[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M]
[N] [O] [P] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [Y] [Z]


Aces--In aerial warfare downing five enemy aircraft qualifies a fighter pilot for the unofficial designation of ace. There were 40 American air aces from action during the Korea War alone. Thirty-eight were from the Air Force and one each was from the Navy and Marine Corps

Aeromedical Battlefield Evacuation--One of the major innovations of the Korean War was the use of helicopters for evacuating the wounded from the battlefield.

A-Frame--A load carrying device peculiar to Korea. It consists of a simple wooden backpack frame built roughly in the shape of the capital letter A with shoulder straps of woven straw. Using this pack frame, Koreans could carry unbelievably large loads over the most rugged terrain.

Airfields--During the Korean War, the U.N. Far East Air Force (FEAF) used some 15 air bases in Japan to support combat operations in Korea. In addition, the Air Force either improved or constructed some 55 airfields. These air bases were all numbered and some became better known by their number than by their name. The more important of these airfields included:

K-1Pusan West






K-9Pusan East





K-40Cheju-do Island




Air Medal--First authorized in World War II, the Air Medal was awarded during the Korean War in the name of the President of the United States, recognizing single acts of merit or heroism for aerial flight.

Almond, Edward Mallory--When the Korean War broke out, Almond was serving as chief of staff to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur at General Headquarters, Far East Command. In September 1950, he was named to command X Corps for the Inchon Landing.

Amphibious Force Far East (Task Force 90)--The Amphibious Force Far East (Task Force 90) was one of the major subordinate commands of U.S. Naval Forces Far East (NAVFE).

Antiaircraft Artillery (AAA)--The U.S. Army deployed some eight divisional antiaircraft artillery automatic weapons (AAA/AW) units to Korea as well as separate AAA units and the AW and gun battalions of the 10th AAA Group.

Armistice Agreement--The agreement between the United Nations Command and the military forces of the North Korean People's Army and the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) that went into effect July 27, 1953.

Armored Vests--One of the tactical innovations of the Korean War was the development and use of body armor--more commonly known as "armored vests."


Battalion--The battalion, normally consisting of two or more companies or batteries under the command of a lieutenant colonel, is a basic military organizational element. The three infantry battalions in the standard Army and Marine Corps regiments of the day all followed the same system for letter designating their companies. Companies A, B, and C in First Battalion were rifle companies; D was a weapons company. In Second Battalion, E, F, and G were rifle companies; H was a weapons company. Likewise in Third Battalion, I, K, and L were rifle companies (there was no J Company) and M was a weapons Company.

Battery--In the U.S. military, battery is the designation for a company-sized unit of artillery. Commanded by a captain, it is composed of just over 100 officers and men and equipped with differing numbers of guns, howitzers, rocket launchers, searchlights, and so on.

Battle Fatigue--Called Shell Shock in the First World War, Battle Fatigue was the term used in World War II and Korea.

Bayonet--A sword for stabbing attached to the end of a gun. The Korean War witnessed what may well prove to be the last bayonet charges in military history.

Bedcheck Charlies--Although Allied air forces exercised almost total control of the air during the Korean War, the enemy did use aircraft, nicknamed "Bedcheck Charlies," to harass Allied positions. These consisted of two types of antique aircraft--Soviet-built Yakovlev YAK-18 training planes and Polikarpov PO-2 wood and fabric biplanes, both with a cruising speed of about 100 knots.

Big Switch--The name for the main POW exchange that followed the signing of the Korean Armistice agreement July 27, 1953.

Blockage and Escort Force (Task Force 95)--Organized Sept. 12, 1950, the U.N. Blockade and Escort Force was one of the major subordinate commands of U.S. Naval Forces, Far East (NAVFE).

Bomber Command--A major subordinate command of Far East Air Force (FEAF), Bomber Command (Provisional) was established July 8, 1950, with headquarters at Yokota AB, Japan.

Bradley, Omar Nelson--Became Army Chief of Staff Feb. 7, 1948, and the first Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Jan. 16, 1949. Promoted to General of the Army (five stars) in September 1950, he served as JCS chairman throughout the Korean War.

Brigade--During the Korean War, brigade was an organizational structure used by the British, the Canadians and the Turks. Consisting of a headquarters and two or more battalions, it was roughly analogous to an American regiment.

Briscoe, Robert Pearce--Named commander of the Seventh U.S. Fleet in January 1952, he succeeded Adm. C. Turner Joy as commander Naval Forces Far East in June 1952, and served in that capacity for the remainder of the Korean War.

British Commonwealth Division--British Commonwealth Forces--Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--played a major part in the Korean War.

Bronze Star Medal--First authorized in World War II, the Bronze Star Medal was awarded in the name of the President of the United States for heroic or meritorious achievement or service in connection with military operations against an armed enemy not involving participation in aerial flight. Awards, denoted by a metallic V device worn on the medal ribbon, were made for heroism performed under circumstances of a lesser degree than those required for award of the Silver Star.

Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR)--The Browning Automatic Rifle M-1918A2 or "BAR" was the standard squad automatic weapon for both U.S. Army and Marine Corps Infantry units during World War II and the Korean War.

Burp Gun--The most distinctive small arm of the Korean War was the "burp gun:" the Soviet Pistolet-Pulemyot Shpagina obr 1941G (PPSh41) submachine-gun and its Chinese-manufactured counterpart.


Campaigns--The Korean War consisted of 10 campaigns

  • UN Defensive--June 27-Sept. 15, 1950
  • UN Offensive--Sept. 16-Nov. 2, 1950
  • CCF Intervention--Nov. 3, 1950-Jan. 24, 1951
  • First UN counteroffensive--Jan. 25-April 21, 1951
  • CCF Spring Offensive--April 22-July 8, 1951
  • UN Summer-Fall Offensive--July 9-Nov. 27, 1951
  • Second Korean Winter--Nov. 28, 1951-April 30, 1952
  • Korea Summer-Fall 1952--May 1-Nov. 30, 1952
  • Third Korean Winter--Dec. 1, 1952-April 30, 1953
  • Korea Summer-Fall--May 1-July 27, 1953

Casualties--A broad term encompassing those killed or wounded in action, those who later died of their wounds, those missing in action and those taken as prisoners of war.

Cates, Clifton Bledsoe--Commandant of the Marine Corps at the beginning of the Korean War, he oversaw the enormous expansion of the Marine Corps for the war. In January 1952, he reverted to three-star rank and served as head of the Marine Corps Schools until his retirement in 1954.

Cavalry--Although it survived in name, by the time of the Korean War cavalry had almost disappeared from the U.S. Army. It was still officially one of the Army's combat arms and armor was still only a temporary detail branch.

Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff--The senior officer of the U.S. armed services. A statutory adviser to the National Security Council, he presides over the Joint Chiefs of Staff consisting of the chiefs of staff from the Army and Air Force and the Chief of Naval Operations. Unlike during the Korean War, today the Joint Chiefs of Staff also include the Marine Corps Commandant.

China Lobby--The label given to those in and out of government who supported the Nationalist government of Chiang-Kai-shek and opposed the Communist government of Mao Tse-tung.

Chinese Communist Forces (CCF)--Elements of the Chinese People's Liberation Army moved into Korea Oct. 4, 1950.

Chipyong-ni, Battle of--Northwest of Wonju in central Korea, the village ("ni" in Korean) of Chipyong was the site of a major battle Feb. 13-15, 1951.

Chosin Reservoir--The Chosin Reservoir (Changjin Reservoir in Korean) part of North Korea's Japanese-built hydroelectric system is located in northeastern Korea. The Reservoir was the site of one of the best-known battles of the Korean War from Nov. 27-Dec. 11, 1950.

Clark, Mark Wayne--General Clark replaced Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway as commander in chief, Far East Command and commander in chief, United Nations Command.

Close Air Support--Close air support involves the use of fighter, fighter-bomber and, in rare cases, bomber aircraft to strike enemy targets just in front of the battle lines.

Collins, Joseph Lawton--Appointed Chief of Staff, United States Army Aug. 16, 1949, he served in that position throughout the Korean War.

Combat Infantry Badge--Depicts front-line combat service. In the Korean War, one had to be an infantry officer or infantry soldier with 30 days service on the front line and be recommended by one's commanding officer in order to qualify.

Combat Medical Aidmen--Primary battlefield first aid was provided by combat medics (corpsmen in the Marine Corps)

Combat Medical Badge--The combat medic's equivalent to the Combat Infantry Badge.

Company--In the U.S. Army and Marine Corps a company is the basic organizational unit.

Corps--In the military the term "corps" has both a general and specific meaning. In general it refers to a group of men and women who share similar functions such as the Medical Corps or the Signal Corps. In its specific sense, the word designates an organizational unit subordinate to a field army composed of two or more divisions.


Dean, William Frishe--Medal of Honor recipient and commander of the 24th Infantry Division.

Declaration of War--Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the United States specifically reserves to Congress the power to declare war.

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)--Created by the 1953 Korean Armistice agreement, the DMZ consists of a buffer zone two kilometers on either side of a military demarcation line that follows the general trace of the front lines at the close of the war.

Distinguished Flying Cross--Awarded in the name of the President of the United States for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.

Distinguished Service Cross--America's second highest award for bravery.

Division--The basic combined arms organization for waging war. Normally commanded by a major general. During the Korean War it consisted of three regiments of infantry; a four-battalion division artillery (three battalions with 105-mm howitzers, one with 155-mm howitzers); an antiaircraft artillery battalion; a tank battalion; a reconnaissance company; an engineer battalion; a medical battalion; and supporting medical, ordnance, quartermaster and signal companies.

Draft--Congress, which under the Constitution of the United States has the sole authority to raise armies, first legislated involuntary conscription to fill the ranks of the military--a draft--in the Civil War. It was used again in World War I and World War II. Although the draft laws were due to expire July 9, 1950, Congress quickly passed a two-year extension. By September 1950, 50,000 men were being drafted each month, and by 1952, 20,000 to 30,000 conscripts were sent to Korea each month.


Eighth U.S. Army--The major U.S. Army headquarters in Japan when the Korean War began.

Eisenhower, Dwight David--Although retired from active duty in February 1948, he returned to active duty in 1951 as supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). A year later, he resigned that post to run for President. In November 1952, Eisenhower was elected as the 34th President of the United States.

Executive Agent--In a situation where several components are involved, the one with the heaviest commitment is assigned as Executive Agent to act for the others and is given the chief responsibility for the conduct of necessary operations.


Far East Air Force (FEAF)--Activated at Brisbane, Australia, June 15, 1944, the Far East Air Force fought its way across the Pacific during World War II. When the Korean War began, it was part of the postwar occupation of Japan, with headquarters in Tokyo.

Far East Command--Shortly after the Korean War began, Far East Command was given operational command of the Republic of Korea (ROK) armed forces by ROK President Syngman Rhee. Soon after, the FECOM was designated as the U.N. Command (UNC), which gave it authority over Allied personnel as well.

Fechteler, William Morrow--Appointed Chief of Naval Operations Aug. 16, 1951.


Germ Warfare--The enemy in Korea made several attempts to turn public opinion against the United States. One of the most successful campaigns was the "germ warfare" charges leveled in early 1952. The United States was accused of using bullets filled with "toxic gas" in Korea. This theme was expanded upon by China and North Korea to include charges that U.S. Aerial bombs and artillery shells carrying bacterial warfare agents--beetles, lice, ticks, etc.--had been used to spread typhus, bubonic plague and other diseases behind their lines.

Gloucester Hill, Battle of--Named after the British Brigade's First Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment, "Gloucester Hill" (actually Hill 235) was part of the Eighth U.S. Army defensive line along the Imjin River north of Seoul.

Gold Star--Marine Corps/Coast Guard equivalent of the Army/Air Force oak leaf cluster.

Great Debate--Also known as the "MacArthur Hearings," the so-called Great Debate on the Korean War began in May 1951 with hearings before the 26-man joint Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees.

Group--Normally commanded by a colonel, in the U.S. Army a group is a command structure controlling several battalion sized elements and is subordinate to a brigade.


Hangul--The Korean language is one of the oldest in the world. It does not belong to the tonal family of languages such as Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese, in which meanings change depending on tonal inflection; instead, it belonged to the Ural-Altaic family , which includes Finnish and Hungarian. It was written in Chinese ideographs (i.e., characters that represents ideas instead of sounds) until the 15th century. In 1443 Emperor Sejong devised a simple phonetic alphabet called Hangul. Made up of 24 easily learned characters, it is roughly equivalent to the 26-character Western ABCs.

Heartbreak Ridge--Named by news correspondents covering the action, "Heartbreak Ridge" was an extension of Bloody Ridge three miles to the south and was located in the eastern sector of the Eighth U.S. Army defensive line in the Punchbowl area.

Hungnam, Evacuation of--A seaport on North Korea's eastern coast, Hungnam was the port from which the five divisions of the U.S. X Corps were evacuated following the massive Chinese Communist Forces intervention in November 1950 and the subsequent retreat from the Chosin Reservoir.


Imjin River--Following the course of the northeast-southwest Wonsan-Seoul valley, the Imjin River 157 miles long, begins southwest of the North Korean city of Wonsan and flows south through North Korea until it crosses the 38th Parallel, then turns southwest and empties into the Han River Estuary on the Yellow Sea.

Inchon Invasion--The X Corps amphibious invasion at Inchon on Korea's western coast Sept. 15, 1950, ranks as one of the boldest military maneuvers in history.

Infiltration--Enemy soldiers posing as refugees (wearing traditional Korean white robes over their uniforms) easily blended in with the millions of South Koreans who had fled their home to avoid the war. Once behind friendly lines, these infiltrators regrouped and attacked Allied positions from the rear.

Iron Triangle--The so-called Iron Triangle of the Korean War was a triangularly shaped area of relatively flat terrain about 30 miles north of the 38th Parallel in the mountains of east-central North Korea.


Johnson, Louis Arthur--Secretary of Defense when the Korean War began, he resigned his post in September 1950, and was replaced by former Army chief of staff and former Secretary of State George C. Marshall.

Joy, Charles Turner--At the beginning of the Korean War, Joy was the Commander, Naval Forces Far East. Admiral Joy also served as the senior United Nations delegate to the Korean Armistice Conference.


Kaesong--A city in western Korea just south of the 38th Parallel, Kaesong was the ancient capital of Korea. It was the first city to fall to the North Koreans June 25, 1950.

KATUSA--Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army.

Killer, Operation--Launched Feb. 21, 1951, Operation Killer (and its extensions, Operations Ripper, Courageous, Rugged and Dauntless) marked the beginning of the Allied counteroffensive to drive the Chinese Communist Forces and the North Korean People's Army out of South Korea.

Kunu-ri, Battle of--The site of one of the major battles of the Korean War, Kunu-ri is located in northwestern Korea about 20 miles upstream from the mouth of the Chongchon River and some 75 air miles Southeast of the Manchurian border.


Little Switch--The name of the exchange of sick and wounded prisoners of war (POWs) that took place April 20-26, 1953;

Lovett, Robert Abercrombie--Appointed Secretary of Defense after George C. Marshall resigned due to ill health. He served in that position until the end of the Truman administration in January 1953.


MacArthur, Douglas--General of the Army (five star rank) MacArthur was designated commander in chief of the United Nations Command by President Harry S. Truman July 8, 1950, and given command of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces by ROK President Syngman Rhee July 14, 1950.

Marshall, George Catlett--Asked to return to government service in July 1950 by President Harry S. Truman, Marshall served as Secretary of Defense until Sept. 12, 1951.

MASH--Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals

MATS--Military Air Transport Service

Medal of Honor--The highest American military award for battlefield bravery.

MIA--Missing In Action

MLR--Main Line of Resistance or the location of the main battle lines or front lines.

Mortars--High-angle fire weapons, making them particularly suitable for Korea's mountainous terrain.

MSR--Main Supply Route

MSTS--Military Sea Transport Service

Mustang--Term for an officer raised from the enlisted ranks. Also the name of the F-51 Mustang fighter plane.


Naktong Perimeter, Battle of--Also known as the "Pusan Perimeter," the Naktong Perimeter battle was the name given to Eighth U.S. Army's initial defense of the Republic of Korea.

NAPALM--An acronym derived from naphtehnic and palmitic acids whose salts are used in its manufacture. NAPALM is a jellied gasoline used in flame throwers, fougasses and aerial bombs.


Oak Leaf Cluster--A metallic oak leaf cluster is worn on the ribbon of a medal to denote subsequent awards of the same decoration in the Army and Air Force.

OPLR (Outpost Line of Resistance)--A series of strong points in advance of the MLR (main line of resistance).


Partridge, Earle Everard--General Partridge as commander of Fifth Air Force in Nagoya, Japan, in October 1948. When the Korean War began, Partridge took Fifth Air Force to Korea where he commanded it until June 1951.

Phonetic Alphabet--A phonetic alphabet is used in the military to ensure clarity, especially in radio-telephone communications.

World War II/Korea

NATO Standard



Police Action--President Harry S. Truman used this phrase to describe the U.S. intervention in Korea.

Pork Chop Hill, Battle of--Site of one of the last U.S. battles of the Korean War July 6-10, 1953.

POWs--Prisoners of War

Psychological Warfare--Operations at tactical, operational and strategic levels. On the battlefield, tanks were painted to resemble tigers in an attempt to spread panic among the enemy troops. On the other side, CCF troops used bugles, whistles and loudspeakers to scare the Allied defenders. At the operational level, both sides made extensive use of pamphlets to undermine their opponent's morale and encourage them to desert.

Puller, Lewis B. "Chesty"--Commander, First Marine Regiment who led them ashore at Inchon in September 1950.

Punchbowl, Battles of--A peculiar terrain feature in eastern Korea along what would become the demarcation line when the Armistice was signed. The punchbowl was an ancient volcanic crater some four to five miles in diameter rimmed by hills ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet.

Pusan--Located in southeastern Korea near the delta of the Naktong River, Pusan was and is South Korea's second largest city.

Pyongyang--Today, the capital of North Korea.


Rashin--A port city 17 miles from the Soviet frontier on Korea's eastern coast, the town of Rashin is connected to the Soviet port of Vladivostok, which is less than 110 miles away by both rail and road.

Recoilless Rifles--Developed in the closing days of World War II by the U.S. military as infantry antitank weapons, three 57-mm recoilless rifles were authorized in the weapons platoon of each rifle company, and a 75-mm recoilless rifle platoon was authorized in the weapons company of the infantry battalion.

Reconnaissance--the seeking out of information about enemy positions and dispositions.

R&R--Rest and Recuperation. Selected by their units, participants were flown to Japan on Air Force transports for five days temporary duty in Japan. On arrival they were paid, issued uniforms, fed and provided with a billet in a Special Services hotel or on one of the many military bases in Japan. Then they were left alone to "rest and recuperate."

Rhee, Syngman--Elected President of the newly formed Republic of Korea which was formally proclaimed Aug. 15, 1948.

Ridgway, Matthew Bunker--named to command the Eighth U.S. Army in December 1950. He was named to replace General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in May 1952.


Seabees--Officially "amphibious construction battalions," the Navy's Seabees were part of Task Force 90.

Shepherd, LeManuel C. Jr.--As commanding general, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, General Shepherd participated in the landing at Inchon and the withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir in December 1950. He was appointed Commandant of the Marine Corps Jan. 1, 1952.

Sherman, Forrest Percival--Chief of Naval Operations at the beginning of the Korean War. He died of a heart attack July 22, 1951, and was replaced by Adm. William M. Fechteler.

Smith, Oliver P--Named commanding general of the First Marine Division in June 1950, General Smith led the men ashore at Inchon in September 1950.

Sorties--A sortie is one trip by one plane. From June 27, 1950 to July 27, 1953, U.N. aircraft flew more than 1,040,708 close support, counter-air, interdiction, cargo and miscellaneous sorties in support of the U.N. military operations in Korea.

Strategy--In its simplest sense, it is the use of means to accomplish ends. In its broadest sense, it has to do with the use of power--political, economic, and psychological as well as military--to achieve the political goals, aims, and objectives of a nation.

Stratemeyer, George Edward--General Stratemeyer became the commanding general, Far East Air Force in April 1949 and was in command there when the Korean War began. He suffered a severe heart attack in May 1951 and relinquished his command to Gen. Otto P. Weyland in June 1951. He retired from active duty Jan. 31, 1952.


Taejon, Battle of--Located 100 miles south of Seoul and 130 miles northwest of Pusan, Taejon was the sixth largest city in South Korea.

Task Force--A term widely used during the Korean War. It was used by the Army to identify an ad hoc organization composed of a variety of units temporarily assembled under a single designated commander to accomplish a specific mission. For the Navy, "task force," and "task group" were routine subdivision of the fleet.

Task Force Smith--The first U.S. unit to fight in the Korean War.

Taylor, Maxwell Davenport--General Taylor replaced Gen. James A. Van Fleet as commander of the Eighth U.S. Army in Korea, Feb. 11, 1953.

38th Parallel--The 38th degree of north latitude as it bisects the Korean Peninsula became the arbitrary demarcation line between North and South Korea from 1945 to 1948 and the border between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from 1948 to 1950. Truman, Harry S--President of the United States from April 12, 1945, until January 1953.

Tumen River--The 324-mile Tumen River flows easterly from the mountains of central Korea and empties into the Sea of Japan.


United Nations--When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, the U.N. was a relatively new organization.

Unsan, Battle of--Around dusk, Nov. 1, 1950, near the village of Unsan, a crossroads in west-central North Korea about 50 air miles southeast of the Yalu River, two 10,000-man CCF infantry divisions of the CCF's 39th Army, XIII Army Group, launched an attack on two battalions of the Eighth U.S. Army's Eighth Cavalry Regiment, First U.S. Cavalry Division and the 15th Regiment of the First Republic of Korea Division. This attack marked the beginning of recognized CCF intervention in the Korean War.


Vandenberg, Hoyt Sanford--The Air Force Chief of Staff at the beginning of the Korean War. He presided over the Air Force buildup for the war and took part in the decision to invade Inchon in September 1950 and the decision to remove Gen. Douglas MacArthur from command in the spring of 1951. Vandenberg was succeeded by Gen. Nathan F. Twining as CSAF June 30, 1953.

Van Fleet, James Andrew--When the Korean War began, General Van Fleet was commanding the Second U.S. Army at Fort George G. Meade, Md. He replaced Gen. Matthew Ridgway as commander of the Eighth U.S. Army in Korea who in turn replaced Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Tokyo.


Walker, Walton Harris--When the war began, General Walker directed the commitment of EUSA to combat and its subsequent withdrawal into the Naktong Perimeter and is famous for his "stand or die" speech.

Weyland, Otto Paul--Named commanding general of the Tactical Air Command in July 1950. He replaced General Stratemeyer as commanding general, Far East Air Force in June 1951 and remained in that position for the remainder of the war.

Wing--A major organizational element of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Wonsan--A port city and rail center on Korea's eastern coast about 110 air miles north of the 38th Parallel at Korea's narrow waist.


Yalu River--The 491-mile Yalu River flows from Mount Paektu in central North Korea westward to the Yellow Sea.

Yechon, Battle of--On July 20, 1950, at the town of Yechon, the first successful counterattack of the Korean War was launched.

Yellow Sea--The Yellow Sea lies between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula and forms the west border of Korea.


Zone of the Interior (ZI)--During the Korean War, the military term Zone of the Interior or ZI was used in official documents to designate the continental United States.