The Korean War was the United States' first major war to prevent the prevent the spread of communism, and has often been described as the “forgotten war.” Sold to the American public as a “police action,” the conflict was not supported as broadly as the Second World War and engaged the public far less. While the conflict in Korea came hot on the heels of World War II, the atmosphere at Colorado Fuel and Iron was drastically different during it. This was mainly due to the fact that the war in Korea had a larger financial impact on C.F. and I. than its predecessor did, but it had far less psychological influence. The company newspaper, “The Blast,” had been regularly running stories and ads about the events of the Second World War between 1941 and 1945. References to Korea were few and far between by comparison, with only the occasional urging for readers to buy bonds. “The Blast,” (the company newspaper) made no effort to track whether employees went to Korea. One of the few times the paper even mentioned the war was a memorial day front page that urged readers to consider those fallen in the Korean War. During the World War II, employees were streaming out of the company to go fight in the U.S. military. In Korea, on the other hand, the number of employees was steadily increasing. The only except to this was when 965 employees left the company in 1950, but it is not clear why they left.


Another sign of the times, was that labor demands were not being suppressed by the U.S. government during the Second World War. Truman ordered that steel facilities be seized when the strike of 1952 started to look like it might go on for a while, but a federal judge struck the order down. Employees were free to fight for better conditions during the war, possibly because the U.S. could afford it. Events during that strike seemed to move beyond C.F. and I., with the company keeping watch on what larger members of the industry were doing. The press releases of companies like U.S. Steel were being kept by C.F. and I. as it tried to decide how it should react to its employee's demands. The strike lasted for 55 days, but did not debilitate the company. It still managed to make a profit of about $5 million that year, which was more than it had earned during the last three years of World War II combined. Ultimately, production and earnings were not as desperate for C.F. and I. or the United States during the Korean War, and that is what separates the two experiences. Strikes had been illegal during World War II, but the situation in Korea was not deemed to be important enough to warrant attempts to force employees back to work.

That being said, there were some similarities between C.F. and I.'s experiences during these two wars. In 1950, Colorado Fuel and Iron circulated a memo about potential draft targets, much as it had before the Second World War. Korea also hailed the return of price restriction, which attracted a degree of annoyance from the company. The price ceiling was raised once during the Korean War in order to deal with the rising costs of manufacturing steel, but was not lifted until the war was over. There were also material restrictions, which forced steel companies like C.F. and I. to take contracts for producing vital war products. In 1951, the company estimated that about 90-95% of its total production had been sold as part of this plan. The company also took more orders than it could fulfill during the war as a way of increasing their profit margin with a guaranteed eventual purchase, just like it had during World War II. It once again tried to expand its capacity to meet the nation's steel needs, but this was financed by C.F. and I.'s private earnings and savings rather than with the aid of Government loans (a key ingredient to industrial expansion in the American West during World War II). In other words, the experience of the two wars was not totally different from one another at C.F. and I., with some aspects repeating themselves.

On balance, though, the experience of the Korean War strained C.F. and I. less than World War II had. Perhaps it would be best thought of as what cemented post-war prosperity since it gave the company higher profits than it had ever known. On the other hand, it could be called the beginning of the company's decline. It's expansion efforts were slowly failing throughout and after this period. Even though its profits reached approximately $16 million in 1956, that was as good as they would get. Korea marks both the zenith for C.F. and I., as well as the beginning of its long decline. The situation was much the same for the rest of the United states' steel industry. However one chooses to think about it, Korea was a vital time in the history of C.F. and I. At least for that time period, the company was able to escape its history of financial troubles and experience prosperity.

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