China Intervenes in the Korean War

Few armies of the 20th century suffered such a rapid reversal of fortune as the United Nations Command (UNC) when China intervened in the Korean War...

By October 1950 the UNC had more than recovered from its series of defeats in the first two months of the war. The UNC had all but destroyed the North Korean army (KPA) and was pursuing it deep into its homeland. Advanced elements of the UNC were dispersed and overconfident, nearing the Yalu River.

In October 1950 the Chinese People's Volunteers (CPV) secretly moved across the Yalu into the central mountains of North Korea. In the first of five offensives the Chinese halted the UNC advance. Then in December they drove the UNC out of North Korea, inflicting several severe defeats, including at the Chosin Reservoir where the United States Marines were almost overwhelmed. The UNC on the east coast was cut off and evacuated by sea at Hungnam and Wonsan.

In later attacks the Chinese recaptured Seoul. By the time the CPV halted exhausted in January 1951, they had driven the UNC 400 kilometres south down the length of the peninsula to 70 kilometres beyond Seoul. The UNC recovered and was able to advance north again, but in April came the last 'Fifth Phase' Chinese offensive. The 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) played a vital part in halting the advance on Seoul at Kapyong. In a final brief period of open war in October 1951, during Operation Commando, 3RAR took the key height of Maryang San from the CPV.

While the North Koreans -increasing weaponry to their communist allies, from the Chinese intervention China became militarily and politically the main enemy of the UNC in Korea. The effect of the intervention was to recover most of North Korea and maintain Kim Il-sung's communist government there. Both sides now saw they could not win the war outright and began two years of peace talks while the war continued.

A drawing depicting twoarmed asian men .

On this cigarette packet, two Chinese soldiers strike a typically martial pose above a caricature of General Douglas MacArthur. The packet, along with a wallet and other items, was given to Private Donald Wilson of 2RAR by a dying Chinese female soldier in early 1953.(AWM REL31328)

Teaching and learning activities for the classroom

Battle of Kapyong: Empathy exercises/class talk

Imagine that you are a veteran of the Battle of Kapyong. You are now more than 80 years old. You have been asked to come to the class to tell them of your experiences. You decide to bring some of your mementos of the battle. You will show them to the students and tell them something about each one.

Use your imagination. Think about what things an old soldier would keep in his box of souvenirs from the war. Which ones would he think the students would be interested in? He might bring his medals, the diary he kept in 1951, an old photograph of his best mate, a mud-stained map, a letter from his mother, a bullet, or a button from his uniform.

You can make the mementos, at least five of them, with cardboard, paper, coloured pencils, glue and whatever else you can think of.

You should talk to the class for three minutes. Think about how a 80-year-old veteran might talk. Start by telling the students who you are and where you come from. Then tell them about your strongest memory of the Battle of Kapyong. Then, one at a time, show the class your mementos. Make up a very short story about each one. After you have finished, ask if the students have any questions and try to answer them as a war veteran might.

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Last updated: 10 March 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), China Intervenes in the Korean War, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 30 September 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/korean-war-1950-1953/events/china-intervenes-korean-war
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