The Korean War was a conflict between the communist North Korea, and the democratic South Korea. The Korean War is often referred to as the Forgotten War because it is constantly overshadowed by World War II and Vietnam. It is also referred to was the 6-2-5 War, reflecting the date of the start of the war. In North Korea it is known as Fatherland Liberation War, and in the Peoples Republic of China it is known as the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea. The fact that it is known as the Forgotten War, however does not mean it is any less important. While it is true that there was no real result to the end of the war territory wise, roughly 37,000 American soldiers paid the ultimate price for their country. This paper will briefly examine the general overtone of the Korean War and highlight the US military tactics and new technologies within the Korean War, with emphasis on one of the most important battles of the war, The Battle of Inchon. It will also briefly examine the history leading up to the Korean War and recent events in North and South Korea (“Korean War”).
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Before the close of World War II, Korea was controlled by Japan, when Japan surrendered after the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Korea was physically divided at the 38th parallel. Soviet Union troops occupied the northern half and United States troops occupied the southern half. The Soviets had modeled the Korea government after their own, a communist government (“Korean War”). While the US led United Nations had modeled the South Korean government after that of the United States, a democratic government. Nobody knew it at the time, but the Korean war would be the largest armed conflict of the Cold War (“Korean War”).
The Korean War began on June 25th, 1950 with the North invading the southern, Republic of Korea. The United Nations was quick to disapprove. Two days later, President Truman authorized a military intervention by the United States. He committed the land, sea and air forces within Korea. Soon after, General McArthur was placed in command of an additional 15 nations forces. Early in the war the Peoples Republic of Korea met with little resistance. This changed, however when the US mobilized. The entire war was essentially a give and take in territory, push forward then fall back, push forward again and retreat again. By the end of the war, the front lines were very close to the 38th parallel.
Some would argue that the war was a pointless give and take but the servicemen who gave their lives would quickly disagree. The United Nations, which includes the United States, the United Kingdom and several other countries has a count of 778,053 men dead, injured, missing or captured. While the Soviet Union, China and North Korea lost around 1,545,822 men. The total amount of civilians lost is estimated at a staggering 2.5 million lives. The United Nations forces, including South Korea, at the beginning of the war was roughly 1,207,010 men. This may not be entirely accurate because at the time the paper strength of the troops did not match their actual numbers, which were a bit smaller. The Soviets, Chinese and North Koreans had an average total of 1,212,000 troops. Which gave them a huge advantage, but they were unprepared for some of the United States’ more interesting attack plans.
The Battle of Inchon, also known as Operation Chromite took place on September 15th of 1950 and ended 4 days later, on the 19th. Over 75,000 troops and other support craft landed at Inchon and quickly overwhelmed the small defensive force that was present guarding the village. The landing at Inchon is still revered as the most genius amphibious landings in history. When General MacArthur realized that the US forces were in danger of being pushed out of Korea, he proposed a dangerous counter attack, far behind the enemy lines. After countless hours of deliberation and meetings, it was decided. The Battle of Inchon was a go. The battle was preceded by a secret infiltration of the village. The reconnaissance mission, codenamed Trudy Jackson was a CIA and military intelligence joint mission. The objective was to gather intelligence about the geography of the village and landing site, and the enemy fortifications. They had reported back that the North Korean’s had artillery set up at Wolmi-do island. Lieutenant Commander Arlie G. Capps, a gunnery officer on Admiral Doyle’s staff described quite succinctly; “We drew up a list of every natural and geographic handicap — and Inchon had ’em all.” (“The Inchon Invasion”).
Five days before the actual landing, US planes flew over the island of Wolmi-do dropping over 90 canisters of napalm. This cleared the way for the impending US invasion. Before the landing, the US Naval forces around Inchon shelled the landing site and Wolmi-do island to destroy the fortified artillery positions. The actual landing was divided up into three sections. Known as Green Beach, Red Beach and Blue Beach (“The Battle of Inchon”).
Green Beach is a 200 yard strip of land on the northwest side of Wolmi-Do island. The terrain was mostly large rocks with sand patches and a ridge (“The Inchon Invasion”). Operations started at 6:30 in the morning on September 15th. The X Corps, 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and a few M26 Pershing tank elements from the 1st Tank Battalion landed on the north side of Wolmi-do island. Armed with flamethrowers and bulldozer blades, the Pershing tanks were easily able to roll over the North Korean defenses. The small Green Beach force had to wait until 7:50pm for the tide to rise again. They fortified their position by shelling, bombing and placing anti-vehicle and anti-personnel mines on the only bridge into the area. Once the tide was high enough, more Green Beach forces were able to land and help secure the foothold that they had gained (“The Battle of Inchon”).
Red Beach was comprised of Regimental Combat Team 5 and the 3rd Battalion of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps. Commanded by Major General Raymond L. Murray, they scaled the steep sea walls with ladders. (“The Inchon Invasion”). Their objective was to secure a 3000 by 1000 yard block of land. Using LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) which are smaller ships that carry mass amounts of troops on the deck and tanks below the deck. They were able to secure Red Beach and complete their objective (“The Battle of Inchon”).
Blue Beach was under the Command of Colonel Lewis B. Puller. The Blue Beach landing site was much farther south than Red and Green beaches, as a result of this, they were the last come ashore. When they finally arrived, they split into two main sections, Blue Beach One and Blue Beach Two. Blue Beach One landed to the left, and pushed further left and Blue Beach Two had landed to the right and continued to push to the right. Blue Beach had suffered minimal casualties and faced minimal opposition since the opposing North Korean forces had surrendered by the time they got to the mainland (“The Battle of Inchon”).
As soon as the North Koreans had been eliminated at Inchon, the supplies and reinforcements flowed in. They cleared the floating debris out of the water, and built a floating pontoon dock to deploy the rest of the armor. On September 16th, the North Koreans had mounted a response to the Inchon landing. They had sent six columns of T-34 tanks, with no additional support. Fortunately, they were spotted by US forces, a detachment of bombers was sent out to deal with the oncoming army of tanks. The T-34 columns took heavy damage and had lost most of their ranks. The US mobilized the M26 Pershing tanks and destroyed the rest of the T-34s in one fell swoop (“The Inchon Invasion”).
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Overall, over 40,000 infantry troops participated in the initial Inchon Landing, and the resulting Battle of Inchon. Supporting them from the sea they had 4 naval cursers, 7 destroyers and a huge amount of air and artillery support. The North Korean’s had a very small contingent of battle ready units. Only 6,500 troops, and a meager 19 planes. As a result, they were easily defeated (“The Battle of Inchon”).
Although many had doubted is success, the Battle of Inchon turned out to be a resounding success. It is considered to be one of the most successful and daring military operations in recent years. Inchon had moved the front lines, and cut off the North Korean’s supply lines. The US troops were able to flank the North Koreans from the rear to clear them out of South Korea. Had the battle’s outcome been different, the US may not have been as successful as they had been in the war. If the Inchon Landing never happened, the US forces would have been pushed out to sea.
The Korean War also saw the introduction of new technologies and weaponry such as the helicopter, while technically it was developed during World War II, it was never used in any type of life fire combat situation. The US Army had realized that it needed to get Medevac to the injured troopers as soon as possible to minimize their losses. Bell Helicopter had designed the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, more commonly known as the Huey. Classified as a utility helicopter the Huey can transport up to 14 troops, 6 injured troops on gurneys or up to 3,000 pounds of cargo. Even though it is classified as a utility chopper, it is still armed to the teeth. She is packed with two 7.62-mm Machine guns and 16 70-mm Air-to-Surface rockets. With a top cursing speed of 115 mph, the Huey is definitely a war machine.
The helicopter in service before the Huey was the Bell 47 OH-13 Sioux. Recognizable by its exposed wire tail boom, the Sioux can’t hold a candle to the Huey. Due to the bubble canopy, there was only room for the pilot and co-pilot. The Sioux could not transport troops, save for two gurneys strapped to the bottom. The Sioux was considerably lighter, armament wise. Armed with only two 7.62-mm machine guns, the Sioux was primarily used for reconnaissance and emergency medevac.
Another revolution in the art of hand held weapons powerful enough to take down enemy tanks, the M-20 Rocket Launcher, or Super Bazooka was a massive improvement over the earlier versions, such as the M9 Rocket Launcher. The M20 could penetrate up to 11 inches of solid armor, whereas the M9 could only chew through 5 inches. The M20 also extended the range of the Bazooka another 150 meters. It also had a larger warhead, measuring up to 3.5 inches, or 90mm. The M20 Super Bazooka revolutionized infantry’s ability to take out enemy armor.
Yet another innovation that was used mainly during the Korean War and onward, the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, or MASH unit saved countless lives on the front lines. They were a monumental success in the Korean War, if a seriously wounded soldier made it to a MASH unit he had a 97% chance of survival. Some MASH units were staffed with as many as 10 doctors and up to 20 nurses. The MASH units could be deployed close to the front lines so wounded infantry men could make it to the unit without losing too much blood, or allowing infection to set in. The last MASH unit was deactivated on October 16th, 2006.
The end of the war was brought upon by a ceasefire signed on July 27, 1953. The armistice was signed by North Korea, China and the United Nations. Korea remains divided along the 38th parallel, where the war started. A DMZ, or demilitarized zone was set up along the 38th paralell. The Korean DMZ is to this day, one of the most well defended areas on the planet. Tensions have been rising and stability of the area has been threatened as North Korea develops it’s nuclear weapons.
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