons to end the conflict. British Prime Minister Clement Atlee rushed to Washington to urge restraint. British and other European governments felt the United Nations should keep the war limited, fighting it only with conventional (non-nuclear) weapons. Many Americans, frustrated by U.S. involvement in the war, supported allowing General Douglas McArthur free rein to use atomic weapons to end it. In the end, no atomic weapons were used. But by the end of the war the U.S. nuclear arsenal had grown from 300 to 1,000 bombs.

The threat of atomic weapons, however, may have been used diplomatically to end the fighting. In 1953, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles hinted that atomic weapons may be used. This may have brought the Chinese to the peace table. The peace treaty was signed in July 1953, but the cold war persisted. President Eisenhower said, "We have won an armistice on a single battleground--not peace in the world. We may not now relax our guard nor cease our quest."