Chosin Reservoir - Ray Vallowe Research

Chapter 3 - The Capture of Seoul

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


[Author's Note: A large part of this chapter contains research by Roy Appleman, in the GPO Army history, South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu.]

While I have already stated that Admiral James Doyle and Major General Smith worked well together, prior to the Inchon landing, it appears that the catch word was 'together.'  With Smith ashore, Admiral Doyle worked closely with X Corps Commander Almond on his urgency to land the 7th Division at Inchon. This was three days premature to Smith declaring the beach secure and Almond assuming full X Corps command over all ground forces ashore. While Smith had objected to using the Army's 32nd Infantry Regiment, Almond’s aggressive nature had its own schedule to activate.

During this time, other combat elements of X Corps had arrived to join in the battle for Seoul. On the 16th, the 7th Division arrived in Inchon harbor and Almond encouraged Admiral Doyle to hasten their unloading. General Almond was anxious to get them into supporting positions to block any possible enemy movement from the roads south of Seoul.  Whether Smith knew it, approved it, or didn't, this plan created a buffer zone as a defensive rear guard to block any North Korean forces. It blocked those forces cut off south of Inchon.

The 2nd Battalion of the 32d Regiment landed during the morning of the 18th, and the rest of the regiment landed later in the day. On the morning of 19 September, the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, moved up to relieve the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, in its position on the right flank south of the Seoul highway. It completed the relief without incident by noon. The total effective strength of the 32nd Infantry when it went on line was 5,114 men: 3,241 Americans (63%) and 1,873 (37%) ROKs. Responsibility for the zone south of the highway passed to the 7th Division at 191800 September. During the day, the 31st Regiment of the 7th Division came ashore at Inchon.

Admiral Sherman (JCS) had great concern about the availability of a full Marine division for the landing. However, after President Truman’s approval of the landing, he stated, "It must be assumed that the operation will not be delayed and if two battalions are late, the division will fight without them." [1] This highlights that Smith had no great input over the quantity of his force or their time of arrival, for in spite of Admiral Sherman's urging, the 7th Marines with accompanying troops did not embark from the United States until September 3, reaching Korea on the 21st too late for the landing. So Smith was short one full regiment of his Marines. If he harbored any objection over this, it must have been with Admiral Sherman and the Department of the Navy, not Almond.

On 21 September, two major developments occurred that were to affect future tactical operations. First, the third regiment of the 1st Marine Division--the 7th Marines--arrived in Inchon harbor and began unloading. Second, and more importantly, the command of the land operation passed from Admiral Struble to General Almond who, at 1800 hours, assumed full command of the Seoul operation ashore at the X Corps command post in Inchon. At this time, there were 49,568 persons, 5,356 vehicles, and 22,222 tons of cargo ashore. General Almond assumed full command of all land operations--or so it seemed.

After their failure during the night of 21-22 September to drive a Marine company from its advanced position at the eastern edge of Yongdungpo, the North Koreans apparently abandoned the city before daybreak. The 1st Marines occupied the city the next morning. On the left, they reached the destroyed railroad and highway bridges over the Han River two miles east of Yongdungpo. The 87th Regiment of the North Korean 9th Division and elements of the North Korean 18th Division had defended Yongdungpo. One battalion of the 87th Regiment reportedly suffered 80 percent casualties in the fighting there. Prisoners revealed that this regiment had left Kumch'on on 16 September to reinforce the Seoul area, traveling in trains that hid in tunnels during the day.  It had arrived in the Yongdungpo area on 20 September, barely in time to enter the fight there.

On the 22nd, the 1st Marine Division issued an operations order setting forth its plan for the seizure of Seoul. The plan contemplated that the 1st Marine Division would capture the city. But that same day, General Almond introduced one change in the plan.  He indicated that the ROK Marines and the ROK 17th Regiment were also to be committed to securing the city. Almond stated, "I think that General Smith thought it would be a great accomplishment for the Marine Division single-handed, to capture Seoul but he wasn't in the speed of mind I was." [2]

Securing the Southern Flank

As the 1st Marine Division fought its way along the Inchon-Seoul highway and into Yongdungpo, the 7th Division protected its right flank and engaged and cut off enemy units moving toward the battle area from the south. An extensive minefield delayed the 32nd Regiment on the 20th as it attacked toward Anyang-ni where it was to cut the Seoul-Suwon highway. Exploding mines damaged three tanks of A Company, 73rd Tank Battalion, and completely blocked the narrow dirt road the column was following. Colonel Beauchamp, the regimental commander, had a narrow escape. A mine destroyed his jeep, killing the driver and wounding the radio operator a few minutes after he had left it. Engineer troops removed more than 150 mines from this field. During the day, the regiment captured T'ongdok Mountain and part of Copper Mine Hill. On the 21st, the 32nd Infantry seized the rest of Copper Mine Hill. It also captured the high ground two miles south of Yongdungpo and Hill 300, the high ground immediately northeast of Anyang-ni.

The 7th Division Reconnaissance Company arrived at Anyang-ni at 1430. When darkness fell, the 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry held blocking positions astride the Suwon highway two miles south of Anyang-ni.  The 1st Battalion held the road east and the high ground northeast of the town, and elements of the regimental combat team established contact northward at Toksan-ni with the 2nd Battalion, where the latter had captured a considerable quantity of ordnance and medical supplies.

After arriving at Anyang-ni with the Reconnaissance Company, Maj. Irwin A. Edwards, Assistant G-2, 7th Division, received radio orders from the division to turn south to Suwon and secure the airfield below the town. Approximately at 1600, 2nd Lt. Jesse F. Van Sant, commanding a tank platoon, took the point with his tanks and, followed by the Reconnaissance Company and Major Edwards, started toward Suwon. Naval aircraft bombed Suwon just before they arrived there at 1800, destroying a large wooden structure on top of the ancient great stone wall at its East Gate. Debris from this structure blocked the gateway and forced the company to turn aside to find another entrance into the town. At this point, Lt. Col. Henry Hampton, 7th Division G-3, arrived from Anyang-ni with a platoon of B Company, 18th Engineer Combat Battalion, and joined the group.

Hampton and Edwards, with two enlisted men, led the column through the streets. Near the center of Suwon, the four men surprised two North Korean officers in the act of trying to escape in an American jeep. Edwards shot the driver.  The other officer, a major in the North Korean 105th Armored Division, surrendered. The armored column engaged in some street fighting with scattered groups of enemy soldiers, capturing thirty-seven North Koreans. Three miles south of Suwon, the column went into a perimeter defense astride the highway. Being without maps, it had unwittingly passed the airfield a mile back up the road.

About 2100, a full moon rose and Maj. Gen. David G. Barr, having lost radio contact with the Reconnaissance Company, decided to send an armored force toward Suwon to find it. Colonel Hampton and the platoon of engineers had already loaded into a truck and gone ahead. Task Force Hannum, named after its commander, Lt. Col. Calvin S. Hannum, commanded the 73rd Tank Battalion.  The 73rd started from Anyang-ni at 2125. It was a motorized force, comprised of:  B Company, 73rd Tank Battalion; the battalion Advance Command Group; K Company, 32nd Infantry; C Battery, 48th Field Artillery Battalion; and a medical detachment.  The force hurried south in the moonlight with all possible speed. Lt. Col. John W. Paddock, 7th Division G-2, accompanied it. On the way to Suwon, Colonel Paddock established radio contact with Major Edwards and asked for guides to direct him and his force into the perimeter.

Hannum's armored column reached Suwon near midnight.  They found the East Gate blocked, and turned aside to enter the town from another point through the ancient stone wall that girded the town on that side. Inside the town, an enemy tank hidden behind a building opened fire on the leading American tank, knocking it out with one shot and killing Capt. Harold R. Beavers, the B Company tank commander who was inside it. In the fight that flared in the next few minutes, other American tanks destroyed the Russian T34, but a second enemy tank escaped. Hannum's force tried to follow it, but became lost at the edge of town. Hannum decided to wait for daylight rather than to risk another enemy tank ambush in the darkness.

Meanwhile, Edwards' party in its perimeter south of Suwon heard the sound of tanks northward. Lieutenant Van Sant thought their clatter sounded like T34's, but the others discounted his comments and hastened preparations to send a party to meet Hannum. Major Edwards put a Korean civilian and eight men from the Reconnaissance Company into two jeeps. Colonel Hampton said he would go along and possibly continue on to rejoin the 7th Division headquarters at Anyang-ni. The party started with Edwards driving the first of four jeeps. A mile northward, Edwards saw four tanks approaching in the moonlight. He flicked his lights in a recognition signal for what he thought was Hannum's lead tank. The tank stopped. Then suddenly its machine guns started firing, and it came on toward the halted vehicles. The men jumped from the jeeps and scrambled into the ditches. Colonel Hampton, however, started toward the tank waving his arms, evidently still thinking them friendly. Machinegun fire cut him down and the oncoming tank crunched into Edwards' jeep. Edwards escaped and rejoined the Reconnaissance Company the next morning.

The North Korean tanks rumbled on south, and a few minutes later the first one entered the Reconnaissance Company's perimeter. Just ahead of it, an escapee from the jeep party ran into the perimeter and gave the alarm. The second enemy tank reached the edge of the perimeter. Van Sant gave the order to fire. The American M26 tanks destroyed both T34's at point-blank range of forty yards or less. The other two T34's turned and clattered back toward Suwon.

At daylight, Hannum led his armored column south through the deserted town. Below it, he passed the crushed jeeps and the bodies of Hampton and two or three other men killed there. At midmorning, Hannum's armored force joined the Reconnaissance Company at Suwon Airfield where Major Edwards had moved it and Van Sant's tanks at daybreak. Before noon, Col. Richard P. Ovenshine's 31st Infantry Regiment of the 7th Division (less the 3rd Battalion in division reserve) arrived at Suwon and relieved Task Force Hannum at the airfield. The Reconnaissance Company then reconnoitered south toward Osan. Task Force Hannum rejoined the 7th Division in the Anyang-ni area.

The big event of 22 September was securing Suwon Airfield and opening it to United Nations air traffic. This field, 21 miles south of Seoul, could accommodate the large C-54 transport planes with its 5,200-foot runway.  Meanwhile, seven miles northeast of Anyang-ni, enemy forces succeeded in ambushing the lead platoon of B Company, 32nd Infantry, and badly disorganizing it. Lt. Col. Don C. Faith, Jr., the 1st Battalion commander, withdrew B Company two miles, to the vicinity of Kwanmun-dong, closely pursued by the enemy. There, the battalion checked the North Koreans. During the day, Lt. Col. Charles M. Mount's 2nd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, seized the series of hills from one to two miles south of the rail and highway bridges that crossed the Han into Seoul. On 23 September, the 1st Battalion [Faith’s] captured its objective, Hill 290. This hill, three miles below the Han River and seven miles southeast of Yongdungpo, dominated the approaches to the Han River and Seoul from that direction.

In a pre-dawn attack on the morning of 24 September, Mount's battalion caught North Koreans asleep in their positions and overran them. In this surprise action, the battalion captured a regimental headquarters and much equipment.  It also broke the remaining enemy strength close to the south bank of the river opposite Seoul. During the day, the battalion cleared the south bank of the Han in the fold of the river southeast of the city. This made possible an important action the next morning.

Seoul's Western Rampart

While the 7th Division was securing X Corps' southern flank, the heaviest fighting in the battle for Seoul began at the city's western edge on 22 September and lasted four days. The North Korean defense line at the western edge of Seoul was anchored at the north on Hill 296 just south of the Kaesong highway and west of Seoul's Sodaemun Prison. From the crest of Hill 296, the North Korean line curved in a gentle half-moon eastward and southward down spur ridges two and a half miles to the Han River, the concave side facing west toward the United Nations troops. The greater part of this uneven ridge line was dominated by three hills each 105 meters high, and accordingly known as Hills 105. Hills 105 North and 105 Center lay north of the rail and highway lines running into Seoul along the northern bank of the Han River.  Hill 105 South lay between the rail and road lines and the river. Hills 105 Center and 105 South completely dominated the Pusan-to-Manchuria Kyonggi main rail line and the road that passed through the saddle between them to enter the city. These hills had been a training area for Japanese troops during the period of Japanese domination, and since then for both South and North Korean soldiers. The area was well-covered with various types of field fortifications and susceptible to quick organization for defense. The main railroad station and Government House lay in the center of Seoul two miles east of these positions.

At noon on 23 September, General Smith ordered the 7th Marines, which had begun unloading at Inchon on the 21st, to cross the Han and come up behind the 5th Marines. During the day, X Corps headquarters moved from Inchon to Ascom City, about halfway to Seoul on the main Inchon-Seoul highway. At 2200 on the night of 23 September, the division issued an operations order, confirming earlier verbal orders, directing the 1st Marines to cross the Han River early the next morning.

After daylight on the 24th, elements of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, started down the finger ridge from Hill 296, hoping to outflank the enemy in front of the 2nd Battalion in the center. Simultaneously, D Company moved out in assault against the ridge line. A heavy morning mist shrouded the company as it crossed the low ground and reached the base of Hill 66. Unexpectedly, the lead elements came upon enemy troops in their trenches. Neither side saw the other because of the fog and smoke until they were at close quarters. A grenade battle started immediately.

During the morning of 24 September, the 1st Marines began crossing the Han from Yongdungpo in the shadow of Hill 105 South, where the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, protected the crossing site. Before dark, the regiment had crossed to the north side and the 1st and 2nd Battalions had taken over from the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, the southern flank of the Marine line at the western edge of Seoul. By now the 7th Marines had moved up on the left flank of the 5th Marines, with the mission of cutting across the northern edge of Seoul and blocking escape routes there. The 3rd Battalion of the 187th Airborne Regiment airlifted from Ashiya, Japan, to Kimpo Airfield on the 24th, and upon arrival there assumed responsibility for the airfield.

On the morning of 25 September, two platoons of tanks from B Company, 1st Tank Battalion, including two dozer tanks and a section of flame-throwing tanks, accompanied by a platoon of engineers and another of infantry, set out to join the 1st Marines in Seoul. Near the base of Hill 105 South, an enemy force with several antitank guns ambushed the column. The fighting was heavy and the outcome in doubt for several minutes.

The 32nd Infantry Enters Seoul

Readers of this manuscript need to be aware that each of the following paragraphs are extremely important.  Understanding them is an important prerequisite to understanding the Army experience at the Chosin Reservoir.  The events mentioned in the following eight paragraphs connect to events that happened two months later at the Chosin Reservoir. Readers will also soon see an important declassified Operation Orders concerning the Chosin Reservoir Campaign. [3]

By this time, an important change had taken place in the plan to capture Seoul. The original operations plan required the 1st Marine Division to clear the city, but the expected capture of Seoul by the Marines was moving behind schedule. The stubborn enemy defense had denied the 1st Marine Division any important advance for three days. General Almond grew increasingly impatient. Seoul was a symbol in the Korean War, just as Paris, Rome, and Berlin had been in World War II. It was a political, psychological, and military target. General MacArthur desired to capture the city as soon as possible and restore the Korean capital to its people. [4]

Here began the important change and relationship to the Chosin Reservoir action that occurred on Day One--24 November--a mere two months away. The foundation for the envelopment, destruction, and complete withdrawal of any and all reference to the 31st RCT--their credentials--for involvement in the Chosin Reservoir campaign and history's intentional neglect, begins in the following paragraphs.  The coming events at Chosin were a direct replay of the events at Seoul. In fact, it is my firm opinion that the events at Inchon were a prime reason for removal of orders as written by Colonel Allan D. MacLean. [5]  His written operational orders concerned the relocation of the 32nd Infantry and MacLean’s own 31st RCT.  They originated in South Korea and reappeared again within the North Korean phase of the Chosin campaign. The events at Chosin two months later on the same date of the month were fatal to the 31st RCT. 

The cause and effect of the destruction of the 31st RCT has never been completely revealed or published, except within these research pages posted on the Korean War Educator.  Reminiscent of accusations and disputes still to come at Chosin, note specifically that Almond did not change or interfere with Smith’s division operational orders. However, Almond did issue an ‘ultimatum’ to Smith at Inchon.

Dissatisfied with the Marines' progress, on 23 September General Almond told General Smith that he could continue his frontal assaults, but that he strongly urged him to use the space south of the Han River for an envelopment maneuver by the 1st Marines.  Smith was unwilling to act on Almond's suggestion because he wanted to unite the 1st and 5th Marines on the north side of the Han instead of having them on opposite sides of the river. Almond told Smith that he would give him twenty-four more hours to make headway. If Smith could not, Almond said he would ‘change division boundaries’ and bring the 7th Infantry Division and its 32d Regiment into the battle for the envelopment of the enemy defenses in Seoul. Restating the important point from above, "Smith was unwilling to act on Almond's suggestion." [Author’s note: I have been informed that, in the Marine Corps, a "suggestion" by an officer is interchangeable terminology for an "order." [6]  A disputable question is posed here. Who was officially in charge at that time--Almond or Smith? As is evident, it could not be both. Note as well the suggestion was given directly to Smith. "Even their own General Shepherd afterward challenged the sluggishness of O.P. Smith's move into Seoul: If a man who is in command of a pursuit is someone who likes to have his ranks dressed all the time, you might just as well not pursue." [7]

On the morning of 24 September, the North Koreans still held the Marines at the west edge of Seoul. About 0930 General Almond arrived at 7th Division headquarters and conferred with General Barr, the 7th Division commander; Brig. Gen. Henry I. Hodes, assistant 7th Division commander; and Col. Louis T. Heath, the division chief of staff. Almond told Barr that he had tentatively decided that the 7th Division would attack across the Han River into Seoul the next morning. Almond then returned to his command post and there told Colonel Paik, commander of the ROK 17th Regiment, that he expected to attach his regiment to the 32d Infantry for the attack on Seoul.

His mind now made up, Almond called a commander's conference to meet with him at 1400 at Yongdungpo Circle. Present besides Almond were Generals Smith, Barr, and Hodes; Colonels Forney, (Marine Corps amphibious expert attached to X Corps planning staff) and Beauchamp; and Col. John H. Chiles (Almond’s G-3). In this open-air meeting, Almond quickly told the assembled commanders that he was changing the boundary between the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division [8], and that the 32d Regiment, with the ROK 17th Regiment attached, would attack across the Han River into Seoul at 0600 the next morning. The meeting was brief. At its conclusion, the officers dispersed at once to make their respective plans. [9] 

In the afternoon and evening, X Corps attached the ROK 17th Regiment, the Marine 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion (less one company), and two platoons of A Company, 56th Amphibious Tank and Tractor Battalion, to the 7th Division to support the crossing. [10] Here Smith protested Almond’s action of attaching the Marine units to the 7th Division.  He stated that they were Marine property. Almond’s reported reply was, "They are the property of the United States Government, and I intend to use them." [11]

South Mountain (Nam-san) extended from the river northwest two miles into the heart of Seoul, culminating in a peak 900 feet high--the highest point in the city--about one mile east of the main Seoul rail station. A long, ridge-like, shallow saddle connected this peak with a slightly lower one. On a western finger ridge of the main peak near the 350-foot elevation and only half a mile from the rail station, was a large shrine and a formally landscaped park. From the western base of South Mountain, a long series of steps led up to this shrine and park. Viewing Seoul on a north-south axis, the peak of South Mountain was halfway into the city. Government House lay two miles away at the northern edge of the city. The main highway and rail line running east out of the city passed about a mile beyond the northern base of South Mountain. On this mountain nearly three months before, a company of ROK soldiers had conducted the last action in the defense of Seoul, dying, it has been said, to the last man.

The 32d Infantry's mission was first to seize and secure South Mountain, then to secure Hill 120 situated two miles eastward at the southeast edge of Seoul.  Finally, it was to seize and secure Hill 348, a large, high hill mass five miles east of Seoul that dominated the highway and rail line entering the city from that side. At the time, the regiment had its strength reduced to 4,912 men (5,114) as it prepared for the crossing.  It consisted of 3,110 Americans (3,241) and 1,802 ROKs. (1,873)

Before daybreak of the 25th, General Hodes established an advanced division command post near the river from which he directed the crossing operation. At 0400, General Almond, Admiral Struble, and members of the corps staff departed the X Corps headquarters at Ascom City to watch the crossing of the 32d Regiment. General Barr went forward at 0430 to the 32d Infantry's command post.  An hour later, he and Colonel Beauchamp left for an observation post near the river. At 0600, the 48th Field Artillery Battalion began firing a 30-minute artillery preparation and the heavy mortars joined in to pound the cliffs lining the opposite side beyond the river bank.

Colonel Mount's 2nd Battalion, selected to make the assault crossing, loaded into amphibious tractors in its assembly area and at 0630, F Company started across the Han. A ground fog obscured the river area. The entire 2nd Battalion reached the north bank without loss of personnel or equipment. The 2nd Battalion hurried across the narrow river beach, scaled the 30-to 60-foot cliffs, and moved rapidly to the slopes of South Mountain. An hour after the first troops had crossed the river, the bright morning sun dispersed the ground fog. Air strikes then came in on South Mountain and Hill 120. Apparently this crossing surprised the North Koreans, for their works on South Mountain were only lightly manned.

The 1st Battalion, commanded by Colonel Faith, followed the 2nd across the Han.  At 0830, it started to move east along the river bank toward Hill 120. Just after noon, the 3td Battalion crossed the river and followed the 1st Battalion eastward, passing through it to occupy Hill 120. The 1st Battalion then took a position between the 3rd and 2nd Battalions. The ROK 17th Regiment crossed the Han immediately behind the 3rd Battalion and moved to the extreme right flank of the 32nd Infantry line where, at 2150, it began an all-night attack toward Hill 348. While the rest of the regiment crossed the Han behind it and moved eastward, the 2nd Battalion climbed the slopes of South Mountain, reaching and clearing the summit against moderate resistance by 1500. Once there, it immediately began digging in on a tight perimeter.

The North Koreans did not counterattack South Mountain as quickly as expected. The night passed tensely but quietly for the waiting 2nd Battalion. Finally, at 0430 on the morning of the 26th, the soldiers heard tanks moving about and the sound of automatic weapons fire to their front. In semi-darkness, half an hour later a large enemy force estimated to number approximately 1,000 men violently counterattacked the 2nd Battalion perimeter on top of South Mountain.

On the higher western knob of the mountain, G Company held its position against this attack, but on the lower eastern knob, North Koreans overran F Company. Using all its reserves, Colonel Mount's battalion finally restored its positions at 0700 after two hours of battle, driving the surviving enemy down the slopes. Mount's men counted 110 enemy dead within its perimeter and 284 more outside for a total of 394 enemy killed. They took 174 prisoners.  E Company mopped up enemy troops on the rear slopes of the mountain and in the area at its base near the river. Later in the morning, elements of the 1st Battalion had a sharp engagement in the streets immediately north of South Mountain, capturing there some eighty enemy soldiers who were apparently a remnant of the force that had counterattacked South Mountain.

To the east, on the morning of the 26th, the 1st Battalion engaged in a heavy fire fight while the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Heinrich G. Schumann, advanced from Hill 120 toward Hill 348, four miles farther east. In this advance, L Company saw a large column of enemy troops on the highway leaving Seoul. The company commander, 1st Lt. Harry J. McCaffrey, Jr., seized the opportunity for surprise and immediately ordered his men to attack. His initiative paid off. In the ensuing action, L Company killed about 500 North Korean soldiers, destroyed 5 tanks, destroyed or captured more than 40 vehicles, 3 artillery pieces, 7 machine guns, 2 ammunition dumps, much clothing and POL products, and overran and captured a large headquarters of corps size.  It may have been the principal enemy headquarters in the defense of Seoul.  By mid-afternoon (26 September) the ROK 17th Regiment had captured Hills 348 and 292 dominating the highway four miles east of Seoul. That evening, the 32nd Infantry and the ROK 17th Regiment cleared their zone free from the enemy, and E Company established contact with the Marines on the regimental left at the western base of South Mountain.

About twenty hours earlier, just before midnight of the 25th, General Almond had announced the liberation of Seoul, three months to the day after the North Koreans began the invasion. Almond apparently based his announcement on air reports of North Korean evacuation of the city and the seizure of South Mountain during the day. On the 26th, General MacArthur signed and released United Nations Command Communiqué 9 at 1410, announcing the fall of Seoul. The communiqué said in part, "Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, is again in friendly hands. United Nations forces, including the 17th Regiment of the ROK Army and elements of the U.S. 7th and 1st Marine Divisions, have completed the envelopment and seizure of the city." [12] In subsequent communiqués MacArthur made no mention of further fighting in Seoul, confining comment to combat operations in the Suwon area south of the city.

Here MacArthur ignored any further opposition over the capture of Seoul. However, he gave credit to both elements of the U.S. 7th and 1st Marine Divisions in its capture. This neglect angered the Marines to no end, as did the natural flow of other events overshadowing their efforts at Seoul.  For example, the link up of Eighth Army with the 7th Division X Corps at Suwon, and MacArthur’s confining comment to combat operations in the Suwon area south of the city deprived the Marines of their much sought PR coverage for their division.

Regardless of the varied opinions of who captured Seoul, the 1st Marine Division promulgated the fact that they did it completely by themselves.  They could have filled the spaces used by the 32nd Infantry, and they could then have all the glory. But Smith held them back and Almond changed the game plan--as he did in the upcoming 'cause and effect' of entrapment of the 31st & 32nd Infantry at Chosin. There, too, the Marines missed their chance to review all options open--options, recommended by Almond. But, history does not record the Marine Corps utilizing those options or that, because of that failure to utilize the options at hand, they lost the sole glory of seizing Seoul. The animosity between the egos of Smith and Almond soared to new heights and continued to expand at a rapid rate. Sadly, the 32nd & 31st RCT were committed to the disaster awaiting them at the Chosin reservoir in North Korea.

In hindsight, we should have remained spread out along the 38th Parallel to protect that area and await reaction from China. But, in haste, the ROK Army gave chase immediately across the 38th Parallel into North Korea. The 1st Marine Division had boarded ships at Inchon and was heading toward the northeast coast of Korea, while the 7th Division began a road march to Pusan. The intended integration of X Corps into General Walker’s Eighth Army was aborted and changed by MacArthur.  It was a political move to separate all X Corps forces from his command because the two commands could not share the same territory as separate commands. This also should be kept in mind to fully understand the upcoming Chosin drama.  A boundary line separating Eighth Army from X Corps was of prime importance between these two commands. Once merged, the X Corps would be immediately OPCON to Eighth Army.

Another sad reality of the planning for the Inchon Landing was the common disrespect, jealousy, and dislike of the fact that MacArthur had been given command of the entire operation in the Far East. There were many bruised egos. The disrespect for MacArthur began (and possibly actually never ended from World War II) before the first forces were committed to combat. Such disrespect would have seemed treasonous under the latter war's standards. Thus, it was a new precedent for generals and admirals to jockey for higher positions in matters of their own importance. Still, there were more separate commanders, generals, admirals, commands and commanders--ROKs and all UN forces--placed under MacArthur’s control than before. Certainly each and every commander--more so the ones directly in charge of ground forces--were of the opinion that they had been sacrificed and committed to an action with no reinforcements to back up their actions. Some forces, selected by fate, were the luck of the draw, and found themselves surrounded and overwhelmed by enemy forces, cut off from supply lines, and left to die on the vine. These men could almost predict disaster before they were committed to the action. There was an old adage among the ground forces from wars past which stated, "Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to do or die."

Recalling that the success at Inchon was possible because of the combined efforts of the Eighth Army in holding the Pusan Perimeter against overwhelming odds and without the challenge to top superior authority is a credit, not a disgrace, to the young troops who gave their lives in defense of that perimeter. The obedience of these Army line officers to execute the orders given to them without any rebellion by them, failed to be mentioned or considered in replacing any commander. CG Almond simply replaced those with whom he was not satisfied. One of them was Colonel Richard P. Overshine of the 31st Infantry Regiment.  He was replaced by Colonel Allan D. MacLean. MacLean was transferred from staff duty in Walker’s Eighth Army. "While Almond and Smith were outwardly civil, they grew to hate each other. Smith resented being under any army commander of any sort, and came as close to getting insubordinate as he could be." [13]

Smith’s refusal to accept Almond’s impromptu plan electrified the atmosphere. "Almond was appalled at the tantamount insubordination of Smith’s argumentative refusals. Given Almond’s propensity to relieve subordinates who gave him dissatisfaction, it was obvious that Smith’s globe and anchor saved him from sacking." [14] However, due to past interservice rivalry events of WW II, Almond knew he had to use extreme caution in any consideration to replace General Smith of the Marines, no matter how much he may have wanted to do that. It is evident that, had Smith been an Army officer, Almond would have relieved him yesterday. Almond’s caution and timidity to react at Seoul created a cancer within X Corps--one that grew without treatment in South Korea, and was allowed to grow even larger during the next months. That cancer spread into North Korean operations, and its eventual growth required sacrificing combat units much like severing limbs.  Even though this cancer was diagnosed early, it was allowed to continue its growth without arrest.

The success of the Inchon Landing relieved the pressure on Eighth Army and allowed a link-up of that force with the X Corps at the 38th Parallel. For all intents and purposes, the war was over.  The North Korean Army south of the 38th Parallel had been defeated. The X Corps could be deactivated, or, as intended, be made a part of Eighth Army. But fate and politics had much more in store for these forces in North Korea on the closing days of November and in early December of 1950.

Inchon -- the forces involved

The United States X-Corps numbered less than 70,000 men. Included as its major units were the 1st Marine Division, minus its 7th Regiment; the 7th Infantry Division, minus its 17th Regiment; the 92nd and 96th Amphibious Tank and Tractor Battalion; the 19th Engineering Combat Group; and the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade.  The 187th Regimental Combat Team from the 11th Airborne Division, en route on September 6, with about 4,400 men, arrived on September 20. 

The 7th Marine Regiment arrived on September 21, as did the displaced 17th Regiment of the 7th Division. The 1st Marine Division had a strength of 25,040 men.  Included were some 2,760 attached Army forces and some 2,786 Korean Marines. With the arrival of the 7th Marine Regiment, another 4,000 men were added.  The 7th Infantry Division had approximately 10,000 men.  Of this group of men, one third were at Chosin as players within that drama yet to come, inclusive of ROKs minus the 17th Infantry Regiment in floating reserve off Pusan some 180 air miles in the sea of Japan. An exercise for North Korea yet to come, that regiment was an equal road mile distant between Task Force MacLean and Faith, they being on the Yalu River.  The latter forces were at the Chosin Reservoir.

The cost in lives

The Inchon-Seoul victory cost the United Nations forces approximately 3,500 casualties. The 7th Infantry Division suffered 572 battle casualties, including 106 killed, 409 wounded, and 57 missing in action. Of the total, 166 were ROK soldiers integrated into the division. Within the division, the 32nd Regiment lost 66 killed, 272 wounded, and 47 missing. [15] The total accounting here includes the ROK force--as it should.  They were "attached" to the 7th Division as fillers, not as separate individual units. Note as well that the Army doesn’t list those who died of wounds received. The time space between those casualties would be hard to gauge without reference of some kind.

The percentage rating for "The Inchon-Seoul victory"

  1. Total 7th Division = 572 (100%)
  2. America’s 106 KIA (18.53%) - 409 WIA (71.5%) - 57 MIA (09.6%)
    [Note no breakdown on the ROK’s (KIA’s, WIA’s, or MIA’s).]
  3. The heaviest losses in X Corps occurred in the 1st Marine Division, which suffered total casualties of 2,383 men*-364 killed, 53 who died of wounds, 1,961 wounded, and 5 missing. Marine losses were heaviest for the six days from 21 to 27 September. During that time it suffered 1,482 battle casualties, the greatest single day's loss being 285 on 24 September. [16]
  4. Total-- 1st Marines = 2,383 (100%)*, 364 KIA (15.3%), 53 DOW (02.2%), 1,961 WIA (82.3%) - 5 MIA (.02%)

[Appleman, fn.66] X Corps WD, 30 Sep 50; 7th Div WD, Narr, 30 Sep 50; 32d Inf WD, 30 Sep 50; 1st Mar Div SAR, vol. I, p. 50, and an. A, G-1 Sec, p. 6; Smith, MS review comments, 25 Feb 54. In a letter to the author, 13 February 1954, General Smith claimed the 1st Marine Division suffered 2,430 battle casualties in the Inchon-Seoul operation. Montross and Canzona, The Inchon-Seoul Operation, page 297, gives Marine causalities as 366 KIA, 49 DOW, 6 MIA, and 2,029 WIA, for a total of 2,450. *The figure 2,383 is that given in Marine G-1 records cited.

In the above, the Marine Division G-1 was responsible for the accounting of all personnel in that division. Their records should be considered an ‘accurate one’ at the time they publish them. Appleman used those G-1 numbers. The Marines had three different numbers. Why the discrepancies? Why are the other two unofficial ones listed?

Since it marked a turning point in the Korean War, the middle of September 1950 is a good time to sum up the cost in American casualties thus far. From the beginning of the war to 15 September 1950, American battle casualties totaled 19,165 men. Of this number, 4,280 men were killed in action, 12,377 were wounded (of whom 319 died of wounds), 401 were reported captured, and 2,107 were reported missing in action. The first fifteen days of September brought higher casualties than any other 15-day period in the war--before or after--indicating the severity of the fighting at that time. [17]  On October 1, 1950, South Korea was secure. Its government was reestablished. The 38th Parallel was again in friendly hands, The American forces had won what was lost. For the moment, the war was over.


[1] Here: Smith would accept the 32nd as replacement for the 7th Regiment of the Marines.

[2] At Chosin, Smith had three days of delay. Two days longer than here at Seoul.


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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