Online Library of Selected Images:
-- EVENTS -- The Korean War, 1950-1953

The Chinese Offensive, 25 November 1950 - 25 January 1951-
Overview and Selected Images



On 25 November 1950, a day after United Nations and Republic of Korea forces began the offensive they expected would complete the unification of Korea, Communist China countered with a terrific, and very successful offensive of its own. Within a few days, the Chinese onslaught reversed the UN/ROK northward drive in central and western North Korea, devastating several South Korean divisions, badly tearing up the U.S. Second Division and forcing the rest of the UN command to rapidly withdraw southwards to escape destruction.

On 27 November, near eastern North Korea's Chosin Reservoir, the Chinese fell on the First Marine Division and a nearby U.S. Army task force, almost wiping out the latter and provoking a Marine response that ranks as one of history's greatest feats of arms. Over the following two weeks, the Marines battled their way to the port of Hungnam, from which they would be evacuated by sea. In their wake were the ruins of the opposing Chinese divisions, which suffered so many casualties from combat and the bitterly cold weather that they were out of action for months.

In the new year, a renewed enemy offensive captured Seoul and drove the UN/ROK armies into new defensive lines in central South Korea. With no prospect of significant reinforcement, facing what appeared to be a total commitment of China's almost inexhaustable manpower, and fearing Soviet air and naval involvement, it briefly seemed that the UN forces might have to evacuate Korea to avoid unacceptable threats to Japan and, perhaps, to Europe.

However, the UN still had complete control of the sea, which had just allowed rapid and thorough redeployment of troops and materiel from threatened positions in North Korea to reinforce the defenses in the South. Control of the sea allowed effective employment of ships' guns, greatly enhanced the effectiveness of air power and held open the prospect of another amphibious assault in the enemy's rear. Through the cruel wintery months of China's November 1950 - January 1951 offensive, Navy ships and Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps planes helped the UN/ROK armies cut through the enemy's ambushes, hammered his troops at and behind the front and badly eroded his supply lines.

By 25 January 1951, the Chinese and the reconstituted North Korean forces had been so badly depleted that a new UN offensive was possible. If the great Chinese offensive had shown the United States and its allies that there would be no easy victories in mainland Asia, their response gave the Communists a painfully expensive lesson in the vulnerability of their manpower-intensive armies to the vast mobile firepower of Western ground, air and naval forces.


This page features a special selection of images related to the Chinese offensive period of the Korean War, from 25 November 1950 to 25 January 1951, and provides links to additional pictorial coverage of that time.

For additional special selections of images of this period of the Korean War, with links to broader coverage, see:

  • The Hungnam Evacuation, 10-24 December 1950.
  • For more images of other aspects of the Chinese Offensive period of the Korean War, see:

  • Naval Air and Gunfire Activities, 25 November 1950 - 25 January 1951
  • Loss of Frigate Prasae, 7 January 1951
  • Land Operations, 25 November 1950 - 25 January 1951
  • The Evacuation of Inchon, December 1950 - January 1951
  • Command Activities, September - December 1950
  • Underway Replenishment, July - December 1950
  • Miscellaneous Shipboard Activities, June - December 1950
  • Logistics & Support Activities in Japan, June - December 1950
  • Logistics & Support Activities in Korea, June - December 1950
  • Activities in the United States, June - December 1950.
  • For a precis of our Korean War images, and links to more comprehensive pictorial coverage of that conflict, see:

  • The Korean War, June 1950 - July 1953 - Introductory Overview and Special Image Selection.

  • Click the photograph to prompt a larger view

    Photo #: 80-G-423961

    Vought F4U-4B "Corsair" Fighter

    (Bureau # 62924)

    Landing on USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) after attacking targets in Korea, circa 7 December 1950.
    This plane belongs to Fighter Squadron 113 (VF-113).

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

    Online Image: 67KB; 740 x 610 pixels

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

     
    Photo #: NH 97032

    "Leathernecks inch forward under fire on the central Korean front"


    Quoted from the original photo caption. This view was taken in late 1950 or early 1951, and was published in "All Hands" magazine's May 1951 issue.
    Note scarf worn around the neck of this Marine and billed cap under his helmet.
    Photographed by Cpl. W.T. Wolfe, USMC.

    Official U.S. Marine Corps Photograph, from the "All Hands" collection at the Naval History & Heritage Command.

    Online Image: 87KB; 600 x 765 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 97023

    Chosin Reservoir Campaign, November-December 1950


    "Weapons Company, in line with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, trying to contact the temporarily cut off Fox Company in a glancing engagement to permit the 5th and 7th Marines to withdraw from the Yudam-ni area. Nov. 27, 1950."
    Quoted from original picture caption, released by Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, on 22 December 1950.
    Yudam-ni, at the western extremity of the Chosin Reservoir, was the scene of early combat in the campaign, as Chinese forces attacked the two Marine regiments there. The Marines subsequently had to fight their way back to Hagaru along roads surrounded by the enemy.

    Official U.S. Marine Corps Photograph, from the "All Hands" collection at the Naval History & Heritage Command.

    Online Image: 107KB; 740 x 615 pixels

     
    Photo #: 80-G-432568

    Thai frigate Prasae


    Stranded behind enemy lines on the Korean east coast, January 1951. She had gone ashore in a snowstorm on 7 January and had to be destroyed after unsuccessful efforts to pull her off.
    A helicopter and several U.S. Navy ships, including USS Endicott (DMS-35), are offshore covering salvage operations.
    Prasae was formerly the British corvette Betony and the Indiana Navy's Sind.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

    Online Image: 94KB; 740 x 610 pixels

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

     
    Photo #: NH 97164

    Stranding of Thai Frigate Prasae
    , January 1951

    "Thorin, D.W., APC, prepares to take off in his helicopter with another load of survivors from the Thailand corvette, the HMTS Prasae, which ran aground during a blinding snow storm off the coast of Korea. Other members of the helicopters stand guard as the rescue was affected behind enemy lines." (Quoted from original caption)
    Photo is dated 16 January 1951, but was taken several days earlier. Prasae went aground on the North Korean coast on 7 January 1951 and was destroyed after attempts to pull her off were unsuccessful.
    Helicopter is a Sikorski HO3S-1 of squadron HU-1. Men guarding the rescue operation are armed with M-3 submachine guns.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History & Heritage Command.

    Online Image: 61KB; 740 x 615 pixels

     
    Photo #: 80-G-425472

    Evacuation of Inchon, December 1950 - January 1951


    Port facilities at Inchon, South Korea, are destroyed as U.N. forces evacuate the city in the face of the Chinese Communist advance.
    Photograph is dated 4 January 1951. The final evacuation of Inchon took place on 5 January.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

    Online Image: 67KB; 740 x 615 pixels

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

     



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