Chosin Reservoir - Ray Vallowe Research

Chapter 4 - From Inchon to Pusan into North Korea

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: Chapter 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.]

On August 26, 1950, the X Corps was established and activated under the direct command authority of General Edward (Ned) Mallory Almond by General Order #24. Thereafter, the constant speed of Almond would shine forth. On September 21st, he assumed full and complete control ashore as Operation Chromite ceased to be an amphibious operation. It then became an inland ground command force, and Almond was in charge of that force as the corps commander. He exercised complete control of the mission from there on in, or (once again) so it seemed.  What really happened to his superior authority in the military planning after the Inchon landing is hard to imagine. Regretfully, all controversy revolved around this X Corps commander and the individual commander of the 1st Marine Division. The problem itself requires some deep analysis of the situation as it existed between the Army and the Marine Corps at the time.

That some natural hostility existed between these two military branches of the armed forces is understandable to some degree. In World War II, the Marine role was one of amphibious operations. But the Corps was entirely too small in force size or divisional strength to invade and secure a beachhead on every island that was required to be invaded. That necessity therefore required that several combat Army divisions also be updated and trained to duplicate and become proficient in amphibious assaults, as well as retain their own combat roles as complete land assault forces. This additional amphibious training placed Army forces over and above the Marine Corps' primary mission, therefore diminishing the Marine role somewhat in future conflicts. Likewise, this also diminished some of the glory given solely to the Marine Corps. (Army-combined amphibious landings on D-day June 6, 1944 in the European Theater exceeded on that one day alone the entire landings by Marine Corps divisions in the entire Pacific Theater.)  The Army ended World War II with a total of 28 amphibious divisions, while the Marine Corps never had more than six. The 28 Army divisions were doing what the Marine forces were solely and specifically trained to do. Each Army division assaulted and secured its own beachhead, then secured its own sector of whatever island had been assigned to it. All four of the occupation divisions stationed in Japan on the starting date of the Korean War had some amphibious trained men.

MacArthur used the Marines during the Inchon Invasion because he had to utilize every force he could muster. His plan for an amphibious landing had not been approved as such in using them. He was therefore required to structure his amphibious landing plan without them. [1] In his book Reminiscences, MacArthur stated that then Chief of Staff Omar Bradley was against amphibious operations because he considered them long obsolete. Bradley stirred up a storm when he called Navy personnel (including the Marines) "Fancy Dan’s." [2] President Truman was likewise opposed to using the Marines as a major unit of our armed forces. See his reference to "A Propaganda Machine" [3]

The very first dispute about the creation of X Corps was the choice of its commanding general. General MacArthur picked his own Chief of Staff, but General Almond also remained as his Chief of Staff, in essence wearing two hats. Still, it was implied that once the Inchon landing was over and a link between X Corps and Eighth Army was complete, full command of X Corps would then pass over to General Walton Walker. After the JCS reviewed the information from General Collins and Admiral Sherman, the plan was approved for the Inchon landing.  The X Corps was born and formed for action under the command of Almond (1892-1979).  It was said of him that he was one of the most controversial officers in the Korean War and that he was  especially detested by the Marine officers who served under his direct command.

It seems inevitable that from its very creation the X Corps was cursed with animosity between the Army and Navy-Marine units. But it should also be highlighted that X Corps was only one of three corps (I- IX & X Corps) employed in the Korean War.  The Marine Corps contribution to the Korean War involved only one single (reinforced) division in Korea. The X Corps under Almond was unfortunately assigned that one Marine Division, it being linked directly to the Army on the X Corps organizational chart, the same as the 7th and 3rd Infantry Divisions. The three ROK (Corps) divisions were also OPCON to Almond as well.

In North Korea, the Marines Corps had to share its portion of the blame. While we are in the process of picking and confirming any general for command in Korea, we should focus on the Corp's general, Oliver P. Smith (1893-1977).  Many degrading remarks have been made about the Army occupation forces being green troops.  Yet the Marine Corps had a green general placed in charge of his first divisional command. He was required to rapidly form the 1st Marine Division for Korea. This was in contrast to General Almond's record of commanding the 92nd Infantry Division in the Italian campaign during World War II.

So, some blame is directly due to the Marine selection of its own divisional commander, as well as Smith's objections to and delaying attitude to activate his X Corps orders on schedule. His much-reported, understandable, yet unjustified dislike for Almond filtered down to the lowest line forces as well. This was, indeed, an unfortunate situation.  As I record, and as history itself records, it was a deadly one, especially for the 31st Infantry RCT at Chosin.

General Smith directly challenged Army orders, including orders from GHQ (General Headquarters) in Tokyo sent to X Corps G-3.  G-3 staff also included some Marine personnel. Therefore, the final draft of any operation order (pending General Almond's approval) was then passed on to Smith via General Almond's direct authority. Any refusal to act on those orders was in direct defiance of the X Corps commander himself.

At Seoul, Almond compromised with Smith.  That was a huge mistake.  He should not have, as the problem involved several more Marine objections and X Corps compromise in North Korea as well. This formed an increasing pattern of demand for more compromise to come. In the main event at Chosin, there was no time for any more compromise. It was high noon at Chosin, and time had completely ran out. There was no more time for further delays.  The resulting change of American forces proved to be deadly. There were enough enemy forces around to vent one's anger on, so there was no reason whatsoever for General Smith to blame other Americans or United Nations forces for a screw-up he himself had helped to create.

That this Marine commander did not like the Inchon landing site, the upcoming Wonsan landing site, or his inland mission at Chosin was well-recorded in accounts by Ridgway, Hammel, Blair, Knox, and Appleman. [4] These writers all reflected Smith’s attitude about his missions.  He behaved as if he stood alone--as if the Army division commander did not face the same challenges that Smith's division faced: waging this budget war with far, far less men, less equipment and ammo, and less food supplies than the Marine commander had to face it with his one reinforced division in Korea. The Marine Corps' one division was supplied directly through the Department of The Navy.

Even from the very creation of X Corps, it seemed the order of the day that every effort be made to pacify and glorify the Marine units, even to the extent of disregarding those Army units involved in the same campaign. Indeed, in many cases mention of those Army units was not mentioned at all, especially Task Force MacLean, the battle of Heartbreak Ridge, or to imply that other Army actions were solely Marine actions instead of being a United States Army or a United Nations combined action.

In the taking of Seoul, it was reported and implied (by Marines) that it was a sole marine operation.  Yet the Marines felt slighted in the taking of Seoul because they were not given full credit for it. The 32nd Infantry Regiment seized the highest point--South Mountain, which overlooked Seoul itself. That high ground, like Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, received high press coverage as a symbol.  Had the Marines taken it, they would have placed an American flag on top of it. The Army is never really concerned with symbolic notoriety. [5] The important point here is that Seoul was returned immediately to the Republic of Korea government and its people.  Restoring their government was the sole purpose for our American forces liberating South Korea for the second time within five years after World War II. One point of no vital interest is that the 32nd Regiment of the 7th Division had invested over three years after World War II guarding Seoul before being pulled out to relocate in Japan.

Does it really matter who took Seoul the first time? After all, it was lost again within six months. The most important time was the second time.  Then, the United Nations Forces held it and the ROKs walked right in. Frankly, I don't believe the Army really cares if the Marines are given credit for both of these. The Army is entirely too big of a force to be concerned with one individual battle by one individual division, even though that division's historian notes each event.

I was in the 1st Cavalry before I was transferred into the 7th Division. I was updated on the 1st Cavalry pride in being first in Manila and first in Tokyo during World War II. They are only two of many collective battle streamers on their Cavalry divisional flag pole. It is a matter of pride for them, but of no real concern for those men who never served with that division. The Army soldier serving with the 2nd Division in Europe during World War II could care less about amphibious operations in the Pacific.  They had their own involvement in the Atlantic amphibious operations there.

The Army history, Ebb and Flow by Billy C. Mossman was published in 1990, one year prior to the declassification of Operational Orders #23 and #24.  These two orders are now available from the National Archives.  It covers the time frame between November 1950 and July 1951, but lacks the latest information on updated events at the Chosin Reservoir.  The author of Ebb and Flow placed more emphasis on the Chosin Reservoir action from the Marine Corps viewpoint and Marine sources than from Army sources.  For example, the book relies on USMC General Smith's notes and chronicles as sources, rather than on the "hidden" facts that actually exist about the Army force of MacLean-Faith. [6] The Marine Corps history of the Chosin Reservoir was written and released in 1957.  It, too, lacks updated events about the Korean War that are forgotten to history.  In neither publication was sufficient space given to detail the many extra events associated with the six or more Army divisions that served in the Korean War.

General Smith's many interviews and notes stand alone in the history of Korea.  They reflected his contempt for the Army forces fighting there, showing through in his remarks about "Army Jokers" in his reference to the survivors of Task Force Faith. Still more degrading remarks can be attributed to the Marine Public Relations officer serving with the Marine Division. His interest in highlighting Marine achievements, whether true or not--is of no real concern.  But as the years passed, the expansion of combative remarks that were directed at Task Force Faith and at Faith himself, seems to me to have crossed over the line. [7]

One must consider the source: a PR Marine captain criticizing a Lt. Colonel of the Army.  Where did he get his model Marine officer’s obedience to his own orders? Certainly not from any supportive knowledge of General Smith’s conduct in obeying his orders.  However, Smith had ordered Drysdale’s column forward at all costs.  Certainly there was no latitude there to a lower commander's judgment on his own situation. To my knowledge, no Marine disputes the fact that General Smith delayed moving his division forward on schedule, nor do any defend Smith’s own delaying tactics as a direct cause for saving the 1st Marine Division. Indeed, in the book, The Gentle Warrior, its author quoted a source about Smith’s delaying tactics.  He said, "It is generally agreed that his leadership saved the First Division at Chosin.  It is not generally known that one reason that the division could be saved was that General Smith disobeyed orders...." [8]

Most veteran organizations have a code of honor which decrees that one veteran does not degrade other men or divisions, the exception being to educate and eliminate fatal mistakes in combat from happening again. However, to do that, those mistakes have to become public knowledge within the military branches of the service. Other than that, praise your own unit all you want, but leave the other divisions to their own history as they record it, even General Smith's recorded earlier remarks around Seoul about Yongdungpo. "O.P Smith, with typical Marine pride, blamed the annoying delays on the fact that the quality of the 7th Division was in no way comparable to that of the First Marine Division." [9] God, one could only hope that were true--that the quality of the First Marine Division would be at least a little better than an American infantry division with some 8,000-plus (38%) untrained ROK's attached.

But was General Smith correct in his criticism of the 32nd Infantry Regiment? (Remember--he didn’t want them involved in the first place.) But, as Army history records about Yongdungp’o, the 32nd Infantry had a minefield to clear, and it was also spreading its forces thin by advancing towards Suwon, 20 miles south of Seoul to protect the Marine division rear from the south. Here is my example of a RED FLAG. General Smith blamed "the annoying delays" of his assigned mission on the 7th Division. [10] However, the truth is, the 32nd Regiment was only inserted in his zone to offset his own delay. Echoes of Chosin yet to come.

Yet, the Marine command consistently felt the need to point out Army deficiencies to the press. To what end? Was it merely damage control to divert attention away from their own delays and mistakes? Even 40 some years later, the Marine Public Relations Officer could not resist the urge to criticize the Army officers, degrading Lt. Colonel Faith’s Medal of Honor. Indeed, one other Marine intelligence officer who was at Chosin stated some 50 years after the event that it would have been more humane for our Army "senior" officer to have surrendered the entire remainder of Task Force Faith to the Chinese forces. One can only wonder why that would even be suggested, if not for damage control. [11] Those comparisons merely raise a RED FLAG, calling direct attention to that event. Why would these Marine officers feel so insecure and defensive about their own division? Was the press corps biased in favor of the Marines? One should hold that thought until one has read all the facts in the upcoming "Frozen Chosin" drama. Then one may form a true picture of the reality.

After Inchon

The Marine landing on the 15th of September, with two regiments of the 7th Division following a few days, preceded the landing of the 7th Marine Regiment (arriving on the 21st) by three days.  The 32nd Regiment landed on the 18th.  Out-loading from ships at Inchon meant a long road march toward Suwon twenty miles south. The mission assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment was to relieve the 32nd units holding the airstrip at Suwon. The road march was stifling hot and dusty as the rear trucks debarked and raced forward to catch up with and supply the infantry troops. The smell of human fertilizer was everywhere, and particularly pungent after the men were used to the sea breezes of the ocean trip.  Added to this unpleasantness was the sight and smells of bloated bodies littering the roadside, rotting and burning flesh.  They were new sights and smells that turned one's stomach and created a foul taste in the mouth.

The realization of combat hit us suddenly.  This was for real. Burning buildings and huts created smoke to almost choke off our breath. It was an overwhelming experience, but one that we realized had to be put behind us, for it was only the first day and there were hours of more destruction to come in the months ahead. We bivouaced overnight in a pepper patch, digging in for the night and seeking whatever rest we could prior to the next day's advance to Suwon. But sleep was evasive as our minds reeled to discredit what our eyes had seen that day.

Several truck convoys formed as trucks with attached howitzers that had been delayed by loading delays in Japan become available. We had to seek out those belonging to our units, our wire supplies had to be located to establish and setup switchboards and run lines for telephone service between the fire direction center and the CP headquarters, and then lines had to be set in place to each firing battery. 

Suwon was a walled, gated city.  The airstrip had already been secured by elements of the 32nd Regiment without too much trouble. Our artillery was located near the flat space along the runway. One pilot landing on the airstrip erroneously peppered the field with machinegun ammo. Our commander, Colonel Embree, was going to ream him a new one, but the pilot happened to be a full bird colonel--a rank above our commander.  As no one was hurt, no more was made of it. It was our first event with friendly fire, and there was more of it in store for us as our time in Korea progressed.

Rapid link-up completed the action as the 1st Cavalry Division moved northwest out of the Pusan perimeter. Some friction developed here as well over harassing artillery fire missions between the incoming link-up with the 1st Cavalry and the 7th Division. The 1st Cavalry commander asked us, "What the hell are you guys firing at?" Our reply was that we were firing harassing missions to keep the enemy on edge. The veteran 1st Cavalry brass didn't take kindly to that explanation, stating that they had traveled at rapid speed to get here; they were tired and needed rest; and the one thing they didn’t need was a harassing mission from our very own artillery.  The firing missions were aborted.

Once the area was secured, the 1st Cavalry continued forward under orders from General Walker.  For three long months, the Eighth Army had been bearing the whole burden of the fighting. The fresh troops were in X Corps.  Then, an illogical order fouled up the next movement.

Syngman Rhee had re-established his government in South Korea and authorized his ROK Division forces to be in hot pursuit of the North Koreans fleeing north of the 38th Parallel.  The battle for North Korea was underway. At this point, some reason should have prevailed.  What was the hurry? There was no immediate urgency to invade North Korea. Unlike our rush into the war, there was no immediate need to cross the 38th Parallel.  That was proven in the two-week delay for X Corps to follow. We could well have allowed time to study supply needs and oriented troops about the country and conditions in North Korea.  But that did not happen.  As a result of our haste, we suffered devastating losses.

During those two weeks, the 1st Marine Division was pulled out of Korea the same way they entered--through Inchon harbor via ships. By that time, the port of Inchon had become a combination depot/dock facility.  With the move north of the 38th Parallel a reality, much-needed supplies were required to support the Eighth Army.  The tide timetable caused Inchon to be limited in its ability to provide supplies in rapid fashion. General Walker was not pleased with the limited dock facilities and had to decide on priorities.  Was it to be troops leaving or was it to be incoming ammo arriving to sustain the war effort?

General Walker was still in charge of the ROK’s moving into North Korea. Apparently some balance was worked out, but Eighth Army was slightly pissed over the fact that the Marine tie up at Inchon interfered with the transport of their supplies. In hindsight, it would have been better to have shipped the Marines out of the area and back to the States all together. [SOURCE?] Here was also another problem of delay by MG Smith in his division departing Inchon. He did not wish to be there in the first place, and then he attempted a delay in leaving. In an interview, General Almond made the following statements about MG Smith’s attitude on his orders:

"The periods in which he had feelings, to my certain knowledge, in order here mentioned:" [12]

1) "In the planning for the Inchon Landing General Smith thought it was impossible, and certainly impossible of execution in September, and maintained this position until General Almond offered to substitute for the 7th Marine Regiment the 32nd Infantry Regiment, two battalions of which had had amphibious training. This brought General Smith to his senses and he finally decided that the landing might be made after all."
2) "There was his objection to the manner of execution of the landing at Inchon.
3) "Then came his objection to plans for the capture of Seoul."
4) "He objected to the outloading of Marines on 7 October, among other reasons, stating that his own supplies had to be abandoned and when I questioned what supplies he referred to, he began to describe whereupon I demanded to see what he meant and found a warehouse full of steel clothes lockers which had been brought from Japan for the service of the Marines after the landing, when General Smith, and everyone involved, knew that ship space was at a great premium. In spite of this General Smith brought material useless for the landing operations in the form of steel clothes-lockers."

I list above only the first four of seven statements that Almond made about Smith.  The four deal directly with Inchon.  The following three other statements will be listed once again in this study, at such time as they enter into the picture.

5) When the Japanese Stevedores struck at WONSAN about 25 October, General Smith objected to using any part of his combat troops to unload his own supplies, in spite of the fact that this was the only possible way to accomplish the operation; he wanted a "written order" before he would comply and he got it!
6) He objected to the advance against the enemy in the vicinity of the CHOSIN Reservoir area in the effort of the X CORPS to comply with Orders from General MacArthur;
7) He had many other objections on numerous other occasions, which an interview with the undersigned could establish

In my opinion, it is most unwise to quote General Smith on such matters as he has been quoted without affording rebuttal opportunities to those in opposition to his estimate, namely, the combat commanders concerned."

The 1st Marine Division was ordered back to the Port of Inchon to load ships there.  On 29 September, General MacArthur assigned his priority to the outloading at Inchon for the 1st Marine Division. On 3 October, X Corps ordered the Marine division to initiate movement to an assembly area in Inchon. On 4 October, General Almond issued a Corps order for the projected operations at Wonsan. The 1st Marine Division had the mission of seizing a Corps base of operations, while the 7th Infantry Division was to start an attack west to join with Eighth Army in front of P'yongyang.

By 6 October, the 1st, 5th, 7th, and 11th Marines had virtually completed their movement to Inchon. As it assembled at Inchon for outloading, the 1st Marine Division numbered 23,591 men, with 40 U.S. Army troops and 4,516 Korean Marines attached, for a total of 28,147. (Of special note is the fact that those Korean Marines were just under one half of the untrained ROK’s attached to the 7th Division.) The X Corps reverted to GHQ Reserve at noon on 7 October at that time, and Eighth Army assumed responsibility for the Inchon-Seoul area. The X Corps was not united in force until 29 October, which was another three weeks later.

The forces began loading at Inchon on the 9th and continued to 16 October, when all X Corps loading at Inchon was completed.  The 1st and 3d Battalions of the 1st Marines went aboard their LSTs on 10 October, and were in these cramped quarters for sixteen days before they again went ashore. Ten LSTs were reserved at Inchon for the 7th Infantry Division's tanks and heavy equipment. However, during this time frame, the U.S. Eighth Army was already crossing the 38th Parallel in the west and was fighting its way north. But all of this was of no big concern to the 7th Division.  What the Marine division was doing was also none of our business.  We had our own problems.  Instead of moving forward, we received orders to form another road march southeast towards the port of Pusan. While the I Corps of Eighth Army was driving into North Korea on the P'yongyang axis and the 1st Marine Division was loading at Inchon, the 7th Infantry Division was assembling at Pusan to outload there in the X Corps amphibious movement to northeast Korea. On 30 September the division had been relieved of its responsibilities in the Seoul area and its units began to shift south and southeast to the Inchon and Suwon areas preparatory to the long, overland move to Pusan.

The 7th Infantry Division was ordered (via train and truck) southeast to the Port of Pusan.  On 4 October, Eighth Army indicated the route it wanted the 7th Division to take through its zone, specifying the road through Ch'ungju, Hamch'ang, Kumch'on, Taegu, and Kyongju to Pusan, a road distance of 350 miles from Inchon. At Taegu, the troops were to load on trains for the final part of the journey, whereupon the trucks were to return to Suwon and Inchon for others. The 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry, led the 7th Division movement at Inchon at 0350 5 October, with the rest of the regiment following. The command group of the 32d Infantry led the movement of that regiment through Inchon four hours later.

The 17th Regiment remained at Inchon, holding its blocking position there until relieved on 8 October, and it then began the motor movement to Pusan. Both the 31st and 32d Regiments closed at Pusan on 7 October. On 8 October the 7th Division command post closed at Anyang-ni and opened at Pusan, although most of the headquarters was still on the road. [13]

The 7th Division movement to Pusan was not entirely without incident. On two occasions enemy forces ambushed convoys in the mountains near Mun'gyong. The first ambush caught the head of the 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry at 0200 on 6 October, and inflicted nine casualties.  The second ambush at 0230 on 9 October caught the division headquarters convoy in the pass three miles northwest of Mun'gyong. Enemy machinegun fire killed six men and destroyed several vehicles. Elements of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry succeeded in clearing the pass area that afternoon. Thereafter, that battalion patrolled the pass above Mun'gyong until it was relieved on 11 October by the 27th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Division.

The division artillery was the last major unit to leave Inchon, clearing there at 1700 on 10 October. It and the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry arrived at Pusan on 12 October to complete the division movement to the port. About 450 division troops had been airlifted on 11 October from Kimpo Airfield to Pusan. In addition to the 7th Division, the X Corps Medical, Engineer, Ordnance, Transportation, Quartermaster, Chemical, and Signal units moved overland to Pusan for outloading. Altogether, in seven days approximately 1,460 tons of supplies and equipment and 13,422 troops had moved overland in division vehicles and those of the 52nd Truck Battalion. Note also that the number of troops that moved via division vehicles was 10,169 less than the Marine troops that left via sea.

At Pusan, we bivouacked and awaited further orders.  Rumors were rampant of our returning to Japan. South Korea was secure and its government was back in power. As far as we were concerned, this war was over. We could honor our dead, and the occupation troops who had their enlistments extended for one extra year could perhaps return to the states. But such was not in the cards.  The deck was being reshuffled while we waited, and a new game was about to begin. So we waited and accumulated supplies.  We received no winter gear at that time because it was mid October.  It was not cold yet, although the sea breezes cooled off the nights. We were again in a pepper path and dried out rice paddies around the Pusan area.

There was a lull in battle in the interval between October 8th and the 26th.  X Corps could have and should have used the time constructively to seek information on our lost and missing in action forces. The 7th Division as structured with the many ROK's could have been utilized and of immeasurable value to search the countryside for those lost Americans. Small units could have been disbursed with South Koreans as interpreters to check out those areas fought over prior to their withdrawal into the Pusan perimeter. Our units had been in the Osan area, which was the area of Task Force Smith's first battle.  It was the very same area where General Dean disappeared after his withdrawal from Taejon with the rest of the 24th Division.  The men lost there could have been accounted for had they been sought out. But, that did not happen.

Near Pusan, while those MIA's were never recorded, our division bivouacked in rice paddies that had been dried out from the late summer drought. Then we boarded ships and for the following nine days we had to deal with cramped conditions, boredom, and nervous energy. The urgency to invade North Korea seemed of prime concern.  However, in reality there was no urgency at all.

It should have been a strong requirement on the South Korean government newly re-established in Seoul to seek information on all MIA's--American as well as their own. Yet, the prime concern was to pursue the North Korean Army--decimated by then--across the parallel. Their independent action to do that was not sanctioned at that time by the UN.  It was an outstanding fact that South Korea was never a member of that world body. Their disregard of that body and its set military commitment to them should have been under the command of MacArthur and weighed as to the effects of that invasion of North Korea. After all, it just gave credence to the initial propaganda claim that South Korea had invaded North Korea first on June 25th, 1950. The reality was that North Korea could not explain how the "defending" army got so deep into the "invading" army's territory in such a short time.

The result was that our forces were scattered, the Eighth Army having changed places with X Corps. Walker was on the 38th Parallel awaiting full control of both his forces and X Corps, as promised. X Corps was half out to sea-the Marines, and the 7th Division was en route to Pusan to await the next command for movement. As the ground force, we had no idea whether it was back to Japan or into North Korea. We were merely pawns in this "greatest of all games men play"--war, to be moved as X Corps G-3 staff was ordered to move us. So we waited and checked and rechecked our weapons, and boredom increased. The NCOs had more duties of minor detail such as trips to supply points with work details to pick up various items like food and clothing, extra telephone units, reels of wire.  At least these details broke the boredom caused by the monotony of the daily routine "hurry up and wait."

We waited and waited, with no word of our coming adventure and disaster. We were ready to return to Japan.  Our little taste of combat had made us official combat veterans with the ability to debunk the gory stories of glory in battle. Only a true idiot could crave more of the carnage that is labeled as war. But whatever it was, more of it was in store for all of the American forces located in South Korea poised to cross over the line into North Korea. Our nervous energy may have been only a premonition of doom yet to surface.

As General Walker assumed command and responsibility of Seoul on October 7, and the 7th Division moved via road and rail into the Pusan area, our move into North Korea took center stage. The drama about to be played out there was yet to unfold.  An upcoming 13,000 casualties in North Korea were still in various positions below the 38th Parallel on that date. General Walker was still on the parallel line separating the two governments of Korea. He was highly irritated over the changes created by the link-up of both Eighth Army and the X Corps. He had understood that he was to be in command of all forces in Korea under one united command. One command, under one commander, and staff planner as Ridgway would later have.  But as I previously stated, that did not happen during Walker's remaining lifetime.

As Walker fumed over "MacArthur's Pet's," the 7th Division was not a problem for him.  We were already road-bound south as he took charge. However, the Marines were clogging the port at Inchon. The port became a one-way, two-way highway. Supplies arrived for Eighth Army through this port, so it had to remain as the main source of supply for Walker’s forces moving ever northward into North Korea. But the Marines of X Corps had to be pulled out via Inchon as well. Walker had just recovered from losing the 1st Marine Brigade a month earlier.  Now he was stymied over the fact that their departure from Inchon took priority over his incoming supplies. Little, if any, consideration had been given to his efforts and needed relief and rest for his forces, many of whom had been on line since July 5th--a full three months of front line fighting. X Corps had only been exposed to combat for three weeks.  Some compromise should have been in order for Walker's forces to even the playing field, as in X Corps being substituted for some of Eighth Army. Perhaps that would have been the case had Walker been in charge.

Within this interim between Almond turning over control to Walker on September 21 to October 7, the ROKs whether under United Nations command or not had launched their forces into North Korea. Who officially authorized that move is not recorded to my knowledge. South Korea's government under President Rhee had been reestablished one week before, but his authority as head of that government in regard to any "hot pursuit" doctrine of following the North Koreans into their territory before any United Nations forces moved across the parallel has been debated. When Rhee allowed this pursuit, MacArthur lost direct control of the South Korean forces as such.  Rhee committed his forces without sanction of a United Nation vote. Had his forces been hit by a heavy resistance from either the North Koreans or the Chinese, the outcome may have been different. But history doesn’t record that--only that our American forces were reassigned into North Korea.

The South Korean (ROK) I Corps 3rd Division traveled from Pusan to Wonsan in just 11 days, and after securing Wonsan on October 11, turned back toward the northwest and the Chosin Reservoir area. Two weeks later on the same date that the Marines landed unopposed at Wonsan, the ROK I Corps 26th Division moved through Hamhung, Oro-ri, and Majon-dong to Sudong-ni just below Koto-ri. There they met strong resistance from two regiments of the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) 124th Division.  The Marines were ordered to come up from behind a few days later and relieve the ROK forces. Between October 27-31, the Chinese first phase was launched.

A fresh CCF Division of the 126th that belonged to the 42nd CCF Army crossed the bridge across the Yalu River at Manpojin. The Chinese presence was already in the Chosin area, and as the Marines relieved the ROKs, they engaged the enemy at Sudong-ni.  But the Chinese suddenly broke contact and disappeared into the countryside.  That tactic was a plan pre-set by the enemy.

The harbor at Wonsan was cleared before the Marines arrived, and a new port of supplies for X Corps was established as a result. Later, it was moved into Hungnam a little further north of Wonsan between Wonsan and Iwon.  The move gave X Corps the advantage of three separate ports to obtain supplies. The clearing of the Wonsan harbor had been a massive job. It was reported that some 2,000 mines of all kinds had lined the harbor.  Because the Navy suffered from a lack of mine sweepers, clearing it in record time was not possible. Even though it was known to be heavily mined on September 4, it took until October 26 to clear the harbor. The delay also brought with it colder weather, for within two more weeks the icy Manchurian winds began to blow.

Had this time delay happened at Inchon, the total plan would have fallen apart.  What happened in North Korea was a complete loss of time objectives. Every objective there seemed to be delayed.  But the exception to the rule was the 7th Division. They did not remain idle for long. Almond had been busy locating another site for us to land.  It was Iwon, 100 miles up the coast from Wonsan.  That meant rearrangement for the division already aboard ships.  Orders were changed from our organizational loading to combat loading for assaulting a hostile landing site that was not at the time fully known to be clear of enemy forces.

But there, too, events were delayed. While aboard ship, the Marines were temporarily removed from Almond’s command. The 7th Division forces who had not started for the Yalu River until November 14 arriving at the Yalu on November 21. This latter delay was due to orders that MacArthur was to use only South Korean forces near the Yalu and the Manchurian border. MacArthur allowed our forces there anyway, but he held fast to the ban on having any American forces below the Russian boundary line.

The political situation in North Korea required much of MacArthur's time. The instructions back and forth between the JCS and MacArthur began to get testy. They called for a review of objectives between the United Nations and President Truman. The weather in Korea got colder, but the political battles heated up. The Republic of Korea was committed to battle across the 38th Parallel on October 3.  It was a commitment to disaster.  For the American forces, our losses in casualties were some 13,000 men.  I was one of those many casualties.

What I find so amazing in later reports is that blame was placed directly on MacArthur’s sole decision to extend our forces into North Korea. Yet it is also officially recorded that as early as October 25th, the JCS were of the opinion that the "conflict" was essentially ended.  They were so hasty in their assessment that they canceled additional replacements. On October 26, the ROKs in Eighth Army territory who had seized the village of Chosan on the Yalu River were thrown back from there. That same time line, the Marine amphibious landings had just begun at Wonsan, followed three days later at Iwon by the 7th Division. The blame for North Korean problems were spread all through the diplomatic and military chain of command. But our forces moving into North Korea were not aware of this, nor were politics our prime concern. The die was cast. North Korea had been entered by United Nations forces to completely destroy the North Korean army.

One of the affects of the order to MacArthur that no force other than South Koreans could approach the Manchurian or Russian borders was that reconnaissance units were unavailable to supply the information desperately needed as to any enemy troop movement in front of advancing ROKs. Those forces were not adequately trained or schooled in the art and proficiency of obtaining the vital information needed. Thus, MacArthur was forced to rely on outside sources concerning the strength and disposition of the CCF forces in Manchuria and if they would cross into Korea. If they were planning to cross, when and how many would that be?

Other often conflicting reports of doubtful credence told of Chinese troops of Korean ancestry being sent into North Korea by the Chinese. Between July and August of 1950, the Department of the Army received a score of second and third-hand reports of troops moving from South China to Manchuria. But to determine whether the Chinese intended to intervene was impossible.  The Chinese government itself offered no indication after the Inchon landing of any desire to enter into the battle. MacArthur so stated the latter to the JCS on September 7. Yet on September 22, the Chinese Foreign Office declared that China would always stand on the side of the Korean people, and on the 30th the Chinese Foreign Minister Chou En-lai publicly warned that, "The Chinese people absolutely will not tolerate foreign aggression, nor will they sublimely tolerate seeing their neighbors being savagely invaded by imperialists." [14]

On the day of China’s warning, the UNC intelligence staff reported twenty Chinese divisions were in North Korea and had been there since September 10th. While MacArthur's intelligence chief, General Willoughby, believed his reports, nine to eighteen of the thirty-eight Chinese divisions were massing on the Manchurian border near crossing bridges.  As far as is known, he made no attempt to dissuade MacArthur from crossing the parallel.  That could be due to the conflicting reports by the Far East Command intelligence officers of "no conclusive evidence" of Chinese involvement.  President Truman therefore directed the JCS to instruct MacArthur concerning the Chinese intervention. On October 9, the JCS sent MacArthur this loosely-worded directive.

"In the event of open or covert employment anywhere in Korea of major Chinese communist units, without prior announcement, you should continue the action as long as in your judgment, action by forces now under your control offer a reasonable chance of success. In any case you will obtain authorization from Washington prior to taking any military action against objectives in Chinese territory."

MacArthur later stated that he once again reviewed this directive, and his interpretation of the words "should continue the action as long as in your judgment, action by forces now under your control offer a reasonable chance of success" were his authority to continue toward the border. One report to Truman on October 12 stated that while the CCF lacked air power and naval support, they could effectively but t not decisively intervene. The conclusion of the report was that the Chinese were not expected to enter North Korea to oppose the UNC in the foreseeable future.

Several factors were kicked around to support the above hypothesis:

1) The Chinese feared the consequences of war with the United States.
2) Anti-Communist forces within China might endanger the Communist stand.
3) They could damage their chance of gaining a seat in the United Nations.
4) If they engaged in war without the Soviet naval and air support, they would suffer heavy losses.
5) If they accept Soviet aid, they would become more dependent on Russia and increase Russian control in Manchuria.

These factors indicated that, from a military standpoint, the most favorable time for their intervention had passed.  A report from Far East Command on October 14 said that "future expensive investment in support of a lost cause" was the Chinese position. [SOURCE?]

On October 3, the ROK divisions were inside of North Korea on the east coast. Walker was convinced by October 7th that it was time to move north, but he had no orders from MacArthur designating his starting date. He directed his chief of staff, General Leven C. Allen, to contact Tokyo for instructions. The response was, "Your A-Day will be at such time as you see it ready."  [SOURCE?] Allen asked for and received confirmation by radio. On October 9, Walker and his forces moved out toward Pyongyang. Thus, our American forces were committed in North Korea.

That same day, MacArthur made several attempts by radio to persuade the North Korean government to surrender.  "I as UNCINC, for the last time call upon you and your forces under your command, in whatever part of Korea situated to lay down arms and cease hostilities." Without any immediate agreement, he would proceed to take such military action as may be necessary to enforce the decrees of the United Nations. Kim Il Sung rejected his demand, moving new units of fresh troops up who had not fought in South Korea.

The two ROK divisions on the east coast moved at rapid speed, but the old adage of "haste makes waste" was at work.  After passing large numbers of enemy forces in the eastern coastal mountains, those forces turned to guerrilla warfare and annoying attacks.  They had to be routed out by many patrols within the 7th Division area of operations and were always a constant threat to road-bound troops, supply trucks, wire repair line crews, and messengers between group areas.

In reply to Walker's request of what authority and control he had over the ROK forces, he was informed from GHQ in Tokyo, "They are to be considered as members of the team and working with the team in whatever area they may be employed." On the 11th of October, the ROKs captured Wonsan, still part of Eighth Army.  General Walker flew into the city the same day it was captured. These ROKs seemed in a position to carry out the entire original mission assigned to X-Corps.  By advancing from Wonsan to the Pyongyang axis, they could link with Eighth Army, thereby sealing off Korea to this line.

However, the ROK success had already caused MacArthur to change the employment of X Corps. He directed the planners to re-route the Marines to a landing at Hungnam. This plan was ready on October 8. Admiral Joy strongly opposed this change because it would split the two forces.  There was less time for naval planning, and both harbors could not be cleared in record time. MacArthur reverted back to the original plan.  Since General Walker had his Eighth Army ROKs operating in the Wonsan area, he put forth his plans for Wonsan. "It is vital to provide for the supply of five divisions of the ROK Army through the port of Wonsan." [ But MacArthur had to make it crystal clear to Walker that Eighth Army was not going to expand its mission.  "Wonsan port facilities will be secured and utilized for operations of X-Corps in accordance with the UN Command Operations Order No. 2." MacArthur then reassigned the previously assigned ROK divisions from Walker’s Eighth Army to Almond’s X Corps.


[1] Operation Bluehearts, 1st Cavalry, review Chapter Two, Inchon.

[2] Gen. Bradley referring to interservice rivalries unresolved by the unification provision of the National Security Act of 1947, "This is no time for fancy-Dan’s who won’t hit the line with all they have on every play, unless they can call the signals."

[3] Truman: "The Marine Corps is the Navy’s police force and as long as I am president, that is what it will remain, they have a propaganda machine that is about equal to Stalin’s" 

[4] The Marine Corps is under the Department of the Navy, therefore its budget for men and equipment is appropriated through that department, as that one and only division could be better inventoried at any given time through their G-1 & G-4 sections. This one fact, the Army had to maintain all foreign UN forces in Korea, over and above their original supply, as well as those complete ROK units in all things required. The Army task overlapped even those in the Marine division itself.

[5] Seoul was liberated in 1945 and had an established government. The action to reclaim it, like it or not, was a United Nations mission. It also had its own ROK 17th Regiment forces involved in fighting for their own capital city.

[6] There are some hidden reference, but one must know the missing facts on Opn Orders to locate them.

[7] On Faith’s Medal of Honor, that a Marine was more worthy to receive it: "That Faith was just doing his duty and not very well at that." A fact overlooked is that this was an Army award, and only five Marines were ever on the east side of the reservoir under Colonel Faith’s command. Where did Captain Michael Capraro’s superior source come from?

[8] Clifton La Bree, p. 219, Quote from The New York Times, 1 September 1955.

[9] Clay Blair, Forgotten War. p. 277)

[10] One thing in his favor, however, as evident of his command: if anyone knew anything at all about "delays," it was General Smith himself. [ Smith deliberately stalled on the advance...P.261, Policy and Direction]

[11] [Red Flag] Since time would reveal that a Marine [Major] had surrendered a force from Task Force Drysdale to the Chinese, it would compensate and minimize that Marine event. For this Army force would have been a much larger force, thereby neutralizing this event for the Marines. However, that did not happen. Again, why the suggestion? To what end? Here, we were criticized for not surrendering over 900 men to the enemy. [Death of 31st RCT, Part Five, 2nd Lt. (Major) Patrick Roe, USMC.

[12] Interview by General H. C. Pattison, Chief of Military History, U. S. Army dated March 7, 1969.

[13] .....North to the Yalu. P. 632.

[14] Policy & Direction, p. 197, Ibid, p. 108


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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