Chosin Reservoir - Ray Vallowe Research

Chapter 11 - Mission Change

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


Joint Strategic Plans and Operations Group

This group was a concessional group to the principle of a unification of command within the General Headquarters (GHQ). It was to aid "and advise the Commander-in-Chief, Far East, on matters pertaining to the exercise of a unified command over Army, Navy, and Air Force allocated to the Far East Command." This group consisted of three Army officers, three Naval officers, and three Air Force officers [1], but it hardly constituted a joint command staff as envisioned by the JCS instructions of December 1946, this provision apparently never clarified in the National Security Act of 1947. Once again the Marine Corps was to be fully represented by the navy officers as they were not a part of this body. The Marine forces were to come under JSPOG planning operations once given to MacArthur's OPCON command authority.

The plan to "assist" Eighth Army had been in the JSPOG planning stage since November 10. General Edwin Wright (MacArthur’s G-3) was the principal spokesman for the group. One has to keep in mind here that this body did contain Navy officers, and that those officers fully represented the Marine Corps forces within that group. So the importance of any move westward into the Eighth Army area was approved and encouraged by the JSPOG and the three separate departments--Army, Navy, and the Air Force. Whether or not the Navy fully supported the plan, the Marines would be required to fully support it logistically once it was approved. General Almond's input was his suggestion, supported by MacArthur, of the most direct route to use.

In that light, Plan 8, Draft One, was considered first, this being General Almond’s X Corps choice.  However, the dominating controversy (totally within the Army domain) was over just how close to General Walker’s Eighth Army line of advance should be used, this being merely a replay over the Inchon Navy domain landing. For example, the X Corps forces turning westward through the Changjin--Kanggye--Manpo’jin axis was considered too far north.  There was a similar disagreement over Inchon to immediately assist General Walker’s Eighth Army. Therefore, the recommendation favoring Draft Two was for the lower attack out of Yudam-ni through Mupyong-ni. It could immediately assist Eighth Army offensive, supported by the fact that a 7th Marine Regimental force was already in place at Yudam-ni to execute the combined scheduled date and hour already set by Eighth Army.  Thus, its selection would solve two problems at once. Draft One was scrapped for Draft Two on recommendations from the JSPOG and GHQ in Tokyo, and was approved by Almond on 21 November 1950. "MacArthur agreed to the change and instructed Almond to begin the attack as soon as possible". (Mossman, page 48. See footnote 41, X Corps WD Sum, Nov 50; X Corps Opn Plan 8, 16 Nov 50; Rad, CX69661, CINCFE to CG X Corps, 23 Nov 50.) Note the important date lines: Messages to Almond on dates in Mossman footnote; X Corps WD Sum, Nov 50; X Corps Opn Plan 8, 16 Nov 50.  The first part of above involved Draft One, while the Draft Two change is under this second part (Rad, CX69661, CINCFE to CG X Corps, 23 Nov 50). This appears to be the new plan of agreement.  However, it did not include the 7th Division in either Draft One or Draft Two. Another connecting and supportive note of interest and a timeline observation can be found in Colonel MacLean’s ("Declassified" 9/13/1991) OPN O 23:

1) b. 23 November 1950 (hat the rest of the 7ID was doing within the zone of operations)
1) b. 7th Inf Div. Continue adv in Z to N. (Continue advance in zone to north)
1) c. C Co. 13th Engr Bn, sup RCT 31.

31st RCT operations:
2) c. 3rd Bn. (1) Blocks en mvmt into Z from S and east.
(2) Prep to reinf 1st and 2d Bns. (3rd Bn was issued a move order via (OPN O 24) MacLean's next operational order number.  This places and dates its present mission and position within the 7th Divisions Zone.

While Draft Two met the majority of requirements of the three individual services, something still seems wrong at the X Corps execution end of the order. Ironically, however, since Plan Eight originated in Tokyo, an obvious question arises. Why should Almond's G-3, Colonel Chiles, be required to leave X Corps staff headquarters in Korea between 23-24 November and fly to Tokyo to clarify "a minor change" in the boundary line which in reality only concerned Eighth Army’s limitations in moving north under the latest draft two of that older plan? As recorded in Ebb & Flow, General Walker issued "only one order on 25 November," lowering his boundary line of responsibility below Mupyong-ni. [2] As widely stated and never denied, "MacArthur made only one minor change."  Here is that one minor change. It merely limited the forward advance of Eighth Army, revising it to just below Mup’yong-ni.

But Draft Two also has that combined Eighth Army and X Corps scheduled date and time of 24800 hours to move out together. Eighth Army moved out on schedule, but X Corps, 7th Marine forces did not.  X Corps failed to comply with their order to launch their part of the combined offensive. Once again, I point out that, In the U.S. Army, "An order calls for instant compliance, a view sometimes difficult for the American soldier to understand. ... Once an order was published it could not be changed except by the issuing authority." [3] Since the published order in X Corps failed due to a delay within its time schedule for the 7th Marine Regiment, it required a new directive to exchange the 5th Marine Regiment to activate it.  However, it could not be changed except by the issuing authority. Thus, that new order was required by General MacArthur .  His "new plan"--Order O. 7. [4] (footnote 42, X Corps WD Sum. Nov 50; Opn O 7, 25 Nov 50.)--superseded Draft Two.

The 7th Infantry Division replacement forces then had an urgent realignment under a new directive from MacArthur to Almond through X Corps G-3 under Opn O 7, 25 Nov 50 (Plan 8, Draft #3).  "Almond set the 27th as the opening date. The 7th Division meanwhile was to expand its zone westward, placing forces on the east side of the Changjin Reservoir for an advance through the zone previously assigned to the Marines. The ROK I Corps was to continue to the border from Hapsu and Ch'ongjin while Almond's remaining major units, the U.S. 3d Division and 1st Korean Marine Corps Regiment, secured the corps' rear area between Wonsan and Hungnam. [5]  At that point, the 7th Infantry Division became involved big time, expanding its zone westward, placing forces on the east side of the Changjin Reservoir.

OPN O 25:

Colonel MacLean's 31st Infantry Regiment's new mission, per Part 1b, was: "7th Inf Div atks 270800 Nov. seizes Mupyong-ni, adv to Yalu Riv. Destroys en in Z Secures the Pugsan area.". This was the 7th ID new mission together with that of the 31st RC--seizing the town of Changjin via the east side of the reservoir. The order definitely involved the 7th Division in a huge and dangerous exchange of division responsibilities. Note: There is no mention whatsoever of any 1st Marine Division mission. Where did they go? Note as well, Almond’s remaining major units were only the U.S. 3d Division and the 1st Korean Marine Corps Regiment.

Day One, 24 November 1950: Opn O 24: 242400 Nov 50; 1) b What the rest of the 7th Infantry Division was doing within that zone of operations. (1) b. omitted: OPN O 24, (2) a. RCT (-) moves 250800 Nov 50 to assy area vic area RR station PUKCHONG. Prep for further mvmt to S & W by RR & mtr, (3) a. 1st Bn: Continues present mission. b. 2d Bn....Continues present mission.

Consider the X Corps statement, "the 7th Division planned an orderly transfer" of three of its regiments to Chosin Reservoir, but Almond rushed his nearest troops into Chosin, etc., we have no indication whatsoever, prior to Colonel MacLean’s issuance of his Operational Order #24 at midnight the 24th, that there were any standing orders from X Corps staff to transfer any 7th Division units prior to that time frame. [6] Nevertheless, Lt. Colonel. Don C. Faith. Jr., without any artillery or tank support units, was already moving his 1/32nd Infantry Battalion toward Chosin, his force being urgently reassigned early morning on the 24th. Colonel MacLean was ordered there as well via a phone call from General Barr shortly prior to midnight on November 24. On that midnight hour, he issued his move order effective for 0800 the next morning. Either way, the latter movement was under X Corps' Opn O 7, 25 Nov 50.  The addition of the 7th Division was by GHQ, thus implying that GHQ would not override, but rather would change the X Corps' new offensive with two "major changes."  An Army division was involved to execute it. Number two, the offensive date was offset by three days. [7] Colonel MacLean then was ordered to execute his movements without delay. Draft Two was also scrapped by GHQ & X Corps for Operation Order 7, issued 25 November.

A Draft Three (equals O 7, 25 Nov 50,) as stated by all earlier historians and authors, was approved by General MacArthur with much more than slight "boundary change." However, all historians and authors tie into an earlier redundant spin that a boundary change was the only reason to change and update the Draft Two number by one digit. Draft Two never did contain any requirement for the 7th Division to be any part of it from Day One. That was only in the revised Order 7, as approved on 25 November while Colonel Chiles returned to Korea from GHQ with an historical change. The reality is, NO lead off force was fully in position to execute either plan.  The 7th Marines was on hold at Yudam-ni, and was not to lead off from there.  Instead, that mission was reassigned by the Marine G-3 to their 5th Marine Regiment. But the 5th Marines remained at Sinhu-ni, some 24 miles distance.  They were reassigned to the task west of Yudam-ni, never to be fully assembled there until after the scheduled attack hour of 270800 November.  Yet the only change recorded is lowering the boundary line.

The Plan which changed the forces assigned and the new date was approved by General MacArthur, the JSPOG, the field commanders, and X Corps staff.  Each division commander had his own responsibility to carry out that order without change or delay. Who was responsible for the delay? Certainly one could imply it was Colonel MacLean, for he did not get his force there in time. In the Army, the best answer to the question, "What is your excuse?", was, "No excuse whatsoever, Sir." For whatever the excuse, it was not valid with higher command which regards to failure to execute a timely order. But if that be the case, MacLean's failure was only on the east side of Chosin Reservoir--his responsibility only, not the west side.  Or, was it the responsibility of General Almond himself?

The answer: hardly.  For with either Plan Six's border assignments or the later Plan Eight, speed was Almond's number one factor to reach his objectives. As with Operational Order 6, the JSPOG staff did not endorse Almond's plan in northeast Korea. "But the planners hedged." Two factors may have caused them not to speak out against the plan. First, they must have known that MacArthur was fully set on attacking to end the fighting. Also, they as a body had no more acceptable solution to the problem than that presently under consideration. It would be insane to stop in place.  Some line would have to be drawn, but by whom? It was that group's responsibility to suggest that time and place, General Smith already having stated his position was to remain in place.

What the staff read into Almond's plan for the Yalu "were so innocuous as to seem fabricated" concerning the advantages, yet Almond had plainly stated and honestly pointed out the dangers. But the JSPOG did not believe that Almond's border mission would directly assist Eighth Army. The advantages as stated in Almond's Plan 6, the momentum of X Corps forces advancing along the established direction in its zone, would be maintained. North Korean forces would not have time to dig in and resist. Logistics problems would be minimized, and "the advance (to Changjin thence north to the Yalu) would pose a threat of envelopment to the enemy."

Disadvantages of Plan 6 as seen by JSPOG

The X Corps advance would not immediately affect enemy forces facing the Eighth Army, which was believed from the start to be the main effort.  The advance would be away from the main strength of the enemy. The most significant disadvantage noted was that "X Corps incurred a real danger of being over extended." However, if one created a 45-mile compass circle from Changjin to Singalpajin, its circle would pass through Manpojin.  The air miles were the same. But this latter part was of prime concern to General Smith in his complaint to his Marine Commandant on November 15 regarding his left flank being exposed. His concern was addressed by the JSPOG. "For all practical purposes, that flank was already exposed." However, so was the entire 7th Division’s all the way above the Marine division completely up to the Yalu River at Hyesanjin, east of Singalpajin.

The JSPOG staff studied Draft One regarding the advance of the Marines. "As the 1st Marines move toward Changjin they will tend to be extended. The left flank of the Marines will be on that mountainous ridge that divides the watershed of the peninsula." [8] Again, reality.  By not moving forward towards Changjin, the Marine Division deprived the 7th Division of those additional miles north of their left flank protection, so all points were directly related. But the problem that so concerned General Smith was being considered by the JSPOG. JSPOG officers believed that if X Corps operations were to effectively assist Eighth Army, only one general course of action lay open. "Almond should attack to the northwest, thereby threatening the rear of the Chinese formation facing Eighth Army, and forcing their withdrawal to avoid envelopment." So the revised plan, Draft Two, was at their direction, not Almond's as such.

This plan required Almond to negate his northern Yalu border approach. (This stated but not factual, 7th Division still seized Singalpajin 28 November.) Since this new line of attack would probably develop on a narrow front as a struggle to control the route of advance, "Concentration of forces for a coordinated attack would not be necessary" and "The attack could be launched at once using forces already in place." [9] What is indicated by the following is that the attack plan north under Plan 6, per Almond, was not immediately changed. 7th Division was still to seize Hyesanjin.

"The JSPOG staff concluded that the X Corps must eliminate enemy forces in the reservoir area 'before’ any operations were feasible, and once Changjin was cleared it might then be feasible to revise the X Corps Eighth Army boundary and direct X Corps to attack the northwest to cut the Manpojin/Kanggye road."

So, once again, we're back to square one, with Changjin as the pivotal point of the new plan. But as stated and verified, "Smith deliberately stalled on the advance." Here not only had he "stalled" his orders from Almond and X Corps staff planners, but the staff planners of JSPOG were also ignored, as their plan was the one being acted upon, (Draft 1) turning left at Changjin. "After that point is reached" what date that would be could not be worked into the plan, it being the unknown factor. At that time, the advance was not "stalled" by any enemy action, but by one division commander "dragging his feet." "Thus it was that with virtually no enemy opposition, the Marines advanced at an average rate of only a mile a day between 10 and 23 November." (10).

Yet General Smith took issue against his "one main effort" border assignment being changed. Now at last, disregarding Smith latest objection, General Almond had been busy with his own planning as well. On 14 November, the date the Marines occupied Hagaru-ri, Almond sent a letter to General Wright, "which in effect, was quite in line with the order to plan for a westward move, after clearing the town of Changjin." He assumed that the town of Changjin would be the next Marine objective seized. General Almond, in his own support of Draft One, told General Wright in part:

"With the containment by Eighth Army offensive in that area, coupled with the unchanged overall mission, it now appears to me to be inadvisable, at this stage of Eighth Army and X Corps operations, for X Corps forces to operate in any strength to the west."

He stated the reasons for his opposition to such a move from his position below the Chosin Reservoir as follows:

"The principal reason for this conclusion is that the only two feasible vehicular routes to the westward in X Corps zone, short of Chosin Reservoir are Yong-Hung-Taepyong-ni and Wonsan-Yandok roads. Since both of these routes enter Eighth Army zone in the rear of General Walker's present front lines, any advance in strength to the westward over them would appear a fruitless operation.... in view of the foregoing, I am convinced that X Corps can best support Eighth Army's effort by continuing its advance to the north, prepare to move westward if desirable when X Corps elements are well north of Chosin Reservoir, and they will be prepared to trap and destroy any enemy forces engaging Eighth Army which depends upon a line of communication through Manpojin. North of Chosin Reservoir suitable lateral routes to the west appear to exist but those routes would have to be verified when that area is reached." [11]

Note of importance: While Almond was blamed outright for the attack out of Yudam-ni, he was in reality opposed to launching any attack "short of Chosin Reservoir" as above: "the only two feasible vehicular routes to the westward in X Corps zone, short of Chosin Reservoir" and "Since both of these routes enter Eighth Army zone in the rear of General Walker's present front lines, any advance in strength to the westward over them would appear a fruitless operation....

This became Almond’s Plan 8: Draft One.

So what is expected here? At least a reconnaissance in force unit from the Marines in their zone to check and verify these routes for vehicular traffic and enemy troop movement westward from Changjin, and for this vital information to be fed back into X Corps G-2 for any enemy force analysis. At that time, the border mission was not changed--nor would it be--as Almond continued his letter to General Wright.

"Thus, X Corps Operation Order No. 6, 11 November 1950, directing advance in zone to the north border of Korea is in accordance with Part II, CX 67291, and is I believe, at present the most important contribution we can make to the overall operation in Korea. The success of the advance will result in the destruction of Chinese and North Korean forces in the reservoir area, which might other wise be employed on the Eighth Army front.... I trust that my analysis of present X Corps capabilities explain our views here and hope that energetic execution of my Operation No. 6 will place assistance to the Eighth Army before the cold weather now upon us is much more severe."

Had Almond been anticipating full cooperation from his inland forces, the Marines, in "that energetic execution of Operation No.6," his anticipation would not have become a reality. From November 17th through the 26th, the Marines had stalled at Sinhu-ni east of the reservoir.

Since the JSPOG were the movers and shakers of the new Plan 8, it is inconceivable that they would not be a part of or be directly involved in its planning and direction, as the input of this unified command, the Navy, Army and Air Force were all contributing factors. Supplies brought in by ships required the Air Force to fly or drop those supplies inland to ground Army forces to utilize those supplies. So Plan 8, Draft One required a force at Changjin to execute it from there on November 24 at 0800 hours (being launched at once to coincide with Eighth Army advance.) But something interfered with this Draft One execution.  No force was at Changjin nor would one ever be. However, a force was already at Yudam-ni to execute it from there.  On the same date and hour, the 7th Marines could well execute Draft 2 of that same plan since that force was already in place--or so it seemed. Yet, things are not always as they seem.  Such was the reality in this case. [12]

Again, it would seem a reality that both forces were to lead off from their respective forward positions regardless of who was doing the planning, whether X Corps, GHQ, or the JSPOG in Tokyo. Since the new plan would still not place forces on the left flank of the 7th Division, not only would that flank be fully open from the west side of the X Corps boundary line to Singalpajin, its flank was already wide open above and across the new boundary line all the way to the Yalu in the Eighth Army zone on to the Chinese border. It always was, as the enemy was never required to observe the boundary line anyway. But that was no big concern--again, so it would seem.

Yet, one fact stands alone. Had the JSPOG plan been followed "using forces already in place" rather than in motion leapfrogging forward or backward as the case would be...had no force moved one mile or not on November is an indisputable and undeniable fact that those forces in place would have fared far better than they did.  Lines of communications would have remained in place and stabilized as established. The position of each and every unit supplied would have been fully known to ground and air support units, which meant that a drop line could be established. Ammo supply dumps, their contents and locations would have been known and their amounts of ammo recorded. And of major importance, a reconnaissance patrol could have been sent forward and been monitored. These things were surely considered and recorded, but not put into practice.  Thus the resulting outcome and disaster to the 7th Division task forces.

It would seem we have a consensus between the JSPOG staff and Almond's staff in one vital respect: "concentration of forces for a coordinated attack would not be necessary... The attack could be launched at once using the forces already in place." Both agreed that "X Corps must eliminate enemy forces in the reservoir area ... once Changjin was cleared it might then be feasible to revise the X Corps Eighth Army boundary and attack northwest to cut the Manpojin-Kanggye road."

So what is known? Both planning groups--X Corps and JSPOG--were of one mind as reported. These forces in place are those from the 1st Marine Division. Almond wrote, "North of Chosin Reservoir suitable lateral routes to the west appear to exist but those routes would have to be verified when that area is reached." The variable in the plan concerns that, "Then" with the JSPOG staff, and "when" with Almond's staff. Both concerned reaching Changjin. Both depended on Draft One to be activated if reconnaissance information feed back warranted any forces crossing into Eighth Army territory.

But enemy forces at Changjin town were never fully monitored nor eliminated, so the variable in this plan is now a known reality.  Changjin was not going to be cleared. Forces were 25 miles from that point, and furthermore, no 7th Marine force was at Yudam-ni on November 22.  But "pressure" was applied to move a force there, in place by November 24. That force was the 7th Marine Regiment located at Hagaru-ri on the 23rd. So we finally have a force at Yudam-ni to lead off from there on November 24.  Whether it was the one General Smith wanted at Yudam-ni is not a relevant point.  He moved them into position there. They were a force "already in place," and the hour was late. They were at Yudam-ni under their own G-3 division order. Their commander's assumption--and the myth--that some unknown quantity of Army forces would relieve the 5th Marines within some unknown time schedule was not carved in stone, as no order was issued at that time to move any Army forces into the Chosin arena. The alert order to move Lt. Col. Faith into that area "as far as possible" could indicate the 5th Marine force there within that time frame was still under orders and advancing toward Changjin.

Supporting this logic, the 5th Marines could be required to still move forward with Faith’s battalion as an Army rear guard behind them, considering the fact that "A" Company of the 1st Marine Engineering Battalion remained behind at the sawmill near Sasu-ri just below Hudong-ni, and was gathering timber to repair the blown bridge over the Paegamni-gang, by-passed for the time being. Another Marine unit held an outpost on Hill 1203 south of Sasu overlooking Hagaru to their rear. Both of these units were still there in the new Army zone on 29 November. Only on 30 November would General Smith order them back to Hagaru, this being the same date that the rear 31st CP and our tank command were ordered back to Hagaru as well. This also related to author Clay Blair’s suggestion that the 5th Marines should proceed forward, with the 7th Division catching up in due time. These facts indicate MacArthur, the JSPOG, and Almond were now on the same wave length for X Corps to operate west of their established boundary line east of Eighth Army boundary line. Plan 8 and its several drafts verify these facts.

On 26 July 1947, the National Security Act of 1947 became effective, reaffirming the status of the Marine Corps as a separate military service within the Department of the Navy. The Act provided for Fleet Marine Forces, and confirmed the Corps' mission of seizing and defending advanced bases, as well as land operations incident to naval campaigns. So the Marine Corps was now an entirely separate service, but still under the Department of the Navy. General Smith seemed to be testing the waters and length of his chain concerning his new authority. This is the first real test of the new National Security Act of 1947. It created the independent Department of the Air Force, but it left unanswered questions as to battlefield "joint command problems."

The first six months in Korea--the act's first test--were a total disaster. The many recorded statements of Smith’s protests and delays and his opposition to his orders as a divisional commander are highly publicized and defended. This was the first United Nations action where an American general was rated and praised for his rebellion against his assigned corps commander. If the Navy would not react to these new problems within their own command, surely there was nothing General Almond could do over and above his recorded compromises to reduce the mission at the expense of the 3rd and 7th Division. That is, with the exception of one option--remove the Marines from the mission entirely and place them in reserve at Chosin.  OPN O 7 (Plan 8, Draft 3) would seem like an all Army operation at Chosin via their own documented orders that the 7th Infantry Division would have the entire responsibility to execute the order to seize Mupyong-ni, as well as Changjin, without delay. The mystery is, why would the Army records be removed as being there, instead of the Marine records?

What was not known was the commitment of the many Army officers to MacArthur’s plans, O- 7.  For whatever their commitment or opposition, MacArthur’s plan and his authority superseded their opposition to any change in direction. In short, "pressure" of higher command always prevailed. There were no votes taken at any Army division level to choose the division commanders' best choice among orders. It would not be far fetched to guess that the Naval officers might not have been fully supportive of these plans in any true fashion:

1) It was a land operation, therefore they could not supply naval gun fire support.

2) It was an Army plan.

3) They were responsible for the inland forces--the Marines.

4) the Marines were not directly under the Pacific Fleet Commander or operating in "land operations incident to naval campaigns."

5) If the plan failed, the fall-out over publicity would take years to repair.  In that event, it would embarrass all concerned.

Yet MacArthur, as always, had the final say. But why was General Smith operating outside of JSPOG, GHQ, and X Corps orders? "Smith's views on the combat scene are further illustrated by a personal letter to General Cates, the Marine Corps Commandant, on 15 November. He frankly admitted that he felt Almond's orders were wrong and that he, as Marine commander in Korea, was not going to press his own troops forward rashly to possible destruction." [13]

So Smith made his position crystal clear against any advance. The ball was now thrown into Almond’s court and he--finally--had to react. He had already used the 7th Division at the Pujon (Fusen} Reservoir and the 3rd Division at Sach’ang-ni to appease Smith.  He then had to use the 7th Division to replace the Marines within the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir. Now Smith was left with a complete regiment in reserve, and no real place to put them. His choice was to locate them in a joint command at Yudam-ni to justify his protest over realigning them there in the first place. That proved to be a fateful, costly decision on his part, but damage control would spin this move as a life-saving event for his forces at Yudam-ni. That political spin completely ignored the fate of Task Force Drysdale and Task Force Faith.

Was it a lawful mission? My position is that it was, although it surely was not the best planned.  But that, too, was never known due to the massive changes made and the interservice in-fighting that required massive troop shuffle of forces. Had that precious time been used to reconnoiter the positions as ordered instead of a dragging gait style, more might have been uncovered about the enemy already completely surrounding the area of operations. Who really benefited? We are led by reports to believe that the Marine command was saved by Smith’s delay. Surely that cannot be disputed, for had the 7th Infantry Division remained in their own zone, they would have reduced their own casualty listings. Yet the Army force involved became victims of circumstance, suffering the most Killed in Action within that same twelve mile radius.  The explanation for that was the Marines were saved--not by their numbers-- but by their training.  Even over their reported disclaimer, they were out of their element, but reality records that they were a reinforced Marine group at Chosin. The 11th Marines, were there as well.  They provided that reinforced heavy artillery. Heavy Pershing 90,000-pound tanks, were part of the Marine Division arsenal as well.  They were well-equipped with inland heavy weapons. And above all else, they had their own air to ground support.

But little was recorded about the 11th Marines or those tanks being within the reservoir area.  Why highlight their own stronger force? But the further question is, what to do with an Army force east of Chosin? These numbers increase the amount of friendly forces by over 4,000 as well, reducing the burden on the Marine forces. The answer is--for damage control, remove them from the area by reference that they were "somewhere" east of the reservoir, but don't be too exact on how far removed they were from the Chosin Reservoir. Why give more information than required?

This question is the biggest mystery of all, since the Army dominated the entire campaign inland under Almond--supported by MacArthur.  So again, why would our Army records be the ones removed from military history? That question posed, and a response by my son that "the Army just doesn't seem to know," sparked my composition of this research. Yet Almond was in command at Chosin, and it is well-documented that MacArthur favored X Corps.  General Walton Walker referred to "MacArthur's pets." That boundary line maintained between the two commands clearly favored Almond to remain in command of his own corps. The fact that Operational Order 25 was not released and remained buried until 1979--the same year General Almond was buried--is a coincidental event of itself.  Isn't it interesting that one would surface as one was buried. Almond being gone from the scene could now save face, even though the records were released, he being no longer available to be questioned about those orders if his plans failed. Makes one wonder what would have happened to those records if the plan had worked? Would those records have been sealed?

Since the objective itself did not change and it was a fact of life that certainly time itself would not change or slow its progress, the mission had to change within a set time frame around that inland force. All consideration has to be given here. That reserve force must be reorganized some way to fit the new mission--that mission inclusive now of Mupyong-ni for the 7th Division. That is the only part, in my opinion, that would ever require Operational Order 25 to be marked "secret" in the first place. Had that reference to Mup’yong-ni been omitted by MacLean, this entire event could have been up front. But something indicates a problem with the Army being assigned Mupyong-ni to seize that area. Still the Marines claim those same efforts to activate that like mission as well.  And that is the mystery.  Why is that?  The new and latest plan was for the 7th Division--not the Marines--to seize Mupyong-ni. That plan was recorded on MacLean's last order 25.  But what if the plan failed--as it did?

Damage Control

Who was responsible to repair the damage caused? Certainly not the Department of the Navy. In their view, the Marine Corps was "on loan" to the Army. The Marine Commandant had a letter from his inland force commander denouncing the original Plan 6 and General Smith’s intent to delay it, notwithstanding the other one of Plan 8, with its two changeable positions and order of battle. [14] So the foul-up had to be placed elsewhere outside of the Department of the Navy. While those Army records for our task force on the east side of Chosin were removed, the Marine Corps' over-abundance of discredit and innuendos against Army forces--Task Force Faith--created a point of convergence of facts being called down upon their own forces. This seriously disrupted and disputed any Marine damage control feature. Again I make my redundant statement that our task force "made no claim to any fame." But also, sadly, our Army officers made no large effort to correct any of those innuendos and untrue statements concerning our own honor to our own dead and our commitment on that side of the reservoir. I am a survivor of the Army campaign east of the Chosin.  Hopefully, my personal attempt to clarify some facts may rectify this delay.

Since the Army itself will survive any crisis due to its size, and the only naval involvement was their one Marine Division inland in Korea, the easiest Army damage control solution seems to have been to remove the Army from the Marine area of operations as much as possible. There is only one problem with this solution, and it is a major general one. The major general Marine commander was highly vocal over the events at the time. Those vocal remarks locked in a pattern of many accurate and inaccurate statements over his own personal behavior verifying the whole. Coupled with the Marine history of speculation, Marine damage control can be examined for what it is. The Marine statement of blame on others reveals several facts.

Self praise (an excessive amount coming from within the corps itself) and an over-abundance of medals awarded, failed to silence or satisfy or justify the Marine Corps' overall fear of rejection. As time passed, the respect awarded to the Army forces irritated some in the Marine Corps, particularly those who disputed the few Marines who challenged the historians' past remarks about the Army units. The late, late award of the PUC also set into motion new innuendos. Again, that seems strange in light of the fact that the Army units made no claim to any fame on the east side of the reservoir. The Army only asked that it be included in that PUC in the early 1950s. In fact, as stated, those Army officers were quizzed on their own conduct over why they failed as they did. But there an old maxim, that says, "Turn about is fair play." Why didn’t the Marine officers follow their own orders as were issued and verified by General Smith?

Why did the Marines remain at Yudam-ni after being ordered by General Smith to clear that road back to Hagaru on 28 November by General Smith? Why did they also remain there one additional day longer after receiving the second order from General Smith based on Almond’s order late on the 29th to return to Hagaru-ri? Their latter recorded answer is that they needed that extra day--each time--to realign their forces. These and many more discrepancies are fair game to question.

As recorded by Shelby L. Stanton, "On November 21, Almond selected the second draft of Operation Plan Number 8. The push toward Mupyong-ni would be made directly west from Hagaru-ri, where the Marines were already located." [15] This was to be the new Marine "one main objective."  Since time was a factor and pressure was applied and in order, the Marines located at Hagaru were the 7th Marines and not the 5th Marines, it would seem logical that they (7th Marines) were already in place for the lead off from Yudam-ni. This indicates that the implied relief of the 5th Marines between 24-27 November would have to wait an additional planning stage of three days with the 7th Division personnel added, but under a different draft number.

This one number was so vital and so important beyond the second draft that it required General MacArthur's personal approval. Only within that mythical draft number three were the 5th Marines ordered to move from east of Chosin. General Smith himself verified and commented on this, saying, "Apparently pressure was put on General MacArthur .... He devised a new plan that rushed some troops from the 31st and 32nd Regiment east of the reservoir to relieve the 5th Marines. The 5th would then move over to Yudam-ni." But he did not state that they were ordered in front of the 7th Marines, and that was an extremely difficult order to locate on any order from X Corps.

What could not be explained factually could therefore be fabricated. What was fabricated without fact can therefore be challenged. To "relieve the 5th Marines" or "replace them" is a matter of pure semantics. Also their "presently" or "previously" assigned mission, Changjin. In this case, the mission of the 5th Marines changed to the west side when what is known of the CCF clash with 1/A/7 Marines on the evening of the 26th and loss of one 1st Lt. Mitchell caused "A" Company to withdraw and signaled a direct involvement of enemy forces. That should have posed only two options for 1/5 and 3/5 Marine Battalions still on the east side of Chosin. Receive new orders from their own G-3 staff, supplemented by their G-2 staff, to either (1) remain in place or, (2) pull into Hagaru early morning of the 27th. As recorded, two-thirds of the 5th Marines did not arrive at Yudam-ni until after the 2/5 Battalion was allegedly stopped by a CCF "massive force" per General Smith’s interview. [16] In Marine history, the maps show the 5th Marines fully ahead of the 7th Marines on the west side. But they never were in that position at the start or until Smith ordered the 7th Marines to open the road back to Hagaru. Thus, in reality that order realigned the 7th Marines behind the other two battalions of the 5th by passing through their lines to the rear--almost as if they had to be rearranged for the historical record.

General Smith was noted for keeping meticulous notes of events.  Much of Marine history of the Chosin Campaign is based on Smith’s chronicles. He appears honest and truthful in many of his notes. In fact, these provide much insight of his negating his own regimental commanders' accounts. However, while never doubting his regimental commanders' reports, he does not verify them with his official endorsement.

There is one important point to note about the aborting of the Yudam-ni attack westward. He also disputed and failed to verify General Ridgway’s version that his two regimental commanders were the ones calling off the attack. "It was then that Murray and Litzenberg decided on their own, without consulting Smith, to call off the attack and go on the defensive, disregarding Almond's orders, as they figured the show was hopeless." [17] This action was his alone, based on those two regimental commanders' reports of the CCF in front of them. "Murray made as I said, about 2.000 yards, and I halted the attack, because it was manifest that he was up against a massive force out there." Here his decision was made on Murray’s report as Smith was not there at Yudam-ni on the 27th.

However, that earlier advance westward on the 27th merely appeared as a battalion size recon in force, opposed to one of a smaller 1/A/7 Marine company size force the evening of the 26th. Both forces met resistance and aborted their contact to receive divisional guidance. But Marguerite Higgins' accounting returns to haunt their history about a "joint command." She remarked that the Marines were working "for the first time without division guidance." While Smith did order Colonel Litzenberg to clear the road back to Hagaru, he did not order that to be done at "all cost" to Task Force Drysdale. The necessity, however, went without any order, as that MSR was the only solution to a withdrawal. So the question is posed, why the delay to head back to Hagaru-ri as ordered?

While this interservice "joint command authority" rivalry continued to escalate within the Korean War, it was not truly solved until 1986. (However, the running controversy over the PUC and exclusion of Task Force Faith continued for another 13 years.) It took the Goldwater-Nichols Act to amend past arrogance of commanders. With the strong support of Senator Sam Nunn, it still needs work. Senator Barry Goldwater also ran interference with the Republican President Ronald Reagan. The Act defined who carries the authority of a single command. To its credit was the one commander of the Gulf War, General Norman Schwartzkopf. Hopefully, the release of all secret documents from the Korean and Vietnam Wars also had some input into the Goldwater-Nichols Act. What this act did was establish the CINC operational control over all forces assigned to his command without the bickering and whining that was done between the timeline of Korea and Vietnam. Had this act been in effect in Korea, the cost of casualties might have been far, far less. But again, that could have been--but it was not. The scandal and disgrace at Chosin Reservoir was the disregard for orders issued by the commander in charge regardless of who that would be. General Smith also held to his past delays with General Ridgway as well, which indicated the man being in charge over him was what irritated him, not the mission assigned as such.

Ingredients in the final draft, 21- 25 November, 1950

Draft One, Ebb & Flow.  It was approved and ordered by MacArthur to Almond (per) 40 Lt., Gen Almond to Gen Wright, 15 Nov 50; Rad, CX 69009, CINCFE to CG X Corps, 15 Nov 50. (Draft one, Nine days to date of activation, 24 November.)  Discarded on 21 November in favor of Draft Two.

Statement, page 266: Policy and Direction: "Changjin and Mup'yong-ni were too widely separated to be assigned to a single division. General Almond also directed that the planners take into consideration that extreme winter temperatures of 30 to 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit would severely restrict both friendly and enemy operations."

Fact in contradiction - OPN O 25, Intel Summary: (B) plus body of Operation Order 25. Both objectives: Changjin and Mup'yong-ni, although considered as "too widely separated to be assigned to a single division." The end reality: These two areas were both assigned per OPN O 25 to a single division--the 7th Infantry Division.  What changed?

Policy and Direction, page 266: "On 23 November, Colonel Chiles, X Corps operations officer, took this plan to Tokyo where he discussed it with General MacArthur. On 24 November, General MacArthur directed that the plan be carried out with ‘one modification,’ a shift of the proposed boundary between the X Corps and Eighth Army farther west and south in the zone of the 1st Marine Division. General Almond was told to designate his own D-day. [18] The details of the corps plan were passed on to General Walker and the Eighth Army staff by visiting GHQ officers on 24 November." [19]

Here that "one modification," cited by all authors and historians--"a shift of the proposed boundary between the X Corps and Eighth Army farther west and south in the zone of the 1st Marine Division." This was verified as the only change. Consider this.  The plan was ordered by GHQ.  The necessity for Colonel Chiles' personal presentation to MacArthur seems overrated by the reciprocal visit of GHQ officers to Korea the next day. "The details of the corps plan were passed on to General Walker and the Eighth Army staff by visiting GHQ officers on 24 November." However, per footnote [fn 29], both commanders had already been informed on the 23rd by MacArthur, via Rad, CX 69661, 23 Nov. 50--this prior to Colonel Chiles' return to Korea as well. Thus, Almond activated Lieutenant Colonel Faith for his fateful mission early morning of 24 November.

Personal visits from GHQ officers to explain this "one modification" as a mere "shift of the proposed boundary between the X Corps and Eighth Army" also seems overrated. The details of only one modification must have had a real impact on Eighth Army operations already under way. Surely there was more information of importance as to why Almond was delaying his mission to assist General Walker’s offensive by cutting off the CCF enemy rear flank by three additional days. But recall that General Walker issued only one order that date (the 25th) lowering his boundary line below Mupyong-ni.
Page 266, Policy and Direction, notes that "General Almond ordered his troops to advance at 0800, 27 November. The final assignment of tasks directed the 1st Marine Division to seize Mup'yong-ni and advance to the Yalu, the 7th Division to attack from the Changjin Reservoir and advance to the Yalu, and the ROK I Corps to advance from Hapsu and Ch'ongjin areas to destroy the enemy." [20]

Fact(s) in direct contradiction: "The 7th Division will extend its zone westward, through that zone previously assigned to the Marines" [21] Plus, Opn O 25, Part 1b, "7th Inf Div atks 270800 Nov. seizes Mupyong-ni, adv to Yalu Riv. Destroys en in Z Secures the Pugsan area." This was the 7th ID's new mission, together with that of the 31st RCT: seizing the town of Changjin, via the east side of the reservoir. [22]

We have several other conflicts of statements:

1) Hammel, Chosin, page 211-212: Order to attack west received after the one to withdraw to Hagaru-ri (would be after 292029 November

2) Mossman, Ebb & Flow, page 48. No mission designation for the 1st Marines as a major unit.

3) MG Smith: One regiment, to open attack, but he had only one battalion of the 5th Marines at Yudam-ni on opening hour of attack.

4) 27 November opening attack from Yudam-ni, called to a halt after six daylight hours. Apparent sighting of a "massive" enemy force (2 to 1 ratio). However, night of 26th, clash with the enemy reason of award for MOH for a Marine officer, either downplayed or ignored.

5) Almond: No reported reaction to the aborted mission westward, even though he was there in the Yudam-ni area for two additional hours after the mission was aborted. His only notebook comment was that "drivers were not practicing convoy road discipline." [23]

6) If previous zone assigned to the Marines was meant to imply that same zone assigned through Plan 6, there being no other 7th Division flank support, it cannot be supplied directly to the Marines. Granted they were no longer within the Eighth Army zone.  However, it was not defined as any other than "the previous zone assigned to the Marines."  We have no real clarification of the Plan 8 other than through OPN O 25, as far as Changjin.

7) After MacLean arrived east of Chosin, the tank company was withdrawn 30 November from rear support.  Dispute over who ordered same.

8) 1 December, withdrawal dispute.  Was it ordered from higher command or not?

9) Per MG Smith to MG Barr: Air priority was to be granted from 1st MAW.  It never arrived until after a five-hour delay, arriving around 1300hrs on east side of Chosin. However, it was providing cover for air drops of ammo and strafing the enemy on the west side of Chosin on 1 December as early as 0800 hrs.

10) Task Force Faith received neither of these until 1300 hrs, after that five-hour delay on the east side.

11) Support from Hagaru-ri: 105mm Howitzers were well within range to cover Hill 1221, as TF Faith before or as our forces reached that point. No forces would have to leave Hagaru-ri--only howitzer shells, monitored by overhead liaison plane already over area.

12) Air to ground priority was stated as granted to TF Faith.  However, night fighters were not part of that priority, as in (#9) above.  Night fighters (hecklers) were also provided for west side of reservoir, as part of their ‘priority’.

13) MG Smith was not in charge of 1st MAW.  MG Field Harris was. What MG Smith promised MG Barr did not obligate MG Harris. As Appleman records in Escaping the Trap, page 216, breakout from Yudam-ni would have "maximum air cover, including carrier planes from Task Force 77."  (Badoeng Strait's mission changed with the start of the Korean War in late June 1950. Early in the following month, she embarked Marine Corps aircraft for transportation to the war zone. She operated some of these Marine planes for combat operations through a tour that lasted until January 1951, including participation in September and December 1950.  USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116, later AKV-16), US Navy History


[1] Another report that only two Air Force officers were included. See Policy And Direction, page 260. In the face of the enemy strength evident in General Almond's area and in the Eighth Army's zone, General Wright's JSPOG staff closely examined the original plan developed for X Corps operations. The Eighth Army attack was to be the main U.N. effort. Wright's staff looked at the X Corps' plans from the standpoint of "How can X Corps best assist Eighth Army?" The JSPOG planners had either not consulted or did not believe intelligence estimates forwarded to Washington by Willoughby, since their planning assumptions credited the Chinese with less strength than shown in Willoughby's reports of the same date. According to JSPOG assumptions on 12 November, the Eighth Army faced 18,000 Chinese troops, and the X Corps, 7,500. These troops were in addition to 50,000 North Koreans fronting the X Corps' path of advance. The Chinese were credited with the ability to reinforce at the rate of 24,000 men per day (fn 12).

[2] Walker issued a single order on the 25th, one that shortened the final objective line of the ROK II Corps to conform with the 27 November attack by General Almond's forces. Otherwise, he intended that the Eighth Army would continue its advance on the 26th as originally conceived. Ebb & Flow, 66 [fn14] 14 Eighth Army G1 SS Rpt, 25 Nov 50; Rad, GX 30007 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to C/S ROKA et al., 25 Nov 50.

[3] General Omar Bradley, "A Soldier’s Story", page 138.

[4] Message precedes Colonel Chiles return to Korea. Compare to footnote #5 below, these are two different orders.

[5] Mossman, page 48, (footnote 42, X Corps WD Sum. Nov 50; Opn O 7, 25 Nov 50.)

[6] OPN O 24, Issued by Colonel MacLean, 31st RCT, 242400 Nov. ‘50 (Declassified-09/91)

[7] Indicating that the Naval officers now have second thoughts in use of the 1st Marine Division for this mission. Without their recorded opposition (to use the 7th Division instead of the Marine division), their silence will be taken as full approval of their agreement to this attack westward.

[8] (P&D-261)

[9] Staff Study, X Corps Assistance to Eighth Army, 12 Nov. 50, JSPOG Files. (Policy And Direction, page 261)

[10] South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, page 773

[11] Policy & Direction: The First Year, page 263

[12] Here all historians insert their own spin on why this Draft 1 was aborted.

[13] Policy and Direction, page 261 [GPO]. Recall Ralph Smith’s defense over his own relief at the Island of Saipan. Quotations are almost identical.

[14] Still he takes issue with Almond over Draft 1, here you are telling us to be prepared for an attack to the west...We’ve got one Main effort... (Under Plan 6)

[15] Ten Corps in Korea, (194)

[16] RED FLAG. "I halted the attack, because it was manifest that he was up against a massive force out there." Frank interview 1969.

[17] Ridgway; "As these two regiments moved out, they were rapped hard by the long-concealed Chinese. It was then that Murray and Litzenberg decided on their own, without consulting Smith, to call off the attack and go on the defensive, disregarding Almond's orders, as they figured the show was hopeless."

[18] [fn,28] Rad, CX 69661, CINCFE to CG X Corps, 24 Nov. 50

[19] [fn,29] Rad, CX 69661, CINCFE to CG X Corps and CG Eighth Army, 23 Nov. 50 [20] [fn, 30] X Corps Opns Order No. 7, 25 Nov. 50. Colonel MacLean is in motion moving his forces to the railroad station at Pukchong at 250800 November.

[21] Ebb & Flow, page 48, Opn O, 7, 25 Nov 50 [fn 42]

[22] National Archives, Declassified 1/9/79

[23] Appleman, Escaping the Trap, page 55


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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