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The Battle of Shangganling, Korea, October-November 1952

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The six-week-long Battle of Shangganling (known to the Americans as Operation SHOWDOWN), demonstrated the increasing military effectiveness of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (CPVA) in the Korean War. The CPVA intervention in October and November 1950 had deprived the American-led United Nations Command (UNC) of an almost certain victory and set the outcome of the Korean War in strategic limbo. After five Chinese-led campaigns and several U.S. Eighth Army counteroffensives, the battle lines stabilized with the CPVA still exposed to American firepower from the ground and air. Prolonged negotiations to settle the conflict (begun in July 1951) gave Chinese armies the opportunity to rearm, reform, and establish a competitive tactical method. Both sides deadlocked over the issue of prisoner repatriation in the spring of 1952, leading a frustrated UNC to seek to inflict enough damage on Chinese armies while seizing key terrain to make them more likely to accept demands for voluntary repatriation. SHOWDOWN’s failure convinced American leaders that the military power then available in the Korean theater could not settle the war. The Chinese experience at Shangganling produced a similar lesson and further validated the CPVA’s doctrine and technique that permitted them to resist the UNC’s coercive approach.

Affiliations: 1: United States Military Academy


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