This article reexamines negotiations to end the Korean War starting on July 10, 1951, and continuing through late November. It presents a new explanation for why reaching an agreement required two years. U.S. leaders publicly had endorsed a demarcation line at the 38th parallel, but the initial U.S. proposal provided for a demilitarized zone extending deep into North Korea. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, commander of the United Nations Command, was responsible for delivering this mixed message and sought to humiliate the Communists, demonstrate his personal toughness, and placate South Korea. In response, the Communist side became hostile and inflexible. POW repatriation became the main issue delaying peace, but Ridgway's proposal established a pattern of mistrust and acrimony prolonging a war that otherwise would have ended months before July 1953.

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