Monday, July 26, 2010

Beginning of the Korean War
On June 25, 1950, the North Koreans (NK) invaded the South

Striking in overwhelming force, without warning, they crushed the unprepared Republic of Korea (ROK) army. The NK were only contained by the entry of the United States, quickly supported by the United Nations.

For a time, the issue was in doubt. Although the NK had virtually annihilated the ROK forces, the surprised ROKs had resisted desperately, and the NK had suffered grave losses in men and material in the savage fighting. When the NK first met our own army, and realized the US had really entered the conflict, they paused for a few weeks to re-group. This gave the US and UN time to build up our own forces, and to finally stop the NK completely, in the battle of the Pusan Perimeter.

On September 15, 1950 Joint Task Force Seven, with more than 320 warships including 4 aircraft carriers, carried the nearly 70,000 man strong force of X Corps into the dangerous tides of Inchon harbor. Preceded by heavy naval bombardment and under a blanket of fighting aircraft, led by the veteran 5th Marines, elements of the 1st Marine Division were landed 100 miles behind the North Korean lines and fought their way on to take Seoul, by 9/25. The newly reinforced 7th Infantry Division protected its flank. The stroke was decisive.

Conceived and directed by our brilliant general Douglas MacArthur, the assault at Inchon was a strategic masterpiece. The invasion had suddenly positioned some of our finest fighting men across the main NK lines of supply, and retreat, far in the rear of their attacking armies. Within two weeks, the North Korean army was largely destroyed or made ineffective.

The way to the Yalu, and total destruction of North Korea's military power, seemed virtually unopposed.

With the North Korean invasion hardly a week old, and their armies running amok down the Peninsula, General MacArthur began planning an amphibious assault to retake the communications center at Seoul. This would trap the main NK combat forces, and permit us to destroy them at leisure.

MacArthur placed army Major General Edward M. Almond in charge of X Corps, with the responsibility of carrying out this operation. The Marine Corps were expert in amphibious assault, so this was a surprising move. It led to serious problems from the beginning, and was almost fatally damaging later in the rugged Taebaek mountains.

For the assault to have maximum effectiveness, a strong military force was required on the southern part of the Peninsula to keep the NK fully engaged. However, the violence of the NK attacks was menacing their very existence. A series of military defeats, and organizational difficulties, repeatedly delayed formation of a strong enough reserve force to stage such a daring amphibious counter-stroke.

United States Marine Corps Readiness
President Truman, guided by his Cabinet and the JCS and a strong personal dislike of the USMC, had cut the Fleet Marine Force to 34,000 officers and men, giving a ground fighting strength of only six infantry battalions, and a total Corps strength of 74,279 officers and men. Eliminated were the two Marine divisions which would surely have enabled Eighth Army to meet and defeat the In Min Gun in the Pusan Perimeter. Corps strength was so reduced that the 3 battalions available for a provisional brigade only had two companies each.

Truman had so weakened the Corps that they could not man the third companies ... the elements of maneuver! The third companies did not join 5th Marines until after the second Naktong battle, and then mostly manned by reservists who had been driving buses and bagging at supermarkets barely weeks before.

As it turned out, the single Marine RCT which still was capable of rapid deployment effectively saved the Perimeter, and South Korea, with its valiant defeats of the NK in the Naktong battles. When Truman permitted calling up the Reserves, the Marines were once again ready for decisive counter-attack behind enemy lines.

5th Marine Regiment
Originally selected by MacArthur for the amphibious operation, early Eighth Army defeats made the need for reliable infantry in the perimeter paramount.
5th Marines formed the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and landed at Pusan 8/3, serving with distinction at the Naktong Bulge, well supported by their M26 Pershings and Marine Corsairs. By "distinction", the 5th Marines typically won their engagements with the NK forces whereas Army units did not, and half the Army casualties were usually MIAs whereas the 5th usually had none. On 9/12, the 5th mounted out from Pusan to help form the rest of 1st Mar Div and X Corps at sea.

1st Marine Regiment
1st Marines were activated in August, and staged in Japan. 1st joined the Inchon invasion in the afternoon of the first day, assaulting Blue beach.

7th Marine Regiment
7th Marines were activated around 9/1, staged at Kobe around 9/9, and on 9/21 were landed at Inchon to join 1st Mar Div.