Chosin Reservoir - Ray Vallowe Research

Chapter 6 - Inter-service Rivalry World War II and Korea
An Uglier Side of War - (Part One)

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


Concerning Smith vs. Smith

"I have always deplored this incident as far too typical of the amount of top echelon time and effort expended in the Pacific on matters not pertaining to the winning of the war. Inter-service disputes, given unmerited prominence, can grow into the greatest enemy of victory when they take priority over all other interests in the minds of generals and admirals. Equally deplorable is the effect upon the men who carry into peacetime the animosity thus engendered in wartime." - General Holland M. Smith, USMC

About Inter-Service Rivalry

Unlike a rivalry between two competing teams of any athletic event, where only one of those teams will win, inter-service rivalry of the kind I am referring to is more of a belligerent, combative, quarrelsome nature between the military forces assembled as one team for one purpose: to defeat the enemy. The end result of their teamwork is supposed to be glory in the defeat of the enemy, not the glory of the integrity of the individuals on the team. Unfortunately, that was not the case in Korea, since each win was in turn followed by two defeats: loss of territory purchased with human life.  The dispute over which method of attack was best was debated, but like inter-service rivalry, it has never been resolved, and the events intertwined with that rivalry found their way into the X Corps of the Korean War. It interfered with planned corps operations.  It upset timetables.  It was costly in human life.  These things by themselves added absolutely nothing to the victory sought. The CCF Marshal Peng was the prime beneficiary of the snafu created by two American generals and their own private war of egos at the Chosin Reservoir. The 7th Division caught in the trap sat there on the banks of the reservoir. Indeed, history does repeat itself.

Relationship to North Korea

Inter-service disputes were never completely solved and were still kicked around in 1947, long after World War II had ended.  As noted in my research below, it continued into the Korean War, but in an inverted manner.  In Korea, the corps commander was from the Army and a Marine commander was the subordinate officer. However, had General Almond sacked Oliver P. Smith at Chosin reservoir, his major problems would be:

1) Smith's own ADC (assistant division commander) was not in Korea at the time to immediately replace him, General Craig being on an emergency leave

2) Major General Almond was outranked by the Marine Commandant, who in turn was the one to replace and select a permanent replacement for the division that would have created an even bigger Army-Navy-Marine battlefield inter-service fiasco than the one earlier at the two islands of Makin and Saipan.

3) General Almond also remained General MacArthur's Chief of Staff, in absentia. Therefore, there had to be some other legal military solution found for Oliver Smith's failure to move his forces in a timely fashion to support MacArthur's own UN final offensive in North Korea, set for 24 November 1950. [1]

An identical World War II solution was for a Naval admiral to issue an order for O.P. Smith to be relieved of his command. This latter solution would keep the Marine dispute, within the Navy family circle. But while these things may have been, they were not. So what other option remained in the Army X Corps commander's bag of tricks? Only one, in my opinion, and that was to place that division in X Corps reserve and reassign the entire mission to an Army division. Therein lies the alpha of Task Force MacLean and the omega of Task Force Faith at Chosin.

Since the planned UN offensive failed in North Korea, the resulting fallout seemed to require massive damage control. To minimize that damage, the convenient withdrawal of all those legal relocation orders relating to the smaller Army force (31st RCT) ordered into the Chosin Reservoir arena on 24 November 1950 seemed to fit neatly into that damage control.

General Smith of the Marine Corps was continually in conflict over his orders from General Almond, who was his superior. As Five-Star General MacArthur was fired by the President, however, MG Smith ended his career with four stars instead of two. What was Smith's magic? He was continually being saved by those earlier reactions to inter-service rivalry from World War II. No one dared to relieve a commander from another branch of the service. The glowing memory of Marine General Holland Smith versus General Ralph Smith was still too fresh in the minds of military high command.

Smith versus Smith

In that Pacific fiasco, General Holland M. Smith (Marine) relieved General Ralph Smith (Army) of his command due to the fact that he did not move his troops forward as fast as Holland Smith liked. Even though he had been warned of the consequence of his actions, he encouraged the relief of Ralph Smith anyway, and in the end that action affected his own career and his standing with the Navy brass. [2]

The conflict between Smith versus Smith was over the combat assault actions on the islands of Makin (and later, Saipan).  But, there General Ralph Smith was not being insubordinate as such.  It was not his movement into the battle that was at issue, but rather the forward momentum at the speed Holland Smith demanded. The argument was over combat tactics of a frontal assault opposed to securing a position before advancing forward.  There was more to consider, too, as once again the commanders' egos were over the lives of their men. The issue was that Marine frontal assaults, though costly, saved time as well as many lives as a slower line of attack. There were two schools of thought on combat tactics between the two services. That was a major difference between the two Marine and Army commanders.  As for the Army, MacArthur had long since ruled that "the days of the frontal assault are over." [3]

This inter-service rivalry between the Smiths resulted in the island of Iwo Jima being a solely Marine operation. For General Marshall (JCS) decreed, because of this past rivalry, that "Never again would an Army General serve under the Marines." [4] This decree can be recalled in Korea when General Ridgway placed O.P. Smith in charge of IX Corps in South Korea (in 1951).  That placement could not stand, as this research will covered later.

One of the strange things about Makin island was that, in Holland Smith's words, it was lightly defended.  "I considered Makin a minor operation, which a single regimental combat team from the 27th could handle easily."  so Ralph Smith (per corps G-3) assigned only his 165th Regiment to that task. To me, Holland Smith had two problems. the first was as General Almond did at Seoul.  Both corps commanders expected the objective to be taken in record time, and each division general in charge felt rushed--Ralph Smith at Makin and Oliver Smith at Seoul.  The second problem was the assault on Tarawa.  When it was in progress, Holland "Mad" Smith was at Makin, but his bigger problem was at Tarawa. "No matter what happened to my Marines at Tarawa," he said, "I could not be with them because (Admiral) Turner insisted that I remain at Makin"--not on land but aboard ship. Tarawa, as Holland Smith himself stated, "was a mistake."  The main point here is that his absence from the surrounding waters was of no importance whatsoever.  General Julian Smith had that responsibility on shore at Tarawa, and he handled the situation and the difficult problem he faced there. Someone in higher command, which included Holland Smith, underestimated the conditions and problems to take Tarawa. [5]

But Holland Smith was positive that he had overestimated the number of troops required at Makin, stating, "Any Marine regiment would have done it in that time." It took three days. Here was a severely bruised ego.  Holland Smith was not at Tarawa, nor was he needed there. As he wrote in his book, "I am not going to describe the fight for Tarawa... besides, I was not there." Enough said. But he turned his criticism against the naval bombardment of Tarawa nevertheless, stating that "not one of the pillboxes had been hit-save one."

In my limited research on the situation over the battles of Makin or Tarawa, this much is known:  Each of the islands were behind schedule. Whether Ralph Smith was "dragging his feet," I can't say.  But Holland Smith was stuck aboard ship and the news from Tarawa was not good. Commander Julian Smith reported, "The situation is in doubt." [6] He asked Holland Smith to release the 2nd Division regiment held in reserve. "Julian Smith would not have asked me to commit our last reserve unless conditions demanded this desperate action." Admiral Turner would not release him (required damage control?), and he blamed Ralph Smith for the delay. "Makin should have been cleaned up in one day fighting.  It dragged on three days and chained me to this insignificant skirmish."

On Makin, the island was taken in three days, and that was the main point.  but Holland Smith continued to let his anger grow.  He was a general acting like a small child, apparently not letting go of the past. At the very same time within this same week, he was in deep trouble over his joint operation on the island of Tarawa. There he was severely criticized for his frontal attacks as being extremely costly.  In the end he admitted to the error. But Tarawa was his baby alone.  There were no Army troops to spread blame to so he was still steaming some seven months later on the upcoming invasion of Saipan, again over Ralph Smith and the Army, and over the previous battle of Makin Island. There was an unusual amount of time between the invasions on Makin and Saipan. [7] (In fact, enough time for the Navy to build its namesake ship--see footnote 7) and for General Holland Smith to receive his third star.

Then came the battle of Saipan, and again Ralph Smith was involved.  Holland Smith's anger was still growing, and it seemed to reach a boiling point.  The fact that the Marines had two divisions and the Army one division was the center of the problem. When the Marines moved forward, the Army troops did not move as fast as Holland Smith liked, and that slow movement created a "U" in the offensive assault which left a center open flank on each side of the Marine force. Holland Smith stated earlier, "Had Ralph Smith been a Marine, I would have relieved him on the spot." But before he acted on his own, he sought advice from Admiral Kelly Turner.  "Turner agreed that Holland Smith had every right to relieve the other Smith if he wished. But both knew that since Army troops were involved, there would be hell to pay between the services. They agreed to talk it over with Admiral Raymond A. Spruance,...he drafting a dispatch to Holland Smith, authorizing and directing him to replace Ralph Smith. Thus Spruance took full responsibility for the relief of Ralph Smith." [8]

With the changing of commanders, apparently the situation improved, according to Smith. "Finally the line was straightened out until the Second Marines were pushed out at Garapan, and the line across Saipan was held by the 27th on the left and the Fourth on the right." Holland Smith ordered the 27th Infantry Division into reserve and vowed that he would never use the division again. [9] (Apparently Almond was a student of Holland Smith's method in his own dealing with O.P. Smith at Chosin.)  "A few days after the incident the news broke in Washington. The implication of the stories was that Holland Smith was the 'butcher' he had been declared to be after Tarawa, and that Ralph Smith was relieved because he refused to obey Holland Smith's orders, not wanting to send his men to almost certain slaughter." [10] At Chosin, all Marine defense favored O.P. Smith over his refusal to move as scheduled, which "saved" his command.

"Perhaps Spruance's chief of staff, Captain Moore, spent a good deal of his time refereeing arguments between the strong minded Turner and the equally opinionated Smith. Sometimes Moore said Smith was a 'crybaby' so great was his affections for his Marines, and so deep his suspicion of the Navy in relation to the Marine Corps."  On the island of Kwajalein, "There was friction again. Naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison wrote with some indication of glee that General Corlett (Army) threatened to put General Smith (Marines) under arrest if he came ashore and interfered with Corlett's operations with the 7th Division. Smith did not go ashore, but he was critical of the slowness which the Army division moved ahead on Kwajalein when the assault began on February 1, It was called a "beautiful"" assault, and it was true, Holland Smith deserved much of the credit in more ways than one, because the 7th Division had been his baby in the beginning, back in the days when he trained those troops for the Adak invasion." [11]

In my own review of the generals involved, I see more behind the scenes in the relief of General Ralph Smith. Admiral Spruance issued the order to relieve him, but he also authorized "and placed Major General Sanderford Jarman ( Holland Smith's choice) in command of this division." That, in my opinion, is what rubbed and added salt to the wound. While Ralph Smith was under Spruance's command, he was not a battle casualty as such, necessitating immediate replacement. Therefore, the one responsible to replace him was Army Commander Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson, Jr., he being over Army forces in the Pacific area. However, Ralph Smith's dismissal aside, he was then replaced by Major General Jarman. This was not the choice of General Richardson to head that division of the 27th National Guard.  Within days he replaced Jarman with Major General George W. Griner, commander of the 96th Division. There was the rub.  There was where egos clashed. Holland Smith was offended because he (Richardson) "didn't direct him to report to the corps commander.  In other words, Richardson completely ignored me." But General Griner had to report to someone, and Admiral Spruance should have been that one. Besides, Richardson had equal rank to Holland Smith, and he was ALSO solely under Army command. It would appear an ethical change of command should have been through the Army commander of that force. Also, the Army Lieutenant General was not OPCON to the Navy command, and therefore was not required to report to another general of equal rank within a lesser corps of that department.

The bitterness built.  Richardson, of equal rank, dressed down Holland Smith.  He "had no right to relieve Ralph Smith."  The Navy backed Holland Smith. Admiral Kelley Turner, in turn, dressed down Richardson for "irregular interference" with Holland Smith's duties. The situation grew hotter between all commands. Admiral Spruance referred the matter to Admiral Chester Nimitz, who had "verbally approved Richardson's visit" within his command area. General Richardson, in turn, referred the matter to General George C. Marshall. Repercussions followed close on Richardson's heels. Lt. Gen. Richardson also publicly expressed his low opinion of a Marine officer's ability to handle units above the division level. There seems to be supportive evidence of this fact at Chosin, even on the division level, when additional army forces were assigned to the operational control of General O.P. Smith on the evening of 29 November. That action paralyzed the Marine command to react to this additional force placed under their command. Indeed, General Oliver P. Smith had difficulties of his own with his division officers.

Holland M. Smith believed that Ralph Smith lacked aggressiveness. At Seoul and Chosin, Almond believed that Oliver Smith also lacked that same aggressiveness. So in the cases listed above, one could merely equate the name and position of Holland M. Smith for Edward "Ned" Almond, both corps commanders. Holland Smith was over V Amphibious Force, and Almond was over X Corps. But in the case of Holland Smith, the Army commander was ordered to move only one regiment at Makin instead of a whole division.

Lest I leave the impression that General Holland Smith was drummed out of the service over the sacking of Ralph Smith, that was not the case. The furor over that event had far reaching effects to his career, but it didn't end it. He went on to command at Iwo Jima, then he returned to the Marine Training and Replacement Command at San Diego from which he retired at age 64 in May of 1946. He did, however, miss the invasion of Okinawa.  That island, being a larger land mass, required more Army personnel, and therefore was under more direct Army command.

I believe that Holland Smith was plagued more by his open criticism of Naval forces rather than Army ones. But that rivalry created open wounds between others extending into Korea. "I was not invited to attend the surrender ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 1, 1945. This was a great personal disappointment after fighting all those weary miles from Tarawa." [12] "This is the summation I must make on the Pacific war: If the Marines had received better cooperation from the Navy, our casualties would have been lower." [13]

In spite of his many contributions and the many islands he assaulted and took, his outspoken criticism of the Navy cause them to snub him at the end of the war. In the end, in spite of the Iwo Jima victory, when the victors of the Pacific campaign were invited aboard the Battleship Missouri for the signing of the surrender papers, even though Admiral Harry Hall had invited Holland Smith as his guest, Admiral Chester Nimitz vetoed it.  As a result, Holland Smith was absent--a cast out.  Not only had he infuriated the Army, he had also inferred that "Nimitz was riding to fame on the shoulders of the Marines." [14] A victim of inter-service rivalry, he was shunned.  He should have remembered one cardinal rule: that you don't knock those to whom you are subordinate. Because Marines are on Navy ships isn't due to the fact that the Navy is under the Department of the Marines (there is no such thing).  They are under the Department of the Navy, and if I know that, surely how can the Corps forget it?

In the European Theater in World War II, the commander there--Eisenhower--had "absolute power" over the forces employed there. MacArthur never had that "absolute" power in the Korean War. With 21 foreign nations assigned under his United Nations Command, there was still one problem remaining from World War II.--a major general one. Question: How does the Corps commander relieve/replace a regimental commander? Answer: Through his authority as a Corps commander, to exchange or "sack" that commander and replace him with another one of his choice. In the Army, this is done without fanfare or notoriety and does not upset the divisional mission to any large degree. Almond relieved the 31st Regimental commander of his command after Suwon in South Korea. He was replaced by Colonel Allan D. MacLean, he serving as an Eighth Army staff member. Note here that the regimental commander was replaced, not the division commander as such. While the 7th Division Commander Major General David Barr was replaced after the Chosin Reservoir campaign--recommended by General Almond to his new commander of Eighth Army, General Matthew B. Ridgway, who was then the one responsible to replace General Barr with another division commander.

In World War II in the Pacific region, still other like incidents created more inter-service rivalry disputes between the two military branches: the Department of the Army and the Department of The Navy. The command was divided between MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz, each having five stars.  Admiral Nimitz was in charge of the Central Pacific region. Inter-service rivalry is dismissed as trivial in nature, and, indeed, on the lowest level, is. The incidents are merely street brawls or barroom fights between over-zealous servicemen defending their own claim of pride in their own outfit or branch of the service.  The Army had its own issue between its Army Air Corps and its ground forces as well.

While these disputes required some "stockade" or "brig" time, other than a few broken noses or cuts and bruises, that was generally the extent of it in most cases. Such rivalry was not so trivial in the higher ranks of command. Four earlier isolated case can be cited.  The first one was the case of General Billy Mitchell of the Army Air Corps between World War I and II, setting the stage for a precedent and a warning for any future Army officer to be very cautious of his own comments. The other two cases were from Admiral Nimitz's zone of operation in the Pacific in World War II. The earlier one was the 1st Marine Division's clash with General MacArthur's placement of this division after its transfer to his command following operations on Guadalcanal. The second was the hotly disputed case of Holland M. Smith versus Ralph Smith over the islands of Makin and Saipan, already reviewed. The fourth, of course, was in North Korea and involved the Chosin Reservoir campaign.

The outcome of the case of Army General Billy Mitchell was over his opinions and statements on the important use of air power.  It was considered one of rivalry on air superiority over the battleships of that time. Billy Mitchell firmly held and advocated to the value of air power. This was not a popular view at the time with the powers that be. They trying to downplay this new weapon of war. When the Navy air ship Shenandoah crashed in a storm, killing 14 of the crew, Billy Mitchell issued his famous 1925 statement to the press accusing senior leaders in the Army and Navy of incompetence and "almost treasonable administration of the national defense." He was, as he expected, court-martialed and used the December 1925 trial as a platform for his views. He was found guilty of insubordination and suspended from active duty for five years without pay. (Note: A single dissenting vote was cast by Colonel Douglas MacArthur.) The charge: "Conduct prejudicial of good order and military discipline." In other words, he was "rocking the boat." While a one-star general in 1920, in 1925 he was demoted to Colonel. Billy Mitchell elected to resign instead on 1 February 1926. The important lesson for other Army officers is that, if someone higher up wants your opinion, they will ask you for it. Take heed the result of one Army officer who was censured for his outspoken views, "accusing senior leaders in the Army and Navy of incompetence." [15] He later was given a special Medal of Honor for his stand after the proven worth of air power, for upgrading American National Defense.

The other two cases involved two different Marine officers, but unlike the Billy Mitchell case, being Marines, neither of these men lost their positions, although Holland Smith was shunned for his remarks by the Navy over his remarks about them. His biggest claim to fame in history was his dispute with the Army. (O.P Smith's main claim to historical fame was excessive delays.)

In Korea, a corps commander was the force of command to the commanding general in OPCON charge attached to that corps.  Its orders were delegated and flowed downhill through that corps commander through his planning staff.  A final order was agreed upon, and primary goals and dates were set in stone. However, this required a reciprocal regulation for the Navy to be in charge over any Army forces under its direct OPCON duty. In either case, however, the issue was over delay in carrying out the mission at hand. Indeed, the Marine Corps Commander, Major General Holland Smith, as outlined in the pages above, set the precedent at Makin and as a Lieutenant General at Saipan because the Army force was slow to activate the set attack hour. (His decision was never rescinded.) He felt that this delay jeopardized the lives of his Marines and the very mission itself. Surely no one with any military training would disagree with that premise, it being all important to the mission's successful completion. But one would be walking a fine line in choosing sides. A Red Flag could be inserted here, as one cannot hypocritically support Holland Smith at Makin and then reverse opinion on Almond at Chosin. The only thing is that Holland Smith's bias showed, not only over the division commander, but also over the Army division as well.

To attempt to connect MacArthur's mind set on the Inchon invasion date: His rush to fit an invasion between a time frame set by nature and tidal waves regardless of the forces assembled at that invasion hour. For MacArthur to completely reverse his military policy in North Korea and reset an already delayed offensive to November 24 for Eighth Army, yet allow a joint supporting flank movement offensive by X Corps to delay an additional three days, was totally out of systematic function with MacArthur's persona and his "keen sense of timing." The one fact with continuity throughout the arrival of O.P. Smith was his constant desire to delay. Yet, he was separated from the Marines in that action.  It was Smith that delayed, not the Marines as such. But he was their one sole division commander to order that command to move whatever the direction X Corps assigned it. So a separation disclaimer could not be justified. General Walker of Eighth Army did not please MacArthur with his delay on November 21. MacArthur wanted justification for that delay, it being due to logistics. Yet when that offensive was reset three days later on the 24th, General Almond was allowed another additional three days. Almond had a total of six days delay. Why was that? Was there an unusual problem concerning Almond's forces at Chosin?

Almond reversed his aggressive nature that one time as well. It was strange timing and weird personality shifts for both MacArthur and Almond. While no sane person might believe that to assign the solution used by Holland Smith--to replace a division commander in the heat of an offensive battle--would entirely solve the inter-service rivalry controversy, nevertheless, it immediately solved a leadership role on that battlefront. That is always done anyway when a regimental commander is killed in battle, as a replacement is provided immediately, or the leadership role shifts to a lower officer. A case in point was Colonel MacLean at Chosin. It was better to solve the problem there and save lives in lieu of delaying its aftermath in some military tribunal somewhere far removed from the field of battle--somewhere in Washington in some warm courthouse with scheduled breaks for meals and sleep, and drinking refreshments in a liquid state. If one can learn anything about the Korean War it should be this: That never again should the Army and the Marines be placed as an "attached units" under another uniform command.[16] The inter-service rivalry runs too deep.  It was deeper after the Chosin Campaign than ever before, as attested by this research. It was also fueled by the press corps, which compared every move by the Marines as being superior to the Army in all things. There is the rub.  There is the problem.

Having stated that, it is important to note that this was not about the individual Marine.  It was weighted heavily against their commander, Major General Oliver P. Smith. There is no personal satisfaction in that for me.  While most reports of the actions in Korea are lacking about the other six Army commanding generals, that was not true of the Marine commander. Why so much was written of his actions and so many attempts were made to paint him colorful and all-serving in every event is suspect in itself. His contrary and controversial actions are separate from the image of "the Marines". But he was their commander.  His actions are reflective of the Marine history in Korea. What made it so different between the Marine command and the Army command was the fact that the Army commanders were replaced for various reasons and the Marine command remained intact. While that was strictly their business-so long as Army forces were not involved--it should have been center stage about the conflict between the X Corps command and its authority to issue orders and expect those orders to be carried out. It is to the 1st Marine Division's credit that the inter-service rivalry finally did subside when O.P. Smith was at last replaced. But that cannot truly be measured in any degree since press censorship was in place after December 20.  While more was written about O.P. Smith after that censorship, little was written about the Marines after he left Korea .

Inter-service Rivalry W.W.II and Korea, 1945-1950--An Uglier Side of War--Changes

The JCS made an attempt to create some kind of unification between the services after World War II.  However, it seems to me that that was one of those oxymorons where one aims for a reduction but agrees to a plus. The result: Spin off the Air Force from the Army.  Instead of two departments--Army and Navy, each with their own air support, we had three departments--Army, Navy, and the Air Force. This added an extra link to the chain, for if we won the BIG ONE with only two departments, why fragment and weaken the chain? If unification was the goal, I seem to have missed the point somewhere. The interaction between the services, each fighting for their own piece of the pie, become a new battlefield. One could conclude that the Navy be required to spin-off one of their two units, either their Air Force or the Marines Corps. That, however, did not happen.  They lobbied for more sea transports and airplanes for their Marines and larger land tanks and bigger ground defense and offensive equipment to expand the Marine ground assault roles, while the Army also spinned off their own ship transports.

This controversy was between the Army and Navy.  Now the new Air Force department was busy with their new command structure. The Army wanted more control for two reasons: (1) "to gain greater control over the navy, on which it wholly depended to go places, and (2) to control drastically the Marine Corps, which it viewed as a duplication of its ground and air forces." The timing was wrong, as the debate took place following the war in December of 1945. Taking advantage of the national adoration, the admirals and the Marine Corps generals fought unification with a vengeance. "One war hero after the next took the witness stand to punch holes in Truman's proposal. They mocked his proposal and vilified Truman and the Army and airmen for daring to suggest they might have fought better being directed from a central authority in the Pentagon." [17]

The Navy won a victory out of the water between World War II and Korea.  In contrast, the Army is required to go through a separate chain of command--the Department of the Air Force. Yet, in early 1951 in Korea, the Marine Air Wing was placed under the OPCON of the Department of the Air Force.  Marine ground forces remained independent of the Army, having their own air wing while the Army had completely lost theirs. That deficiency was highlighted as nowhere else but east of Chosin the Marine commander "granted us ‘priority' of 'his' air cover."

Due to the confusion as to who controlled or had "priority" over the 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW), on 1 January 1951, the 1st Marine Air Wing was reabsorbed into the Far East Air Force.  General Smith of the Marines bitterly protested.  He appealed the decision to the Fifth Air Force General Pat Partridge, but to no avail. "Close in air support frankly doesn't play dividends," Partridge had told Smith.  Case closed. Smith then appealed to General Ridgway. (It didn't seem fair to take support away from someone else.) He asked Ridgway if merely one squadron could be assigned ‘exclusively' to the Marine Division. Ridgway replied, "Smith, I'm sorry, but I don't command Fifth Air Force."  Again, case closed. [18] For the first time, the Marines were forced to undertake a major mission without full control of their air wing. At last--but far too late for Chosin--some sanity came into the war.  There was a unification of command. More importantly, Gen. Oliver P. Smith's independent status was ebbing and flowing away from him.

Early in the war, General Stratemeyer had taken steps to improve air operations in Korea since there had been no provisions and the Far East Command (FEC) General Headquarters Staff had no organization for joint responsibilities of the Navy and Air Forces, each a separate department from the Army. The central command of air operations was not immediately possible below the level of MacArthur himself. As a result, inefficiency and duplication of missions resulted. One example was that, in July 1950, the Navy had sent planes from its Seventh Fleet--Task Force 77--against targets that Far East Air Force planned to attack the next day. As a result, the Air Force medium bombers sat on the ground the next day since it was too late to set up other targets. It was a situation crying for a solution. Someone had to assume responsibility, and General Stratemeyer made the first bid for overall control of air operations in Korea. On July 8, he told MacArthur:

"It is my understanding that the Navy contemplates bringing into your theater some land based aircraft.  Also as you know, the Seventh Fleet contemplates another strike with air at your direction in North Korea. I request that all land-based naval aviation and carrier based aviation, when operating over North Korea or from Japan, except those units for anti-submarine operations, be placed under my operational control."

Stratemeyer got that control and authority--to a lesser degree. Stratemeyer took some drastic measures in the use of his planes.  They were aircraft normally used for interdiction missions behind enemy lines to assure good support missions. MacArthur ordered Stratemeyer to send his B-29s, "to strafe, if necessary" in order to stop the North Korean drive. General Collins expressed great concern in the way the B-29's were being employed, and asked to be kept informed of their use. Stratemeyer recommended the creation of a target selection committee, and with MacArthur's approval, that method took over the actual selection of targets for interdiction. They were new methods developed as the war required, and they were things that should have already been in place prior to, not after, a war had begun. They were things solved at the creation of the new Department of the Air Force.

The X Corps Ashore

The menace of shore batteries was removed on 17 October when ground forces of the ROK I Corps which had already captured Wonsan gained control of the peninsulas and islands commanding the harbor approaches. Casualties from mines continued. On 18 October two ROK Navy vessels struck mines in the Wonsan area.  One was disabled at the entrance to the harbor, and the other--a minesweeper--was sunk. The next day, a Japanese minesweeper struck a mine and sank. Because troops of the ROK I Corps were well past Wonsan, the military situation did not warrant an unnecessary risk in unloading the Marine units. Admiral Struble, therefore, recommended that they not be unloaded on 20 October as planned, but that D-day be deferred until the minesweeping could be completed. Admiral Joy and General MacArthur concurred.

After arriving within the objective area, the flotilla carrying the 1st Marine Division steamed slowly back and forth from 19 to 25 October in the Sea of Japan just outside the Wonsan channel. The restless Marines called it "Operation Yo-Yo." It had some serious implications. Food threatened to run short and ideal conditions were presented for the spread of epidemic disease. Only a few days earlier, dysentery had hit the crews of two cruisers of the Formosa Patrol during "Yo-Yo."  It broke out in epidemic form on the MSTS transport Marine Phoenix, afflicting 700 of the 2,000 embarked troops and a like proportion of the crew. The fifteen LSTs came into the harbor on 25 October and dropped anchor off Blue and Yellow Beaches. By the close of 28 October, all combat elements of the Marine division were ashore. Their mission had been to secure a corps base of operations while the 7th Infantry Division was to spearhead an attack west to join with Eighth Army in front of Pyongyang. That mission was changed by fast moving events by the ROK forces. After a delay over Smith's objection to his Marines unloading their own equipment, the Marines moved one battalion thirty miles south to Kojo to relieve and free the ROK forces of guarding a supply dump.  The others moved toward the port of Hungnam. From all indications, the Marines were not to be a major offensive force at that time.

The 7th Division moves to North Korea

The loading of the 7th Division vehicles and equipment at Pusan was completed on 17 October within the deadline set by X Corps nine days earlier. The loading of corps troops at Pusan began on 19 October. The 7th Division loaded ship again at Pusan Harbor.  I spent my 20th birthday aboard ship--ironically, the very same ship that had brought me to Japan in late October and early November of 1948. Two years later, the notation "US Army Transport" was missing from beneath the ship's name, the M.(ason) M. Patrick. I was informed that the name had changed because the ship had passed from the Army to the Merchant Marine Service.

I had spent fourteen long days aboard this ship heading towards Japan, and I expected the bunks to be the same as they were then--a canvas stretched and tied to the frame by a rope. But when I boarded her at Pusan, the old bedding had been replaced by a spring and mattress as in our Army cots at camp. We were administratively loaded, as opposed to being combat-loaded. I was able to get one of the new bunk beds.

I was not sure if this ship was heading back to Japan or not.  Time aboard the ship passed slowly. Reading and crap games were the highlights of the day. We were paid while on board ship.  Big deal.  There was no way to spend it.  The sailors "cleaned up," selling apples and oranges for one dollar each. That was a bargain, for the military script [bills] we were paid with had little value there.  Most of us exchange it for money orders and sent it home. The word was out that we were heading into North Korea.  It required outloading of most RCT troop to rearrange for a combat loading.

In regard to our loading for North Korea, "The difficult logistical and outloading problem given the 2nd Logistical Command on such short notice was worked out successfully only by the constant mutual effort and cooperation of the staffs of the logistical command and of the 7th Infantry Division. The outloading was completed in time. It was an outstanding performance." [19] The delay in landing forces at Wonsan sent the X Corps planners back to the drawing board once again.  The original plan had been for the Marines to secure a corps headquarters area around Wonsan.  Note here that, as in Army and Navy history, their schedules were completed on time. It was even a pattern for the 7th Infantry Division history. While landing in North Korea, this same honor was not to be extended to the 1st Marine Division, due in large part to their commander's reluctance to obey his scheduled timeline. In Chapter 4, I outlined General Almond's list of General Smith's objections, one through seven. Number four was his delay in loading at Inchon. The next one in order applied at the landing at Wonsan.

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."

One can only wonder what General Smith's problems were with his unloading. Surely he had the manpower available. His landing shore party numbered about 6,000 out of his 25,000 plus men at Wonsan. Admiral Struble and his staff decided to form the Advance Joint Task Force (JTF 7), which proceeded to the objective area and began minesweeping at the earliest possible date. All minesweepers available were to be concentrated for the task. The group was comprised of 21 vessels, including 10 American and 8 Japanese minesweepers, and 1 South Korean vessel used as a minesweeper. Minesweeping operations at Wonsan began on 10 October.

At that point, the novel idea was advanced of exploding mines along a narrow passageway by aerial bombing, which would permit the lead sweeps to pass. The Navy was trying its level best to speed up the landings. However, it seems that General Smith was not completely aligned towards that same goal. At least eight Japanese vessels, as well as Japanese personnel were employed due to the lack of available American ships and American personnel.  The Japanese also had some cargo ships involved. Were those Japanese Stevedores General Smith's problem?  Was he merely fighting World War II all over again?

This seemed reminiscent to my being on prisoner chaser duty earlier in Sapporo, Japan. My duty was to have two prisoners--veterans of the last war--clear snow from a driveway leading from the motor pool. The problem was that Japanese men were employed to drive some of the American Army trucks out of our motor pool. The men rebelled.  They would not clear a path for an enemy they had fought years before. The solution was to take them back to the stockade compound for further action by higher authority. Whatever MG Smith's problem was at Wonsan, it should have been a Navy one to solve. As long as that equipment was on board a ship, it was the Navy's responsibility to see to it that it was unloaded.

The X Corps began a quiet, administrative landing at 0730 on 26 October. At 1000 27 October, the command post of the 1st Marine Division closed aboard the USS Mt. McKinley and opened in Wonsan. Thus the Navy brass gave way to a whim of General Smith as well. Again, what was his magic? Why was he the only division commander of seven to be singled out for extra favors and press notoriety? [20] That old adage, "The squeaky wheel always gets the grease" seems to apply here. The "grease" was  in the form of a "written order." The emphasis in Almond statement--"and he got it"--seems to indicate that someone other than Almond gave that "written order." But common sense also dictates that a squeaky wheel was never going to correct itself. That "wheel" would eventually have to be replaced or that wagon would have to be parked on the side of the road while others went around it.

The last scenario seem to have been the case later at the Chosin Reservoir. Some applied "pressure" of some kind from some unnamed source might reveal that the past problems were only illusory and merely corrected by application of "pressure."  The squeak suddenly disappeared at Chosin. Only under that "pressure" did Smith move his 7th Marines into Yudam-ni as ordered. [21]  There, indeed, was an opportunity missed. The problem of "objecting" to a order should have been solved on shore at Wonsan. Note that CG Almond didn't use the term "refused." Rather, he used the milder term of "objected."  But an objection with a condition attached is a "refusal" until your terms are met.

The Navy itself should have stepped in to solve the dilemma and issue MG Smith an ultimatum (as Almond did to Smith at Seoul).  If MG Smith would not act, the Navy in turn would react. Had that been the case, the issue of who was in charge could have been resolved one way or the other. Let us compare the Marine unloading problems to those of the "inferior" 7th Division:

"The lack of amphibious craft in the 7th Division convoys, the absence of local lighterage, and the need to improvise a beach party made the operation a slow one; everything in the transports and cargo ships had to be offloaded into LSTs and smaller craft, a process which resulted in considerable superficial topside damage owing to swell in the unprotected anchorage. But by the 30th one regiment had landed all its personnel and vehicles and much of its gear." [22]

Once off the ship, the problem of interaction with the Marine general was not a daily, routine one for the Navy. Instead, General Almond receive the problem once the Marines were on land.

Meanwhile, the 7th Division remained idly afloat at Pusan for ten days. Finally, it received orders to proceed to Iwon and to unload there across the beaches. The X Corps 7th Division major mission changed to advance northward instead of westward from Wonsan to Pyongyang. On receipt of the changed orders, the 17th Regimental Combat Team, which was to be first ashore, had to unload its unit equipment from its transports at Pusan and reload combat equipment on LSTs in order to be prepared to land on a possibly-hostile beach. This done, seven LSTs with the 17th Regimental Combat Team aboard left Pusan on 27 October and headed up the coast for Iwon. The landing proved to be without danger, for the minesweepers found no mines there, and the ROK Capital Division had captured and passed through the town several days earlier. The 17th Infantry landed over the beaches at Iwon unopposed on the morning of the 29th. Except for most of its tanks, the 7th Division completed unloading there on 9 November. Iwon was 100 miles further north of Wonsan, and thus placed the 7th Division many miles ahead of the 1st Marine Division.

Even while we were at sea, some of us were required to change ships. On the date of our landing (29 October), it is a significant point that the 7th Division was without any flank protection whatsoever on our left flank, even though we had flank protection from the ROK Capital Division on our right side to the coast. How did this tie in to the mission? It was a prime complaint and concern of MG Smith that his Marine division had no left flank protection on his later move northwest into Hagaru-ri. For the record, as the Marines towards the north to relieve the ROKs at Sudong below the left flank (no matter how difficult the terrain or the mission), the 7th Division advanced forward on a scale of two miles to one without any left flank protection from the Marines. Each mile of Marine delay endangered the mission of the 7th Division. Someone had to be the left flanking force. To that end, the 7th Division had to provide their own defense.

The above paragraph puts things in their proper perspective.  That is, the 7th Division landing across a line from Hagaru had absolutely no left flank protection from the Marine division for its main mission to the Yalu. The left flank of the 7th Division remained wide open at all times from the Yellow Sea to the outskirts of Hapsu--the point above the 1st Marine Division position of their withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir.  Smith's command post of 27 November was the farthest point of Marine operation at Chosin. The Marine division was alone there before 25 November when Lieutenant Colonel Don C. Faith arrived with his one battalion from the 32nd Infantry Regiment to replace the entire 5th Marine Regiment east of Chosin. I explain this only to highlight MG Smith's concern and complaint to his commandant (15 November) about his force having no left flank support from Eighth Army. He seemed to divert attention away from the fact that he was not under command of Eighth Army, and was failing to advance on line with the 7th Division force, thereby leaving their left flank fully exposed. Through history it has been erroneously implied that Lieutenant Colonel Don Faith was to provide flank protection for the Marines.  His mission placed him once again above the Marine force at Yudam-ni with his left flank open as well.

All of this was of no immediate concern to the 7th Division mission. We moved north towards Hyesanjin on the Yalu River, with our left flank anchored at Samsu and our responsibility east of the Fusen Reservoir (prior to 21 November) assigned to Faith's battalion.  The 17th Regiment led to the Yalu River at Hyesanjin, arriving there on 21 November.  The leading elements of the 1st Marines arrived at Hagaru-ri on the 14th.  The newly-arrived 3rd Infantry Division joined the X Corps on 17 November.

The 7th Division reached the Yalu River at Hyesanjin on 21 November, and the 32nd Infantry, Task Force Kingston, reached the Yalu on 28 November, seizing Singalpajin. It was another reassigned Marine mission. Kingston's effort was not public knowledge via authors and historians until the 1980's. However, Appleman's Army history, South to the Naktong - North to the Yalu", recorded its seizure in 1961. [23] But reaching the river was down-played for any Army benefit. One can only wonder of the true magnificent feat it would have been had the Marines reached Singalpajin (as ordered) instead of the 7th Division. But they did not reach any of their border assignments, and the one by Task Force Kingston was in reality the Marine mission to start with. There is no disgrace connected to reaching one's assigned objective, nor even in trying to reach it, whether one realizes its importance or not. Still, there is honor in taking the objective assigned, especially when unobtainable by others.

The assigned mission was therefore the responsibility of the lowly regimental mix of the combat teams (RCTs) in Korea--those non-commissioned Army officers and soldiers who wore gold combat stripes on a blue background--that combat group sent forward by G-3 to seize the objective. [24] How much and to what depth that section planned the attack was not the direct concern of the individual line soldier. The line soldier or Marine didn't know the extent of the storms brewing at higher headquarters, nor the pros and cons of the mission underway. Their main concern was to take the assigned mission that higher command had set. "The man in the front line is blessed with a sense of immediacy."

As the chain of command decreased from the top level down through the lower ranks, The man in the front line had no direct knowledge of the amount of casualties anticipated in the completion of the assigned mission. One had, however, to be concerned that, whatever it was, the higher command had deemed the mission objective to be worth the cost involved in men's lives--at least on our side of the battle line. That may not be true on the other side. The CCF had the odds of our excessive firepower against their side in regards to the men to be sacrificed. The maxim of that one side with the ability to "throw more lead" shifted more so to our advantage. But Korea was a battle devoted to staying power by the opposing government's aggressive resolve for staying in the battle for the duration and its final outcome. The ultimate cost was in enemy lives lost on their chosen battlefield. The study of enemy capabilities should have been the prime concern of the planners in this budget war.


[1] A date set in stone to aid Eighth Army and its advance north.  Any failure on Almond's part would embarrass him with MacArthur's set schedule to end this war.

[2] Holland Smith at this time was only a Major General equal in rank to MG Ralph Smith, a like copy in Korea. Holland Smith received a third star before the Saipan Invasion.

[3] MacArthur book, Reminisce

[4] Nimitz and his Admirals by Hoyt)

[5] General Homma underestimated his timetable to secure Bataan in early 1942. He was two full months behind his victory schedule. The Japanese reinforced his command with twenty-two thousand fresh troops between February and March, and still our force held until April 9, 1942. Miscalculating one's foes resolve can prove costly in time and lives, regardless of the nationality of that foe.

[6] Coral & Brass, p.123, by Holland M. Smith

[7] November 21, 1943, Americans invade Makin and Tarawa. Not until June 14, 1944, did America invade Saipan. Class: CASABLANCA MAKIN ISLAND (CVE-93) was laid down 12 January 1944 by Kaiser Shipbuilding Co., Vancouver, Wash, launched 5 April 1944, sponsored by Mrs. B. B. Nichol, and commissioned at Astoria, Oregon, 9 May 1944, Comdr. W. B. Whaley in command. From the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, (1969) Vol. 4, p. 205.-Flagship of the Escort Carrier Force. (Armament: 1 5", 16 40mm, Aircraft-28)

[8] Nimitz, p. 401

[9] By this time, H. Smith had had enough of the 27th infantry Division, and various reports stated that he ordered the entire division withdrawn from Saipan. In reality, only the decimated battalions were withdrawn from Saipan by destroyers. However, H. Smith did order the 27th Infantry Division into reserve and vowed that he would never use the division again. (Invasion of Saipan by Brian Blodgett. Website: Author has link.)

[10] Nimitz, p.402

[11] Nimitz, p.340

[12] H. Smith, C&B, p.12

[13] C&B, p.17

[14] Nimitz, p. 365

[15] In his letter to Commandant Cates on 15 November, O.P. Smith seemed to be "accusing senior leader Almond of incompetence."

[16] This could have been solved with the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.

[17] Clay Blair, p. 10, The Forgotten War

[18] Clay Blair, p.718

[19] Navy History

[20] Other commanders, 1st Cavalry, 2nd , 3rd, 7th, 24th, 25th Army Divisions

[21] The reference to that "pressure" by General Smith himself in his later interviews

[22] United States Navy History

[23] This is a very important point in that the date of Kingston's jump-off was after 22 November. Tie in to the transferred date one day earlier to the 7th Division. A point to be covered later.

[24] Support and service units have the reverse color striping, blue on gold.


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

2002-2016 Korean War Educator. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of material is prohibited.

- Contact Webmaster with questions or comments related to web site layout.
- Contact Lynnita for Korean War questions or similar informational issues.
- Website address:

Hit Counter