On September 29, MacArthur accompanied Republic of Korea (South Korea) President Syngman Rhee back into the National Assembly Hall in Seoul. By the end of
September, UN forces were moving into North Korea. Country singer Jimmie Osborne wrote and recorded a song on October 2, "Thank God for Victory in Korea."
Despite all of the euphoria of an objective reached, this had not been an easy victory. In three months 8,182 American troops were killed in Korea. To
underline the magnitude of this sacrifice, that number is nearly 1,400 more than have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 12 years.
This costly victory in three months only previewed the compounded tragedy that followed. General MacArthur insisted that the total defeat of North Korea
was certain and the peninsula could be reunified, as the WWII Russian-United States agreement for a "temporary" division had promised. Confident of an easy
victory, the American Joint Chiefs and the Truman administration urged the United Nations to expand the war goal to accomplish the reunification of Korea.
The UN did.
Some worried in October 1950 about Chinese statements that they would enter the war if the UN forces approached their border on the Yalu River. Ignoring
his own intelligence reports of Chinese troop movements and consumed with his own confidence, MacArthur assured Washington that China would not enter the
war -- and if they did he was certain they did not have the means to mount a significant threat. One of his top generals dismissed them as Chinese
"laundrymen." MacArthur boasted that he would bring "the boys home by Christmas."
The only American boys who got home for Christmas in 1950 came on hospital ships or in coffins. The Chinese entered the war as they had promised they
would, and they did it in far greater numbers and with greater military capacity than MacArthur had predicted. By late November the First Marine Division
faced annihilation at the Chosin Reservoir and fought their way out in what some have described as one of the great military actions of American history.
The Army's 31st Regimental Combat Team was nearly annihilated northeast of the reservoir. And units of the 8th Army that had advanced far to the north on
the western side of the peninsula retreated under heavy Chinese assault. South Korean general Sun Yup Paik said the "God of Death himself hovered" over
them. Correspondent Homer Bigart reported that it was "the worst licking Americans had suffered since Bataan." The largely American UN force was pushed
back south of the 38th parallel and 5,964 Americans died in November and December 1950.
The war would continue for 30 more months, pushing and pulling a little north and a little south of the 38th parallel. And nearly 22,000 more Americans
would die from 1951 to 1953.
In the last months before the 1953 truce, the U.S. Army fought the Chinese for Pork Chop Hill in a brutal battle. Everyone knew the treaty was coming but
the fight continued over a piece of real estate whose ownership would finally be resolved at the Panmunjom talks rather than on the battlefield. In July
1953, as all recognized the agreement was near conclusion, 1160 more Americans died. As some of the troops in Korea described it, they "died for a tie."