The Navy Department Library
Chapter 11: Problems of a Policeman
History of US Naval Operations: Korea
Part 1. The Unexpected Shape of War
Part 2. Operating Problems
Part 3. Logistic Support
Part 4. Interservice Coordination and the Air Problem
Part 5. The Larger Picture
Part 6. Into the Future
Part 1. The Unexpected Face of War
In a small bronze shrine in the forum of ancient Rome the image of Janus, god of beginnings and endings, looked both east and west. It was the custom of the Romans, upon the outbreak of war, to throw wide the doors of this temple, and to shut them up again with the return of peace. In the summer of 1951 the commencement of Korean armistice talks seemed to promise an imminent end to the fighting, and a return of the struggle to the diplomatic plane. It seems a propitious moment to emulate the two-headed god, and to look, before the doors are closed, forward and backward in time, and east and west toward distant horizons.
In a year of Korean fighting the forces of the United Nations, with those of the United States in great preponderance, could be said to have won two wars. Successively, following initial surprise and early reverses, the armies of North Korea and of Communist China had been defeated. But the policy adopted following the second victory differed strikingly from that of the autumn before: rather than press on to the northward, and to possible involvement with yet another previously uncommitted force, it was decided to stabilize the situation, and to abandon the aim of a military unification of Korea. Yet though success was therefore limited, and though the cost had not been cheap, fulfillment of the original aim of repelling invasion made the enterprise worthwhile. Those mindful of earlier unchecked Axis aggressions who had taken the momentous decision to intervene could properly feel themselves justified, the more so in view of the implications of the fall of an undefended South Korea.
That so much had been accomplished, given the unexpected nature of the conflict, appears remarkable. If war, as someone has said, is a matter of surprise and movement, the first year of fighting in Korea certainly qualifies. The invasion of South Korea had come as a decided and unpleasant surprise to the United States; the intervention of the Chinese surprised the U.N. Command. Equally, it may be presumed, the rapidity of American diplomatic and military reaction in the summer of 1950 surprised the enemy, as did the recovery of the Eighth Army after the low point of the winter campaign. Most surprised of all, perhaps, were the members of the prevailing school of American military thought, with their emphasis on single-weapon single-theater strategy. War had come but not in Europe, nor, at least formally, with the "one possible enemy." Despite the view that held the assault from the sea to be a thing of the past, the pattern of the conflict had been shaped, not by the heavy bomber with its atomic weapon, but by the Amphibious Force and its projectile, the Marine Division.
For this there were a variety of reasons. The agreed and publicized strategic plan had found, hardly surprisingly, an enemy intelligent enough to circumvent it. Despite the impact of budgetary considerations on defense planning there remained, if narrowly, enough conventional force to permit a descent from fancy to fact and the conduct of a land war supported by sea and air. The nature of the theater, the ground rules which came to govern the campaign, and the importance of collective action all militated against employment of the atomic bomb and in favor of rational warfare. And lastly, the choice between accepting defeat and employing nuclear weapons was never finally posed.
In any event the atomic art, in those far-off days, was still somewhat primitive. Only eight nuclear explosions had been set off by the United States, and none since 1948. There had been no development of low-yield tactical weapons. In the Air Force the delivery of the bomb still rested on the capabilities of piston-engined aircraft: the first production B-47 only took the air the day the North Koreans crossed the parallel. In the Navy only the three large carriers–Coral Sea, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Midway–had any kind of atomic capability, and all were assigned to the Atlantic Fleet.
The Russian explosion of the previous year had, it is true, expedited work on both the hydrogen bomb and tactical weapons, and the coming of war in Korea spurred the effort. Preparations for new tests at Eniwetok were underway at the time of the invasion of South Korea, and 1951 saw 16 U.S. explosions which, with two more by the Soviets, doubled the total of the preceding years. While the threat to the perimeter was at its height, and again in the dark days of December 1950, there was some talk of tactical use of existing atomic devices; some training runs were carried out in the course of the war by the Air Force, and by the Navy after the arrival in 1952 of the converted Oriskany and Kearsarge. But that was all. The war was fought to its end with conventional weapons. The Strategic Air Command turned out to be the shield rather than the sword of strategy, and as a limiting rather than an expanding agent wholly justified, if in an unexpected manner, its great cost.
As things worked out, therefore, the war in Korea developed as a classic exercise in sea power reminiscent of earlier times. The similarity, it is true, was to some extent concealed by differences in the society that supported the campaign, for to Americans of the mid-20th century the struggle was confusing and at times distressing. If a war, it was one which had never been declared by Congress; if a police action, it was of a magnitude without precedent since the affair with Tripoli; for those whose lives had spanned periods of presumed peace punctuated by world-wide conflict, the concept of limited war took some getting used to. At home, life went on as usual, with no restrictions on civilian consumption, with no apparent all-out national effort, and with administration policy subjected to increasing criticism. But however limited the war, for the individual in the armed forces–regular, recalled reserve, or draftee–there was no limit on the strain, hazard, or boredom of the conflict. Although mitigated by a purposeful program of rapid rotation, this situation, acceptable in 19th century wars fought by regulars, inevitably created problems of morale for those on the fighting line, as shown by conduct after capture by the enemy. Inevitably, too, it created serious tensions at home, which were not diminished by the cooperative nature of the U.N. effort, with its incumbent need to defer to allies whose contribution at times seemed minimal.
Back of all this, however, the historic pattern remained. As in earlier days the entire enterprise rested on control of the ocean highway, by which the troops were transported from the metropolis to the theater of action, and there supplied, supported, and assisted by the Navy. But here too time had wrought its changes. Where in the expeditions to Mexico and the Crimea, to the Sudan and South Africa, free use of the seas had been the prime enabling factor, in Korea the nature of the theater and the development of modern weapons gave the Navy important influence throughout the conflict. For the first year of war, above all for the first six months when the elements of surprise and movement were most apparent, this influence was so great as to be almost described as controlling.
The maritime aspect of the campaign first showed itself in the concentration of forces to meet the unexpected emergency, a concentration so rapid as to surprise friend and foe alike. To MSTS lifts of Army units from Japan, Okinawa, and the continental United States, to the Amphibious Force’s management of the Pohang landing and the trans-Pacific movement of the Marine Division, to the high-speed delivery of Air Force fighter-bombers by aircraft carrier, and to logistic support of the entire U.N. effort, there was added a rapid and extensive reinforcement of naval fighting strength.
Table 18.—Growth of Western Pacific Naval Strength
|U.S. and U.N.
|Escort and Light Carriers||0||4|
|LST (including Scajap)||50||75|
U.S. Navy Personnel, Western Pacific
This speed of concentration was vital, given the shortage of force which in the summer of 1950 affected all services alike. Although the Army was to commit almost everything it had to the narrow Korean front, and although numerically large ROK contingents were available, it was necessary to employ the Marine Division as an infantry force throughout the war. From beginning to end the Air Force felt itself operating on a shoestring, with limited strength, obsolescent types, and a very marginal supporting organization. For the naval forces of the U.N. the situation was the same. While the speed and size of reinforcement were impressive, base facilities in the the Far East were marginal; and while all available ships were committed to the Korean theater, these proved no more than sufficient for the war that did develop. Delayed deployment would have meant the loss of the Korean foothold; further opposition would have meant a very different war.
So speed of movement to a large degree made up for shortages, and weakness on the ground was counterbalanced by supremacy at sea and in the air. Together with the work of the Air Force, the northern strikes by Task Force 77, the close support provided by both fast and escort carriers, the blockade of the Korean coast, the bombing and bombardment of enemy transportation facilities, and the gunfire support of the ends of the perimeter made it possible for Eighth Army to stabilize a chaotic situation. This done, the forces of the U.N. assumed the initiative, and with the landing at Inchon commenced three months of rapid movement up and down the peninsula. The two landings and the evacuations of this period of triumph and tragedy demonstrated that in a theater of combat washed by the sea the forces of the West possessed a flexibility, a speed of movement, and a strategic freedom for which the enemy had no answer. Yet while this rapid movement derived entirely from naval capabilities it should be noted that the Navy, skeptical of the proposed amphibious operations, sailed somewhat reluctantly to glory.
Of the decision to invade Inchon, pushed through by General MacArthur in the face of generalized doubts, it seems profitless to inquire whether it was in fact strategically sound. A success of such a magnitude would seem to justify even unjustifiable risks, and in any case once the decision had been made the risks, as always, began to seem smaller. But regarding the argument that the landing was unnecessary and that a better solution would have been for Eighth Army merely to shove against the perimeter, some comment may be in order. Doubtless this unimaginative strategy would have worked in time, but a victory so won would have been more costly, less elegant, and less decisive, and America at that moment had great need of a decisive victory. One should, it would seem, play from strength: so long as the U.N. fought its own kind of war, and used its advantages at sea and in the air, in sophisticated control systems, and in more efficient transport, the enemy was at a disadvantage. When these factors were neglected, and the North Koreans and Chinese given time to play it their way, the consequences were less happy.
Criticism has also been directed against CincFE’s decision for a second amphibious landing. Both at the time and since, the overland movement by way of the Seoul-Wonsan corridor has been urged as the preferable alternative, and the anticlimactic nature of the Wonsan operation has seemed to lend weight to this view. But the fact that South Korean forces got there before the Marines appears less an indictment of "Tailboard" than testimony to the extraordinary effectiveness of "Chromite." If some in both Army and Navy urged the overland route, it was still true that the road was a difficult one, and that, as the affair at Kojo showed, there were enemy forces in the flanking hills. It is, of course, undeniable that the reembarkation of X Corps wrought considerable confusion in the logistic sphere, and slowed the preparations of Eighth Army and Fifth Air Force for the advance on Pyongyang. Equally, however, the problem of supporting both X Corps and Eighth Army through Inchon and Seoul would have been far from child’s play. And whatever the decision as to the route, the harbor of Wonsan, strategically essential, had to be swept and opened to shipping before further moves could be undertaken.
As X Corps was floated up first one side of the peninsula and then the other, and as Eighth Army pressed on to seize the enemy capital, none foresaw the impending disaster. Yet it was in their response to the Chinese onslaught that the forces under Admirals Joy and Struble made perhaps their greatest contribution. The size of the attacking Chinese forces, the collapse in the west, and the widely dispersed condition of X Corps combined to bring about a major emergency and to return the initiative to the other side. But the crisis was met, and previous conscientious staff work was implemented with zeal and competence, to assist the retreat of Eighth Army, to help the Marines down from the hill, and to accomplish the redeployment of X Corps. Indeed the work of the Marine Division, of the Marine and naval aviators, of the gunnery ships and of the Amphibious Force may well have done still more, for one may wonder whether in the event of a major tragedy in northeastern Korea the war could have been kept limited. It is at least conceivable that the enemy, as well as the U.N., had in this instance cause to be grateful for the capabilities of the United States Navy and Marines.
Thus in the space of six months a scheme of maneuver made possible by rapid overseas deployment and based on the maximum use of naval capabilities had halted one invasion, defeated one enemy, and saved the day when a second intervened. But the period of a dominantly maritime strategy ended with the old year. The numerical strength of the new enemy required the retention of all ground forces in the line, and when the armies of the U.N. again moved north it was without benefit of the amphibious encirclement.
Yet while land operations henceforth held the center of the stage, the strategic situation was little changed. Korea was still a peninsular war, and supporting naval action was still of prime importance. On both coasts the blockade continued, while the lessons of history were brandished before the enemy in a series of amphibious feints. In the east, as it had from the beginning, naval gunfire continued to support the movements of ROK troops. In the interdiction of enemy transportation routes and along the battleline the work of naval air remained essential. Pusan port was still the basis of the campaign; the reopening of Inchon had greatly eased logistics in the western lowlands; in forward coastal areas and on the offshore islands, ground forces were supplied by LST. Underlying all was the Pacific Ocean supply line, by which rations, rounds, and gaiter buttons reached the free world’s Asiatic toehold. Whatever the specific reasons for his selection, the choice of Commander Naval Forces Far East as chief of the U.N. Armistice Delegation was symbolically wholly appropriate.
Part 2. Operating Problems
Seen in the large, therefore, the struggle in Korea greatly resembled the classic overseas campaigns of previous times. But within this framework the Korean War, like all wars, was unique, and the questions that faced those charged with its prosecution were questions of the moment. Daily, as is always the case in war, problems presented themselves, their nature governed by the immediate situation, and were faced, solved, evaded, or lived with as the ingenuity of man permitted.
In Korea the collective nature of the effort to repel the aggressor led, in notable contradistinction to most small wars of the 19th century, to the development of international forces on land, at sea, and in the air. Although the United States provided by far the largest part of the U.N. naval contingent, and although the second contribution derived from Britain and the British Commonwealth, units from the navies of Colombia, France, the Netherlands, and Thailand also took part. And special notice should be taken of the accomplishments of the ROK Navy and Marine Corps in developing, in circumstances tragic for them and amidst almost indescribable difficulties, into forces of considerable size and efficiency.
Within the structure of the U.N. Command the Korean Navy remained a separate task group. All other foreign units were assigned for administrative purposes to Rear Admiral Andrewes’ West Coast Group, and at an early date that commander was confiding to his war dairy his need for the gift of tongues, as described in the Acts of the Apostles, and his relief at not having acquired, at least as yet, any recruits from Phrygia or Pamphilia. Inevitably some "very original problems" arose owing to language difficulties, the absence of common codes, varying degrees of training and expertise, and differing dietary preferences. Yet to the credit of all participants no insoluble difficulties developed, workable solutions were invariably thrashed out, and command relations remained excellent.
The rapid assembly of sufficient strength made the waging of a campaign possible. The nature of the campaign was largely governed by that of the assembled force. For the navies of the U.N. the lack of new construction, the limited funds available for modernization, and the restricted aircraft procurement programs made it inevitable that the war would be fought with ships, gear, and personnel largely left over from World War II. This situation, generally applicable to first-line units, was emphasized with time, as aging ships were removed from the mothball fleet, hastily refurbished, and deployed forward manned by aging reserves.
In all areas of naval operations, although in varying degree, problems of obsolescence presented themselves. Radar capabilities had not kept up with advances in aircraft performance; the limitations of World War II sonar were becoming critical; the unloading rates of APA and AKA types had fallen behind the needs of the times; everywhere maintenance was becoming an increasing problem. But it was in the carrier forces that the pressures of change and progress were most acute.
There the march of events was dramatized in the operation, side by side and throughout the war, of the first jet fighters, the last and finest of the piston-engined attack planes, and the F4U Corsair, in active service ever since the campaign in the Solomons. Continued dependence on this ancient aircraft was made possible by the existence of large numbers of preserved leftovers; in the circumstances prevailing in Korea it gave excellent service, eased the problems of transition, and made possible the useful work of escort and light carriers throughout the war. Yet even with the F4U, operational requirements pressed against the limits of the capabilities of these smaller ships: the low wind conditions of summer in the Yellow Sea made the speed limitations of the escort carrier critical; although the CVL had the speed, its limited bunker capacity restricted the fuelling of screening ships and limited endurance. And in the fast carriers, despite the cushioning effect of the presence of these old friends, the advent of new types presented difficulties.
The takeoff and landing characteristics of the newer aircraft posed needs for more powerful catapults and for improved arresting gear. The advent of the jet fighter, essentially a flying gasoline barrel which paid for increased performance in phenomenal fuel consumption, raised difficult logistic problems, as did the great lifting capacity of the AD: each jet sortie cost the parent ship a minute in replenishment alongside a tanker; each three-ton bombload that left the deck meant a couple of minutes alongside an AE. And month by month these difficulties became more pressing, for as the efficiency of carrier operations increased, as the jet complement grew from one squadron to two, and as the jets in turn began to be launched with bombs, full-scale operations could exhaust certain types of ammunition in a day and use up the aviation gasoline of a non-converted carrier in less than two.
Thus the problems consequent to the introduction of new aircraft, while impinging directly upon the carriers and their crews, radiated outward to affect the work of their replenishment and screening ships. A more general difficulty, particularly apparent in the carriers owing to the complex nature of their operations but affecting all ship types, was the congestion brought about by new equipment: larger catapult machinery and magazine spaces in the carriers, more elaborate electronic and communications gear in all ships. Such installations take up space, but shipboard space is finite; their operation calls for personnel; with less space and larger crews comes undesirable crowding, or a diminution of military capabilities, or both. For this generalized tendency of modern war toward greater and greater complication the obvious theoretical answer was newer and larger ships; a more immediately practical one was the modification of existing hulls. This, for the fleet carriers, took place in stages: a first modernization of units of the Essex class brought various improvements, most notably more powerful catapults and larger fuel capacity, but at the cost of space for five aircraft; the second stage, reached late in the war, produced the "converted" Essex carrier with additional aviation fuel capacity, reinforced flight decks, and other new developments. There remained the angled deck, which began to appear after the Korean armistice, but this marked about the limit of what could be done with old hulls, and further progress waited upon new construction.
These tendencies toward specialization, elaboration, size, complexity, and cost, apparent throughout the fleet, placed a great premium upon versatility, and emphasized the value of any multipurpose instruments that might come along. Two of these, one new and one old, were of such importance as to deserve special mention. These were the helicopter and the LST.
The helicopter, here receiving its first test in combat, proved of transcendent value as plane guard for carrier operations, as platform for observation and for gunfire spotting, in the location of underwater mines, in providing courier and transport service between ships at sea and across difficult terrain ashore, in the rescue of pilots down behind enemy lines, and in the rapid evacuation of the wounded. The aging and awkward LST, with its ability to beach where ports were lacking and to load and discharge by the bow without the need of winchmen and stevedores, was wholly indispensable. In addition to filling their primary amphibious role, and so greatly speeding both advance and retreat, Scajap and Amphibious Force LSTs provided logistic support across the beaches to units dispersed along the length of the peninsula and among the outlying islands. In December 1950, in a report to the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Joy expressed his belief that the 38 Scajap ships had made the difference between holding and losing the Pusan beachhead, and observed that "the LST has possibly made the greatest single contribution to the success of the U.N. forces in Korea."
Within the operating forces the demonstrated versatility of both helicopter and LST led quickly to insatiable demands. For the minesweeping groups the marriage of these two instruments produced an unmatched combination of reconnaissance base, headquarters, and small boat mother ship. From all ships of sufficient size arose appeals for the installation of helicopter landing platforms. From numerous commands came urgent recommendations for the construction of new and improved LSTs.
Interacting with these problems of technological change and suitability were those posed by the nature of the theater and the actions of the enemy. Of these, one never before encountered on any scale and looked forward to with some apprehension, was that of cold weather carrier operations. But winter in the Sea of Japan proved no great obstacle, and despite low temperatures, stormy seas, and snow and ice on the flight deck, the carrier force continued as before with but a slight reduction in sortie rate.
Night carrier operations, however, were another matter, for in the air, as elsewhere, western-style war had been generally unable to adapt to the hours of darkness. In the war against Japan no permanent solution had been found, and the Pacific Fleet had wavered between employment of special night detachments and the assignment of individual carriers to night work only. In Korea the enemy’s predilection for night attacks, and his dependence on nightly truck convoys for logistic support, raised the problem in an acute form for the aviators of all services.
In the Navy the handful of specially-configurated carrier aircraft soon proved inadequate, and from the beginning of the conflict carrier commanders commented on the lack of night capabilities. At home, by early 1951, the Chief of Staff of the Operational Development Force was urging the assignment of a fleet carrier to night work. In April 1952 Admiral Ofstie observed that "until effective techniques for night attacks are available, interdiction will be at best only marginal." But since carrier decks were in short supply and techniques left much to be desired, the deficiency remained for the duration, in embarked as in shore-based aviation.
With the single exception of the mining campaign the enemy made no effort at sea. But this stroke hit where economy had been compounded by disinterest, and the difficulties at Wonsan demonstrated the outstanding naval deficiency of the conflict. Despite all efforts to improve the situation the mine remained a most effective weapon, costly in time and effort, and one which would have been more so had the Soviets chosen to commit advanced types. As it was, the lessons of previous wars were reaffirmed, the importance of the mine reemphasized, and a research program of considerable magnitude undertaken for the development of efficient methods of detection and removal.
Two other areas of potentially serious trouble went untested by the enemy. Without question a Communist submarine offensive would have changed the entire nature of the war. Harbor defense installations had enjoyed a low priority in planning and were but tardily completed; destroyers and frigates were in short supply. Although the early efforts to provide minimum cover for convoys in Tsushima Strait were soon terminated, and the escorts assigned to blockade duty, the total number of antisubmarine types was never more than sufficient to provide a minimum sound screen for the carrier task force and to meet the requirements of blockade. No effort was ever made at trans-Pacific escort of convoy, and this was perhaps just as well, for the half-dozen oilers and escort carriers and the hundred-odd escort types needed for such an enterprise were nowhere to be found.
Almost equally, a determined enemy air offensive would have raised grave problems, at sea as well as on shore. Here too the destroyer shortage was important, limiting as it did the strength of antiaircraft screens for major vessels and the employment of radar picket ships. Against propeller-driven attack planes the fast carriers could doubtless have given a good account of themselves, but operation within the range of enemy jets was complicated by various factors. Since the World War II electronic identification devices were known to the Russians, and since newer systems were only gradually becoming operational, there was a serious recognition problem. Shipborne radar capabilities were inadequate, owing both to postwar concentration on resolution rather than range, and to the concurrent arrival of the jet airplane, in which higher speeds and operating altitudes accompanied a reflecting surface greatly diminished by absence of a propeller. To cap all there was the lack, at the outset not peculiar to the Navy, of a plane which could meet the MIG on anything approaching even terms. But although in late 1950 the Air Force received, in the F-86 Sabre, a fighter of comparable performance, no such carrier-based jet was to appear in Korea.
The questions thus far considered have been principally of a technological nature. But armaments themselves are neutral, only their users give them meaning, and among the complex problems posed by war in Korea was that of personnel. In June 1950 the Pacific Fleet was manned slightly below peacetime level, and the naval population of the Western Pacific was of the order of 11,000; within the space of six months this total was to be multiplied by six, and the need for so rapid an increase raised pressing questions of where to find the men.
Finding them involved a series of emergency actions. All hands were recalled from leave, overseas tours of duty and enlistments were indefinitely extended and ship-to-shore rotation halted, shore stations were stripped of all that they could spare and more. But despite all, the situation in the early weeks was often critical, especially in the Amphibious Force. Both at Inchon and at Wonsan ships were manned well below operational requirements, and in some cases even below peacetime allowances; some of the LSTs for Inchon were recommissioned a bare two weeks before the event with but 30 percent of complement on board, and with the majority of the crews and even some of the commanding officers lacking previous experience with this type.
Great difficulties also developed in providing the staff personnel needed to direct the operations of the expanding naval force. ComNavFE’s staff had been designed for occupation duty, Admiral Higgins’ was tailored to show the flag, and others were in a similar fix. In some areas nothing existed and drastic action was necessary, as when the need for a shore-based air command brought the shanghaiing of Captain Alderman and the borrowing of Admiral Ruble. Most dramatic of the staff problems was that which afflicted Admiral Smith upon his arrival from the United States to assume command of Task Force 95: on 12 September 1950 Smith broke his flag on a tender in Sasebo with no staff at all, a condition of lonely splendor in which he continued for two weeks before anyone reported in, and for more than a month before his principal assistants were all on board.
Over and above the resources made available by emergency measures the only personnel stockpile lay in the Naval Reserve. This was immediately levied upon, both to increase existing complements and for fleet expansion. Here again, in another context, the timing of the Korean War may be said to have been fortunate: a few more years and the capabilities of the dominantly World War II Reserve would have been very doubtful.
Selective recall of reservists was at once begun, but the remedy, as always, brought its own problems. However willing to take part in a major national emergency, those recalled could hardly avoid a feeling of double jeopardy while some of their fellows, and others who had never served in uniform, remained uncalled upon. Like the population at large, the Reserve doubtless contained a handful of the politically disaffected: at one point a suspicion of sabotage on one of the fast carriers brought an investigation and the precautionary transfer of a few hands to other duty. But no serious problems ever developed, and despite the strains imposed by prosperity and lack of interest at home, morale remained generally excellent.
By the end of 1950 the personnel situation was satisfactory in total numbers, but the distribution of regulars and reserves, hastily accomplished, was extremely unbalanced. The training of many reserves was below standard. There were acute shortages in certain categories of commissioned personnel and in a number of crucial ratings. The selection and detail of those recalled to active duty suffered from the nature of mobilization planning, where once again the concept of the one big war had proven costly. In the years after 1945 an emergency service rating structure had been set up, predicated on prospective full mobilization, which divided the normal ratings into specialized subcategories to which individual reservists were assigned. But since Korea did not qualify as a general emergency no shift to the new structure was made, and reservists were called up in their general service ratings. Within these larger groupings there was ample room for misassignment, but while some of the results were sufficiently dramatic to excite attention the situation never reached gross dimensions.
Most of these difficulties could be cured in time, but in some areas famine was endemic: certain rates were short throughout the war; with the release of reservists in 1952 the shortage of reliable and experienced petty officers became increasingly acute. In November 1951 CincPacFleet warned of this impending scarcity; in February 1952 both ComServPac and CincPacFleet felt the situation presented a serious threat to combat readiness. By the end of the year it was expected that allowances would on the average be only some 40 percent filled, and would drop as low as 25 percent in those crucial specialties–yeoman, radarman, radioman, and electrician’s and machinist’s mate–in which the armed forces were competing directly with American industry.
Dangerous though these shortages were, they seem never to have seriously affected combat readiness. A questionnaire circulated among ships in the Western Pacific, inquiring if damage or casualty had resulted from personnel shortage, produced a majority of negative answers, although a number of replies reported minor maintenance difficulties and a continued shortage of deck watch standers and of radiomen. This rating, indeed, despite the establishment of a special school at Sasebo, remained most critical of all, and these people were perhaps the real heroes of the Korean War: in many ships, particularly destroyers, a six-hour watch-and-watch schedule was the rule for weeks on end. It is, of course, a truism that burdens are never equally distributed in time of crisis, but the effect of loads like this on the inclination to reenlist needs no elaboration.
Part 3. Logistic Support
No one can fight unsupported. Without timely and adequate logistic backing the finest strategy is only a paper plan. In Korea, as in any overseas theater, land strategy was a function of port facilities, and the campaign developed as a series of movements based on Pusan, Inchon, Wonsan, Hungnam, and Chinnampo. At sea, as always, the capabilities of the fighting forces were similarly dependent on the effectiveness of the supporting organization. The importance of seaborne supply to the war in the peninsula has already been touched on; it remains to consider the administration of naval logistics.
Here too affairs were complicated by the absence of plans for other than major hostilities, and by the resultant need to improvise. In the Far East the lack of a naval logistic command, the general shortage of staff personnel, and the pressure of operations hampered logistic planning. Since most Pacific and Far Eastern base facilities had been either inactivated or reduced to an austerity level, support for the Korean effort had to be projected in one bound from the west coast. Lacking both high-level guidance and detailed requests from the theater of operations, Admiral Denebrink’s Service Force had, at the start, to fight its war intuitively.
With the outbreak of war the immediate problem was to provide a flow of consumer’s goods for the expanding Western Pacific naval force, a problem calling both for estimates of needs and for action to fulfill them. In such items as rations, clothing, and small and general stores, where usage is closely related to population, prediction is simple enough, and in any case fleet units can live off their fat for a time. In these categories all that was required was a rapid expansion of overseas shipments. But in ammunition and petroleum products, where usage varies unpredictably with the tempo of operations, more complicated questions arise.
The first steps in ammunition supply have been noted earlier. Until late August, when the pipeline from the United States became filled, ammunition was hurried forward from stocks at Guam and Pearl Harbor. By mid-November some 66,000 tons had been delivered to NavFE and Seventh Fleet, of which only about 15,000 tons had been expended, and except for intermittent and unpredictable spot shortages this problem was under control for the duration.
In petroleum, the lifeblood of modern war, the situation was less satisfactory. Jurisdiction over POL had been centralized in Washington in the Armed Services Petroleum Purchasing Agency, and overseas in the theater commanders. In July, as consumption skyrocketed, Service Force oilers and gasoline tankers were pressed into duty and MSTS expanded its contract tanker fleet. In the Pacific Area, despite the drain from increased transoceanic sea and air movement, petroleum stocks were adequately maintained, but in the Far East there developed a series of potentially dangerous shortages.
Although adequate storage capacity was available in the theater, the supply on hand in the summer of 1950 was not what it should have been, and the planners failed adequately to anticipate the increase in demand. In the grade of aviation gasoline used by the Navy, stocks remained relatively constant, but by October increased consumption had brought local shortages which had to be made up by shipments from the Pacific Area and from the Philippines. In Air Force grade aviation gasoline and in Navy fuel oil the situation was worse: supplies of the former declined steadily from the start of the war, and monthly from August to November there came periods of crisis; in black oil, increased usage coupled with inadequate requests produced a serious December shortage which required rapid transfers from the Pacific Area. Except for some restrictions on airlift, the fighting forces were fortunately never affected, but the margin was too close for comfort. No safety factor existed, and the loss of a single tanker from whatever cause would have seriously curtailed operations.
In two other areas of fleet support, shortages and delays developed, although again happily without ill effect. Plans for emergency establishment of harbor defenses were lacking, and materiel was in short supply: the laying of an antisubmarine net at Sasebo, although stimulated by a submarine alarm withih the harbor in mid-August, was begun only on 3 October.
Similar troubles affected the provision of degaussing facilities, where construction of a range at Yokosuka, begun as a routine project, was raised to the highest priority with the first evidence of enemy mining. But here fate intervened: en route to the California port of embarkation a truck loaded with instruments for this installation rolled off the highway, outloading was not completed until 9 November, and not until eight months after its authorization did the Yokosuka range become operational.
As supplies and gear were hurried west, and as the Service Force moved to assume its administrative responsibilities, service units were deployed forward to provide the maximum in floating support and to minimize the need for expanded shore facilities. The establishment in July of Service Squadron 3 and of Service Division 31 eased planning problems and implementing responsibilities for both Seventh Fleet and Naval Forces Far East. In the following weeks the expansion of Service Force strength in the forward area was expedited to provide underway replenishment of operating forces, salvage services, and in-port replenishment and maintenance at Sasebo and at amphibious objectives. By September, when this procedure received formal ratification in an exchange of dispatches between CincPacFleet and the Chief of Naval Operations, its implementation was well underway. Its dimensions may be appreciated from the tabulation of supporting units present in the theater.
Table 19.—SERVICE FORCE DEPLOYMENT TO THE WESTERN PACIFIC
(Yard Types Omitted)
|Type||29 June 1950||1 August 1950||15 September 1950|
Appreciable though it was, to those involved this reinforcement seemed only marginal, as did the projected growth of Service Force strength as a whole. The plans for naval expansion which developed over the summer called for an increase of service vessels from 46 to 67, a growth of less than 50 percent, while the active strength of the Pacific Fleet was slated to rise from 259 ships to 492, thus nearly doubling. With more than 90 fighting ships in the Western Pacific this allowance of repair vessels and tenders promised to be adequate only so long as battle damage remained small, while in other logistic types day-to-day requirements threatened to exceed the capacity of deployed units. The availability of oilers was marginal: despite the proximity of the operating area to the Japanese base, the demands of underway replenishment were such that in-port fuelling was dependent upon Britisb and Scajap tankers. The lack of ammunition ships forced early recourse to the use of AKAs with specially sheathed holds, an expedient which fortunately worked out acceptably. And of course there were never enough LSTs.
Despite the shortage of oilers and ammunition ships, replenishment at sea was quickly begun. Unavoidably, in the first days of action, naval units refueled and rearmed in port, the Seventh Fleet at Buckner Bay and Sasebo, NavFE ships at Sasebo and at Pusan. But the need to keep the carriers on the line brought a shift to underway resupply at the earliest possible date, and on 23 July Task Force 77 first fueled at sea to the south of Cheju Do. For the rest of 1950, the expansion of the carrier force and the high rate of consumption at Inchon and in the December crisis kept this a shoestring operation. By year’s end, nevertheless, ComServron 3’s fleet oilers, in 72 meetings, had accomplished 100 carrier, 11 battleship, 50 cruiser, and 546 destroyer fuelings at sea, while Mount Katmai, the reactivated Paricutin, and the sheathed AKAs had rearmed the force on 54 occasions. Transfers during these exercises were not limited to the 1,750,000 barrels of fuel oil, the 171,000 barrels of aviation gasoline, and the 7,665 short tons of ammunition which were delivered, but included numerous passengers and an infinite variety of miscellaneous commodities and fleet freight. And the supply of urgently needed items had been speeded by the institution of a daily air delivery service from Japan to Seventh Fleet carrier decks carried out by war surplus TBMs.
For the rest of the war the deployment of underway replenishment ships remained largely unchanged. One oiler was maintained at Keelung to fuel the Formosa Strait patrol; Yellow Sea units were serviced by independently sailed ships; to meet the larger needs of forces in the Sea of Japan two tankers and one or two ammunition ships were kept on station, joined as necessary by storeships and reefers. By 1952 it had become possible to replenish the entire fast carrier task force in the space of nine hours, and the impact of logistics upon operations was being further diminished by resort to the hours of darkness. Night-time replenishment, once considered so dangerous as to be impracticable, now became increasingly routine as a realistic appreciation of the possibilities of radar detection brought a relaxation of darken-ship requirements and the use of screened lights. By 1952 this evolution had become standard to the extent that the first ships were alongside the tankers before daybreak. In the last months of war nightly replenishment became the rule, and the force was meeting requirements which would have seemed wholly visionary in the war against Japan, or indeed in the summer of 1950.
At no time did the underway replenishment force have much leeway. The lifting ability of the ADs and the fuel consumption of the jets strained the capacity, not only of the parent carriers, but of ammunition ships and oilers as well. One result of these steadily increasing requirements was a variety of ingenious improvisations and modifications to the equipment for transfer of POL and ammunition. Another was a vigorous debate on the future of the art, which centered on the need for replenishment vessels with more speed and longer hulls, to keep the force moving and improve handling characteristics alongside, and on the desirability of developing composite replenishment ships which could issue more than one commodity at a time.
In-port logistic support, by contrast, remained comparatively routine once the early period of improvisation was over. Replenishment and repair were handled as practicable by the floating base at Sasebo and by its smaller sister at Yokosuka, while overload requirements were contracted out to Japanese shipyards. Of the 640,000 items of material required to support a modern naval force, some 83,000 high-demand articles, enough to supply 90 percent of fleet needs, were stocked by the Service Squadron; supplies of very large items such as propellers and radar antennae were maintained ashore; more exotic objects were procured on special order, locally or from the United States. The use of Japanese sources of supply, encouraged both by price differential and by elimination of shipping costs and time, rapidly became extensive; for the Navy this reached a peak of over $1,750,000 in June 1951, and although subsequently diminishing, owing to Japanese inflation and to some instances of poor quality or delayed delivery, remained of importance throughout the war.
The value of the Japanese base, indeed, went far beyond the opportunities it afforded for offshore procurement. Although floating support was employed to the utmost, some things, inevitably, had to be done ashore. At the outbreak of hostilities ComNavFE had been faced with the immediate need to convert Sasebo from stand-by status to major operating base, and to provide some airbase facilities in Japan. The first of these requirements called for a rapid expansion of ammunition and cargo-handling capacity and of storage space; the second, urgent in view of the needs for cargo, mail, and passenger services, for carrier aircraft replacement pools, and for patrol plane bases, was solved in the early weeks through negotiations with FEAF.
But such growth tends to snowball. These new and expanded supporting activities came in due course to require support of their own, in expansion of the supply department of Fleet Activities Sasebo and of the Naval Supply Depot at Yokosuka. And in time further steps proved necessary, as needs developed for the enlargement of NavFE headquarters, of naval hospital facilities, and of ship repair capacity.
That these requirements did not make the personnel problem wholly unmanageable was owing to the availability of Japanese labor. At Sasebo, by mid-November 1950, more than 100,000 man-days of Japanese stevedoring had been used in ammunition handling alone, a contribution equivalent to that of a thousand-man labor battalion; at Inchon, Wonsan, and Hungnam, Japanese stevedores were also employed. At Fleet Activities Yokosuka, and elsewhere, nine-tenths of the jobs in the supply and similar organizations were filled by Japanese civilians. In the course of time the staffing of the Yokosuka Ship Repair Facility came to involve about 3,900 Japanese, with some 350 U.S. naval personnel engaged in supervisory work.
In all aspects of logistic support the early days were unavoidably hectic, but from November 1950 quality and quantity improved steadily, both afloat and ashore. Indeed there were triumphs: the possible need for cold weather clothing was anticipated in midsummer, and prompt procurement and shipment met all requirements of the winter campaign. There were also, of course, crises: the embarkation of X Corps in December pretty well stripped the Far East of tobacco, candy, and writing paper and required, among other things, an emergency order for a million candy bars. But by spring of 1951 the situation was well under control: underway replenishment was meeting all demands, floating support in Japan had been expanded by the arrival of reactivated repair ships, shore-based activities were running smoothly. If it had required almost ten months to assemble a well-rounded logistics command, no major crisis had developed at any point in the chain. The affair had been so managed that support of Central Pacific trust territories and preparations at Eniwetok for the forthcoming atomic tests had suffered only minor delays. And once the basic military requirements had been satisfied the American standard of living came to attract the solicitude of supply officers, and a growing proportion of correspondence to be devoted to requisitions for beer, baseballs, boxing gloves, phonographs, pinochle sets, and the like.
What this surplus implied in operating terms became apparent in August 1952, following a hangar deck fire which caused major damage to Boxer. Although no great military urgency existed, it was decided to make repairs locally rather than sailing the ship ahead of schedule to the United States. Needed material was ordered by dispatch and assembled at Yokosuka or flown out from the United States while Boxer was returning from the operating area. Following an all-hands evolution by the Yokosuka Ship Repair Facility, the repaired and refurbished carrier was back on the line 19 days after the fire, and completed five more days of flight operations before heading homeward.
Thus far the discussion has concerned only the naval side of the war. But before leaving the subject of logistics some notice should be taken of the work of the Military Sea Transportation Service in providing the trans-Pacific lift on which the entire campaign depended. With the decision to intervene in South Korea the expanding needs of Army, Navy, and Air Force brought an immediate doubling of the load for MSTS Pacific: in contrast to a westward lift of 812,000 measurement tons and 71,000 passengers in the second quarter of 1950, the period from July through September saw 1,984,000 tons and 136,000 passengers carried forward. But to double the lift, in view of the length of the supply line, the time required for the round trip, and the need for simultaneous increase of intratheater movement, required far more than a doubling of assigned shipping: the 25 MSTS vessels in or en route to the Western Pacific on 1 July had increased to 117 by 1 September and to 263 by 1 November.
Such an expansion inevitably had its growing pains. In Japan the recently opened Western Pacific headquarters of MSTS was acutely short of personnel, and the first weeks were rough ones. In the San Francisco Bay area the recruitment of merchant marine crews for contract vessels suffered some delays, while an overestimate of requirements by continental commands resulted for a time in idle shipping. Some administrative inefficiency developed in the Far East when CincFE, having failed to assign Army and Air Force personnel to the MSTS Joint Space Assignment Board, complicated communications and planning by interposing a GHQ staff section between Captain Junker and his customers. The peak loads which accompanied the Inchon, Wonsan, and Hungnam operations strained the capacity of MSTS to the utmost.
Some questions were also raised in the course of 1950 concerning the efficiency of utilization of MSTS shipping by the Far East Command. Here speed of cargo handling at destination is the crucial factor, and here, despite the best efforts of theater port commands, the first months saw considerable delays. Where estimated required port time was of the order of two weeks, the average ship reaching the Far Eastern theater spent almost a month in harbor, and the cumulative losses worked out to such considerable equivalents as an entire month’s lift to Korea, 32 ships assigned to the trans-Pacific run, or $8,000,000 in time charter hire. But this wastage seems ascribable more to tactical and geographical factors than to ineptitude in the Far East Command: port time analyses for Japan, and for Pusan, Wonsan, and Iwon, show a utilization close to maximum; the big losses came in the Inchon, where tidal and other limitations of the harbor were compounded by the mounting out of X Corps units for Wonsan.
With time these difficulties were overcome, and with time operations became routine. They were also impressively large, for the Korean War absorbed the major portion of the activity of MSTS, by now the largest shipping organization in the world. What is needed to support a modern transoceanic war of even limited dimensions may be indicated by a few figures. For World War II the average monthly Pacific outbound cargo came to 1,085,000 tons; in 1953 it fluctuated between 880,000 and 1,400,000 tons. In World War II the monthly average of westbound passengers was 49,200; in 1953 this figure varied between 39,000 and 58,000. As for the shipping requirements which such loads impose, it may be noted that MSTS operated more than three-score ships within the Far Eastern theater, moving 626,000 tons and 74,000 persons a month, while the trans-Pacific figures, in "notional" ships of standard types, reached the totals indicated in Table 20.
Table 20.—MSTS TRANS-PACIFIC SHIPPING REQUIREMENTS
|Required monthly arrivals||Required ships
in the pipe line
|Provisions||78,000 tons||9. 7||24|
|General cargo||381,000 tons||38||95|
|Ammunition||103,000 tons||17. 7||44|
|Aircraft||50,000 tons||1. 6||3|
|Fuel oil||1,663, 000 bbls.||17||29|
|Diesel oil||675, 000 bbls.||6||11|
|Gasoline||1,419, 000 bbls.||11||21|
Beyond these problems of logistic administration two factors in the Korean situation deserve attention. The first relates to the problem of petroleum procurement, and to the extent to which the ability to make war may be subject to developments independent of the belligerent’s control. The second concerns the nature of the theater of operations, and its influence upon the magnitude of military effort.
Although the POL to support the Korean campaign came, in the first instance, from American stocks, the passage of time brought increasing reliance on the Middle East. Beginning in 1952 a considerable proportion of the jet fuel used in the Far East originated in the Persian Gulf. At a fairly early date the procurement of motor gasoline was divided between U.S. and Persian Gulf sources, while at intervals recourse was had to Aruba in the Dutch Antilles. From the latter half of 1951 the sources of both diesel oil and Navy standard fuel oil were almost entirely Middle Eastern. In the last months of conflict the Persian Gulf provided the United Nations with all its black oil, about a third of the jet fuel, a quarter of the motor gasoline, and more than half the diesel oil; aviation gasoline alone remained a wholly American product. This Middle Eastern procurement afforded a considerable economy in tanker turnaround time as compared to the U.S. Gulf coast, but it also gave hostages to fortune. In the disturbed political state of the area, emphasized in these years by the quarrel between Britain and the Mossadegh regime in Iran, there was little assurance from one month to the next that this source would remain open.
While the ability to prosecute the war thus depended in uncomfortable degree upon the continuity of Middle Eastern oil supplies, the size of the military effort was in large part a function of port capacity. Throughout the war, despite the opportunities offered by the long Korean coast line, United Nations forces remained heavily dependent upon Pusan and Inchon. Such dependence placed a rigid if theoretical limit on the size of the forces that could be supported: a study of the shipping situation in 1951 demonstrated that, in view of the physical limitations of these ports and of Yokohama, a doubling of shipping assigned the Korean run would augment deliveries by a mere 31 percent, and an infinite increase by only 37 percent.
The implications of the study are of interest, applying as they do not only to Korea but to the Indo-China crisis that followed, and indeed to any theater of operations where ports are few. It may be granted that the use of a few large ports is more efficient than a resort to many small ones. But the multiplication of forward unloading sites provides offsetting advantages in economy of land transport, as shown by the difficulties of the post-Inchon advance, and in spreading of risk, as illustrated by the beach surveys of the winter of 1950-51, motivated in part by the possibility of nuclear attack against Pusan.
This whole question of the support of a campaign in a coastal area where ports are few and communications primitive would seem to pose heavy contingent responsibilities upon the Navy. Had it been desired to increase the effort at the front beyond the capacity of Pusan and Inchon, certain steps were theoretically possible. A reallocation of resources to the ground forces might have been accomplished by the shift of Air Force units to island sites, Ullung Do in the east and Tokchok To in the west, for example; an increase in the proportion of embarked aviation, which carries its own port facilities in the form of the Service Squadron, would have had similar results; an expansion of over the beach supply would have been helpful. But none of these solutions was easily available. The rugged topography of the Korean islands was uninviting, and the islands themselves lacked ports: indeed, a Fifth Air Force desire to set up a Tactical Air Direction Center on Paengnyong Do went unsatisfied owing to presumed logistic impossibility. As for an increase in embarked aviation and in over the beach supply, such measures would have required more carriers and more LSTs, and these were not available.
These questions, however, are speculative. So far as needs and desires dictated, maritime logistics appear to have been well handled. For all forces MSTS did its job; for the Navy the system of mobile logistic support, backed by limited base development in Japan, proved adequate to all demands while obviating the need for extensive construction ashore. If the outbreak of this unexpected war had imposed sudden and sizable logistic problems upon the armed forces of the United States, the impact had not been wholly one-sided. Reports from the submarine patrols in La P'erouse Strait indicated a volume of traffic inbound for Vladivostok which greatly exceeded previous estimates, and which was on the increase.
Part 4. Interservice Coordination and the Air Problem
Throughout the Korean War, routine interservice problems were solved with little difficulty. The evacuation of casualties and the allocation of air and sea lift crossed service bounds. Joint planning for amphibious operations was effective. Logistic cross-servicing was generally satisfactory, as Marine aviation was provided with scarce engineering talent by the Air Force, deficiencies in Marine transport were made up by the Army, and aviation materiel was traded back and forth between the Air Force and the Navy. But there was one great exception to this generally harmonious picture.
The exception, of course, concerned the question of the proper employment of tactical aviation, a problem of very long standing and one for which no agreed solution had ever been developed. In the United States a generation of impassioned doctrinal controversy and the experiences of the Second World War had resulted in a reorganization of the armed forces in which the Army was shorn of its aviation and the Army Air Force transmuted into a separate service, while the Navy and Marines retained their organic air components. This reorganization, and the conflicting philosophies and practices which it embodied, met its first test in Korea.
Less than a year before, in the congressional hearings on "Unification and Strategy," the ancient controversy between the schools of separate and of integrated air war had reached its moment of greatest bitterness. With the invasion of South Korea the dollar aspect of the problem disappeared, but in place of budgetary pressures there developed those exerted by an enemy apparently unimpressed with air theory. The locus of tension between the services shifted from Washington to the theater of operations, where difficulties reappeared in conflict between Navy and Air Force over the control and employment of aircraft, and in controversy between Army and Air Force as well.
Given the history of the air question the reappearance in Korea of controversy and tension was hardly surprising. Nor, indeed, should the importance of these conflicts be overestimated. So much, in recent years, has been blamed on service rivalries as to raise the suspicion that some of the talk is used by civilians, whether taxpayers or administrators, to camouflage their own derelictions. And it should be remembered that equally vigorous if less publicized controversies exist within the individual services. In the Navy there was friction between surface and air, and disagreement as to the proper structure of the command organization. In the Air Force such matters as the control of airlift, the coordination of Bomber Command, and authority over service units provided bones of contention for FEAF and Fifth Air Force. Doubtless the Army had its problems too. Nevertheless the interservice difficulties deserve some comment, if only because the greatest tactical surprise of the Korean War was its demonstration of the limited effectiveness of "air power."
The argument that strength in the air is the sufficient precondition of victory, and that an air force which commands the skies inevitably commands all below, had in the years since World War II commended itself to many. Yet although in some respects persuasive, this argument had been less than wholly substantiated by the experience of the wars with Germany and Japan, to say nothing of the Italian campaign. In Korea it was to be quickly refuted.
In the first six months of war, although enjoying almost complete command of the air, the aviation of the U.N. was unable to prevent reverses on the ground, deny the enemy the use of his own territory, isolate the battlefield, or detect the assembly of large enemy forces. The defense of the perimeter had been a very close thing; in the disastrous battle of the Chongchon and the subsequent retreat to the south every aircraft in the sky was friendly; in the later stages of the war a costly and sustained effort to isolate the battlefield by the interdiction of enemy supply lines was to fail of its anticipated success.
Yet where proper control procedures were available the employment of aircraft in direct support of troops had tremendous military effectiveness, as was amply demonstrated by the operations of the Marine Brigade along the Naktong, by the campaign for Seoul, and by the movement of the Marine Division from the reservoir to the sea. In a different context the essential interdependence of air and surface activity was reaffirmed when the failure of interdiction was attributed by air commanders to the diminished enemy consumption which followed stabilization of the front. Paradoxically indeed, the first test of the new service concerned with air war pure resulted in a striking reaffirmation of the great degree to which, in a non-nuclear environment, success in the air depends on events below.
For this lesson the services were unequally prepared. The divergent histories of Air Force and naval aviation had by 1950 produced very different patterns in training, equipment, and control mechanisms. The geography of the plains of North Africa and Europe and the ideology of independent air power had made that "inherent flexibility" of which enthusiasts prated a macroflexibility. For the conduct of the air campaign, control was centralized at the highest possible level and preplanned operations were the rule, with the result that while a large effort could be switched from day to day along an extensive battle front, control at the target had been neglected. From this structure had developed a communications system with large capacity for routine transmission of orders and reports between central command post and operating air bases, but with limited provision for tactical communications at the scene of action.
The Navy and Marines, by contrast, accustomed to attacks against such easily defined targets as fleets and airbases, and to operations within the constricted beachhead, tended to rely on doctrine supplemented by brief orders, and on delegation of control to those on the spot. Provision of tactical aviation in ground warfare was looked upon as a service to the forces involved rather than as part of a separately controlled campaign, as an à la carte rather than a table d’ hôte proposition. The consequence was a command communications system of high reliability but comparatively small capacity, lacking in such automated devices as the radioteletype, but balanced by an emphasis on discrimination at the objective expressed in liberal provision of ground controllers and in the design of tactical communications equipment. As compared to the four VHF channels in the radios of Air Force fighter-bombers, the sets in naval and Marine aircraft had ten.
The incompatability of these systems was forcefully demonstrated in Korea. As in the Southwest Pacific in the war against Japan, Air Force verbosity in communications swamped the less capacious naval circuits, and indeed, at times, FEAF’s own: an extreme example was the grandfather of all radio messages, received by Task Force 77 in November 1950, which took 8,000 encrypted groups to set forth the air plan for one day, and which required over 30 man-hours for processing. Contrariwise, scene of action requirements for precise and deliberate control of aircraft in situations tightly packed in the air and fluid on the ground went far beyond the capacity of Air Force tactical communications. Both services, in a sense, were right in this matter, and both wrong: the land campaign, if only from problems of target description, is unavoidably wordier than war at sea; the compression of space and time brought about by the speed and power of modern weapons has made all tactical situations increasingly approximate the tightly-packed beachhead.
In the months before the war some efforts at improvement of joint communications had been made by Seventh Fleet. With an eye to the need for cooperation in a possible emergency, a series of drills and exercises with Western Pacific Air Force units had been attempted. But success had been only moderate, and the reports had emphasized the "real and urgent" need for action at the Washington level in the interest of efficient interservice communications. Somewhat similar conditions existed in Japan, where Air Force efforts at joint exercises and Air Force tentatives toward establishment of a Joint Operations Center had met little response from the Army. The whole situation points up a failure at Department of Defense level to place sufficient emphasis on joint matters, a failure apparently consequent not only to budgetary pressures and to the primacy in planning for war in the North European plain, but also to the well-meant efforts to prevent "duplication" by writing down exclusive rather than cooperative roles and missions.
With the arrival of the Seventh Fleet in Korean waters the problems of coordination assumed immediate practical importance, and on 8 July General Stratemeyer asked CincFE for operational control over all naval aircraft operating from Japan or over Korea. But this request, which involved authority to select carrier operating areas as well as targets, was resisted by Admiral Joy. Quite apart from the echoes of Air Force imperialism and from technical questions of capability, the felt hazards of Communist submarines and the contingent responsibility of Seventh Fleet for the defense of Formosa made the proposal undesirable, and after a meeting of interested parties the phrase "coordination control" was substituted. Although the term had enjoyed some use in prior planning for analogous situations, the Air Force was later to profess itself unsatisfied with such limited authority. But difficulties deriving from phraseology were less important than those arising from the structure of the Far East Command, and from incompatabilities of doctrine, equipment, and training.
While the early employment of Task Force 77 on northern strikes posed few problems, the air situation, as General Shepherd noted in July, was full of paradox. As a result of the pressures of the moment, B-29s were employed on tactical targets to the dissatisfaction of all concerned; jet fighters, with a fuel restriction limiting them to 15 minutes in the combat zone, were assigned to troop support; despite a wealth of close support opportunities carrier aircraft were committed against semi-strategic objectives. With the passing of time, however, the imperative needs of the perimeter brought a steady southward displacement of carrier operations which culminated with CincFE’s order of 8 August to put everything on close support. This development made necessary the coordination of Seventh Fleet operations, not only with FEAF, but with the Air Force and Army commands in the peninsula as well. On paper the question was dealt with by FEAF and NavFE representatives in the 3 August memorandum on "Proposed Target Arrangements with Navy." In actuality it had hardly been faced.
Arriving in circumstances of great emergency to lend a hand, the carrier aviators found themselves faced with difficulties which frustrated their best efforts. Common maps and common grids were lacking, so that location and designation of targets on an interservice basis was almost impossible. The command structure, presided over by the distant genius of the Dai Ichi Building and overcentralized in Tokyo, made no provision for a field commander charged with the coordination of forces, and little for direct dealing between Eighth Army, Fifth Air Force, and Seventh Fleet. But perhaps the greatest problem was that of communications.
In the first days of fighting, requests for air support had gone through GHQ and FEAF; only on 7 July did Stratemeyer gain CincFE’s permission to have the Army in Korea call directly upon Fifth Air Force. The entry of the carriers into support of the perimeter led to further complications, and in late July, in the hope of bringing order into chaos, Admiral Hoskins sent a representative to Taegu to establish communications with the Joint Operations Center. But incompatibility of facilities limited the success of this effort, as did the command structure, since direct dealing was authorized only for "coordination of air operations previously scheduled by higher authority." What this meant, in terms of emergency calls for close support, was that a dispatch originating at battalion level was supposed to travel normal infantry channels to Army at Taegu, thence to JOC, thence by relay to FEAF in Tokyo, and there from FEAF to NavFE for broadcast to Commander Seventh Fleet.
Under such restrictions it seems unlikely that the most elaborate communications system could have done the job, and the net that actually existed was rudimentary. On 15 July FEAF set up a circuit linking its Tokyo headquarters with FAFIK and with Seventh Fleet; ten days later Admiral Struble was still having difficulty in direct communications with FEAF; on 4 August, as a result of the pressure of other needs, FEAF was obliged to secure this circuit, thus further complicating an originally marginal situation. And even in the autumn, when circuits had been successfully established, slow internal handling of messages on the part of shore-based commands continued to impose delays.
In the air over Korea communications also presented difficulties. Confronted by the requirement of converting a defensive fighter force into one which could participate effectively in the land battle, Fifth Air Force had begun an heroic effort in improvisation. Two tactical air control parties were in the field by the end of June; a small combat operations section reached Taejon in the first week of July; late in the month a Joint Operations Center of sorts had become operational at Taegu. But by this time attrition of the TACPs had forced resort to airborne control of support strikes, while saturation of inadequate Army communications had encouraged the relaying of requests for air support through the orbiting Mosquito control planes.
This practice made a bad situation worse. Of the four VHF channels to which most Air Force planes were limited, only two were common to the various types of aircraft in the theater and to the jeep-mounted radios of tactical air control parties. Since Air Force procedures required incoming flights to report to JOC for assignment, and then to be passed through division to a regimental TACP or Mosquito, a considerable amount of talk was involved. As a result of this insistence on the part of JOC on acting as control as well as scheduling center, channels were so jammed that to drown out competing chatter a reporting aircraft had to come within 10 or 15 miles, a situation which at times imposed as much as 200 extra flight miles on carrier planes coming in from the west. Over the lines, meanwhile, the passage of information between attacking aircraft, Mosquito control plane, and ground party was confined to a single channel on which more than a dozen controlling centers were talking simultaneously, all this against a background buzz of conversation between the JOC and other flights. When to these circumstances was added a general indiscipline in voice communications, the difficulties encountered became quite understandable.
Both at command and tactical levels, therefore, the communications system proved inadequate to effective joint operations. One result was uncertainty in Task Force 77 as to the real nature of the emergency when calls for help came in, and in commands ashore as to its availability for support; a second was the frustrating inability of aviators to gain adequate control over the battleline. In time this situation would lead to attempts to break away from the perimeter, and to find more constructive employment for the air groups of Seventh Fleet; more immediately, it brought a number of unsuccessful efforts to short-circuit the established system. On 23 July an urgent plea from EUSAK for carrier support led to protests from Fifth Air Force, which had failed to receive its copy of the message. Two days later an attempt by Admiral Struble to bypass the Tokyo echelon and operate in consultation with EUSAK and the Joint Operations Center brought reproaches from ComNavFE. In early August a move by the commanding officer of Sicily to avoid the communications jam and gain more time over target by sending flights directly to the front was slapped down as "not acceptable." Late in the month, in an effort to reduce direct calls for naval air and gunfire from the forces in the field, ComNavFE got CincFE to remind all hands that any request involving changes in naval planning, or action against Bomber Command targets, had to be arranged through Tokyo.
In this situation effective control of close support proved impossible to attain. While the forces defending the perimeter could hardly have managed without the support they got, its quality, judged by any serious standard, was generally poor. The exception to this generalization, which shone the brighter in contrast to the general confusion, was in the support of the Marine ground forces by Marine and naval aviation, where the complexities of integration of ground and air were competently solved. In the southern spoiling offensive and in the battles on the Naktong the Marine aircraft from the escort carriers, exempted from the requirement of reporting in through JOC, checked in directly with their own people and did the job they had been trained to do; in the operations of Joint Task Force 7 at Inchon and of X Corps in northeastern Korea a similar situation prevailed. Much of the credit for these successes was due to pilot training based on a long history of air-ground cooperation; still more, perhaps, to effectiveness of control.
Here some statistics may be in order. Of 668 "close support" sorties sent in from the fast carriers between 26 July and 3 September, 28 percent were not controlled; for 299 such sorties at Inchon the proportion was 2 percent. In the crisis of 1 September some 280 sorties were put into the Naktong front between Tuksongdong and the south coast, an effort beyond the capacity of the JOC control system and which resulted in its collapse. On D-Day at Inchon, by contrast, the Tactical Air Control Squadron in Mount McKinley handled 302 Navy and Marine sorties without difficulty. On 3 December, with a daylight working period three and a half hours shorter than that of early September, X Corps’ Marine controllers at Hungnam processed 359 sorties; of these 197 were passed on to the tactical control section at Hagaru, where four-fifths were employed in the ten-mile sector between Hagaru and Yudam-ni under the direction of six ground parties. On 23 December the Mount McKinley Tacron handled 247 sorties in close and deep support of the shrunken Hungnam perimeter. If none of these figures matches the amphibious set-pieces of the latter part of World War II, in which upwards of 60 aircraft an hour were fed into restricted beachhead areas, they nonetheless reflect the virtue and the necessity of sophisticated and decentralized control systems.
The failures of air support in the summer of 1950 had sizable repercussions. The operations of the Marine Brigade and of Marine and naval aircraft had shown Eighth Army some of the possibilities in this area; in the campaign for Seoul and in northeastern Korea the Army units assigned to X Corps had their education continued; within the Air Force there was considerable soul-searching. In Korea this led to an influx of dignitaries from Washington to study the situation, to the convening of various boards of investigation, and to a discussion of the proper relationships between air and ground forces which lasted throughout the war. In the United States the Tactical Air Command reappeared as a major functional unit of the Air Force. In the Defense Department rumors were afoot that General Collins was contemplating an attempt to recover Army control of tactical aviation, a possibility which, in view of the nature of the earlier Collins Plan for reorganization of the armed forces, was not devoid of humor.
In the end this ferment was to have certain constructive results. For the short term, however, and under the tension of the campaign, the effects were exacerbating. In late August the troubles reached the press, with publication in the Baltimore Sun of a news story supported by editorial comment based on the views of the frustrated aviators of Task Force 77. One result was a dispatch from the Chief of Naval Operations and a memorandum from ComNavFE adjuring naval personnel to keep their criticisms inside the family and out of the newspapers. Another was a rejoinder from a nationally syndicated columnist who alleged that, far from being of superior effectiveness, the Navy and the Marines had been lying down on the job in Korea, and that their air support system was good only for butchering friendly troops.
This last effusion brought a letter from General Stratemeyer, expressing his regret for such unwarranted criticism and assuring Admiral Joy that the staff of FEAF was not responsible; earlier, in the flurry caused by the Sun articles, he had inquired of ComNavFE whether, in his opinion, the derogatory allegations about the Air Force were true. In reply, while regretting that accounts of "these deficiencies" had reached the press, Admiral Joy observed that with regard to air-ground cooperation he thought they were, but that allegations that the Air Force was unreceptive to suggestion were wholly false; to Stratemeyer’s expressed desire that problems be thrashed out between the two of them, ComNavFE replied that tactical air was a difficult problem and that perhaps they should have got together sooner on it.
With this conclusion we may leave the subject. While the failure to provide adequate support for the Army in the perimeter was undeniable, it would seem that more help might have been given by the Navy. The analyses of the situation by Struble, Hoskins, and Ewen, and the remedies that they proposed had been perceptive, but despite an apparently hospitable attitude on the part of FEAF toward naval participation in close support and the use of Navy controllers, their implementation was never pressed. Requests from the Army in Korea and recommendations from the Seventh Fleet for the commitment of the Anglico and of the Tactical Air Control Squadron from Mount McKinley were denied; assignment of Navy planes to share in the control function was the exception rather than the rule; although all services would have benefited from strong naval representation in the JOC, and although the visits of Weymouth and others had proved helpful, no serious attempt to make this a truly joint enterprise took place.
To some degree the atomistic nature of the Tokyo command, where General MacArthur had retained his World War II structure despite directives to establish a unified staff, can be held responsible; to some degree instructions from Washington limited the freedom of action of local commanders in all services. Within the forces afloat there seems to have been insufficient understanding of the appalling difficulties under which Fifth Air Force labored, not all of which were due to faulty doctrine, and some failure to give credit where credit was due, as in the rapid increase of jet fighter bombloads. Not fully appreciating the necessarily deliberate nature of close support, the pilots of Task Force 77 were at times overly impatient of delay. And finally, there existed at certain levels of the naval command a distrust of the Air Force and a desire to keep at a distance not wholly explicable by the submarine problem and the Formosan responsibility, and this defensive attitude, however understandable, was perhaps the saddest consequence of the interservice battles of the preceding years.
With the movement to Inchon and the separation of naval and Air Force operations, relations became easier, and by early 1951 things had improved. Communications between Task Force 77 and the JOC were at last working effectively; air group commanders from the fast carriers were being sent in in rotation to handle the liaison function; in due course a permanent assignment would be made. With the passage of time and the discounting of the submarine, Task Force 77 had taken permanent station in the Sea of Japan and was no longer puzzling Air Force officers by its mobility. From this time on division of labor was to be largely geographical, with operations coordinated by JOC on the basis of daily submission of the task force air plan. In this favorable situation cooperation developed by natural growth: by war’s end the installation of radioteletype had enabled the carriers to master the communication load, while the replacement at JOC of the naval liaison officer by a full-fledged naval member, the so-called NMJ, confirmed the joint nature of the enterprise.
In the controversial question of close support doctrinal differences remained. Overcentralization at JOC, where aircraft allocation was controlled and where all requests had to be approved, kept the system vulnerable both to enemy action and to communications saturation at times of peak activity. Air Force unwillingness to assign forward air controllers below the regimental level left this function largely in the hands of the Mosquitos, most effective in the stable situations in which least needed. But with calls for close support diminished by the static nature of the front, and with the carriers committed to interdiction, the problems inherent in the system could be ignored, and only in the final weeks of war did there develop a repetition of the confusion of August 1950.
In August 1953, 12 days after the signing of the Korean armistice, an interservice board assembled at Seoul to consider the problems of joint air-ground operations. The conclusions of the board reflected adversely on the rigid administrative procedures which in Korea had limited the effectiveness of air in fast-moving tactical situations. The need for better communications, both in the request net and at the scene of action, was emphasized. The excessive delays resulting from reliance on ground alert aircraft for attack against fleeting targets were noted; the employment of flights orbiting on station or diverted from preplanned missions was urged; and it was made clear that the Mosquito was no substitute for ground control of strikes against targets close to the MLR. For effective joint action in future comparable situations the establishment of a Joint Operations Center, 1953 model, was recommended, and the proposal, dating back to the summer of 1950, that the Navy provide a quota of forward air controllers was revived. This report marked a real step toward a meeting of minds in this complex and vital area: only in the question of providing air controllers at battalion level did the Air Force members disagree with the representatives of the other services. And all hands agreed on the "urgent requirement" for an established joint air support doctrine and procedure.
But Korea was far from home, and the victories of peace are different, if no less renowned, than those of war. Pursuant to the urgent recommendation of the conference the job of developing an agreed joint doctrine for air support of ground forces was quickly undertaken. On 28 August, only a week after adjournment of the Seoul meetings, this task was assigned the Joint Tactical Air Support Board "as a matter of priority," but with the proviso that if "inter-service divergent views" were encountered, these should be referred to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force for resolution at department level.
The hint, if hint it was, was quickly taken. The Air Force members of the board broadened the discussion to discover areas of difference, insisted that joint action take place on the highest rather than the lowest echelon, and looked with disfavor upon joint activities below the level of the area commander. The separateness and co-equality of air was stressed at the expense of integrated action, the need for joint task force organizations for airborne or amphibious operations was denied, the concept of joint planning conferences was evaded, and heavy emphasis was placed on the necessity of adhering to "the operational procedures which have worked with outstanding success in World War II and in Korea."
The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps members, for their part, while attempting to keep the discussion on the track, expressed some doubt as to the "outstanding success" of existing methods, and urged that development be not restricted by a blind adherence to the past. But agreement between the representatives of these three services was of no avail. In December 1953 the split report was forwarded to Washington for resolution at department level and there, presumably, suitably interred. In any event there is still no joint doctrine.
Part 5. The Larger Picture
Despite its violence and drama the struggle in Korea was but one aspect of a larger whole. While the tide of battle flowed up and down the peninsula, the war of maneuver, diplomacy, and subsidy continued all along the frontiers of the divided world. Unquestionably there were great differences between the operations in the Korean sector and the course of affairs elsewhere: as General MacArthur, who felt this most keenly, observed, "here we fight Europe’s war with arms while the diplomats there still fight it with words." But words are weapons; the aims and stakes were everywhere the same; Europe remained of primary importance and the boundaries of the shooting war subject to change.
For the armed forces in the Far East, most of all, perhaps, for the Navy, the existence of Communist nations on both flanks, the commitment to defend Formosa, and the international nature of the high seas obscured the borders of the conflict. Of the possibilities inherent in the conduct of operations in an area flanked by unfriendly powers, both possessed of military air forces and one with a sizable submarine fleet, the most dramatic example had been the destruction of the Russian bomber in September 1950. But while the chance of similar incidents was ever present, it was with regard to the submarine that the question of when properly to engage an unidentified intruder was most puzzling.
Early in the conflict Admiral Joy had advised his forces that "unidentified submarines may be attacked and driven off by any means available in self-defense or when offensive action against our forces is indicated," and that "continued submergence of an unidentified submarine in position to attack . . . is considered to indicate offensive action." Since submarines can detect an approaching surface force before being themselves discovered, and so enjoy a period of time in which to make their presence known, "continued submergence" was narrowly interpreted and sound contacts were invariably attacked at once. Such attacks were frequent in the first months of fighting, both in Korean waters and in the Ryukyu-Formosa area, but most targets were ultimately evaluated doubtful and some as positively non-submarine.
The air action in the Yellow Sea was not repeated, and no submarine attacks developed. But there remained, most notably in the Formosa area and along the patrol plane tracks in the Yellow and Japan Seas, the possibility of chance encounters with Chinese Communist or Soviet forces. In the Yellow Sea, except for the loss of a patrol plane to North Korean antiaircraft, no incidents took place until summer of 1952, when two PBMs were attacked and damaged by Communist jets. In the Sea of Japan, however, in November 1951, a P2V failed to return from a northerly search, and subsequent information indicated that it had been shot down off Cape Ostrovnoy by Soviet fighters. Here in the north the Air Force also engaged in reconnaissance, and with similar results: in October 1952, a year after the loss of the P2V, a B-29 was shot down off Hokkaido by Soviet fighters; in March 1953 an RB-50 was attacked, although without damage, over the sea to the east of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
In Formosa Strait, the region of Seventh Fleet’s contingent responsibility, the situation remained generally quiescent. The alarm of late July 1950 had brought the hasty diversion of Helena and a destroyer division from Korea, followed within a few days by Juneau. Early in August Admiral Struble formed Juneau, two destroyers, and an oiler into Task Group 77.3, based at Keelung and shortly to be reinforced by Worcester and another destroyer from the Mediterranean. By month’s end Rear Admiral Thomas H. Binford, who in 1942 had commanded the old fourstackers in the Java Sea fighting, had arrived from the United States in the heavy cruiser Saint Paul to assume command of the Formosa Patrol. Although the crisis of December brought the surface units north the task group was shortly reconstituted, and throughout the war surveillance of the strait was continued by Seventh Fleet surface units and by patrol planes.
Here, too, as in the north, long-range naval aircaft working the area from their bases in the Pescadores, at Buckner Bay, and on Luzon, had intermittent brushes with the Communists. As early as 26 July 1950 a P4Y was attacked by fighters in northern Formosa Strait, but escaped without damage; ten days later a PBM was fired on by antiaircraft batteries in the neighborhood of Amoy. On 5 November a PBM failed to return from southern Formosa Strait, and although searches were persistent they were also negative and the cause of loss remained unknown. Two generally peaceful years followed, but in the autumn of 1952 there developed a number of antiaircraft actions with shore batteries and small warships, and on two occasions patrol aircraft were attacked by MIGs. But no plane was lost until January 1953, when a P2V was shot down by gunfire from a coastal island and a Coast Guard PBM, sent to rescue the crew, itself crashed and sank while attempting takeoff in heavy seas.
So despite all hazards the war remained circumscribed. Although planning for larger things had followed the intervention of the CCF, the blockade of mainland China was never implemented and mainland target folders stayed on the shelf. The intensity of action diminished rapidly with distance, and except for minor incidents shooting was limited to Korea and to Korean waters. In the northern Sea of Japan the units of the Soviet Far Eastern Fleet maneuvered, undisturbed and undisturbing. Through the waters of the Western Pacific, Soviet and Chinese Communist merchant ships continued on their way, subject only to the photographic efforts of search planes and submarines. But while the area of actual combat remained small, related events of great importance were taking place throughout the world.
In the United States, in September 1950, a controversial career ended as Louis Johnson, in part the architect and in part the victim of the Truman administration’s defense policies, departed Washington, and General Marshall, again recalled from retirement, reigned in his place. Already, however, the policies had changed. With the invasion of South Korea the $14 billion ceiling vanished overnight, and budgeting and planning officers labored to keep up with administration willingness to approve and congressional readiness to appropriate. In the fiscal year 1949–50, the year of interservice quarreling and the B-36 hearings, naval appropriations, originally voted at slightly over $5 billion, had been cut by the Johnsonian ax to less than $4½ billion. For 1950–51 they totalled more than $12 billion, and in the following fiscal year monies appropriated for the Navy alone would exceed the earlier three-service ceiling, while the total defense budget would approach $60 billion.
It is, of course, easier to appropriate than to spend, and the events of immediate significance were less the dollar votes than the recall of reserves, the expansion of selective service calls, and the reactivation of fleet units and base facilities. But with the passing of time expenditures also rose dramatically: the $14¼ billion spent by all services in fiscal 1950 rose to $38¼ billion in 1952; for the Navy alone the increase was from $4.1 billion to almost $10 billion. The effects on the national economy were not disastrous.
For the Navy’s operating forces two principal consequences followed this dollar flood: an immediate expansion of the fleet through reactivation of mothballed ships, and its subsequent strengthening by conversion of existing units and by new construction. Reserving the latter subject for later treatment, it may be noted here that fleet expansion took place in all categories from attack carriers of the Essex class down to yard craft and liberty boats. The extent and speed of this expansion may be inferred from a tabulation of major combatant ships in active service in June and October 1950.
Table 21.—DISTRIBUTION OF MAJOR COMBAT SHIPS
|June 1950||October 1950|
|Type||Atlantic Fleet||Pacific Fleet||Total||Atlantic Fleet||Pacific Fleet||Total|
The 50 percent expansion of the Pacific Fleet, while sufficiently impressive, is perhaps less remarkable than the fact that the Atlantic Fleet should have expanded at all, while at the same time contributing heavily to the increase of Far Eastern naval strength. From this Fleet, by way of the Suez and Panama Canals, there came in the early months a battleship, a fleet carrier, a light cruiser, a destroyer squadron and an escort destroyer division, a hospital ship, three attack transports, three attack cargo ships, and two LSDs. This was no inconsiderable contribution, yet it was dwarfed by that of the Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, which for a time almost disappeared as a result of the need to reinforce the 1st Marine Division for Inchon. In the period between June and mid-August, when FMFLant hit its low point, onboard personnel, officer and enlisted, diminished from 18,470 to a mere 3,196.
Notable as was this westward shift of force, it was controlled and limited. Great though they were, the exigencies of the Korean situation were not permitted to overthrow the broad lines of accepted strategy. The defense of Europe remained the primary task; the larger portion of the Navy remained in the Atlantic. And as a precautionary measure, since none could read the future, the outbreak of fighting in Asia was soon followed by a forward deployment on the other side of the world.
In the Mediterranean Sea, where geography affords the opportunity to reach behind the Iron Curtain and to sustain the independence of the nations of Southern Europe and the Near East, the Navy maintained its Sixth Fleet. This fleet, lineal descendant of the Naval Forces Mediterranean of World War II days, had received its current designation in early 1950. Its existing deployment dated from the previous year, at which time the Atlantic Fleet had organized three carrier task forces, one of which was at all times kept on station in the Mediterranean, along with an amphibious element embarking a Marine battalion and miscellaneous supporting units. Spring of 1950 had seen this force, built around the carrier Leyte and the cruisers Salem and Worcester, engaged in routine exercises. With the invasion of the Republic of Korea its strength was to be more than doubled.
Escorted by a division of destroyers, the large carrier Midway, which already enjoyed a limited nuclear capability, was speedily sailed for the Mediterranean, where she arrived in mid-July and where she was joined shortly by her sister Coral Sea. With the striking force thus strengthened, Worcester and a destroyer division were detached to the Far East by way of Suez, followed in mid-August by Bexar and Montague with the Marine battalion, while Leyte was returned to the United States for further transfer to the Far East by way of Panama. There remained in the Sixth Fleet the 2 large carriers, 3 cruisers, and 14 destroyers, and in September the force was further strengthened by an antisubmarine group formed about the escort carrier Mindoro. But with the period of triumph in Korea the crisis seemed to have been surmounted, tension diminished, and Sixth Fleet was cut back to normal size.
The reduction, like the triumph, was to prove short-lived. As the emergency which followed Chinese intervention in Korea brought a second hasty reinforcement of the Far East, so too it governed movements in the Atlantic. In January a new augmentation of the Sixth Fleet was begun, as a light carrier, a destroyer division, and two fast minesweepers were ordered forward. With the apparent imminence of a major spring crisis the scheduled May relieving group of one large carrier, 11 destroyers, and ancillary units was sailed to reach the Mediterranean in March; at the same time an amphibious task element with a Marine battalion was sent forward to provide, for the first time since the previous August, a limited amphibious capability. Following the arrival of these reinforcements the ships already on station were kept on through early May, with the result that these months saw the largest concentration of American naval power in the Mediterranean since the end of World War II.
The expected crisis did not come, but little relaxation resulted. Over and above the necessity of strengthening its striking force in Mediterranean waters, and of contributing to Far Eastern naval strength, manifold responsibilities weighed upon the Atlantic Fleet. During the warm months resupply convoys had to be sent up to the Arctic. Spring of 1951 brought the need to transport and land the newly established Iceland Defense Force. An arduous and continuing schedule of training in convoy work, mine warfare, amphibious operations, and air defense had to be maintained. The strains of rapid expansion, brought about by reactivation of mothballed ships and the activation of new aviation units, imposed a heavy load in personnel training and administration as on-board complement expanded in the space of two years from 107,575 to 235,426. Nor was non-shooting war without its costs: the greatest single tragedy of the period of the Korean conflict took place in the Atlantic, when in April 1952, in the course of night air operations, the DMS Hobson got in front of the carrier Wasp and was run down and sunk with a loss of 176 lives.
So war in Europe, if still in CincFE’s phrase only a war of words, absorbed large quantities of naval strength. And in diplomacy, as in the military establishment, the sense of urgency deriving from aggression in Korea was employed to strengthen the defenses of the West. This process was most notable in the fleshing out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, where the treaty of April 1949 had been followed by requests for American military assistance and these, in October, by the Mutual Defense Act. More paperwork and negotiation followed, but in March of 1950 shipment of materiel began with the sailing of a load of naval aircraft on the French carrier Dixmude, a vessel of appropriately international background which, begun as an American merchant ship, had been converted to an auxiliary aircraft carrier, lend-leased for wartime service to Great Britain, and ultimately transferred to the French Navy.
The NATO powers had by now agreed on broad strategic concepts, and the wheels of implementation were grinding. The pace, however, remained leisurely: Russian forces in the satellites outnumbered those available for the defense of Europe by perhaps five to one, and the latter, of widely varying quality, were maldeployed, malsupported, and without a coordinating command structure. But Korea changed all this. In the new atmosphere came new effort, and on 15 September, as the Marines were going over the seawalls at Inchon, the North Atlantic Council voted to create an integrated force under centralized command. In December the call went out for General Eisenhower to return to the scene of his earlier triumphs; in January the organization of a headquarters was begun; on 2 April 1951 SHAPE assumed operational control of NATO forces.
Although much remained to be done, General Eisenhower’s hand had already been strengthened by the arrival of new Army and Air Force contingents, as well as by expansion of the Sixth Fleet. Following the invasion of South Korea an increase of jet fighters and B-50 bombers had trebled Air Force strength in the United Kingdom. In the course of 1951 the Air Divisions there and in Germany were expanded into Air Forces, the southern flank was strengthened by acquisition of North African airbases, and four more Army divisions reached Europe to join the two already there. There was also reinforcement from within: in Europe as in America defense expenditures rose steadily, and while the American contribution continued to predominate, the outlays of European NATO members more than doubled between 1949 and 1952.
While the defenses were going up in Europe the right flank was pushed forward through the Mediterranean. Here geography and naval power permitted both the development of advanced airfields in Tripoli and Saudi Arabia and the extension of NATO planning to include Greece and Turkey. These were hardly Atlantic states, and their accession was consequently opposed by some, but the sea road that connected them with the Atlantic made possible their support against pressure from the north. These facts of life were emphasized and western power made tangible in the summer of 1950 by the appearance of the Sixth Fleet at Phaleron Bay, just east of the Piraeus; by amphibious exercises in Crete; and by an aerial demonstration staged over Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese government. Late in the year Greece and Turkey were invited to associate themselves with NATO planning, and in early 1951 the Sixth Fleet again called at Phaleron Bay. In May the United States proposed formal NATO membership for these countries, and in July Coral Sea and her attendant ships dropped anchor at Istanbul. In the fall the formal invitation to accede was issued, and early in 1952 the transaction was consummated.
Naval diplomacy was by this time in full swing, and the fleet was showing the flag in a new area. The adherence of Greece and Turkey to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization greatly emphasized the importance of Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Army. Here cooperation had been facilitated by the end of civil war in Greece and by Tito’s break with Russia. Subsequent to these developments crop failures had forced this Communist country to turn westward and, despite many protestations to the contrary, to start edging into the position of a constructive member of NATO. By early 1951 Yugoslav preparations to receive assistance were in progress and in February food and credits began arriving. In April former German military equipment was provided by France and Britain, to be followed, with poetic justice, by Russian gear captured in Korea. Before the year was out military missions had been exchanged with the United States, and in December Sixth Fleet units visited a Yugoslav port. In 1952 this developing cordiality brought a task force built around Coral Sea to Split, finest of Adriatic harbors, where Marshal Tito was himself embarked and edified by a demonstration of flight operations.
By early 1952 the NATO naval command structure had been completed, and arduous efforts in the coordination of multinational forces were beginning to flower in large-scale naval exercises. In November a six-nation operation was carried out; in the following March a large NATO maneuver was held in the Western Mediterranean; in the autumn of 1953 the Sixth Fleet would sortie to the North Atlantic, to join the forces of that ocean in the greatest combined exercise to date.
So in Europe, as in Korea, the line was held, and even slightly improved. As always the imperfect world contained sufficient difficulties: despite SEATO and the Baghdad Pact, the unsettled conditions of Southeast Asia and the Near East continued to resist treatment. Still, it could be said that the events set in train by the invasion of South Korea had reacted, on balance, to the detriment rather than the advantage of the Communist world. The North Korean People’s Army had been destroyed and the forces of Communist China heavily punished. Japan had been protected; the Republic of Korea had been liberated; Formosa had not fallen. In Europe NATO had been built up. The United States, keystone of the entire structure, was to a considerable degree rearmed.
All this, of course, had been accomplished by way of reaction. That so much had to be credited to the North Koreans rather than to the conscious and purposeful initiative of the West was perhaps cause for philosophical regret. But the response, for the moment at least, had been a notable one.
Part 6. Into the Future
The fighting in Korea was accompanied, for those who had ears to hear, by ominous rumblings offstage, as the nuclear powers labored to perfect and expand their arsenals. The explosions of 1951 marked but the start of a period of accelerated development in which tests were carried out by the United States at Eniwetok and in Nevada, by the British in Australia and in the Pacific, and by the Soviets within the Asiatic land mass. Before peace came to the embattled peninsula a whole new spectrum of weapons had been developed: at one end there lay the hydrogen bomb, with its appalling implications for victim, neutral, and user alike; at the other the need for an explosive return proportionate to the rising costs of delivery was bringing warheads for missile, artillery, antisubmarine, antiaircraft, and infantry use.
The possibilities of the world struggle and the actualities of Korea, so important in forwarding the nuclear research and development programs, had important results in other spheres. The shock effect of the North Korean mining campaign gave mine warfare an unaccustomedly high priority, both in research and in the Navy’s building program. The immediate response to the emergency involved the installation of underwater search gear in a number of infantry landing craft, to permit their use as mine locators, and the conversion of four motor launches to shoal-water sweepers. But these expedients, like the many World War II minesweepers, had been largely obsoleted by the magnetic mine. Subsequent development of the mine-hunters involved the conversion of wooden-hulled YMS and the construction of wooden-hulled minesweeping boats, while the need for larger sweepers led to the construction of new non-magnetic types. Of these, three were developed: the MSO, an ocean minesweeper, 171 feet in length and of 750 tons full load displacement; the MSC, a somewhat smaller coastal minesweeper, 144 feet overall; and the MSI, a 112-foot inshore minesweeper.
The building of truly non-magnetic ships is no simple matter, involving as it does, in addition to wooden hull construction, the design and procurement of much special equipment including engines of non-magnetic stainless steel alloys. Yet, despite the complexities of the task, production was not inconsiderable. Of the MSOs, which began launching in 1952 and commissioning in the next year, more than 100 were projected, while almost 150 MSCs and about 50 inshore sweepers were planned. Such quantities, of course, were more than enough for the U.S. Navy, but the United States was now supplier to the whole free world. With the anti-Communist alliance dependent on the uninterrupted use of the seas, and with a mine threat which knew no geographical limitations, something more than half this new construction was slated for transfer, under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, to countries along the entire maritime arc from Norway in the west through the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific and Japan.
In amphibious warfare, too, the Korean experience had consequences for new construction. The extraordinary usefulness of the LST resulted in an immediate program for 15 of the 1156 series, a development of earlier experimental types, longer (384 as compared to 328 feet), faster (15 as opposed to 11 knots), and of larger capacity than their elder sisters; these began launching in mid-1952. The next step came two years later with the laying down of the first of seven Suffolk County class LSTs–442 feet overall, 7,100 tons full load displacement, 17 knots–which would carry 20 amphibious vehicles and 700 troops in air-conditioned spaces.
This, it appeared, was about as far as the type could go, despite the enthusiasm of some officers who, on the basis of Korean experience, appealed for clouds of these ships to replace rather than supplement the APA and AKA types. Since problems of design placed unavoidable limits on beaching ability, further progress tended toward the elaboration of the dock landing ship, also of great use in Korea. Eight new LSDs of the Thomaston class were undertaken and these, like all new construction, were larger (11,270 tons full load as against 8,700 tons) and faster (24 knots as compared to 15½) than their World War II predecessors. The direction this development was taking became apparent a few years later with the completion of plans for the LPD, a transport designed on the Thomaston hull, in which the increased troop and cargo space gained by the use of a smaller well gave a capacity approximating the AKA or APA.
Other than the LST, the most prominent all-purpose workhorse of the Korean War had been the helicopter. So necessary had these contraptions suddenly become that landing platforms sprouted throughout the fleet and were designed into all possible new construction, while their further implications for amphibious warfare attracted the interest of the Marines. As the tactical possibilities of vertical envelopment were clarified, there came proposals for the conversion of escort carriers to helicopter work and the projection of the helicopter amphibious assault ship (LPH), which would carry a Marine battalion, its supplies, and the helicopters necessary to land it. And a final contribution to the welfare of those who have to land on beaches came in late 1952, with the laying down of Carronade, the first rocket ship specifically designed for the purpose.
While the virtues of flexibility of movement over the beaches and over the hills were being worked out, through development of LST and LSD types and of helicopter employment, concurrent advances took place in more conventional areas. Since in addition to the problems of minefields and beaches the Korean War had emphasized those of supply, a share of new construction was allocated to logistic support units. Early in the conflict three 20-knot passenger ships, already building for the American President Lines, were taken over and completed as troop transports for MSTS, which also acquired some new cargo types with roll-on roll-off loading systems and with hulls strengthened for use in ice. Under the stimulus of war the Maritime Commission undertook the construction of a number of 20-knot Mariner class cargo ships, of which one was early acquired by the Navy for conversion to an AKA and others in due course for conversion to attack transports. The shortage of reefers in Korea brought the inclusion of two 18-knot vessels in the post-Korean construction program. The problems of underway replenishment and of accelerated consumption of fuel and ammunition led to experimental work with an ex-German U-boat supply ship to test the theory of one-stop replenishment, and to planning for a composite type which would carry ammunition, petroleum products, and miscellaneous cargo as well. But this development would take time, and more immediate help came from the construction of six new 20-knot fleet oilers, 100 feet longer than any previously available, of which the first was launched in late 1953, and from the five new ammunition ships of the Suribachi class, built from the hull up for this purpose, and providing higher speed, new methods of storage, and new and faster handling machinery.
Essential though they were, these advances in mine and amphibious warfare and in logistic support of overseas operations were overshadowed by developments in the striking forces. In carrier aviation the lessons of Korea, the availability of more money, and the implications of the future led to a dramatic reversal. In July 1951, only two years after cancellation of the supercarrier United States, a contract was awarded for the first of six vessels of the Forrestal class, ships more than 1,000 feet in overall length and with a full load displacement almost twice that of the Essex carriers. On these colossal hulls, in addition to machinery for speeds upwards of 33 knots, the new class of carrier provided larger fuel capacity, larger hangars, more powerful catapults, more elevators, and an angled deck layout which would permit the handling of almost 100 of the larger and higher performance aircraft soon to become available.
As construction of these behemoths was getting underway an extensive conversion program for existing aircraft carriers was begun. Here the most significant new step was the incorporation of the angled deck, a British development, which permitted simultaneous launching and landing and at the same time removed the hazards of the barrier crash. With success of an experimental installation on Antietam, other Essex-class ships were put into the works to emerge in due time with the new deck configuration, modernized elevators, new steam catapults, and other improvements, and in 1954 similar modernization of the three Midway-class carriers was begun.
What all this implied in terms of aircraft performance may be seen by a few comparisons. For the Korean war the best available Navy fighters were the Grumman F9F Panther and the McDonnell F2H Banshee with maximum speeds of something over 600 miles an hour; the AD attack plane, last and finest flower of the piston-engined line, lumbered along at a mere 365 miles an hour. But as the war was ending the Douglas F4D Skyray, a supersonic fighter capable of speeds up to about 750 miles an hour, was commencing its fleet trials. The A3D twin-jet heavy attack plane, with a top speed roughly equivalent to the F9F, was already in production. The prototype of the still faster A4D light attack plane was building and a contract had been let for the Chance Vought F8U-2, an advanced fighter which on completion would set some records with speeds exceeding 1,000 miles an hour.
Paralleling these advances in fighter and attack aircraft, the continuing trend toward complexity of equipment and size of vehicle was bringing multi-engined antisubmarine aircraft to the fleet. These larger planes required larger decks: in 1953 half the Essex class was assigned to antisubmarine warfare, and with this step the light carrier and the escort carrier reached the end of the road. After a short period in training duty the last CVL followed her sisters into inactivity, while those CVEs not destined for the scrap heap were reclassified as aircraft transports or as helicopter carriers.
The advent of new high-performance aircraft and the proliferation of nuclear weapons inevitably revolutionized the air defense problem. To increase the range of radar detection, early warning aircraft and radar picket submarines were given high priority. In fighter planes the machine gun gave way to the target-seeking missile, while aboard ship the antiaircraft gun began to disappear. Although the first group of post-Korean destroyers– one of which was to be christened Turner Joy–mounted new 3-inch automatic antiaircraft batteries, this was but a brief transitional phase. In 1955–56 the heavy cruisers Boston and Canberra were modified to carry two twin launching mounts for Terrier, a beam-riding antiaircraft missile with a ten-mile range. The next step was the conversion of the destroyer Gyatt to carry a Terrier mount, and of six Cleveland-class light cruisers, three to carry Terrier and three Tabs, a larger missile with a slant range of up to 65 miles. And in due course there followed a program for guided missile destroyers of new design.
Although in Korea the submarine had been only a threat, new developments promised it a considerable future. In the years before 1950 some new construction and conversion had been undertaken with an eye to increased submerged speed, and some of a specialized nature for antisubmarine work. But the great developments came in the course of the Korean conflict, with the construction of Albacore, a wholly streamlined boat which compensated for awkward handling on the surface by extraordinary speed and maneuverability in the depths, and with the laying of the keel of the nuclear submarine Nautilus. Marriage of the speeds possible with the new hull form and the almost unlimited endurance bestowed by nuclear propulsion was to give wholly new dimensions to undersea warfare, while with the advent of the offensive guided missile the submarine gained awesome potentialities for action against land targets.
Naval development of the surface-to-surface guided weapon, begun shortly after World War II, first took operational form in 1951 with the flight of Regulus I, a subsonic missile with a range of 575 miles. Designed originally for launching by submarine, Regulus proved versatile, and in the course of time was embarked in aircraft carriers and cruisers as well. By 1958, when production ended, a supersonic longer-range successor was on the way, and submarines specifically designed for missile work were under construction.
While much had been said of push-button warfare in the years after World War II, all this, when war came to Korea, was still largely talk. But before the decade had ended changes of a truly revolutionary nature had indeed developed. Nuclear-powered submarines were in operation and more were building; nuclear-powered cruisers and frigates were in contemplation; surface ships as well as submarines were carrying long- range missiles; as an outgrowth of the Forrestal class an even larger carrier was under construction.
This was Enterprise, 1,100 feet long and with a flight deck 252 feet wide, displacing 85,000 tons full load, defended by missiles, powered by eight nuclear reactors. This new dispensation in propulsive machinery would give her a maximum speed of 35 knots and an estimated endurance of five years; by eliminating the need for oil storage and stacks it would provide twice the aviation fuel capacity of her largest predecessors and permit the installation, on the sides of the island structure, of fixed radar antennae of advanced design. This astounding vessel marked the culmination of the Navy’s development of shipboard aviation, a development begun within the service lives of many still on active duty with the conversion, in 1922, of the old 15-knot collier Jupiter into the Langley as an experimental aircraft carrier. But Enterprise was not alone in manifesting the possibilities of the new technology, for work was simultaneously going forward on a series of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, whose displacement would approximate that of a small light cruiser and whose armament had a projected range of 1,500 miles.
What these developments of Promethean man promised for the future of warfare was by no means clear, least of all for the kind of limited war that had taken place in Korea. Despite a change of administration at home and ultimate agreement on a Korean armistice, military policy was to continue much as before. At the Pentagon the bad old chiefs departed and the good new chiefs came in, a change chiefly significant for the promulgation of the "New Look" which, with its emphasis on the size of the bang, harked back to pre-Korean days. On the level of higher policy the concept of "massive retaliation," with its promise of converting all small wars into big ones, seemed a denial of all Korea had stood for and a return to the position of 1949. With the end of the Korean fighting, the Bureau of the Budget regained its ascendancy in military affairs, dollar problems returned to harass and divide the services, and the only difference was that this time it was the Army, which had borne the heat of the day in Korea, that suffered most.
Yet however predestined, all this was in the future in July of 1951 as the delegates gathered for the commencement of Korean armistice talks. At 1100 on the morning of the 10th Admiral Joy led his colleagues into the teahouse at Kaesong to confront the emissaries of the enemy. Among the correspondents present to observe proceedings, bets were being made on how long it would take to close the gates of the temple. The pessimists thought six weeks.
[End of Chapter 11]