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How Close The US Came To World War 3 During Korean War?

Not many people know this but it was not the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought Soviet Union and US to initiate the Third World War. In fact, it was Joseph Stalin’s obsession of conquering Yugoslavia that posed a serious threat to global stability.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

It is always interesting to find out and know more about a few events in the history of mankind that if they had yielded a not-so-desired outcome, could have changed the whole context of the international. One such event was the dangerous flirtation with a possible third World War where the chief belligerents were going to be the USSR and USA. Although both nations fought the Germans and played an equal role in downing the Nazis, what followed after the conclusion of WWII was the birth of a rivalry on all levels that nearly took the world to the brink of disaster.

In late June 1950, US President, Harry Truman’s bold decision to commit American military to save South Korea from a wave of Communism that was followed by the North Korean invasion, proved to be a great move.

It was a risky commitment to make and a war which resulted in the deaths of 50,000 American soldiers. However, that commitment ensured that American interests in South Korea were given a safe passage when under extreme duress. It was a very bold move when the 24th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions were ordered to leave their duties in Japan and go fight a war they never expected in Korea. However, that in the long run, helped keep the world away from a global confrontation.

Korean War: How close the US came to the WWIII

However, the Korean War was but a small fraction of how close we came to the Third World War. In fact, the reason behind this was on the other side of the planet. It was Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin’s personal war with Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia that could have turned into a global conflict.

The story of Tito and Stalin is that of a love affair turned sour in a horrible way. In mid-1947, Stalin was a great supporter and fan of Tito and his revolutionary way of thinking. His excellent leadership was the reason why Soviet Union was able to use the “Greek Line” in order to beef up insurgents in Greece with weapons and supplies.

However, with the passage of time, Stalin grew wary of his opposite number’s proclivity to take unnecessary risks. And although the opening up of the Greek Line served its purpose initially, Moscow started getting disenchanted with Tito’s over enthusiastic way of running things. In a letter sent to Tito, Stalin stated that the Communist insurgency was not going to come good in Athens because United States carried a lot of influence there.

But Tito was never one to back down and instead of listening to Stalin, he told them that he would carry on his mission in Greece; something that offended Moscow. Revenge was just around the corner and on June 28, 1948, on Serbia’s national day, Stalin kicked Yugoslavia out of the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform).