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Chosin Reservoir - Ray Vallowe Research

Chapter 2 - Inchon

Author's Background | Prologue | Chapt 1 - Budget War | Chapt 2 - Inchon | Chapt 3 - Capture Seoul
Chapt 4 - Inchon to Pusan | Chapt 5 - Fateful Journey into N Korea | Chapt 6 - Inter-service Rivalry-1
Chapt 7 - Inter-service Rivalry-2 | Chapt 8 - Press Corps | Chapt 9 - Secret/Classified Mission
Chapt 10 - Circumstantial Evidence | Chapt 11 - Mission Change | Chapt 12 - The Tank Withdrawal
MIA/KIA East of Chosin | Postscript | Important Maps | Declassified Documents| Reader Comments


"...I shouted, do not provoke me...I am the Polar Bear!" ...."But provoke me they did and I returned. At Inchon, I turned the North Korean flank, raced into burning Osan, and closed the invader's back door. As the cold winter winds began to blow".....

Excerpt from, "A tribute to Polar Bears past and present," by Karl Lowe, Colonel, US Army Retired


In 1950, there was a vast difference in the education levels than the common soldier of today. In today's military, every soldier is a high school graduate.  Such was not the case in the military forces during the war years 1950-1953.  Although the education difference separated the Army's regimental (West Point) commanders from the common line soldier, there was one bond and obligation to all.  They had taken the same oath: "Freely and without reservation..." to defend their country. I say freely because up to the Chosin action, almost all of the forces were volunteer enlistees. Due to the need for trained military personnel as the Korean War progressed, most of these volunteer forces were retained beyond their original discharge date by a presidential order extending them for an additional year.  A standard enlistment was three years, but the "Truman Year" was ordered to allow the United States government lee time to draft, train, equip, and ship replacement forces to the Korean War zone.

It was evident that the early forces in Korea between the time frame of June 25 through December 1950 were expendable in order to buy time, as were the forces on Bataan in late 1941.  This was due in both cases to budget wars.  Money was not involved as much as that most precious supply of human life.  At the time of the Korean War, Europe was of prime concern first and foremost over our commitment to Korea, even after committing our forces to combat.  This fact is well documented.

A short review of past history on the war involving the United States and The Empire of Japan, shows that, in his 'state of war' request to Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not ask that war be declared against Germany as well.[1] I bring this point up because after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, on that date, at that hour, at that place, at that time in our history, we were not at war with Germany. Yet, as the Japanese engaged us in war in the Pacific arena, America ironically completed a two and one-half year build-up of forces in England for D-Day-against Germany--delayed until June 6, 1944. The forces defending Bataan had to surrender in April of 1942. A postwar "domino theory" was utilized repeatedly against a communist threat that had to be stopped. Those dominoes fell monthly in the Pacific, and America counterattacks were underway to regain those islands lost.

Although American forces in the Pacific were left desperately in need of supplies, the main focus was on accumulating forces in Europe, not our war against Japan.  There was a similarity to this in our involvement in the "Police Action" in Korea on June 25th, 1950.  It seems ironic that, when the North Koreans invaded across the 38th Parallel and a commitment was made to send a small force of the 24th Infantry Regiment--Task Force Smith--to engage the North Korean army in battle, once again it was the only war we had. However, once again all consideration was given to the European area. But there was one huge difference here. Unlike World War II, we were to "involve ourselves in this one."  The North Korean army had never attacked any of our forces under any present commitment or treaty. Surely we should have committed our entire nation to defend our own forces before being sent into combat. That could have happened, but it did not.  American occupation forces were committed to defend Korea--by no means a one time precedent for sending American forces into combat with insufficient forces or armor.

Korea and Iraq: Echoes of the Past

Korea: "The Korean War meant entry into action 'as is' with two instead of three battalions with light tanks instead of heavy ones."  - Willoughby, 360

Iraq: "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have." - Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at Camp Buehring in Kuwait on Dec. 8, 2004 where he addressed concerns over being deployed to Iraq without sufficient armor.

The North Korean invasion activates the American involvement

On June 30, 1950, five days after the North Korean invasion of South Korea, President Harry S. Truman authorized American ground forces in Korea. The first order of business for General MacArthur was to review those combat units available to him, as combat readiness and conditions had changed dramatically since Victory over Japan (V-J) Day.  Five Star General MacArthur was authorized to use whatever combat forces he had available for stopping the North Korean Army from overrunning South Korea. MacArthur's 'new' authority committed American occupation forces to direct combat action hundreds of miles distant across the Sea of Japan. After only one year, MacArthur was 'reassigned.' The Korean territory was taken from his command and transferred to the State Department. He was directly subject to orders from the President through the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington DC. This latter group fully represented the three military departments: Army, Navy, and Air Force (which evolved from the Army Air Corps in 1947).

The JCS knew the battle readiness of the armed forces under their immediate authority. The JCS's duty was to relay all their information to the President of the United States. Nevertheless, the order for troop movement began, and material, ammunition, and all logistics of war were on the move within the Far East Command. All occupation forces were ordered on highest alert to move as ordered.

Let's review some major changes in the military since World War II. The Army Air Corps, originally under the Department of the Army, no longer existed. In September 1947, the Army Air Corps became a new and separate department when the Department of the Air Force was born. Army transport ships were turned over to the Merchant Marines.  The jet fighter plane was mass produced and distributed throughout the new Air Force command. A new devise, called the "helicopter" also appeared. However, due to severe budget restraints, other war-related production and other important tools of war were canceled.  For example, ammunition manufacturing was curtailed sharply, and the production of much of its heavy armor shells was halted completely. World War Two armaments were abandoned and left to rust in the open on past battlefields in the Pacific.  They were retrieved during Operation Roll-Up, a plan to refurbish used government equipment. However, much of this equipment was not even cataloged for immediate retrieval by armed forces so they could be dispatched urgently to Korea. Instead, those forces were dispatched in a piece-meal fashion. Army transport ships were no longer available in large numbers near Japan to transport those forces. Plus, undersized Navy and Air Force units also had proportionally reduced transports and planes. The Navy adapted to its peace time mission. The Air Force was busy building their new department, including changing uniforms and redesigning stripes and blankets. Blue was in vogue for them.

The Navy and Marines kept their traditional uniforms from the past. The Army continued its asinine changes to the Army uniform following World War II. The "Ike" jacket was in fashion, as well as those stupid half stripes someone accepted for the Army. Ranking itself changed. I went into basic training as a private but came out as one of the first newly named "recruits." It took six months to return to my first rank as a Private, then to Private First Class. The Corporal rank replaced the old three stripe Buck Sergeant, and the Staff Sergeant--one rocker--was the one referred to as a just plain sergeant. Even as the Korean War was underway in 1952, our Army uniform was being changed again to green, disregarding the Ike jacket. Sometime within the war, the 1st Cavalry's familiar troop designation was changed to company status. Surely that money and energy could have gone into other more important war-related matters.

MacArthur's United Nations Authority

Acting on a JCS recommendation, President Harry S. Truman notified General MacArthur on July 10, 1950 of his appointment to be in command of all United Nations forces.  Whenever practicable, he was to identify himself as Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command (CINCUNC).  On July 14, President Rhee of South Korea assigned his military forces to MacArthur. MacArthur was to submit a bi-weekly report to the JCS.  In turn, they were to submit those reports through the Secretary of Defense to the Department of State for presentation to the Security Council of the United Nations. Given his military strength in the Far East region, it was to MacArthur's credit that he agreed to accept this commitment in Korea.  For before any American task force fired the first shot in Korea, the Pentagon denied supporting forces to MacArthur. At that time, it was reported that the entire general reserve consisted of only the 3rd Infantry Division and the 82nd Airborne Division, both under strength, and both located on the United States mainland.

Under the directives given to MacArthur by the JCS (there would be few of these), and through precedent in the considerable latitude granted American commanders in the past, General MacArthur had authority to depose and employ his forces as he saw fit. This new UN authority reflected the fact that the planning of any major operation and tactical or local strategies was to originate with MacArthur. From the start he expressed the opinion that "success would be in direct proportion to the speed with which he was sent reinforcements."  Without full support and reinforcements, the results would vary. He stated, "In this matter, time is of the essence," adding, "Business as usual--to hell with that concept." (Policy & Direction, 106)

MacArthur had enormous problems to solve at the top level of his chain of command. His prime concern was securing an adequate force for his upcoming Inchon landing, for although his available forces would continually change, his set target date would not. Still, MacArthur believed he would get all the manpower he needed. He would not yield on his September 15 date for Inchon. October would be too late. Only between September 15 and September 18 would the tidal surges be high enough to cover the extensive mud flats that fronted Inchon.  Only then could landing craft safely be brought into that harbor. The next available date would be mid-October due to the phases of the moon.  But too many lives might be lost in Walker's area in that extra month.

MacArthur decided to follow his own keen sense of timing. His invasion date was September 15, and the place of entry into Korea was at Inchon. The operation code name was "Chromite."  The planning staff studied the possibilities for an amphibious operation in September, and postulated three plans:

(1) Plan 100-B, landing at Inchon on the 'west' coast
(2) Plan 100-C, landing at Kunsan on the 'west' coast
(3) Plan 100-D, landing near Chumunjin-up on the "east" coast

Plan 100-B, which called for a landing at Inchon with a simultaneous attack by Eighth Army, was favored. On 23 July, General MacArthur informed the Department of the Army that he had scheduled an amphibious landing in mid-September for the 5th Marines and the 2nd Infantry Division to land behind the enemy lines in coordination with an attack by Eighth Army. However, North Korean successes upset MacArthur's plans as fast as he made them. MacArthur first had to divert the two American forces en route from the States into Walker's defense line in South Korea.

Here the continuing test of MacArthur's authority was challenged, as not all commanders involved in the landing were pleased with the site picked.  Some suggested sites further south of Kunsan (Plan C) at Posung-myon, which was thirty miles south of Inchon. General Oliver P. Smith of the Marines favored Plan C.

Smith was also not pleased with the date.  He wanted more time for the 7th Marines, en route from the States, to arrive. Here the chain of command was not directly linked through MacArthur to the Marines. In reality, General Almond did not assume his X Corps command authority over the Marine forces until the beachhead was declared to be secure.

There is an important point to note here. Before the landing, the 1st Marine Division was unattached to MacArthur, and completely under Navy command.  It was sheltered under the Navy in any dispute with MacArthur. The 1st Marine Division did not come under MacArthur's direct command until 21 September.  At that time, Smith informed the Navy commander that the amphibious part of the landing was secure.  The land operation then reverted to the Army command and X Corps under Almond.

The Army had no official say about either the amphibious or the land operations.  MacArthur was the five star general whose authority controlled the Army forces in Japan and Walker's Eighth Army command.  The Army had to do what MacArthur required and commanded it to do.  He did not have to ask anyone how he was allowed to use the forces under his command.  His authority was his rank.

Through the years, press coverage of O. P. Smith elevated his overall importance in the Inchon landing.  Smith had his own preference among Plans A, B, and C, but in reality, he had absolutely no authority or vote on picking the site for the landing. His several attempts to divert the site from Inchon could not move MacArthur, nor could MacArthur order the Navy brass to land at Inchon with the many dangers involved in that landing.  The Navy had the concern of its own ships and the responsibility of the landing.  Once the plan was accepted by the Navy and they turned their ships towards the final target (whatever that target would be), Marine and Army troops onboard the ships merely tagged along. The Inchon Landing was never at any time MG Smith's decision--nor the invasion forces' decision--to make.  Smith merely had to take the final plan (B-100) of operation for Inchon and execute the landing to seize Inchon as ordered.

MacArthur had his commission on the line.  It would be a costly failure for him if the Inchon landing failed. MacArthur stated it was a 5,000 to 1 gamble, but if it was successful, it would save 100,000 lives. That was truly an optimistic view, and one reserved to MacArthur alone. All things considered, the Navy planners were opposed to the landing.  On and off, the Navy's officers objected to MacArthur's staff planners in general terms. When General Smith of the United States Marine Corps reported to Admiral Doyle in Tokyo on August 22, his objections to the Inchon landing began to surface. Smith and Doyle worked closely together to arrange the details of the assault on Inchon, nevertheless Smith's objections were noted by the Navy. But once Admiral Doyle was ordered to land forces at MacArthur's approved site at Inchon, the case was closed as far as the Navy was concerned.  MG Smith's objections were just one of rattling his own cage for publicity and notoriety.

There was also a constant in General Smith's personality.  He detested early deadlines. On August 23, he was informed that the landing date was September 15, but he was told before leaving the United States that the target date was September 23. He had the pressure of a time schedule added to the landing.  As would become apparent throughout his command in Korea, he always sought to delay the dates for whatever the operation. While his whining fell on deaf ears aboard ship (which moved on Navy time schedules), he nevertheless could and did upset the ground objective timetables by individual actions within his own command.

Inchon was Smith's first attempt to delay a set plan of operations. His command in North Korea at the  Chosin Reservoir also included several other delays, and again after he returned to South Korea there was another delay again with General Ridgway.  Whatever his problems were with his one division, the Army had multiple ones with its divisions already on line. Those Army forces were exposed hourly to enemy fire and needed support as soon as possible.

After July 13, General Collins of the JCS informed Rear Admiral James Doyle of General MacArthur's intention to land at Inchon by General Collins of the JCS. Admiral Doyle was assistant to Admiral Turner Joy. Admiral Joy "agreed that a landing at Inchon could be extremely difficult, but that it could be done." Collins asked Almond how the assault forces would cross the Han River after the assault, and Almond replied that, "amphibious trucks, available in the theater, could be used to ferry forces across,... and that the assault would more than likely be unopposed because the plan would utilize an airborne RCT to seize and secure the north shore of the Han River." This is a point to remember because there was a major dispute between Almond and Smith later at that river.

General Collins would not commit himself or the JCS to the landing, and returned to Washington. In the meantime, Taejon fell to the enemy on July 20.  Our forces were in further retreat, steadily being forced back towards the port of Pusan. Here MacArthur had to abort his plans to use the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Marine Brigade for the landing at Inchon. News of the fall of Taejon reached Washington at the same time the plans for the amphibious landing did. Worried over the developing situation and the increased pressure upon General Walker's defense line, MacArthur was asked if he still believed it advisable to launch an assault in mid-September. He replied that if the full Marine division was provided, the time would, indeed, be excellent. (The 7th Marines were not, however, there for the landing.)

In the meantime, Walker's line was receiving increased pressure in early August, and MacArthur negated his plan. He ordered the 5th Marine RCT and the 2nd Infantry Division, both at sea heading to Korea from the States, to join Walker's forces. This move jeopardized the landing, for if the attack was made in September, both of these units would have to be withdrawn from Walker's line, or the "Marines withdrawn and teamed with the 7th Division." The latter plan was preferred because removing the 1st Cavalry Division from the Pusan Perimeter would clog the port of Pusan of much needed incoming supplies.

The 7th Division was cannibalized at half strength.  Its key cadre and key personnel were already on line with Walker's forces as fillers for the 24th, 25th, and the 1st Cavalry Divisions.  It would not up to full strength until October 1, and it would not be ready for amphibious operations until October 15. Still, MacArthur had faith that he would get the forces he needed.  October might be too late, so September was the only time and month with suitable conditions. He gave the JCS his revised plan for using the depleted 7th Infantry Division.  If it was not acceptable, "it would have to be staged out of Pusan Perimeter rather than Japan." [

For MacArthur this meant that he had to return to the drawing board. What forces were left and available? Since only those of the depleted 7th Infantry Division remained, he was forced to negate the landing he firmly believed would save lives and end the savage loss of men and equipment. His first effort with the 1st Cavalry, now with the 2nd Division, had to be aborted as well to support Walker's lines. He had no choices left. The 7th Division, ready or not, had to be bumped to the front of the line.

This was not the first time he would be called upon to use a small force to engage the enemy. MacArthur always had faith in his forces, even when they were under strength. Our being in Korea in the first place proved that fact. So he relied on the 7th Division, a unit with an impressive history of amphibious landing of their own in the Pacific during World War II.

Here MacArthur was as bold as with his landing decision alone.  He did not hesitate to use his Army forces. As the records state from the past, the Army landings could be successfully carried out under their own command, for the army had its own history behind it. Indeed, General Holland M. Smith, USMC, was responsible for the training of Army forces and the 7th Division in amphibious warfare procedures. He had trained and used the 7th Division as the first amphibious unit under his command to assault the island of Attu under difficult conditions. The 7th Division mastered the art of landing amphibious craft there. Holland 'Mad" Smith himself stated in his book Coral And Brass that, "I have always considered the landing of the Seventh in the dense fog at Attu, on May 11, 1943, an amphibious landing without parallel in our military history. Transport was not available to carry the entire equipment of a full division and even if it had been it was useless on the terrain of this bleak Aleutian island, where the sponge like tundra bogged down all heavy equipment." (C&B 103) He further stated, "This was my first experience in battle with any troops I had trained and I was keen to see how they made out." During that landing, the Japanese mounted a "Bansai" attack. "This mad charge through the fog made a profound impression and alerted me to ever present danger of just such a final desperate attack during my operations in the central Pacific," said Holland Smith.  So even a Marine general learned something of value from the Seventh Division at Attu that he could pass on to others, including his Marines. Holland Smith went on to train many more forces and be in command of many island invasions of his own.

In the military, we learn from others.  We collectively share knowledge, and we win with a team spirit. No one man does it all.  It takes team work.  With the knowledge gained from the Marine training, the Army exceeded the amphibious divisions and landings of the Marine Corps during World War II. Again, according to Marine General Holland M. Smith, Marines trained the 7th, 77th, 81st, and 96th Infantry Divisions in amphibious warfare during World War II. The Army ended up with some 28 amphibious divisions, "Whereas the Marines never had more than six." Of the Army group, the 1st Cavalry had many amphibious landings of its own.  The 32nd Regiment of the 7th Division, along with the 17th Regiment and the 184th Regiment of the California National Guard, made amphibious assaults on the island of Kwajalian, as did Marines,  The 7th Division got a late start, but made up for it in timely fashion with rapid landings in the Pacific. The landing at Attu was a full year, plus a few days, before the D-Day landing in Europe on June 6, 1944. The Pacific action was a budget war. The Army 7th Division used DUKW, the pneumatic-tired amphibious truck developed by the Army and used for the first time at Attu.  They proved adequate to the task. The 17th Regiment on the adjacent island landed artillery support with these units. "In this way powerful artillery support was available for the main landing on the northern and southern objectives." (C&B 146)

Holland Smith's love for his Marines was primal at all times.  But he gave credit to others when he felt that credit was justified. He was, however, in his own class when compared to the 1st Marine Division commander to follow at Inchon, General Oliver P. Smith. Only the last names were similar. In Korea, General Edward M. Almond, in charge of X Corps, was likened to Holland M. Smith in boldness and speed, while Oliver P. Smith was in the mold of the Civil War general, George McClellan. He was cautionary and slow. At Inchon, Oliver Smith was severely critical of the 7th Division before the contest would begin. One can only wonder what were his underlying fears. Would one American/ROK Division be a threat to outshine his division of Marines? He had the numerical strength of force, with no ROKs other than some used as interpreters. More about these three generals will follow. One can only truly judge the players by the way they play the game and carry the ball towards the goal line.

On August 23, a meeting was underway in the Tokyo Dai Ichi Building, 6th floor conference room.  Present were Generals MacArthur, Collins, Almond, and Wright of the Army; Admirals Joy, Struble, Sherman and Doyle of the Navy; and various officers of lesser ranks.  Before the meeting began, General O. P. Smith discussed with Almond the possibility of landing at Posung-Myon instead of Inchon.  Almond rejected that view.  Here again, the window of opportunity was extremely short.  Less than one month remained, and MacArthur still had no authorization to land anywhere, let alone Inchon.

In his presentation, Admiral Doyle concluded that the operation was not impossible, but that "He did not recommend it."  General Collins and Admiral Sherman suggested Kunsan, which was 100 miles south of Inchon.

Plan 100-B - Locking in on Inchon

Navy Objections

Admiral Sherman stated, "If every possible geographical and naval handicap were listed, Inchon had them all."  He cited the two main objectives, and discussed the elements of tides and terrain, and many studies of hydrographics.  The studies listed Inchon tides as 20.7 feet, one of the highest tides in the world. On September 15, the rise and fall would be more than 30 feet because of the position of the moon. The first tide would occur at 0630 in the morning, and the afternoon high tide would be at 1919 hours, a full thirty-five minutes after sunset. Within two hours, most of the assault craft would be wallowing in the ooze of Inchon's mud banks as sitting ducks. Still, assuming this could be done, the approaching darkness would allow only two and a half hours for the ground forces to land during the afternoon high tide. This time limit would be hard pressing on the forces to land, secure a beachhead for the night, and bring in supplies to withhold a beachhead for the night. Added to all of this was the fact that the landing would be made right in the heart of the city itself.

Army Objections

General Collins' objections and those of the JCS were that Inchon was too far to the rear of the present battle area. With the limited resources available, the 1st Marine Brigade would have to be withdrawn from Walker's position.  This would further endanger Walker's line. (Here was the plan to pull the Marine Brigade from General Walker.)  General Collins was not sure if the capture of Inchon and Seoul could make contact with Walker anyway. And foremost, he might "well run into overwhelming enemy force within the area of the capital city and suffer a complete defeat."  Admiral Sherman seconded his suggestion that Inchon be scraped in favor of Kunsan (Smith's choice).  So two of the Joint Chiefs, Collins and Sherman, were opposed to the landing at Inchon. But the Army was not the biggest obstacle.  The Army was committed to do whatever MacArthur's final decision would be. The Navy had to make its commitment to the landing, otherwise it would never materialize.

MacArthur's Rejection of their Views

General MacArthur listened to each man's objection to Inchon.  It, indeed, had all the named handicaps.  Each man had a valid point. But, then MacArthur made his case.

The Navy's objections as to tides, hydrography, terrain, and physical hardships were substantial and pertinent. But MacArthur believed that they were not insurmountable.  As to the proposal for a landing at Kunsan, MacArthur agreed that it would eliminate many of the hazards of Inchon.  But he also believed that it would be an attempted envelopment which would not envelope. It would be a "short envelopment," and nothing in war is more futile. Such action would mean that more troops would have to be sent to help Walker hang on.  And MacArthur believed that "hanging on" was not good enough.

"The only alternative to a strike such as I propose will be the continuation of the savage sacrifice we are making at Pusan, with no relief in sight. Are you content to let our troops stay in that bloody perimeter like beef cattle in the slaughterhouse? Who will take the responsibility for that tragedy? Certainly, I will not. If my estimate is inaccurate and should I run into a defense with which I can not cope, I will be there personally and will immediately withdraw our forces before they are committed to a bloody set back. the only loss will be my professional reputation. But, Inchon will not fail. Inchon will succeed, and it will save 100,000 lives."

Among the alternate proposals to Inchon, in addition to the Kunsan plan favored by the Navy, was one for a landing in the Posung-myon area thirty miles south of Inchon and opposite Osan. On the 23rd, Admiral Doyle proposed a landing there with the purpose of striking inland to Osan and there severing the communications south of Seoul. One day later on the 24th, Lt. Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. (USMC), called on General MacArthur and asked him to change the landing site to this area--all to no avail. MacArthur remained resolute on Inchon. Here a Marine officer with Corps status only to the Department of the Navy avoided his chain of command and lobbied for a different plan not in the original three. That was just rehashing the same argument. (This Marine pattern of objections increased under MG Almond's command well into the Chosin arena.)

The planners worked on Inchon's three landing beaches--Green Beach on Wolmi-do for the preliminary early morning battalion landing, Red Beach in the sea wall dock area of Inchon, and Blue Beach in the mud flat semi-open area at the south edge of the city for the two regimental-sized forces that would make the main landing in the evening. Later, 7th Infantry Division troops landed at Inchon over what was called Yellow Beach. As diversions, the battleship Missouri was to shell east coast areas on the opposite side of the Korean peninsula, including the rail center and port of Samch'ok, and a small force composed in part of the 41st British Commando unit (Drysdale) was to make a deceptive landing at Kunsan on the west coast, 100 air miles south of Inchon.

On his return to Washington, General Collins briefed the JCS on the plan.  As the JCS studied it in detail, "They found no disagreement with what MacArthur intended to do, and on August 28th, his plan was approved."  MacArthur had a full 18 days to activate it. He already had the 7th Division close to Yokohama. Had MacArthur delayed in his planning, the ships, men, and material would not have been ready for his set target date, and Inchon would never HAVE happened. While the planning took place in record short time, with all the problems that MacArthur had to overcome it was his greatest achievement.

But, the Joint Chiefs had lingering doubts. On September 7th, they informed MacArthur that almost all reserve forces were already committed.  If the landing failed, the United Nations forces would be in grave danger.  They called for a reconsideration of Inchon. MacArthur restated his faith in the success of the landing, besides the fact that every unit had been assigned its separate responsibility, "and those Marines and soldiers who were not already afloat along Korea's west coast were in the final stages of embarkation."  It was the eleventh hour when he received the query: "In the light of the commitment of all the reserves available to the Eighth Army, we desire your estimate as to the feasibility and chance of success of projected operation if initiated on planned schedule."  In reality, here was the paper work to lay the blame on MacArthur's pending failure. On September 8, the JCS again gave their approval after obtaining President Truman's approval. The landing was now a go, and rapid speed was required to load all men and equipment aboard ships and put out to sea.

Admiral Forrest P. Sherman aided MacArthur in his search for ships available for the Inchon landing. Anticipating a roadblock from Washington over ship tonnage available, Sherman had a complete list of all ships at sea, in harbors in the Pacific, on the US coast, in Japanese waters, and even in Philippine waters. When General Collins raised the question of "impossibility," MacArthur turned to Admiral Sherman and asked if sufficient tonnage could be made available by a shift in loading.  With a ready list, the impossible gave way to the possible. This incident is cited merely to show how studied were the efforts of Washington's military advisors to deny the practicable means for supporting the Far Eastern Command to the fullest. Admiral Sherman's opposition to Inchon was mainly the result of technical difficulties.  With assurances from MacArthur that "nothing rash" was intended and that the operation could be either terminated or diverted to less vulnerable strategic spots, Sherman was behind the Inchon landing concept. (Willoughby 367)

Commercial ships were pressed into service.  All ships were tightly packed and cramped with troops.  Even freighters acted as troop ships. Operation Chromite was under way, and there was no turning back. The storm between military men over the landing date subsided and then shifted to worrying about the forces of nature.  The ships were required to be in transit on September 12 to reach Inchon on time. But a typhoon was brewing in the Sea of Japan, and it continued into the next day. Rough seas and pounding waves rocked the ships. I was stationed on the weather deck along with others, and had to seek shelter inside the ship somewhere.  We moved into hatchways, officers' conference rooms, and wherever we could until the storm ran its course.


As the forces loaded for the Inchon Landing, another major controversy arose.  MacArthur had not authorized the release of the 1st Marine Brigade. General Smith insisted that the 1st Marine Provisional Brigade (5th Marines) on line with General Walker be pulled out and united with his landing force.  This is an important point to remember, because it related to Chosin where a carbon copy surfaced.  There, Walker suggested "using forces already in place." He had the enemy directly in front of him. Instead of pulling the 1st Marine Brigade out, a compromise was reached.  The Marines were to remain in place and the 32nd Regiment of the 7th Division was substituted for them instead. Smith would have none of that.  That 32nd Regiment was partly ROKs and he wanted no part of them. With the pressure of naval officers behind him, Smith continued to insist on the 1st Marine Brigade [2] As I state within, at Inchon there was a compromise.  However, at Chosin there was no time for one. This is so ironic, it is eerie.  (Hell, if it worked at Inchon, why not replay it at Chosin?) Smith insisted that the Marines stay together, in spite of combat needs, drawing them from the front ranks.  The 1st Marine Brigade was the 5th Marine Regiment.  The 32nd Regiment included Don Faith's 1st Battalion. These two units exchanged places at Chosin, under the eyes of the Chinese surrounding both of them.

Either way, Smith's problem was entirely a Navy one.  The upcoming one at Chosin was a totally Army one.  But to activate this scenario of exchange at Pusan required placing the 32nd Regiment on line and removing the 5th Marines out of Walker's line. Even the Navy brass thought that to merely exchange two groups was an idiotic plan.  Admiral Struble hit on the compromise: Pull the Marines out of Walker's line.  That would pacify General Smith.  Keep the 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Division aboard ships in floating reserve outside of Pusan Harbor.  That way, it could be rushed in if needed.  If not needed, it would land later at Inchon and rejoin its parent division. The 32nd Regiment was substituted for the 3rd Regiment of the 7th Marines. Although suggested by the Navy, the problem could become a dangerous one and a total Army responsibility. Walker would just have to fill any gaps with his available forces. His exhausted 24th Division had been on line for over two and one-half months by the time the 17th Regiment unloaded at Pusan.  It still had to travel to wherever the breach was in the front lines. Time was important, but Smith had his force.  Walker had to deal with the problem this created. (At Chosin it would directly involve MG Almond.)

Smith has his other problems, too.  He was unhappy with the landing site and the date, and he would not have his 7th Marine Regiment from the States in time for the landing.  Tough.  There was no compromise on that.  He got them when they arrived. With Navy backing, he attempt once again to change the landing site.  Again, tough.  MacArthur had no ear to hear any more of that.  He had already spent too much time getting his plans together and approved. He was not about to change his major offensive because one divisional commander was not completely attuned to MacArthur's own mission. And, as I state regarding the upcoming Chosin mission, I firmly believe MacArthur was still consistent in that thought and action with his November 24 offensive date at Chosin.  He had not moved from his set timetables. Also, the time schedules eroded both Almond's and MacArthur's patience with Smith's whining ways.

General MacArthur's prior orders to General Walker to prepare the 7th Division "by intensified training and re-equipping for movement to Korea at the earliest practicable date," [SOURCE OF QUOTE?] highlighted the importance and responsibility placed on General Walker.  On July 26, while he directed his own line divisions against the enemy, he still remained responsible for the training and rebuilding of the 7th Division nearly a thousand miles away.  We were still under Eighth Army control. But, through his combined efforts with MacArthur, the 7th Division was only 1,800 men under strength by the Chromite date. (That was inclusive of the 8,000 plus untrained ROKs.) The high priority given the 7th Division created problems for Walker's forces in Korea. All incoming artillery replacements were side-railed to our division. Those actions proved effective to bring the division to a reasonable combat level. On September 7, we lacked only 1,349 officers and men short of our full war strength, including, of course, the ROKs who had just arrived some two weeks earlier.

Here one can, indeed, sympathize with General Walker.  His forces had been driven back to the Pusan Perimeter line; they were totally battle weary; and now the loss of the 5th Marine (1st Brigade) was an unrealistic request. "According to Colonel Chiles, when General Almond telephoned Walker that he would have to release the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, Walker became extremely excited and stated that he could not take the responsibility for the safety of the Pusan Perimeter if the brigade was taken from him. Admiral Doyle, on the other hand, said he could not accept the responsibility of the Inchon Landing unless he was given the brigade."  According to Colonel Chiles, MacArthur personally made the decision to withdraw them with the compromise of the 17th Regiment of the 7th Division in floating reserve. That is where Walker coined his phrase about X Corps being, "MacArthur's Pets"

All the effort that Walker had put in place to build the 7th Division to war time strength just one month before was effectively short-circuited because he did not get his replacements. The 32nd Regiment was not permitted to be flown in to Walker's Pusan perimeter defense line.  Here the reader should keep in mind that a similar scenario was repeated at the Chosin Reservoir and there were tragic results.  Don Faith's battalion replaced the 5th Marine Regiment on the east side of Chosin on 24-25 November.  Something similar happened at the Pujon (Fusen) reservoir as well.

There was one major difference at Chosin.  There was no additional time to pacify General Smith due to his own delays. The replacement forces at Chosin were those of Task Force MacLean-Faith. The result of that exchange proved to be a fatal one. At Inchon, MacArthur had to yield to the Navy because he had to have them for the landing.  But he did not have to yield to one of his field commanders (Army or Marine) once under Almond's X Corps command at Seoul or Chosin.

Because of MacArthur's decision to compromise--not with General Smith, but the Navy--General Barr had only two regiments instead of three at Inchon, as would Smith.  The 7th Marine Regiment did not arrive in time for the landing (Sept. 21).  Barr's forces were the 31st and the 32nd Regiments, each with a strength of about 5,000 men. including nearly 2,000 ROKs of doubtful value. Barr wrote that the ROKs could not, "By the wildest stretch of the imagination be considered combat worthy troops.  They were civilians who had been picked from the streets and fields of South Korea without prior warning and rushed to Japan--stunned, confused, exhausted. There was no time to train them."

"So to put things into some proper perspective, I yield -to facts- on this point and will use it through out this research. Fact: The 7th Division was an 'inferior division' -in make up -to the "reinforced" 1st Marine Division. With this fact stated and accepted, through and too the end of the Chosin Campaign. What does that do to any comparative events for the other divisions in X Corps, if those other units 'could not or would not' do what this inferior 7th Infantry Division would do?"

As Operation Chromite approached, the ports of Kobe, Sasebo, and Yokohama in Japan, and Pusan in Korea were active. The 1st Marine Division, less the 5th Marines at Pusan, loaded ships at Kobe.  The 7th Division loaded at Yokohama, and escorting naval vessels and gunfire supporting groups, as well as the command ships, were at Sasebo. Only the assault elements were combat loaded.  All others were origination-loaded. Blackout conditions were in affect while at sea, which posed a difficult problem for those stationed (as I was) on the weather deck. All of our equipment was strapped to the weather rail, including our back packs and rifles. Rifles required constant cleaning and oiling against salt from misty sea spray to prevent rusting of rifle bores. In the wake of Typhoon Jane with her 110 mph winds and forty-foot waves, a second typhoon, Typhoon Kezia with winds of the 125 mph, was crossing the path of the Chromite armada of 260 ships crossing the Korean strait.

In the wake of the Marines at Inchon on the 18th, the 7th Division landed and split its force of two regiments.  The 32nd moved towards Seoul as Marine support.  On the 19th, the 31st moved some 20 miles southwest of Inchon to complete the capture of Suwon and its air strip. [A side note: Here the 7th Division did what the Marine commander would not do later at Chosin--split two regiments by miles, one heading north and the other heading south.  The regiment was unable to secure its own flanks.  Almond was, indeed, spreading us thin. The inferior force moved on an objective in "two different directions," something the Marine commander would not do at Chosin. At Camp Crawford in Japan, this motto was over one building: "The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer."  While the timeframe to load and land at Inchon was under way, Walker was still short his troops.  He was given no replacements on the line itself, for he had lost the 1st Marine Brigade earlier to X Corps. This latter became a separate command. All of MacArthur's available forces were in Korea, which tipped the scales number-wise in favor of the UN forces in Korea.

Japan was stripped bare of all American ground forces. "Should Moscow or Peking's reaction to Inchon include an overt or covert threat to Japan, there would be no way America could defend Japan."   MacArthur had gambled and won here as well. That neither nation took advantage of the weakened condition and situation in Japan (while no one else in Washington seemed to be overly concerned) was again evidence that no National State of Emergency would be declared at this time of uncertainty. The remarks between President Truman and Premier Stalin over the Port of Dairen should have been revisited for possible intervention by the Soviet Union in moving forces into Hokkaido on or after the Inchon Invasion. Here, it seemed a trade off had been agreed upon concerning Dairen and Hokkaido to accept Japanese surrender there and occupy this northern island.

After World War II, the Soviet Union was going to land forces on Hokkaido. The United States wanted to expand the parallel line upward to the 39th Parallel to include Dairen/Port Arthur.  Surely any movement of military ships above Inchon into the Yellow Sea above the 38th Parallel and into Korean Bay east of China, which was weak in naval forces, could be considered (in my mind) more of an aggressive move toward the Russian shipping zones than the war in Korea itself, particularly given the fact of our stated support for the forces of Generalissimo Chaing-Kai-shek on Formosa.

Militarily, it was madness to have these forces spread all over in that fashion, but it was not the fault of the lowly private in the ranks, nor should it have been. Nevertheless, the mission was carried out with a reduced force.  MacArthur's keen sense of timing proved true one last time. But from there on, something drastic happened to all military planning. Individual commands and lack of timetables were discarded, while the next operation for X Corps was set for October 20 (t would not be executed until October 26) at Wonsan in North Korea. The JCS had their doubts about Inchon. It was asinine for them to believe that Russia would move in Europe and not Japan when the latter was wide open to invasion.

We had neither equipment nor forces in the Far East, nor reserves in the states, to protect Japan. Yet, MacArthur elected to use all forces for Korea, as the JCS had no immediate concern to secure the void left in Japan. In reality, the JCS didn't have a clue as to how they could provide MacArthur with any given number of forces for the Korean Peninsula. There was never a reason in the Korean War explaining or justifying why our forces had to be committed to battle in a piece meal basis. Twenty-four hours (or twenty-four days) would have made little difference to the situation end date.

Russian capability of producing nuclear weapon had more so than ever made Russia a bigger threat to our forces world wide. But without fear, MacArthur left Japan devoid of all American ground forces with the removal of the 7th Division for Inchon. He was firm even at those Congressional Hearings in 1951.  Before the Korean War even began, he believed that the Russian government would not intervene in such a war. While he did not assume or have responsibility directly for Korea in early 1950, his responsibility was to protect Japan at all times. He ended up with both responsibilities and at Inchon won both places. Later, when he was relieved of his Far East Command, he said in a Congressional hearing that, "There is no question about the war being in Korea. There is a great question whether the war would extend some place else. 'You have got a war on your hand's , and you can't say; Let the war go on indefinitely while I prepare for some other war,' unless you pay for it by the thousand and thousand and thousand of American boy's."  The decision and disclaimer that the forces in power did not fully understand the diplomatic repercussion of our move into North Korea itself--and that MacArthur was to blame, was a shift of responsibility from the State Department to a military field commander.  There was no precedent in our constitution to shift such responsibility, JCS or otherwise.

MacArthur had nevertheless taken a tremendous gamble when he left Japan wide open. His prime dispute originated over the safety of his forces and continued over reinforcements and replacements for those on the battlefield. Reinforcements and replacements were reciprocal brothers in inverse proportion to the safety of those forces already facing the enemy on that battlefront. Surely MacArthur had a lot on his mind that eve of the Inchon Invasion.  The stakes were high.  The gamble was his alone. The show was a total MacArthur production; thus, if it failed it would have been entirely his responsibility.

Prior to the landing MacArthur made this statement about the coming invasion:

"That night about half past two, I took a turn around the deck. The ship was blacked out from stem to stern. At their posts and battle stations the crew members were alert and silent, no longer exchanging the customary banter. At the bow I stood listing to the rush of the sea and watched the fiery sparkle's of phosphorescence as the dark ship plowed toward the target, the armada of other craft converging on the same area, all now past the point of no return. Within five hours, 40,000 men would act boldly, in the hope that 100 ,000 others manning the thin defense line in South Korea would not die, I alone was responsible for tomorrow, and if I failed, the dreadful results would rest on judgment day against my soul."

But, Inchon did not fail

MacArthur's "keen sense of timing" proved true one last time. His greatest achievement proved to be his last. It was the "old soldier's" last gift from MARS, that God of War. There were no more in store for him. Yet, MacArthur himself always hated employing his chosen career. In his address to Congress after being relieved of his command, he state, "It has been said that I was, in effect, a war monger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few men living today know it, and nothing to me is more revolting... but once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very objective is victory-not prolonged indecision. In war, indeed, there can be no substitute for victory."

MacArthur's 'victory' over North Korea was achieved with Inchon. The only thing remaining was the capture of Seoul....


[1] And it was never declared. Germany would declare war on the United States, some days later. Recall my redundant fact here in Korea that no State of Emergency was ever issued until 16 December 1950.

[2] "I protested bitterly," Smith said; "'because the regiment was made up of forty percent South Koreans who couldn't speak English." His second dispute and he had not been in any action yet. A pattern has formed here before hitting the beach. a hostile breeding ground has developed for the disorder of the entire command, and hostility of general against general. Here is where "Ego's" would begin to soar.


Author's Background | Prologue | Chapt 1 - Budget War | Chapt 2 - Inchon | Chapt 3 - Capture Seoul
Chapt 4 - Inchon to Pusan | Chapt 5 - Fateful Journey into N Korea | Chapt 6 - Inter-service Rivalry-1
Chapt 7 - Inter-service Rivalry-2 | Chapt 8 - Press Corps | Chapt 9 - Secret/Classified Mission
Chapt 10 - Circumstantial Evidence | Chapt 11 - Mission Change | Chapt 12 - The Tank Withdrawal
MIA/KIA East of Chosin | Postscript | Important Maps | Declassified Documents| Reader Comments

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