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Secret Wars$
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Austin Carson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691181769

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691181769.001.0001

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The Korean War (1950–1953)

The Korean War (1950–1953)

(p.142) 5 The Korean War (1950–1953)
Secret Wars

Austin Carson

Princeton University Press

This chapter shifts the focus to the early Cold War, as conflict between North and South Korea threatened to again plunge the wider international system into war. The Korean War, fought from 1950 to 1953, grew to include multiple outside interventions. Yet despite Soviet, American, and Chinese combat participation, the war was successfully limited to the Korean peninsula. As such, this chapter reviews primary materials on a poorly understood aspect of the Korean War: Soviet–American air-to-air combat over North Korea. Records released since the end of the Cold War document how Washington and Moscow engaged in a deadly multiyear struggle for air supremacy and used secrecy to contain its effects. The chapter includes new archival material on American intelligence showing anticipation, detection, and concealment of the Soviet covert entry. It also assesses the United States' initial decision to intervene overtly, its turn to covert action against mainland China, and China's complex role in the war. This chapter argues that China's initial ground intervention used secrecy to achieve surprise, following an operational security logic, but used an unacknowledged “volunteer” intervention to limit the war.

Keywords:   Cold War, Korean War, air-to-air combat, secrecy, American intelligence, volunteer intervention, air supremacy

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