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#205: In the 1950s, Conflict in Korea

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American troops land at Pohang on the east coast of Korea in July 1950
American troops land at Pohang on the east coast of Korea in July 1950

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

Today, we tell about the Korean War. The biggest problem facing Dwight Eisenhower when he became president of the United States was the continuing conflict in Korea.

Eisenhower was elected in November nineteen fifty-two. At the time, the United States had been helping South Korea fight North Korea for more than two years. About twenty other members of the United Nations were also helping the South. The UN members provided troops, equipment, and medical aid.

EISENHOWER: "I shall go to Korea."

During the American presidential election campaign, Eisenhower announced that he would go to Korea. He thought such a trip would help end the war. Eisenhower kept his promise. He went to Korea after he won the election, but before he was sworn-in as president. Yet the fighting did not stop in Korea until July of the next year, nineteen fifty-three.

(MUSIC)

The war started when North Korean troops invaded South Korea. Both sides believed they should control all of the country.

The dream of a united Korea was a powerful one. From nineteen-ten until World War Two, Korea had been under Japanese rule. In an agreement at the end of the war, troops from the Soviet Union occupied the North. They accepted the surrender of Japanese troops and set up a military government. American troops did the same in the South. The border dividing north and south was the geographic line known as the thirty-eighth parallel.

A few years later, the United Nations General Assembly ordered free elections for all of Korea. With UN help, the South established the Republic of Korea. Syngman Rhee was elected the first president.

On the other side of the thirty-eighth parallel, however, Soviet troops refused to let UN election officials enter the North. The Soviet Union supported creation of a communist government there, called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Kim Il-sung was named premier.

Five years after the end of World War Two, the United States had withdrawn almost all its troops from South Korea. It was not clear if America would defend the South from attack. South Korea had an army. But it was smaller and less powerful than the North Korean army.

North Korea decided the time was right to invade. On June twenty-fifth, nineteen-fifty, North Korean soldiers crossed the thirty-eighth parallel. The UN Security Council demanded that they go back. Two days later, the Council approved military support for South Korea. The Soviet delegate boycotted the meeting that day. If he had been present, the resolution would have been defeated.

(SOUND)

The UN demand did not stop the North Korean troops. They continued to push south. In a week, they were on the edge of the capital, Seoul.

General MacArthur arrives at Incheon Harbor in South Korea in September 1950
General MacArthur arrives at Incheon Harbor in South Korea in September 1950

Harry Truman, America's president at that time, ordered air and sea support for South Korea. A few days later, he announced that American ground forces would also be sent. Truman wanted an American to command UN troops in Korea. The UN approved his choice: General Douglas MacArthur.

Week after week, more UN forces arrived in the South. Yet by August, they had been pushed back to the Pusan perimeter. This was a battle line around an area near the city of Pusan in the southeast corner of Korea.

(SOUND)

North Korean forces attempted to break through the Pusan perimeter. They began a major attack on August sixth. They lost many men, however. By the end of the month, they withdrew.

The next month, General MacArthur directed a surprise landing of American Marines in South Korea. They arrived at the port of Inchon on the northwest coast. The landing was extremely dangerous. Water levels could rise or fall as much as nine meters in a single day. The boats had to get close to the coastline and land at high tide. If they waited too long, the water level would drop, and they would be trapped in the mud with little protection. The soldiers on the boats would be easy targets.

The landing at Inchon was successful. The additional troops quickly divided the North Korean forces, which had been stretched from north to south. At the same time, UN air and sea power destroyed the northern army's lines of communication.

On October first, South Korean troops entered North Korea. They captured the capital, Pyongyang. Then they moved toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. China warned against moving closer to the border. General MacArthur ordered the troops to continue their attacks. He repeatedly said he did not believe that China would enter the war in force.

(MUSIC)

MacArthur was wrong. Several hundred thousand Chinese soldiers crossed into North Korea in October and November. Still, MacArthur thought the war would end by December twenty-fifth, the Christmas holiday.

This was not to happen. The UN troops were forced to withdraw from Pyongyang. And, by the day before Christmas, there had been a huge withdrawal by sea from the coastal city of Hungnam.

In the first days of nineteen-fifty-one, the North Koreans recaptured Seoul. The UN troops withdrew about forty kilometers south of the city. They re-organized and, two months later, re-gained control of Seoul.

Then the war changed. The two sides began fighting in an area north of the thirty-eighth parallel. They exchanged control of the same territory over and over again. Men were dying, but no one was winning. The cost in lives was huge.

General MacArthur had wanted to enter China and attack Manchuria. He also had wanted to use Nationalist Chinese troops against the communists.

President Harry Truman discusses the conflict in Korea at the White House
President Harry Truman discusses the conflict in Korea at the White House

President Truman feared that these actions might start another world war.

HARRY TRUMAN: "If we do have another world war, it would be an atomic war. We could expect many atomic bombs to be dropped on American cities, and a single one of them could cause many more times the casualties than we have suffered in all the fighting in Korea. I do not want to be responsible for bringing that about."

When MacArthur disagreed in public with the President's policies on Korea -- including the general's statement "There is no substitute for victory" -- Truman dismissed MacArthur.

HARRY TRUMAN: "It is with the deepest personal regret...

In June, nineteen fifty-one, the Soviet delegate to the United Nations proposed a ceasefire for Korea. Peace talks began, first at Kaesong, then at Panmunjom. By November, hope for a settlement was strong. But negotiators could not agree about several issues, including the return of prisoners. The UN demanded that prisoners of war be permitted to choose if they wanted to go home.

The different issues could not be settled after more than a year. Finally, in October, nineteen fifty-two, the peace talks were suspended.

Fighting continued during the negotiations. As it did, President Truman lost support. This was one reason why he decided not to seek re-election. The new president, Dwight Eisenhower, took office in January, nineteen fifty-three.

Eisenhower had campaigned to end the war. He was willing to take strong action to do this. Years later, he wrote that he secretly threatened to expand the war and use nuclear weapons, if the Soviets did not help re-start the peace talks.

Such measures were not necessary. In a few months, North Korea accepted an earlier UN offer to trade prisoners who were sick or wounded. The two sides finally signed an armistice agreement on July twenty-seventh, nineteen fifty-three. The agreement stopped the fighting and provided for the exchange of about ninety thousand prisoners of war. It also permitted prisoners to choose if they wanted to go home.

(MUSIC)

The war in Korea damaged almost all of the country. As many as two million people may have died, including many civilians.

After the war, the United States provided hundreds of thousands of soldiers to help the South guard against attack from the north. Half a century has passed since the truce. Yet Korea is still divided. And many of the same issues still threaten the Korean people, and the world.

The Korean conflict increased efforts in the United States to develop a weapon more deadly than the atomic bombs that had been used against Japan to end World War Two. These efforts led to the hydrogen bomb. The Soviets were developing such a weapon, too. They had already developed -- and tested -- an atomic bomb.

The nineteen fifties found Americans at home feeling hopeful about the future while also living under the threat of nuclear war. That will be our story next week.

You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.unsv.com. And you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

___

This was program #205.

1952年11月,艾森豪威尔将军当选美国下届总统。他所面临的首要问题,就是仍在继续的韩战。当时,美国介入韩战已经两年多了,跟联合国另外大约20个成员国一起帮助韩国抗击朝鲜,联合国军负责向韩国提供兵力、设备和医疗救助。

竞选期间,艾森豪威尔曾发表讲话,宣布要到韩国去,设法结束韩战。当选后,艾森豪威尔兑现承诺,宣誓就职前就前往韩国,然而,韩战直到1953年7月才停火。

这场战争是由朝鲜进攻韩国引起的,双方都认为,自己应该控制整个国家。在朝鲜半岛上建议一个统一国家是所有人的梦想。从1910年到第二次世界大战,朝鲜半岛一直处于日本的统治之下。

二战结束时,根据协议,苏联占领了北方,他们接受日本投降,建立了一个军政府;美国部队在南方也采取了类似行动。一条三八线将朝鲜半岛一分为二。

几年过后,联合国安理会下令朝鲜半岛南北双方举行自由选举。在联合国的帮助下,南方建立了韩国,首任总统李承晚。在三八线的另一端,苏联部队拒绝让联合国选举官员进入。在苏联的支持下,北方建立了共产政权,金日成任首相。

二战结束五年后,美国在韩国的驻军基本上已经全部撤离,韩国如果受到威胁,不知道美国是否会出面协防,韩国虽然有自己的军队,但是跟朝鲜比,势单力薄。

朝鲜觉得,进攻韩国的时机已经成熟。1950年6月25号,朝鲜士兵跨过三八线。联合国安理会要求朝鲜撤军。两天后,安理会通过决议,军事支持韩国。苏联代表拒绝参加安理会的会议,如果当时有他在场的话,这项决议是绝对无法通过的。

 

联合国决议没能阻止朝鲜部队,他们继续向南推进,一星期后兵抵首尔城下。当时的美国总统杜鲁门下令向韩国提供空中和海上支持。几天后,杜鲁门又宣布,派遣美国地面部队前往韩国。

杜鲁门希望由美国人来领导驻韩国的联合国部队,此人就是麦克阿瑟将军。联合国部队在韩国的军力每周递增,但到八月份时,他们还是一路后撤到了釜山一带。

朝鲜军队企图突破釜山防线,8月6号大举进攻,结果兵力损失惨重,直到八月底的时候,不得不被迫撤退。

9月,麦克阿瑟将军指挥美国海军陆战队突袭,在仁川登陆,这次行动十分危险,因为那里的水位一天之内变化幅度多达九米。运兵船必须要特别靠近海岸线,而且一定要在涨潮时登陆。如果拖延时间,水位不够高,他们就会陷入淤泥,船上的士兵就会失去保护,成为活靶子。

仁川登陆成功,增援兵力将南北一线铺开的朝鲜兵力拦腰截断,与此同时,联合国部队空中和海上力量又摧毁了朝鲜部队的通信系统。10月1号,韩国部队进入朝鲜,占领朝鲜首都平壤,向朝鲜和中国交界处的鸭绿江进发。中国发出警告,但是麦克阿瑟将军下令,继续进攻。他多次表示,不相信中国会参战,但是他错了。

10月和11月两个月间,几十万中国士兵跨过边境,进入朝鲜。即便是在这种情况下,麦克阿瑟将军还是相信,战争会在12月25号圣诞节之前结束。但他又错了。

联合国部队被迫从平壤后撤。到圣诞前夜时,大批部队从港口城市兴南由海路撤退。1951年初,朝鲜重新占领首尔。联合国部队撤回到首尔以南大约40公里处。他们重整旗鼓,两个月后再次收复首尔。

随后,战况出现了变化,双方在三八线以北一带交战,互不相让,人员伤亡惨重。麦克阿瑟将军想攻打中国东北地区,并利用国民党对付共产党,但是杜鲁门总统担心,这样做会引发又一场世界大战。

 

杜鲁门说:“如果再次爆发世界大战,那将会是一场原子弹的战争,美国很多城市都会遭受原子弹打击,任何一枚原子弹所造成的人员伤亡都要比整个韩战加在一起还要多。我不想是促成这种结果的人”。

麦克阿瑟将军公开跟杜鲁门的政策对着干,并声称“胜利是没有替代的”。杜鲁门因此决定撤销麦克阿瑟的职务。

1951年6月,苏联驻联合国代表提议韩战停火。和平谈判先后在开城和板门店展开,到11月时,眼看协定近在咫尺,但是谈判各方在一些问题上存在分歧,其中之一就是战俘的返还。联合国要求,战俘可以自行选择是否要返回家园。双方就这些问题争执了一年多,1952年10月谈判暂停。

谈判进行期间,战斗并没有停顿,韩战的持续让杜鲁门总统逐渐失去了民众的支持,他因此决定不参加1952年总统大选。新总统艾森豪威尔1953年1月宣誓就职。

艾森豪威尔竞选期间就提出要结束韩战,并承诺,为此不惜采取极端行动。很多年后,艾森豪威尔透露,他曾私下里威胁,如果苏联不帮助美国重新启动和谈,他不惜扩大战争规模,动用核武器。

这些行动完全没有必要。几个月后,朝鲜接受了联合国早些时候提出的交换伤病战俘的提议,交战双方最终于1953年7月27号签署了停火协定,根据协定,双方停战,并交换了大约9万名战俘,还允许战俘选择是留下,还是返回家园。

韩战给朝鲜半岛造成了重大创伤,多达200万人在战争中失去生命,其中包括很多平民。战争结束后,美国派几十万兵力驻守韩国,帮助韩国防范朝鲜的进攻,停战协定签署至今,半个多世纪过去了,朝鲜半岛依然处于分裂状态,当年的很多问题依然对朝鲜半岛乃至整个世界构成威胁。

韩战也促使美国开始研发比原子弹更具杀伤力的武器,那就是氢弹。苏联已经开发并试验了原子弹,也在研制氢弹。二十世纪五十年代的美国充满了对未来的希望,同时也生活在核战争的威胁之下。

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