Colloquium on Contemporary History Project

General George E. Stratemeyer
and the Air War in Korea: Fall 1950

Thomas Y'Blood
Headquarters, U.S. Air Force History Office

From the start of the Korean War until May 20, 1951, the top Air Force commander on the scene was Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer, commander of the Far East Air Forces (FEAF) (which included the Fifth Air Force in Japan and Korea, the Philippine-based Thirteenth Air Force, and the Twentieth Air Force headquartered on Okinawa). General Stratemeyer had commanded FEAF since April 1949. During World War II, he served as Chief of Air Staff, Army Air Forces and had held various command positions in the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI), including Commanding General, Theater Air Forces, Southeast Asia, and Commanding General, Army Air Forces, China Theater.

For a man caught in the web of intrigues and personality clashes that seemed to permeate both the CBI in World War II and MacArthur's Far East Command during the Korean War, the professional Stratemeyer remained remarkably level-headed and even tempered, genial and outgoing. But he was very proud of the Air Force and did not tolerate any slurs on the service, or attempts to denigrate its accomplishments, especially if they came from the Navy. Although his relationship with the Navy commanders, such as with Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy were very cordial, he tended to view certain Navy actions with a jaundiced eye and never quite trusted that service.

For example, in his August 24 diary entry he complained, "Here again the Navy with destroyers as they have done with carrier-based aviation have hit targets that the FEAF Bomber Command have practically destroyed. Mark my words, when the history is written, the Navy will claim the destruction of targets throughout North Korea that FEAF Bomber Command has destroyed. This entry in my diary is made for the record that might be made of the history of Air Force participation in the Korean War."

Nor was Stratemeyer too fond of Major General Edward M. Almond, MacArthur's chief of staff and commander of the X Corps. Stratemeyer believed Almond had no conception of close air support or how the Air Force functioned. Further, Almond continually agitating for a return of, if not all, at least some of the Air Force's functions to the Army.

Within a day of the invasion of South Korea, General Stratemeyer was pushing for permission to bomb North Korea. Not until June 29 did MacArthur approve such action. Official JCS permission came the next day--not the last time MacArthur would act before consulting the JCS or the President. Yet, because of the precarious ground situation in June and July, the B-29s were used extensively for ground support rather than on strategic or interdiction missions. On August 3, however, MacArthur asked Stratemeyer to prepare an interdiction campaign to "stop all communications moving south." Stratemeyer was only too pleased to comply because, "We had preached that doctrine since the B-29s arrived" and the Superfortresses would now be used on "targets that will really isolate the battlefield."

An example of this interdiction campaign was the "elastic bridge," a railway span at Seoul so named for its ability to bounce back after attacks. Through the combined efforts of the 19th Bomb Group and Carrier Air Group 11 the bridge was eventually destroyed. A delighted MacArthur presented each group with trophies for their accomplishments, while an equally delighted Stratemeyer rounded up two cases of scotch for the two groups. However, these attacks showed the difficulty of destroying a major bridge even under relatively good conditions; such difficulty was magnified later at Sinuiju and the Yalu River bridges.

The directive from the JCS concerning the bombing of North Korea carried an important caveat: FEAF aircraft were to "stay well clear" of the Manchurian and Soviet Union borders. Although Stratemeyer issued definite orders on both July 3 and August 14, followed by further admonitions on September 2 and 6 cautioning against any violations of these borders, FEAF aircraft did not always "stay well clear." A radar bombing run on Rashin, only 17 miles from the Siberian border -- in violation of orders to bomb the city only under visual conditions--resulted in the bombs falling well clear of the target, though not on Soviet territory. Another attack ten days later was aborted because of weather. With an anxious State Department objecting to Rashin as a target, the JCS placed the city "off limits" to attack on September 1. It was then rationalized that supplies from this city could be interdicted somewhere along the road leading south out of the city. Restrictions such as this by the JCS would lead later to charges by MacArthur's partisans of "a flagrant example of political interference in military decisions."

The border was not violated at Rashin but there were several other incidents where it had been, including one on October 8, when a pair of F-80 pilots erred in navigation and strafed a Soviet airfield near Vladivostok.

While the FEAF aircraft were trying to stay "well clear" of the border, the Chinese antiaircraft gunners on the other side had no compunction about firing at the planes. This activity worried General Stratemeyer and he warned his commanders on August 29 that it was "a distinct possibility" that the Chinese would come to the aid, both in the air and on the ground, of the North Koreans.

The same day, Stratemeyer wired Air Force Chief of Staff, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, that intelligence reports evaluated as B-3 (or a reasonably reliable source but deemed to be only a possibility and not necessarily accurate) indicated that the Chinese 54th, 55th, 56th, and 74th Armies were now in North Korea. (Stratemeyer may have meant divisions, not armies.) Actually, none of these units were or would be in North Korea, but this message should have sown some seeds of caution. That the crop from these seeds of caution would be harvested by the U.N. Command was another thing entirely.

There had been other signs of gathering strength by Chinese forces in Manchuria, including open warnings of intervention. Nevertheless, it is quite evident today that at that time most of the U.S. intelligence agencies and the armed services were remarkably sanguine that there would be no intervention. Inchon and the breaking of the North Korean Peoples Army (the NKPA) were among the events that led to the decision to cross the 38th Parallel. As early as mid-July, MacArthur had considered crossing the line, believing it might be necessary to occupy the entire country in order to win the war.

Also in July, both the JCS and the National Security Council began studying the possibility of crossing the parallel. After a JCS review, the NSC issued a revised paper--NSC 81/1. This paper, a somewhat waffling and obtuse document, among other things stated: (1) UN forces could advance north of the 38th Parallel either to force the NKPA to withdraw from the south or defeat it; (2) if Soviet or Chinese forces entered North Korea before U.N. troops crossed the parallel, there was to be no further advance north, although bombing operations in North Korea would still be allowed; (3) operations "close to" the Manchurian and USSR borders were forbidden, as were operations across these borders; (4) only ROK [Republic of Korea] troops were to be used in the "northeast province or along the Manchurian border" and; (5) occupation plans for North Korea were to be drawn up by MacArthur but executed only with the explicit approval of the President.

Curiously, NSC 81/1 also stated that if the Soviets intervened anywhere in Korea, MacArthur was to go on the defensive, whereas, if the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) intervened in the south (North Korea not being mentioned), he was to continue operations as long as he deemed them to be successful. The main provisions of NSC 81/1 were sent to MacArthur on September 15, followed on the 27th by a JCS directive authorizing movement north across the parallel.

The JCS eventually did take notice that NSC 81/1 omitted any mention of Chinese intervention in North Korea, and in early October, amended its directive by substituting the word "anywhere" in place of "south of the 38th Parallel."

Following some weeks of debate, the President did authorize the crossing of the parallel. Still, all of the soul-searching, discussions, and possibilities were rendered academic on September 30, when the ROKs crossed into North Korea. The ROKs really weren't going to stop at the parallel anyway. The first U.S. patrols crossed on October 7, followed by the main force two days later.

The days of late September and October were heady ones because it seemed the enemy was on the run. It was just a matter of time before the war would be over. The two-month period from the Inchon landings on September 15, 1950, to the opening of the Chinese offensive on the evening of November 25, 1950, can perhaps be best described as "months of delusion." In World War II, the Japanese had coined another apt phrase; they called it "Victory Disease."

Stratemeyer was as confident of an early victory as anyone, but in an October 2 memorandum regarding a Final Report by FEAF on the Korean War, he warned that "the war has been fought with a minor power against a very aggressive ground opponent and if we are not careful, people back home in the Pentagon will draw conclusions from this war which will not be true. ... All of us must be very careful not to draw inept conclusions form this small, 'police action' war."

With the crossing of the parallel, Stratemeyer's strategic bombing campaign ended. In these euphoric days, attacks against "targets of relatively long-term military significance" were believed no longer necessary. In fact, by mid-October, FEAF's Bomber Command felt it had run out of targets, period. The rapid advance north by the UN forces had restricted the area in which the bombers could operate and the Yalu River bridges were still considered untouchable. Thus, on October 27, General Stratemeyer stood down Bomber Command and two of his five B-29 groups began returning to the United States.

Again, the euphoria tat permeated these autumn days filtered its way up to MacArthur. Asked at his Wake Island meeting with President Truman about the possibility of Chinese intervention, MacArthur replied, "Very little. Had they interfered in the first or second months, it would have been decisive. We are no longer fearful of their intervention. We no longer stand hat in hand. The Chinese have 300,000 men in Manchuria. Of these probably not more than 100,000 to 125,000 are distributed along the Yalu River. They have no air force. Now that we have basis for our Air Force in Korea, if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang there would be the greatest slaughter."

(That the Chinese had no air force must have come as a surprise to Stratemeyer, who was estimating that the Chinese had close to 300 combat aircraft.)

MacArthur's statement at Wake Island indicated his confidence that FEAF could isolate the battlefield and keep the Chinese out of North Korea. To some observers, it appeared that MacArthur believed that Korea could be chopped away from Manchuria through the use of air power and turned into an island. Perhaps he was thinking about the battles during World War II where islands could be bypassed--"leapfrogged"--and isolated. But there was no way this could happen in Korea.

First, not enough planes were available for the job. Even if there had been, the restrictions on their use along the Yalu would have stymied U.N. efforts and caused exorbitant losses. Also, winter was coming on and the Yalu soon would freeze, allowing movements directly across the ice.

On October 15, the day MacArthur made his statement, it was already too late to stop the Chinese from entering Korea because they were already there. Roy Appleman in Disaster in Korea estimates the first CCF troops may have crossed the Yalu on October 12 and were certainly across by the 15th. At the end of October, six CCF armies totaling approximately 180,000 men were in Korea and more were coming, all unnoticed by the U.N. command.

Why and how were these troops not seen? A major reason was that the cuts in the armed forces after World War II left the Air Force with just the shell of an aerial reconnaissance force. When the Korean War began, the Air Force had the equivalent of one tactical reconnaissance group (three squadrons), of which one RF-80A squadron was assigned to FEAF. Strategic reconnaissance wasn't much better--one RB-29 reconnaissance squadron was also assigned to FEAF. An RB-26 squadron did reach Korea in August, followed by an RF-51 outfit which began operations in November. But all of these units shared a common problem--outmoded equipment and not even enough of that. Too, equipment often worked poorly; for example, FEAF had to obtain flash cartridges from the RAF because its own cartridges were jamming in the dispensers, exploding prematurely, or not going off at all.

Even if there had been adequate photo coverage, there were not enough photo interpreters, and many of those working in this field were inadequately trained. Photo interpretation was an Army responsibility, per agreements reached in 1946, but like the Air Force, personnel cuts in the Army resulted in understaffing in the photo interpretation field. More trained interpreters did reach the field but not until much later. Thus, in October and November of 1950, even if photo coverage of the battlefield had been adequate the Eighth Army could not fully interpret this coverage. In some cases, the Eighth Army even tried to discourage its lower commands from requesting such reconnaissance.

And, finally, there is the matter of the analysis of all the intelligence that was gathered. In this, there was a serious failure. For far too long, reconnaissance efforts focused on the Yalu to discover if and where the Chinese were crossing. Battlefield reconnaissance was cursory because of a lack of aircraft and because of the mistaken belief that few Chinese were yet in Korea. Too often the analysts slanted their views toward what they thought the enemy would do and not on what they could do. Why this happened--a feeling of superiority, of arrogance, perhaps of racism, the "Victory Disease" syndrome--I don't know, but do it they did.

One of the main contributors to this intelligence failure was MacArthur's own G-2 Major General Charles Willoughby. Even as evidence mounted that the Chinese were in or were about to enter Korea, Willoughby refused to believe the evidence. According to Clay Blair, in his book, Willoughby may have even falsified intelligence reports to fit his (and his boss's) preconceived ideas.

Nevertheless, FEAF continued to operate to the best of its abilities to help end the war. Tactical bombing continued throughout North Korea, an airborne unit was dropped at Sukchon/Sunchon, and airfields were developed in the Pyongyang area, at Yonpo southwest of Hungnam, at Sinanju near the Chongohon River.

Following the Sukchon/Sunchon drop, General Stratemeyer presented MacArthur with the Distinguished Flying Cross, noting in his diary that MacArthur "was deeply affected and became very serious; he took me by the shoulders and looked me square in the eyes and stated: 'Strat, this is a great honor that I, of course, have not qualified for, but I accept this award in the spirit in which it is given -- I appreciate it beyond words.' Later, after he had read the citation, he looked across the aisle at me and threw me a kiss and said, 'Strat, I shall wear it on top of all my ribbons.' Naturally, I was affected; I thanked him, and that was that."

As the U.N. forces neared the Manchurian border, FEAF operations took place in a more and more compressed area. Already restricted from operating close to the border, FEAF aircraft could attack targets within 50 miles of the border on General Stratemeyer's specific orders and then only under visual flight conditions. This restriction was modified on October 17 when a "chop line" about 20 miles south of the border was established. FEAF aircraft could now operate (under visual flight rules) between the two lines and, under emergency conditions, General Earle E. Partridge, the Fifth Air Force commander, could authorize visual attacks north of the "chop line." These restrictions were lifted, for all intents, on October 25, when Stratemeyer ordered that close support missions under the direct control of TACPs or airborne controllers could operate right up to the border. Pilots flying these missions were to be especially selected and led by experienced leaders.

During the last week of October and the first of November, pursuit of the fleeing NKPA came to a crashing halt. First, a few Chinese soldiers were captured, but then, in fighting that continued until November 6, Chinese forces virtually destroyed two ROK divisions, bloodied another, chewed up the U.S. 8th Cavalry Regiment, and forced the Eighth Army to withdraw to the Chongchon River. In the X Corps sector near the Chosin Reservoir, the 1st Marine Division also ran into a hornet's nest. But here, they battered their opponents. Finally, after a week of bloodletting, the Chinese seemingly vanished.

The action was not confined to the ground. Communist aircraft had once again become active and on October 18, 75-100 planes were seen parked on the Antung airfield just across the Yalu from Sinuiju. The next day they were gone. It was believed that these planes were just on a training flight, but the possibility that they were reinforcements for the North Korean Air Force could not be discounted. Then, on November 1, several air battles took place near Sinuiju. A number of Yak fighters parked on the Sinuiju airfield were destroyed or damaged but a follow-up attack later in the day ran into much more formidable opponents than Yaks--six MiG-15s. As Richard Hallion says, "While the appearance of the MiG in Korea was a shock, the discovery of the plane itself came as no surprise." The existence of the fighter had been known for some time.

Since mid-October, General Stratemeyer had wanted to make an all-out attack on Sinuiju to wipe out military targets there, but had been turned down because of the border restrictions. With the appearance of the MiGs and the increasingly effective antiaircraft fire from the city and across the river, Stratemeyer renewed his request.

Stratemeyer met with MacArthur on November 3 to discuss the attack on Sinuiju. In his diary, Stratemeyer says that "General MacArthur indicated that because of his contemplated use of that town he did not want to burn it at this time." Stratemeyer "told him [MacArthur] that as a lesson we could burn some other towns in North Korea and I indicated the town of Kanggye which I believe is occupied by enemy troops and is a communications center -- both rail and road. He said, 'Burn it if you so desire,' and then said, 'Not only that, Strat, but burn and destroy as a lesson any other of those towns that you consider of military value to the enemy.'" MacArthur also wanted Stratemeyer to make the "very best" study to prove that Chinese Communists, in force on the ground and in the air, were operating in North Korea.

By that evening, though, MacArthur changed his mind about Sinuiju and told Stratemeyer to "take out" the city. A warning order went out to the Fifth Air Force and Bomber Command directing the destruction of Sinuiju on the 7th. On November 5, MacArthur officially directed that the Korean ends of all international bridges on the Korean-Manchurian border were to be destroyed. Additionally, other than Rashin, the Suiho Dam and other hydro-electric power plants, FEAF was to "destroy every means of communications and every installation, factory, city and village" in North Korea. The primary target would be Sinuiju. This would be a maximum effort of two weeks duration, with the FEAF crews to be flown to exhaustion if necessary.

When the Joint Chiefs received MacArthur's orders to FEAF, they were taken aback. A series of hurried meetings with the President and the State Department produced a dispatch to MacArthur and Stratemeyer postponing any bombing attacks within five miles of the border and also asking MacArthur to justify such attacks. This message was received in Tokyo early on the 7th, just a few hours before the B-29s were to take off.

A vehement MacArthur replied to the JCS that "Men and material in large force are pouring across all bridges over the Yalu from Manchuria." (On November 3, Stratemeyer told General Partridge that Willoughby was estimating that there were 12,000 Chinese troops in North Korea. Now Willoughby was still only estimating about 35,000 soldiers.) Considering his rather confident statements of a few days earlier, MacArthur's message in its entirety is alarmist and suddenly full of urgency and is rather intemperate. Stratemeyer, who had some input into MacArthur's dispatch, would have preferred to have seen more emphasis on the air picture but still agreed with the gist of the message.

After much hand-wringing by officials in Washington, they gave in and authorized the bombings of the Yalu bridges but reemphasized there would be no border violations and only the Korean end of the bridges would be hit. Courtney Whitney, in his book on MacArthur, claims that when Stratemeyer received approval, he complained "It cannot be done--Washington must have known it cannot be done." If Stratemeyer had worried about violating Manchurian airspace (and it was going to be tough not to), he certainly would have told MacArthur a few days earlier when MacArthur initially authorized the strikes. Nowhere in his diary during this period does Stratemeyer show he was more worried than usual about a border violation or that he was upset with Washington's restrictions.

The Sinuiju attacks finally began on November 8 and destroyed approximately 60 percent of the city. Unfortunately, the bridges remained standing. Stratemeyer requested Task Force 77 join in the attacks and over the next couple of weeks Navy planes did knock down some spans of the highway bridge. However, the railway bridge was never put out of action. Although MacArthur would claim in a November 18 message to the JCS that "the air attack of the last ten days has been largely successful in isolating the battle area from added reinforcement and has greatly diminished the enemy flow of supply," North Korea never was isolated. Thus, despite the valiant efforts of the Air Force and Navy fliers, the battle against the bridges must be considered a failure.

One problem of trying to destroy the bridges without bombing Manchurian territory was typified by an incident at Sinuiju on November 13. One bomb dropped by B-29s went astray and landed in Antung, across the river. When informed of the incident by Stratemeyer, MacArthur told him, "Strat, I do not admit anything. We'll make no report of this and as Bomber Command's lawyer, I propose to fight it if we are called on for a report." Stratemeyer agreed that he would not admit too much himself but went on to say that he had already informed Vandenberg about the incident. MacArthur replied, "That's too bad."

These bombings brought out the MiG-15s. On November 8, in the first all-jet air battle in history, a MiG was shot down with no loss to the defending F-80s. During the next week, Navy pilots followed up this victory by scoring three more MiG kills. It was obvious, though, that the MiG-15 was superior to both the F-80 and the F9F, and that FEAF and Navy planes were in for a rough time unless an aircraft was found that could handle the Soviet fighter. Such an aircraft, the F-86, did enter combat on December 15.

Meanwhile, on November 13, back in Tokyo, Stratemeyer found time to write up a fulsome recommendation for the award of the oak leaf cluster to MacArthur's Medal of Honor. In his cover letter to General Vandenberg, Stratemeyer wrote "I know of no figure of important national and international status today--or in the past--that more prominently occupies his position than General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. His courage, gallantry, and valor in the Korean War have been displayed time and time again way beyond the call of duty. The United States Air Force today, in my opinion, does not have a better friend than General MacArthur. He believes in air power, he knows how to use it, and he has backed me one hundred percent in my position as Commanding General, Far East Air Forces."

MacArthur didn't get his cluster, by the way.

The sudden appearance, and even more sudden disappearance, of Chinese troops did not seem to bother some of the leaders in Korea. In a message to his group commanders, "Rosie" O'Donnell (who was FEAF's Bomber Command chief) stated, "The performance of Bomber Command during this maximum effort period has inflicted heavy damage on the enemy and, in my opinion, has been largely responsible for his rapid transition from a cocky and confident offensive to a sullen and stunned defensive. During the past few years, while the Chinese Communist armies were conquering most of China against sponge defenses and little air opposition, their egos had ample opportunity for growth. The rapidity and completeness of their successes undoubtedly rendered them drunk with power and high self esteem. . . . They have now found what it is to run up against the USAF and, while I cannot say what the future holds for us, I am certain that a re-evaluation of the situation is unquestionably being made in Peiping."

Ten days after this message was sent, the CCF smashed into the Eighth Army and sent it reeling back toward Seoul

The climactic offensive by the Eighth Army to the Yalu was set for November 24. Naturally, MacArthur had to make a well-choreographed appearance in the Eighth Army sector. Accompanied by Stratemeyer and members of his staff, MacArthur flew to Sinanju to look at the preparations. From Sinanju, MacArthur decided to fly up to the Yalu to see what was going on there. Even with the fighter cover Stratemeyer had provided, this really was a foolish decision.

Recording the day's events in his diary, Stratemeyer was somewhat cursory in the details. One event stood out, however:

"Shortly after leaving Hyesanjin and setting our course for return to Haneda, Colonel Story came back to the General's compartment where Generals Hickey, Wright, Whitney and I were seated, bringing five glasses and a bottle of champagne. He poured the champagne and then MacArthur, Hickey, Wright, Whitney, and Story sang 'Happy Birthday' to me.

"Following that, a large birthday cake was brought to me which had been baked at the American Embassy, and which was presented by General MacArthur. A table was then set for two and at General MacArthur's invitation, I sat on his left and we had a most delicious luncheon served to us."

"To me, this was the highlight of my military career."

On the evening of the second day after Eighth Army began its offensive, the CCF launched its Second Phase Offensive, which lasted until December 25. By then the U.N. forces found themselves back at the 38th Parallel and hastily forming a line along the Imjin River. Air Force units were also caught up in the retreat, the North Korean fields being abandoned and the aircraft sent to the south. Like the Army, the Fifth Air Force lost tons of supplies and equipment during these moves.

The retreat, however, did not stop FEAF operations as FEAF and Navy planes provided air support, evacuated the ill and wounded, and dropped needed supplies. In this last chore, FEAF's Combat Cargo Command really shone. For the Chosin/Hungnam operations, the command's entire airdrop system had been geared to handle only 70 tons a day, but through herculean efforts this was bumped up to 250 tons a day. FEAF also had great success against the rampaging Chinese forces.

Flushed with success, the CCF in the first two weeks of December began to operate openly during daytime. This proved costly to the Chinese. With many targets now available, the Fifth Air Force planes took a huge toll of men and equipment, particularly trucks. On December 16, Stratemeyer estimated that his planes had killed or wounded 3,300 enemy and destroyed countless trucks. Unable to withstand this onslaught, the Chinese reverted to nighttime operations in mid-December.

On November 28, in Tokyo, MacArthur met with Walton Walker and Almond, his top commanders in Korea, plus his senior staff officers, to discuss the situation. Although both Futrell and Appleman wrote that Stratemeyer was at this meeting, he was not; Stratemeyer and his wife were actually giving a dinner that evening for a couple of high-powered fact-finding teams--the Barcus and Stearns groups--which were visiting Korea and Japan.

Two days later, Stratemeyer asked MacArthur if anything had happened at the November 28 meeting that Stratemeyer should know about. MacArthur replied "no," and said the meeting had been held just to get some first-hand information on the situation. He also said that both Walker and Almond were confident but that some retrograde movements would have to be made. Nevertheless, to Stratemeyer, "the General appeared...pretty much depressed."

The situation in Korea resulted in some rash statements being made, notably Truman's remarks concerning the atomic bomb. Mulling over the possibility of using this weapon in a full-scale war with China, MacArthur told Stratemeyer that his target priority list was Antung, Mukden, Peiping, Tientsin, Shanghai, and Nanking. If war escalated into the "big one," MacArthur also considered targeting the Soviet cities of Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Kirin, and Kuyvyshievka.

The sudden turn of events in Korea also brought General J. Lawton Collins, the Army Chief of Staff, to Japan to evaluate the situation. When Collins first talked to MacArthur on December 4, the U.N. commander leaned toward establishing two perimeters at Hungnam and Seoul/Inchon. This did not set well with many subordinates, not the least of whom was Stratemeyer. In a long memorandum to MacArthur on December 6, Stratemeyer detailed his objections to establishing such enclaves and wrote that the proper decision was to make an orderly withdrawal to a new Pusan Perimeter. When Collins and MacArthur met again on the 7th, MacArthur had changed his mind and had decided to consolidate both the Eighth Army and the X Corps at Pusan. In his diary, Stratemeyer wrote that he believed his "memorandum...caused a complete reversal of the decisions made on 4 December."

I could go on at length about General Stratemeyer, but that would require a great deal more stamina and time. The "limited war" in Korea frustrated him, although he did not generally reveal this publicly. Only after the war, when he was retired and had become involved with Senator Joseph McCarthy, did Stratemeyer allow himself to say, "We were required to lose the war; we weren't allowed to win it." Later, he also bought MacArthur's excuse that the Eighth Army's offensive in November 1950 had not been an offensive to go all the way to the Yalu but, rather, a spoiling attack designed to blunt a Chinese counterattack.

Nevertheless, Stratemeyer was a very capable officer, loyal to his men and to his superiors (and rather sycophantic when it came to MacArthur). Although not the best equipped force, his Far East Air Forces were probably the best trained and most ready of the services in Japan on June 25, 1950. Their accomplishments proved it.

Notes on Sources

Because this paper was intended as an oral presentation, no footnotes have been used. However, for those who wish to study the subject more closely, the following were the primary sources used in this paper.

Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer's Korean War Diary, 25 June 1950 - 20 May 1951. (Unpublished)

Though full of extraneous material, Stratemeyer's diary has much in it on personalities, combat operations, logistical problems etc. to make it a valuable historical resource.

Frank Futrell. The United States Air Force in Korea 1950-1953 (Revised 1983). Still the best work available on the Air Force and the Korean War.

Roy Appleman. Disaster in Korea (1989).

An excellent history of that period when China entered the war. Occasionally dense writing and the format of the book sometimes makes the narrative hard to follow.

Clay Blair. The Forgotten War (1987).

Another fine history although Blair's biases do show through. Regrettably, Blair does make it almost a "forgotten war" by virtually ignoring the last two years of fighting.

Richard Hallion. The Naval Air War in Korea (1986).

Covers the Navy and Marines part in the Korean air war in great detail.

List of Topic Discussion Papers

About Us | Privacy Policy | Webmaster | FOIA request | | This is a US Navy website