Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

The Navy Department Library

Tags
Related Content
Topic
Document Type
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
  • Image (gif, jpg, tiff)
Location of Archival Materials

A New Equation: Chinese Intervention into the Korean War

Colloquium on Contemporary History June 20, 1990 No. 3

WELCOME
by
Captain Steven U. Ramsdell, USN
Director, Naval Aviation History and Publication Division
Naval Historical Center

On behalf of the Director of Naval History, Dr. Dean C. Allard, I welcome you to today's Colloquium on Contemporary History. The purpose of these events, I hope you understand, 15 to promote the study of post-World War II national security issues and to enhance our understanding of the role of the defense establishment in the contemporary period, with of course, emphasis on the naval aspects of that involvement. What an important subject we have today; the Chinese intervention into the Korean War. That watershed event is of interest, first of all because of what we can learn about circumstances surrounding the intervention itself and also, because it cast such a long shadow over subsequent American policy and involvement in Asia, including of course our participation in the Vietnam War. Therefore, it really commands our attention. Once again, welcome, and let's proceed with the conference.

OPENING REMARKS
by
Dr. Edward J. Marolda
Head, Contemporary History Branch
Naval Historical Center

The title of today's colloquium is "A New Equation: Chinese Intervention into the Korean War." Why should we be concerned with an event that occurred almost forty years ago in a conflict that Clay Blair has labeled the Forgotten War? There are many reasons, but a primary one has to be that Chinese intervention into the war strongly influenced how the United States and the People's Republic of China would approach Far Eastern security concerns for at least the next twenty years.

The massive size of the Chinese Red Army, and the skill with which it forced United Nations forces to withdraw from the frozen hills of North Korea, persuaded American leaders that they faced a major military power. Thereafter, successive U.S. administrations focused on preventing full-scale armed confrontation with Chinese Communist forces, especially on the mainland of Asia. Truman gave up earlier thoughts of unifying Korea under a Western banner; Eisenhower passed on the French invitation to Dien Bien Phu and he kept Chiang Kai-shek "leashed;" and Presidents Kennedy and Johnson spared no effort to avoid provoking Chinese intervention into the Southeast Asian conflict.

At the same time, the government in Peking learned from its experience in Korea that American naval, air, and ground forces, equipped with an arsenal of lethal weapons, could exact a heavy toll of Chinese lives and resources. This knowledge fostered Communist restraint during the Sino-American confrontations over the Tachen Islands in 1955, Quemoy and Matsu in 1958, and Southeast Asia in the 1960s.

The fears that motivated this mutual restraint, however, also made the People's Republic of China and the United States the bitterest of enemies. Korea convinced Mao Tse-tung and his lieutenants, ardent Marxist ideologues, that the goal of the United States was not only to rid Asia of Communism but to destroy the Peking regime itself. With renewed vigor, the Chinese Communists supported Soviet foreign policy objectives and provided material support to other Far Eastern Communist movements. There was little indication that the PRC sought accommodation with the West.

Chinese intervention in Korea following the harsh Soviet consolidation of power in Eastern Europe and threat to the Middle East, Mao's conquest of the mainland, and the North Korean attack across the 38th parallel, confirmed the views of many Americans that the Communist bloc was on the march. The near disasters in Korea during the first year of the war so alarmed Americans and others in the Western camp that they responded with super-charged anti-Communism. This visceral reaction enabled successive U.S. administrations to mobilize the resources needed to support the Containment structure. On the down side, the American conviction that Communism was a monolithic movement directed from the Kremlin made it difficult for many to understand that the nations forming the Sino-Soviet bloc often had divergent interests and objectives. As we now know, that perception had unfortunate consequences in Southeast Asia.

As we enter this new, post-Cold War era in Asia, a region where the United States and the People's Republic of China will continue to figure prominently, it should be especially enlightening to study the causes and results of a past breakdown in Sino-American understanding.

MacArthur and the Chinese Communist Intervention in the Korean War, September-December 1950
by
Dr. D. Clayton James
Virginia Military Institute

A familiar pattern in historiography is the three-step dialectic of thesis, or orthodox position; antithesis, or revisionist stance; and synthesis, or eclectic interpretation. This process has not developed, however, regarding most issues of the Korean War, especially General of the Army Douglas MacArthur's supposed blunders in relation to the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) intervention into Korea in the autumn of 1950. The orthodox views, as espoused by President Harry S. Truman and his top advisers, remain substantially unrevised today in textbooks and public media presentations. Indeed, many professional historians have been surprisingly acquiescent in tolerating three myths about MacArthur and the CCF intervention.

The first of these is that MacArthur's arrogant, unilateral decision-making precipitated the invasion of North Korea by United Nations forces. The second myth is that MacArthur, at the Wake Island conference, misled Truman and his advisers and made them unduly optimistic by his prediction that the Chinese Communists would not enter the war. The third myth is that MacArthur's splitting of his Eighth Army and X Corps for the advance through North Korea enabled the Chinese forces to strike between the divided U.N. forces and thus rout them. The purpose of this paper is to endeavor, within the time limitation, to lay these myths to rest.

MacArthur did not conceive the idea of liberating North Korea. Long before his successful amphibious assault at Inchon, Pentagon and State Department leaders supported an invasion of North Korea, even when we were backed up into the Pusan Perimeter. On August 17, 1950, Warren R. Austin, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called for U.N. backing for "establishing democratic government in the reunited Korea." In a nationwide radio broadcast on September 1, Truman came out in favor of a "free, independent, and united" Korea, and Secretary of State Dean G. Acheson likewise endorsed the idea of reuniting the two Koreas, if necessary by force. Also, in August and September influential members of the British Parliament proclaimed their support for Korean unification after the northern part was "liberated."

The President approved NSC 81/1 on September 11. Two of its provisions are pertinent here: It stated that U.N. forces would be authorized to cross the 38th parallel for the purpose of either making the North Korean People's Army withdraw from South Korea or inflicting a decisive defeat upon that force. The document also authorized MacArthur to prepare contingency plans for the occupation of North Korea.

On the day that MacArthur's attack on Inchon began, September 15, he received from the Joint Chiefs the basic provisions of NSC 81/1, and on the 27th he got the crucial directive authorizing an offensive into North Korea. The directive included many phrases taken directly from NSC 81/1, and it had the strong support of Truman, Acheson, and the new Secretary of Defense, George C. Marshall. There had also been "some amount of inter-allied consultation" about the directive; the United Kingdom, France, and some of the British Commonwealth nations backed an advance into North Korea. "Your military objective," stated MacArthur's directive, "is the destruction of the North Korean Armed Forces." He was told that he would soon receive surrender terms to broadcast to North Korea. Also, he was instructed to submit his plans for operations above the 38th parallel and for the occupation of North Korea, which he did the next day.

On September 29, Marshall sent MacArthur a supportive message that even my good friend Forrest Pogue has never satisfactorily explained. The message included the following words, words that you should never send to MacArthur: "We want you to feel unhampered strategically and tactically to proceed north of the 38th Parallel." A confident MacArthur replied: "I regard all of Korea open for our military operations unless and until the enemy capitulates."


Map of Korea and surrounding area.

The first of MacArthur's units to move across the 38th parallel was the Republic of Korea (ROK) 3rd Division which, on October 1, advanced rapidly up the east side, along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Within a few days it had gotten fifty miles. The American Eighth Army, spearheaded by the 1st Cavalry Division, launched its offensive across the 38th parallel on October 9 on the western, or Yellow Sea, side of the peninsula.

Acheson and Austin and their lieutenants convinced the U.N. General Assembly to pass a resolution that radically changed the U.N.'s objective in the war, in effect, to attain Korean unification by the conquest of North Korea. The "Liberation Resolution," as some facetiously called it, was passed on October 7 by a 47 to 5 vote (with 7 abstentions). Thus MacArthur's offensive into North Korea was undertaken in execution of a policy change that was strongly endorsed by official Washington and by a large U.N. margin.

The spectacular Inchon success both fueled MacArthur's arrogance toward his superiors and further intimidated the JCS in dealing with him. There is no question that he disobeyed the JCS, who prohibited him from sending non-ROK troops into the North Korean provinces bordering the Yalu River. There is no question, too, that MacArthur inflicted logistical nightmares on the Eighth Army when he decided to take Wonsan by amphibious assault with the 1st Marine Division. But in the act of invading North Korea, he was merely implementing a policy that originated in Washington, not Tokyo. The textbooks, the media, and, sadly, some scholarly studies, still perpetuate the myth of the warmongering MacArthur irresponsibly plunging into North Korea on his own.

The second myth that needs to be reexamined is MacArthur's prediction at Wake in mid-October that there was "very little" likelihood of the Chinese Communists coming into the Korean fray. Confident of General Stratemeyer's air power, MacArthur boasted to Truman that "if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang (which the Eighth Army would seize on October 19) there would be the greatest slaughter."

Actually both MacArthur's views on the chances of Chinese entry and the figures he quoted at Wake from his intelligence chief about the strength and disposition of the Chinese armies in Manchuria were surprisingly similar to those reported by CIA, Pentagon, and State Department intelligence sources at the time. Truman and his advisers, including General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, the JCS chairman, were quite aware of the latest Washington intelligence estimates on China. The only published report of the Wake talks was a compilation of notes of Truman's team prepared by Bradley during the return flight to the States. An important omission in the Bradley compilation, which was included in the notes made by MacArthur and his Wake advisers during their flight back to Tokyo, was MacArthur's qualification, in the presence of Truman, that his views on Red China's likely intentions were purely speculative. He had reminded Truman that the collection and evaluation of data on whether nonbelligerent nations would enter the Korean War was in the realm of political intelligence. That domain, MacArthur told Truman, belonged to CIA and State Department intelligence, not to his military intelligence staff, which was busily gathering data about the battlefield enemy, the North Korean People's Army.

It is astounding that this single question by Truman, and MacArthur's brief response, constituted the entire extent of the Wake conferees' probe into the enormous implications that the current U.N. offensive in North Korea might have on Peking or Moscow. Months later, however, Truman and several of his officials spoke publicly and frequently about how misleading and erroneous MacArthur had been, portraying his remarks about China as if they were the focus of a crucial strategy session. Truman, Acheson, and other administration leaders knew of MacArthur's well-known proclivity for expounding ad nauseam on subjects beyond his expertise. It is difficult for me to escape the conclusion that Truman, who did not need MacArthur to give him the latest intelligence on Red China, was fishing for a MacArthur quote that could help nail him later as a scapegoat as well as garner votes for Democrats running in the off-year congressional races. I'm a fisherman, and in fisherman's parlance, MacArthur surely presented the President with a lunker.

Unhappily, many writers imply that if MacArthur had predicted more accurately, the direction of the war might have been quite different: perhaps Washington's diplomatic efforts might have staved of f China's intervention, or perhaps the U.N. forces in North Korea might have been better prepared to thwart the impending Chinese offensive. The Truman administration, however, was already fully committed to the drive to the Yalu before the Wake meeting, and, besides, Truman and his main advisers at Wake agreed with MacArthur about the improbability of Chinese intervention. The truth is, nothing of significance occurred at the Wake Island meeting--nothing.

If Truman and MacArthur had been less obsessed with political maneuvering at the Wake conference, their meeting could have afforded and excellent chance to reassess what the U.S. and the U.N. were trying to achieve in the Korean War. In retrospect, it might have prolonged the careers of the President and the general, for the Chinese entry produced a war that could not be won nor terminated, at least until both MacArthur and Truman were out of the picture.

The third and final myth that needs to be buried is that MacArthur committed a tactical blunder by splitting his forces in North Korea and thus allowed the Chinese to strike through the gap between the Eighth Army on the west and the X Corps on the east side of the peninsula. At a meeting of the National Security Council on November 9, just over two weeks before the main Chinese offensive was launched, Marshall criticized the disposition of MacArthur's army and separate corps because they were not within physical contact of each other and therefore could not cover each other's flanks. In leading his 1st Marine Division northward toward the Chosin Reservoir in the X Corps sector, Major General Oliver P. Smith, a man that I knew and admired very much, also feared that enemy forces would exploit the gap, hitting the flanks of both the Eighth Army and the X Corps and possibly driving into the rear areas of both commands. On numerous occasions, patrols from Lieutenant General Edward M. Almond's X Corps and General Walton H. Walker's Eighth Army tried to make contact but could not because of the high, rugged, and almost trackless region of the Taebaek Mountains that separated the advancing U.N. forces in North Korea.

After the principal Chinese offensive in late November and early December 1950, the so-called Second Phase offensive, caused the Eighth Army to retreat in near-rout chaos, numerous influential military analysts and political leaders in America and Europe, especially in Britain, charged that the Chinese breakthrough had occurred through the gap created by MacArthur's allegedly stupid splitting of his main offensive units in North Korea. Roy E. Appleman wrote recently: "There has been no greater misunderstanding, and resulting explosions of rhetoric pro and con, during the entire course of the Korean war than the controversy over the so-called gap between Eighth Army and X Corps."

In truth, neither the U.N. nor the CCF forces operated in the almost impassable Taebaek Range. The Chinese attacked the Eighth Army by frontally assaulting the ROK II Corps and breaking through its center, then exploiting the penetration by pouring backup units through the hole and into the rear of the Eighth Army's right flank. The CCF did not try to exploit the gap on the X Corps' left flank either, instead hitting the 1st Marine Division on the west of the Chosin Reservoir and the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division on the east side of Chosin with frontal attacks supplemented be simultaneous envelopment attempts. Because of the enormous geographic problems imposed by the mountain range, the Chinese commands attacking the Eighth Army and the X Corps functioned as distinctly separate forces that did not attempt to cooperate with each other. As it turned out, the gap between Walker's and Almond's forces was not of great military consequence to either side's operations.

Why have myths such as these persisted? Most historians of the Korean War have focused on its diplomatic, rather than military, aspects. Some have produced fresh, challenging interpretations for the origins of the war--one outstanding example would be Bruce Cummings' work--although, as yet, scholars have not devoted much critical attention to strategic issues during the war--and remember, I teach college kids and I know what is in the textbooks that they get in high school and college and it is way out of date. Perhaps some day revisionists will investigate why the strategic direction of the war has been so often viewed by writers from the perspective of the Truman administration.

Invasion Patrol: The Seventh Fleet in Chinese Waters
by
Dr. Edward J. Marolda
Naval Historical Center


Map: Coastal Islands of China

Standard accounts of the Korean War conclude that the advance of U.S.-led United Nations forces across the 38th parallel in September 1950 was the primary stimulant for the massive Chinese Communist intervention into the conflict two months later. I have no argument with that well-founded interpretation. I would contend, however, that actions taken by the United States on the Chinese maritime frontier, months before the Chinese ground advance into North Korea, laid the foundation for that attack by contributing to Peking's perception that the United States was not simply restoring the status quo ante in Korea but mounting a broad offensive against the Communist mainland regime.

I should stress that there were factors, other than the activities of the Seventh Fleet, working on Communist perceptions, including renewed U.S. material assistance to the Chinese Nationalist armed forces and the growing interaction on Taiwan of prominent American and Nationalist military figures. The lack of time precludes their treatment in this paper.

Most of you will recall that the Communists, under Mao Tse-tung, had been engaged in a bitter and protracted civil war with Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists during the late 1940s. This phase of the conflict lasted until 1949, when the Communists wrested all of the mainland from the Nationalists and forced them to flee to the large island of Taiwan and other islands off the coast of China.

The civil war did not end at this point as is generally suggested. The conflict entered what I characterize as the "maritime phase," which lasted throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. As the civil war ran its bloody course on the mainland, the Truman administration endeavored to disentangle the United States from the Chinese fight. Thus, even though the administration refused to recognize the openly pro-Soviet government of the People's Republic of China (PRC), established in Peking on October 1, 1949, it also moved to cast off its ties to the Nationalists and Generalissimo Chiang. In December 1949, the National Security Council (NSC) affirmed a policy that American forces would not attempt to prevent the Communist seizure of Taiwan. Then, on January 5, 1950, Truman announced to the world that the United States was adopting a "hands off" policy with regard to further political and military support for the Nationalists.

Truman's Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, felt it important to avoid the permanent estrangement of Peking. He took the long view in this regard. He concluded that in twenty year's time China's traditional fear of Russian encroachment on Chinese sovereignty and a continuing need for Western trade would inevitably motivate a Sino-American rapprochement.

Thus, there were clear indications in the first half of 1950 that the United States would not openly oppose Mao's consolidation of power and seizure of all remaining Chinese territory.

The Communists had frequently expressed the intention to complete their victory in the civil war by destroying Chiang's surviving armies and seizing the offshore islands, the Nationalists' last refuges on Chinese soil.

Certainly, Mao's armies had the ability to carry out waterborne invasions, as they demonstrated during the first half of 1950. Possessing large numbers of ground troops and coastal junks, the Communists attacked Nationalist offshore positions from one end of the coast to the other, almost simultaneously. Stretched thin by this tactic, the Nationalist air and naval forces were further hampered by the Communists' use of the night and inclement weather to mask their waterborne invasion and reinforcement movements. In short order, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) expelled the Nationalists from strategic island groups in proximity to Port Arthur and Dairen, Swatow, Canton, and Hong Kong.

An even greater disaster befell the Nationalist cause when they failed a major test of strength with the Communists over the large island of Hainan off China's southern coast. This battle would be especially relevant to later conclusions regarding the Communists' ability to mount major amphibious operations and the Nationalists' inability to defend against them. Between April 16th and April 30th, Communist general Lin Piao's 4th Field Army landed on the island and outfought the 160,000-man Nationalist garrison, capturing 100,000 of the defenders and forcing the evacuation to Taiwan of most of the remainder.

The loss of Hainan was a shock to the Nationalist war effort and prompted increased concern for the defense of Taiwan. Nationalist morale was severely shaken. Robert C. Strong, the U.S. Charge d'Affairs in Taipei, reported that many Nationalists now believed that Taiwan's days were numbered. The CIA predicted the fall of the island to the Chinese Communists by the end of 1950.

The world's focus now switched to the Chou Shan Islands, which guarded the approaches to the strategic port of Shanghai and the Yangtze River mouths. On May 10th, fearing a repeat of the disastrous Hainan affair, Chiang ordered the withdrawal to Taiwan of the 80,000 to 100,000-man garrison, 25-plane air force contingent, and 7-ship naval force. The move was executed with dispatch.

Rear Admiral Carl F. Espe, the Acting Director of Naval Intelligence, concluded that the successive evacuations had had a "devastating effect on morale."The U.S. Charge d'Affairs and the naval and military attaches in Taipei now concluded that "Taiwan will probably fall to the Communists sometime before the end of July."2Although Espe thought the attaches' estimate too pessimistic, he observed that "there seems to be little doubt that Taiwan will in due course fall into Communist hands."3

The Communist drive to seize Taiwan had by then reached fever pitch. U.S. naval intelligence reported advanced preparations by the Chinese Communists for an amphibious attack, labeled appropriately "Operation Taiwan." Walter McConaughy, the U.S. Consul General at Shanghai, reported that the liberation of Taiwan was being trumpeted publicly by Peking as the nation's paramount immediate mission and one on which they were staking the reputation and all the resources of the new regime.

In what would prove to be a prophetic observation, McConaughy reported to Washington that "there would seem no avenue left for Communist retreat. Either they gain Taiwan, or, goaded by bitter humiliation and by Kremlin propaganda, they must keep it ever before the Chinese people as China's great irredentist issue and perpetual cause for anti-American vehemence. Well to remember that Taiwan Irredentism is not Communist monopoly but popular Chinese national issue."4

By the late spring of 1950, the Chinese Communist armed forces were prepared to carry out the assault on Taiwan, their most ambitious maritime operation yet. The Communists assembled 5,000 vessels for the invasion by commandeering freighters, motorized junks, and sampans and refloating ships that had been sunk in the Yangtze River during the fight for the mainland. Further, they gathered and trained over 30,000 fishermen and other sailors to man the flotilla.

Since the previous year, General Chen Yi's 3rd Field Army, which was responsible for the assault, had been positioned on the Fukien coast opposite the large island. The Communists trained their troops extensively in amphibious warfare and applied the lessons learned from the Hainan and other island seizures. Despite an outbreak of the Asian blood fluke disease, which reportedly felled thousands of soldiers, preparations proceeded apace for the cross-channel attack. Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson later revealed that between June 10 and June 24, 1950, the strength of the field army swelled from 40,000 to 156,000 men. Also prior to June 25, elements of Lin Piao's 4th Field Army moved from south China to the Shanghai area, where they were positioned to serve as a strategic reserve for Chen Yi. Historian Allen Whiting, author of the seminal work, China Crosses the Yalu, relates that by late June, Peking's exhortations to men in the units stationed opposite the island paralleled in fervor those broadcast to the troops before the Hainan invasion. In short, the Communists were now ready to launch the attack on Taiwan and win final victory in the civil war.

That attack would never come. For, on June 25, 1950, infantry and armored forces of the North Korean People's Army smashed their way south into the Republic of Korea, touching off an international conflict. That evening and again the following evening, President Truman gathered his chief political and military advisors around him at the Blair House, across from the White House in Washington, to consider the American response to the attack. After little deliberation-- and I stress that--he directed the dispatch of a message to the Pacific theater ordering the U.S. Seventh Fleet to deploy to prevent a Communist invasion of Taiwan and at the same time insure that the Nationalists would not use the island as a base of operations against the mainland. Quite simply, he sought the military neutralization of the strait, aligning the United States politically with neither of the Chinese antagonists. He announced this action on the 27th.

Truman regarded the outbreak of fighting in Korea as the hostile advance of international Communism. He feared that the Communist bloc, directed by Joseph Stalin from Moscow, had aggressive intent not only toward Korea, but Japan, the nations of Southeast Asia, and American-occupied Okinawa. In addition, by June 1950, Truman had been persuaded, as a result of his own Cold War experiences, and by the arguments advanced for several years by General Douglas MacArthur, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others in the defense establishment, that Taiwan was vital as a barrier to the advance of Soviet power and international Communism and a key link in America's Far Eastern defensive perimeter.

Because of overemphasis on the geopolitical and strategic aspects of the Taiwan problem, neither Truman nor his chief advisors adequately considered the political consequences of the fleet mission in the strait. The action again involved the Truman administration in the Chinese civil war, from which it had only recently, and with great difficulty, distanced itself. Significantly, the decision to deploy the fleet off China ensured the hostility of many Chinese who, regardless of political persuasion, traditionally opposed foreign interference in Chinese affairs. Those who might not have supported the Communists were exercised over the offshore presence of the American fleet, which prevented the unification of China and resolution of the cataclysmic civil war.

The Communist reaction to Truman's decision was immediate and bitter. Mao declared, with typical Communist verbal passion, that the move revealed the "fraudulent" nature of Truman's earlier statements about not intervening in the civil war and exposed the "imperialist face" of the United States.Zhou En-lai stated that the fleet deployment represented armed aggression against the territory of China. As an indication of the depth of feeling over the issue, Zhou observed: "The fact that Taiwan is part of China will remain unchanged forever."6 For the next two decades, Peking would virtually rule out any hope of Sino-American accommodation because of the confrontation over Taiwan.

Giving substance to the President's order, by dawn on June 27th, an aircraft carrier task force, the cutting edge of American naval power in the vast Pacific Ocean, was steaming at flank speed toward the Strait of Taiwan. The Seventh Fleet units had sortied from their base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. The naval force was led by Rear Admiral John M. "Peg-leg" Hoskins, acting Commander Seventh Fleet in the absence of Vice Arthur D. Struble, then in Washington. The aircraft carrier Valley Forge - the only aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific--her two escorting destroyer divisions, two submarines, and several logistic ships steamed past Taiwan on the 29th of June. Hoskins sent 29 fighters and attack planes from the Valley Forge roaring northward through the strait to alert everyone that the U.S. Navy had arrived.

The Seventh Fleet force steered past the Nationalist stronghold and dropped anchor at Buckner Bay, Okinawa, roughly mid-way between Taiwan and Korea, at the end of June. The scarcity of U.S. naval forces in the Western Pacific demanded this deployment; the major units of the Seventh Fleet could not operate in the Korean arena and defend the Taiwan Strait simultaneously. They just didn't have the strength.

Planners in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations estimated that a Communist junk flotilla would be able to transit the strait in one day, at a four or five-knot speed of advance. For this reason and because of the multitude of targets presented by a large fleet of junks, they believed a sizeable body of enemy troops might reach the shore of Taiwan without being intercepted. And everyone agreed that if any significant Communist forces landed on the island, the jig was up. Nationalist resistance would collapse. Morale was clearly eroded.

Operating from Buckner Bay, the Seventh Fleet would take a day to arrive off the west coast of Taiwan. Naval forces in Korean waters would not be available for at least two days. That, of course, assumed they were not involved in heavy combat operations or engaged in evacuating U.N. forces from Korea, very real possibilities in 1950 and 1951.

In this circumstance, early warning and interception of an invasion force was absolutely vital. Accordingly, steps were taken to establish U.S. air, submarine, and sea patrols of the strait. Operationally, this could only be accomplished through the use of the anchorages, ports, and shore facilities of Taiwan and the nearby Pescadore Islands. Cooperation with Nationalist authorities was implicit.

To improve coordination and communications for the prospective air patrol, during the second week of July Admiral Struble and the commanding officers of two units, Patrol Squadron (VP) 28 and Patrol Squadron 46, conferred in Taipei with top military leaders of the Nationalist armed forces.

On July 12th, the Secretary of Defense designated Rear Admiral Harry B. Jarrett the Senior Military Attaché in Taipei and the officer in charge of a liaison group, and augmented his staff with three officers from each of the U.S. military services. The group's mission was to serve as a link between the Seventh Fleet and the Chinese government.

The operation plan for the Taiwan Strait patrol, also developed at this time, authorized an action that American leaders had avoided since 1949 because they feared it was provocative--stationing U.S. naval vessels at ports in Taiwan. Chiang, obviously pleased at the recent turn of events and the developing U.S.-Nationalist relationship, observed to Struble that he had a "special regard for and real friendship with each U.S. naval commander in [the] Far East" and "admired Navy particularly because they always willing come to help of friends in need."7

On July 16, patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 1 began reconnaissance missions in the strait. On that day, VP 28, which flew nine P4Y Privateers from Naha, Okinawa, inaugurated a daily surveillance of the northern part of the strait and along the nearby China coast. The following day, VP 46, with nine PBM-5 Mariner flying boats, kicked of f patrols of the strait's southern sector from the Pescadore Islands, where seaplane tender Suisun deployed on the 17th. Routinely, patrols were only flown from land bases or secure anchorages during the winter months. Throughout 1950 and 1951, one seaplane and one land-based squadron carried out the round-the-clock patrol of the strait.

The emergency nature of the 1950 patrol was clearly reflected in the way it was set up and carried out. Lieutenant Commander Maurice F. Weisner, the Commanding Officer of VP 46, and a future Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, related in a post-mission report that the patrol units had a difficult time operating in the strait. Day and night, in foul weather and good, his PBMs flew 14-hour circuits just off the "deck." During the winter monsoon, winds of gale-force strength were common.

In the difficult patrolling environment of the Taiwan Strait, foreign policy requirements sometimes took a back seat to operational necessity. On August 29, Commander Seventh Fleet directed that all American aircraft "exercise particular caution not to violate Soviet or Chinese territory or territorial waters."Despite this injunction, Weisner observed that to accomplish the reconnaissance mission, "we got the pictures of the whole coast and forgot [about] the twelve mile limit."9 Intrusions into Chinese air space would not be uncommon in this period.

During this first operation, in July 1950, MacArthur approved Struble's recommendation that the patrols be publicized. The U.S. interest in the inviolability of Taiwan, first demonstrated by the June 29th surface passage and aircraft flyover of the strait was to be made absolutely clear. For deterrence to work, this was considered an essential measure. But it also highlighted the American fleet's presence in waters the PRC considered its own.

Not released to the public was the information that the submarines Catfish and Pickerel had sortied from the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka, Japan, on the 18th and 19th of July. The two submarines were directed to patrol the strait, approaching no closer than 12 miles to the mainland coast and 6 miles to Taiwan. For the next ten days, the boats patrolled submerged during the day off Amoy and Swatow. A Chinese Communist radio news broadcast that 1,500 junks were enroute from Swatow to Amoy initially caused concern, but the report proved to be bogus. Finally, on July 30 Pickerel and Catfish ended their patrols and proceeded to Yokosuka. Once in Tokyo, the commanding officers of both submarines reported on their missions to Admirals Struble and C. Turner Joy, the latter Commander Naval Forces, Far East.

American fears of a Communist invasion were intense during July and August. On July 17th, the CIA concluded that the Communists could launch a successful amphibious assault on Taiwan despite U.S. opposition. Soon after, crewmen on a British merchant ship spotted a large concentration of junks in the strait. When a VP 28 P4Y Privateer was sent to investigate on the 26th, two hostile fighters attacked the patrol plane, which made good its escape. The following day, Far East Command officers in Taipei learned that a Nationalist agent on the mainland had attended a meeting at which Communist leaders discussed an assault in the near future on Quemoy.

In response to this perceived invasion threat, the JCS had already directed Commander in Chief, Far East, to mount another naval show of force in the strait. The JCS felt that the presence of 7th Fleet elements in the strait, even for a short time, would be an effective demonstration of U.S. resolve and serve as a deterrent.

On the 26th of July, Admiral Struble dispatched to the strait Rear Admiral Charles C. Hartman's surface task group, comprised of the cruiser Helena and the three destroyers of Destroyer Division 111. On the 28th, Hartman's group reached the northern end of the strait and began a sweep southward. The cruiser Juneau joined the force on the 28th.

On August 4, Admiral Struble established the Formosa Patrol around the ships of the group, which were to operate from Keelung, Taiwan. Hence, for the first time since the evacuation of the mainland naval base at Tsingtao in May 1949, U.S. naval forces were based at a Nationalist port. The Formosa Patrol Force (Task Force 72)- later the Taiwan Patrol Force--would operate in the strait for the next two decades of the Cold War.

The presence of the Seventh Fleet in the strait and the uncertainties surrounding the war in Korea did deter Peking from an invasion attempt. The Communists feared what they thought were strong forces arrayed against them. One Nationalist spy reported, after attending a high-level meeting of Communist officials, that they were concerned their invasion fleet would last only a few hours against the Seventh Fleet and the U.S. Air Force.

In the July 7, 1950, issue of the Communist publication World Culture, an unnamed author described a new, unfavorable balance of forces in the strait. He related that "before June 27, the problem of liberating Taiwan pitted the strength of the PLA against the Chiang Kai-shek remnants, with the help of the American imperialists [no committed military forces] occupying a background position." After Truman's declaration, however, "the problem of liberating Taiwan pits the strength of the PLA against the American imperialists [at a minimum the Seventh Fleet], with the Kuomintang bandit remnants moving into the background."10 This was a subtle indication that Peking appreciated the changed military situation. It is significant that neither the author nor Zhou En-lai, who made relevant public statements during this period, called for the immediate "smashing" of the American imperialists or for immediate invasion.

The possible consequences for the PRC of a U.S.-Communist confrontation in the strait were sobering. Of course, there was a strong possibility that the American fleet would destroy the invasion flotilla, with all the negative domestic and international ramifications that would entail. Open warfare would put China's industry and transportation system, concentrated in the coastal areas, at great risk from U.S. naval and air attack. Further, the United States might conclude that the operation was a joint venture of the Sino-Soviet bloc, and the Chinese were concerned about hazarding their relationship with Moscow. In short, after June 27, 1950, "political and military indicators evidenced a postponement of the Taiwan invasion for as long as the United States Seventh Fleet continued to shield Chiang's forces.11

The outbreak of war in Korea and the unexpectedly strong reaction of the United States and its U.N. allies to the North Korean attack also counseled caution on Mao's part. While Peking continued to devote primary attention to Taiwan and not Korea in the period from late June to the end of August, as reflected in media coverage, the Communists were aware of the dangerous situation in northeast Asia. They appeared to adopt a stance of "watchful waiting" as events unfolded in Korea.

The deployment of Chinese Communist forces during this period also supports the conclusion that the Seventh Fleet and the evolution of the conflict in Korea deterred an assault on Taiwan. In late June and early July, 30,000 men of Chen Yi's 3rd Field Army, which was slated to attack Taiwan, moved north to the Shantung Peninsula. Others followed during the remainder of July and August. Thus deployed, these forces were ideally located to support operations in Korea, defend the central coast, or return to invasion preparations. Significantly, only a segment of Chen Yi's field army continued training for the maritime operation. On July 16, 1950, the Chinese general stated that "while we intensify preparations to liberate Taiwan, we must not neglect our task of national economic recovery." To quote historian Whiting, "this minor shift of emphasis implied a major change in policy.12

During this period of great volatility, important figures in the American military establishment publicly expressed views that could only inspire Chinese Communist hostility. General MacArthur, in a paper he intended to be read for him at a Chicago gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, spoke of a U.S. island defense line in the Far East from which "we can dominate with air power every Asiatic port from Vladivostok to Singapore." In this defensive chain the general included Taiwan, on which "at the present time there is...a concentration of operational air and naval bases which is potentially greater than any similar concentration on the Asiatic mainland."13His text could easily have been interpreted by Peking as support for offensive action from the island as well as defensive action.

At the same time that the general's words were leaked to the press, Secretary of the Navy Francis Matthews, who idolized MacArthur, suggested how the United States might deal with the current international crisis. On August 25, on the occasion of the Boston Naval Shipyard's sesquicentennial, Matthews called on the United States to become the "first aggressors for peace." As sailors scrambled up the rigging of USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," the secretary laid out his prospective approach: "To have peace we should be willing, and declare our intention, to pay any price, even the price of instituting a war to compel cooperation for peace....It is a cause to which we will be compelled to dedicate our total and ultimate resources. From no other course can there be effected the salvation of the free world."14

Matthews' prescription for world disaster and General MacArthur's observations were quickly and publicly disavowed by Truman.

Peking, however, was not comforted with the knowledge that the civilian head of the U.S. Navy and the commander of U.S. forces in Northeast Asia ascribed to such world views. In fact, the Communists referred to the speeches as evidence of American aggressiveness, the President's disavowals notwithstanding. Whiting concludes that "Peking seems to have interpreted the pattern of U.S. political statements and actions during these weeks as a direct challenge to which a firm response was dictated both by national interest and by Communist ideology.15

The trend of U.S.-Chinese interaction was not to Mao's liking. At the end of September, the authoritative Communist publication Jen Mm Jih Pao asserted: "We Chinese people are against the American imperialists because they are against us. They have openly become the arch enemy of the People's Republic of China by supporting the people's enemy, the Chiang Kai-shek clique, by sending a huge fleet to prevent the liberation of the Chinese territory of Taiwan, by repeated air intrusions and strafing and bombing of the Chinese people, by refusing new China a seat in the U.N., [and] by rearming Japan for the purpose of expanding aggressive war. Is it not just for us to support our friend and neighbor against our enemy?"16

There were increasing signs that Peking intended to intervene in the Korean War. Chinese soldiers were captured deep in North Korea. Also ominous, on November 5th, a PBM patrolling in the Taiwan Strait disappeared. This was preceded by intelligence supplied to U.S. officials by the Nationalists that the Communists had issued orders to their forces to "take offensive action against US PBM Mariner."17On November 6, the U.S. Charge in Taipei concluded from Nationalist-supplied intelligence that the Chinese Communists planned to "throw the book" at United Nations forces in Korea.18 On the November 25th, they did.

In brief conclusion, it is difficult to avoid a connection between the American activities in the strait and on Taiwan, which appeared to the leaders in Peking as a serious threat to the PRC, and the Chinese Communist advance across the Yalu.

ENDNOTES

1. Acting Director, Office of Naval Intelligence, memo of information, ser OP-322F1E of May 26, 1950, box 3, CNO File, 1950, Operational Archives, Naval Historical Center.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Consul General at Shanghai to SECSTATE, Jan 5, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States. 1950 (Wash: GPO), Vol.VI, 264-69.

5. Quoted in Stuart Schram, Mao Tse-tuna (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966), p.244.

6. Quoted in China: U.S. Policy Since 1945 (Washington: Congressional Quarterly, 1980), p.91.

7. Msg, Charge in China to SECSTATE, Jul 10, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States. 1950, Vol. VI (Wash: GPO), p.373.

8. Msg, COM7FLT to CTG7O.6/CTF77, 290008Z Aug 1950, Record Group 9, box 57, Incoming Navy, MacArthur Archives, Norfolk, VA.

9. CNO, "Interview of Lt. COMDR M.F. Weisner, USN Commanding Officer, VP-46," Feb 21, 1951, Post-46 Command File (Chronological), Operational Archives, Naval Historical Center.

l0. Quoted in Allen S. Whiting, China Crosses the Yalu: The Decision to Enter the Korean War (NY: Macmillan Co., 1960), p.63.

11. Ibid., p.68.

12. Ibid., p.65.

13. Quoted in Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic Offices, Aug 26, 1950, FRUS. 1950, Vol. VI, pp.451-53.

14. New York Times (Aug 26, 1950), pp.16.

15. Whiting, China Crosses the Yalu, p.95.

16. Quoted in Ibid., p.106.

17. Msg, ALUSNA Taipei to COM7FLT, 180150Z Sep 1950, Record Group 9, box 56, Navy Msgs, MacArthur Archives, Norfolk, VA.

18. Karl Lott Rankin, China Assignment (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1964), p.65.

General George E. Stratemeyer and the Air War in Korea: Fall 1950
by
Thomas Y'Blood
Headquarters, U.S. Air Force History Office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes on Sources

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

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

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

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

Roy Appleman. Disaster in Korea (1989).

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

Clay Blair. The Forgotten War (1987).

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

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

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

The Epic of Chosin
by
Benis M. Frank
Head, Oral History Section
U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center

Each battle, campaign, or amphibious assault has a personality or aura of its own. For each person who has participated in an individual action - as Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, or the Battle of the Bulge, for instance - even if one of these was the only combat he ever experienced, it has a specialness unlike anything he has encountered during his lifetime, marriage, fatherhood, and the like. This applies especially to "The Chosen Few," those Marines, sailors, and soldiers who went up to the Chosin Reservoir and came back down, under fire and fighting all the way.

In this paper, it is not my intention to discuss the Chosin Reservoir operation, day by day, step by step, unit by unit, but only to hit the hiqhspots and to flesh out the bare combat narrative with appropriate quotes from oral history interviews with the participants, as they tell in their own words of the anabasis in which they participated. The interview excerpts are derived from the interviews I conducted for the Marine Corps Oral History Program. There are also excerpts from interviews Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall conducted with 1st Marine Division personnel in Korea immediately after the Chosin operation for CCF in the Attack, part II, A Study on the Operations of the 1st Marine Division in the Koto-ri. Hagaru-ri. Yudam-ni Area. 20 November-10 December 1950. This was a study he did for the Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, Far Eastern Command.

You will recall that following the amphibious assault of Inchon on 15 September 1950, the primary mission of the invasion forces was to retake Seoul, which they did by the 27th. The next objective of the 1st Marine Division was Wonsan, on the east coast north of the 38th parallel. Because the North Koreans had extensively sewn Wonsan harbor with Russian mines, it took some time to complete minesweeping operations. Meanwhile, the ships holding the 1st Division were making circles in the water off Wonsan, in what was called by the troops, Operation Yo-Yo. On 26 October, when the harbor and the waters leading to it were cleared, the division made an administrative landing. The division found that Republic of Korea (ROK) forces had already taken the city, Marine Fighter Squadron 312 Corsairs were operating from the Wonsan airfield, and Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell and their USO troop had already been there and gone. According to General Oliver P. Smith, the tall, white-haired, ascetic-looking and very professional commander of the 1st Marine Division, Major General Edward M. "Ned" Almond, USA, commander of X Corps, wanted the Marines to land through the minefields. He never wanted to accept 26 October as the date for the landing in view of the fact that the extensive minefield had to be cleared. "October 20th was the date he'd fixed, and he always called this October 26th 'Doyle Day,' because Admiral Doyle refused to (land on that date) and I went along with him." When I asked, "What was the matter with Almond, was he mad?," General Smith replied that he didn't know. He said that Almond was a very energetic man and egotistical. He was a MacArthur man, and anything MacArthur said, nothing could change it. MacArthur was God.

On 26 October, X Corps issued the following order to the 1st Marine Division: "a) Land over the beaches in the vicinity of Wonsan; b) Relieve all elements of the I ROK Corps in Kojo and in the zone; c) Protect the Wonsan-Kojo-Majon-ni area, employing not less than one RCT [regimental combat team], patrolling all routes to the west in zone; d) Advance rapidly in zone to Korean northern border; f) Prepare to land one BLT [battalion landing team] in the Changjin area rapidly on order."

The order to drive north to the northern border--in a zone of action that was 300 miles south to north and 50 miles deep - is interesting in view of the fact that the JCS only authorized MacArthur to destroy the North Korean People's Army (NKPA) as a threat to South Korea and to secure the military victory that would unify the two Koreas under UN supervision. Only if China or Russia intervened in the war would the mission be reconsidered. But flushed by victory, neither the JCS nor MacArthur anticipated such an intervention. The JCS, however, cautioned MacArthur not to violate international borders or send American troops all the way to the Yalu River, which was the border between Korea and Manchuria. Despite these warnings, MacArthur's planners directed the Eighth U.S. Army in Korea (EUSAK) and X Corps - which were separate and independent commands--to launch the ambitious exploitation campaign into North Korea. As General Smith told me in his interview, X Corps did not want to become part of the Eighth Army; it wanted to continue its independence. And General Almond apparently talked General MacArthur into sending x Corps around to the East Coast. This initially resulted in unrealistic planning, for as the 1st Division was mounting out from Inchon, the Eighth Army was coming around from Pusan and trying to enter the port and use the port facilities at the same time. General Smith was also critical of the planning for the upcoming drive north. His division, after landing at Wonsan, was to drive inland 60 miles, over the central mountain chain that was swarming with North Koreans, and meet the Eighth Army to help it capture Pyongyang. Sharing MacArthur's optimistic estimate of the state of the United Nations Command campaign, Almond scattered X Corps for more than 100 miles along the northeast coast of North Korea in November.

To set the stage for X Corps-1st Marine Division relations during the Chosin campaign, I'd like to say a few words about Almond and place his character and personality in perspective, especially as it related to the 1st Marine Division. He was MacArthur's chief of staff in Tokyo, and was given command of X Corps and the Inchon landing because he had asked for it. When Lieutenant General Lemuel C. Shepherd, USMC, the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Pacific (FMFPac), visited MacArthur in Tokyo, the "Supremo" told him that as the senior Marine in the Pacific and an expert in the art of amphibious assault, he should have led the Inchon landings. However, he had promised the command to Almond and he didn't want to renege on his promise. During the planning phase for Inchon, Almond and his staff generally ignored the 1st Marine Division staff and went blithely along in their ignorance of amphibious matters. The fact that the Inchon landing was a success may be attributed to the professionalism and combat experience of Admiral Jimmy Doyle and the Marines. General Victor Krulak told me that on the morning of the Inchon assault he was standing at the railing of the command ship, Mount McKinley, not too far away from Almond and some of his staff. They all were watching the assault waves head for the beach. As the amphibious tractors floated by on the way to Wolmi-do, Krulak heard Almond say, "I didn't know those things could float!" In my interview with General Smith, we discussed the problems he had with Almond later, and I'll bring them up at the appropriate points.

After landing at Wonsan on the 26th, the 5th and 7th Marines were to go north to Hamhung to prepare for a further advance to the Yalu. The 1st Marines would stay behind in the vicinity of Wonsan and sweep up the supposedly shattered remnants of the NKPA division in the area. In Tokyo, MacArthur, the Commander in Chief, Far East (CINCFE) and his staff were saying that the war would be over by Christmas. Despite the fact that there was hard intelligence that the Chinese had entered the war, including the capture of Chinese soldiers, CINCFE in Tokyo, and particularly Major General Charles A. Willoughby, MacArthur's G-2 (intelligence), refused to believe it.

As service units established a base of operations for X Corps in Wonsan, the infantry regiments of the 1st Division fanned out to the west and north and the ROK divisions slid westward through the mountains to maintain contact with the Eighth Army or drove northeastward toward the Yalu. The Marines soon learned that the Korean war had not ended, and the "home by Christmas vision was a cruel delusion. Even though X Corps insisted that the North Korean People's Army was beaten, Colonel Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller's 1st Marines fought a series of battalion actions south and west of Wonsan. Colonel Homer E. Litzenberg's 7th Marines moved north to relieve ROK units in the Hungnam-Hamhung area, and under corps orders began to move north along the 78 miles of mountain road that led to the Chosin Reservoir.

Meanwhile, thousands of Chinese troops were marching across the Yalu to blunt the UN offensive. Warned by a Chinese attack on the Eighth Army in early November, the 7th Marines was not completely surprised when it met a Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) division at Sudong on 2 November. The fighting was fiercer than it had been with the North Koreans. Unlike the Koreans, the Chinese did not depend on Russian tanks and heavy artillery. Building upon their own guerrilla warfare experience and respect for American airpower, the Chinese fought largely at night and sought tactical penetrations into the command, logistical, and supporting arms system of the UN forces.

Momentarily rocked by the Chinese onslaught, the 7th Marines regained its balance and mounted its own offensive, supported by the close air support continually afforded by Marine Air Group (MAG) 12. In five days of fighting, the Marines virtually destroyed the enemy division, and continued up the road to Chosin Reservoir, the 5th Marines following in trace.

The battle at Sudong convinced General Smith that the 1st Marine Division had to be concentrated. At one point, his southernmost battalion was 200 miles from the northernmost. He complained of this disposition to Almond, but as he told me, Almond's "idea was that there was nobody out there." He finally persuaded Almond to shift the rest of the division north. The X Corps commander then ordered Smith to push the Marine division rapidly to the northwest for a final drive toward the Chinese border. Smith had no confidence in Almond's strategy or prophetic gift, and moved his regiments cautiously. He hoped that he would not have to send his regiments all the way up the plateau, 4,000 feet above sea level, with winter descending and only one single-lane road going up there. This being the situation, General Smith paid special attention to his logistical arrangements and the security of the Main Supply Route (MSR), which was assigned to Puller's 1st Marines.


Map: The 1st Marine Division's Chosin Campaign (with inserted map of North & South Korea).

Each battle, campaign, or amphibious assault has a personality or aura of its own. For each person who has participated in an individual action - as Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, or the Battle of the Bulge, for instance--even if one of these was the only combat he ever experienced, it has a specialness unlike anything he has encountered during his lifetime, marriage, fatherhood, and the like. This applies especially to "The Chosen Few," those Marines, sailors, and soldiers who went up to the Chosin Reservoir and came back down, under fire and fighting all the way.

In this paper, it is not my intention to discuss the Chosin Reservoir operation, day by day, step by step, unit by unit, but only to hit the hiqhspots and to flesh out the bare combat narrative with appropriate quotes from oral history interviews with the participants, as they tell in their own words of the anabasis in which they participated. The interview excerpts are derived from the interviews I conducted for the Marine Corps Oral History Program. There are also excerpts from interviews Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall conducted with 1st Marine Division personnel in Korea immediately after the Chosin operation for CCF in the Attack, part II, A Study on the Operations of the 1st Marine Division in the Koto-ri. Hagaru-ri. Yudam-ni Area. 20 November-10 December 1950. This was a study he did for the Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, Far Eastern Command.

You will recall that following the amphibious assault of Inchon on 15 September 1950, the primary mission of the invasion forces was to retake Seoul, which they did by the 27th. The next objective of the 1st Marine Division was Wonsan, on the east coast north of the 38th parallel. Because the North Koreans had extensively sewn Wonsan harbor with Russian mines, it took some time to complete minesweeping operations. Meanwhile, the ships holding the 1st Division were making circles in the water off Wonsan, in what was called by the troops, Operation Yo-Yo. On 26 October, when the harbor and the waters leading to it were cleared, the division made an administrative landing. The division found that Republic of Korea (ROK) forces had already taken the city, Marine Fighter Squadron 312 Corsairs were operating from the Wonsan airfield, and Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell and their USO troop had already been there and gone. According to General Oliver P. Smith, the tall, white-haired, ascetic-looking and very professional commander of the 1st Marine Division, Major General Edward M. "Ned" Almond, USA, commander of X Corps, wanted the Marines to land through the minefields. He never wanted to accept 26 October as the date for the landing in view of the fact that the extensive minefield had to be cleared. "October 20th was the date he'd fixed, and he always called this October 26th 'Doyle Day,' because Admiral Doyle refused to (land on that date) and I went along with him." When I asked, "What was the matter with Almond, was he mad?," General Smith replied that he didn't know. He said that Almond was a very energetic man and egotistical. He was a MacArthur man, and anything MacArthur said, nothing could change it. MacArthur was God.

On 26 October, X Corps issued the following order to the 1st Marine Division: "a) Land over the beaches in the vicinity of Wonsan; b) Relieve all elements of the I ROK Corps in Kojo and in the zone; c) Protect the Wonsan-Kojo-Majon-ni area, employing not less than one RCT [regimental combat team], patrolling all routes to the west in zone; d) Advance rapidly in zone to Korean northern border; f) Prepare to land one BLT [battalion landing team] in the Changjin area rapidly on order."

The order to drive north to the northern border--in a zone of action that was 300 miles south to north and 50 miles deep--is interesting in view of the fact that the JCS only authorized MacArthur to destroy the North Korean People's Army (NKPA) as a threat to South Korea and to secure the military victory that would unify the two Koreas under UN supervision. Only if China or Russia intervened in the war would the mission be reconsidered. But flushed by victory, neither the JCS nor MacArthur anticipated such an intervention. The JCS, however, cautioned MacArthur not to violate international borders or send American troops all the way to the Yalu River, which was the border between Korea and Manchuria. Despite these warnings, MacArthur's planners directed the Eighth U.S. Army in Korea (EUSAK) and X Corps - which were separate and independent commands - to launch the ambitious exploitation campaign into North Korea. As General Smith told me in his interview, X Corps did not want to become part of the Eighth Army; it wanted to continue its independence. And General Almond apparently talked General MacArthur into sending x Corps around to the East Coast. This initially resulted in unrealistic planning, for as the 1st Division was mounting out from Inchon, the Eighth Army was coming around from Pusan and trying to enter the port and use the port facilities at the same time. General Smith was also critical of the planning for the upcoming drive north. His division, after landing at Wonsan, was to drive inland 60 miles, over the central mountain chain that was swarming with North Koreans, and meet the Eighth Army to help it capture Pyongyang. Sharing MacArthur's optimistic estimate of the state of the United Nations Command campaign, Almond scattered X Corps for more than 100 miles along the northeast coast of North Korea in November.

To set the stage for X Corps-1st Marine Division relations during the Chosin campaign, I'd like to say a few words about Almond and place his character and personality in perspective, especially as it related to the 1st Marine Division. He was MacArthur's chief of staff in Tokyo, and was given command of X Corps and the Inchon landing because he had asked for it. When Lieutenant General Lemuel C. Shepherd, USMC, the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Pacific (FMFPac), visited MacArthur in Tokyo, the "Supremo" told him that as the senior Marine in the Pacific and an expert in the art of amphibious assault, he should have led the Inchon landings. However, he had promised the command to Almond and he didn't want to renege on his promise. During the planning phase for Inchon, Almond and his staff generally ignored the 1st Marine Division staff and went blithely along in their ignorance of amphibious matters. The fact that the Inchon landing was a success may be attributed to the professionalism and combat experience of Admiral Jimmy Doyle and the Marines. General Victor Krulak told me that on the morning of the Inchon assault he was standing at the railing of the command ship, Mount McKinley, not too far away from Almond and some of his staff. They all were watching the assault waves head for the beach. As the amphibious tractors floated by on the way to Wolmi-do, Krulak heard Almond say, "I didn't know those things could float!" In my interview with General Smith, we discussed the problems he had with Almond later, and I'll bring them up at the appropriate points.

After landing at Wonsan on the 26th, the 5th and 7th Marines were to go north to Hamhung to prepare for a further advance to the Yalu. The 1st Marines would stay behind in the vicinity of Wonsan and sweep up the supposedly shattered remnants of the NKPA division in the area. In Tokyo, MacArthur, the Commander in Chief, Far East (CINCFE) and his staff were saying that the war would be over by Christmas. Despite the fact that there was hard intelligence that the Chinese had entered the war, including the capture of Chinese soldiers, CINCFE in Tokyo, and particularly Major General Charles A. Willoughby, MacArthur's G-2 (intelligence), refused to believe it.

As service units established a base of operations for X Corps in Wonsan, the infantry regiments of the 1st Division fanned out to the west and north and the ROK divisions slid westward through the mountains to maintain contact with the Eighth Army or drove northeastward toward the Yalu. The Marines soon learned that the Korean war had not ended, and the "home by Christmas vision was a cruel delusion. Even though X Corps insisted that the North Korean People's Army was beaten, Colonel Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller's 1st Marines fought a series of battalion actions south and west of Wonsan. Colonel Homer E. Litzenberg's 7th Marines moved north to relieve ROK units in the Hungnam-Hamhung area, and under corps orders began to move north along the 78 miles of mountain road that led to the Chosin Reservoir.

Meanwhile, thousands of Chinese troops were marching across the Yalu to blunt the UN offensive. Warned by a Chinese attack on the Eighth Army in early November, the 7th Marines was not completely surprised when it met a Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) division at Sudong on 2 November. The fighting was fiercer than it had been with the North Koreans. Unlike the Koreans, the Chinese did not depend on Russian tanks and heavy artillery. Building upon their own guerrilla warfare experience and respect for American airpower, the Chinese fought largely at night and sought tactical penetrations into the command, logistical, and supporting arms system of the UN forces.

Momentarily rocked by the Chinese onslaught, the 7th Marines regained its balance and mounted its own offensive, supported by the close air support continually afforded by Marine Air Group (MAG) 12. In five days of fighting, the Marines virtually destroyed the enemy division, and continued up the road to Chosin Reservoir, the 5th Marines following in trace.

The battle at Sudong convinced General Smith that the 1st Marine Division had to be concentrated. At one point, his southernmost battalion was 200 miles from the northernmost. He complained of this disposition to Almond, but as he told me, Almond's "idea was that there was nobody out there." He finally persuaded Almond to shift the rest of the division north. The X Corps commander then ordered Smith to push the Marine division rapidly to the northwest for a final drive toward the Chinese border. Smith had no confidence in Almond's strategy or prophetic gift, and moved his regiments cautiously. He hoped that he would not have to send his regiments all the way up the plateau, 4,000 feet above sea level, with winter descending and only one single-lane road going up there. This being the situation, General Smith paid special attention to his logistical arrangements and the security of the Main Supply Route (MSR), which was assigned to Puller's 1st Marines.

General Discussion

Q. Mr. Henry Shaw. Marine Corms Historical Center. Dr. James, to what extent do you think that the contingency plans of MacArthur influenced the Washington decisions on Korea? On JCS planning?

A. Dr. D. Clayton James. MacArthur was not in the habit of giving the JCS any indication of what he was doing in advance. It was like a dentist pulling teeth in World War II and in Korea to get any information from MacArthur about operational plans or where he intended to go next. The reason was obvious, because MacArthur intended to keep his options open as far as possible. He considered himself to be under the United Nations, not under the JCS solely. He moved these dual hats back and forth rather skillfully and frustratingly from the JCS point of view. If you are talking about the period from September to December 1950, MacArthur told Washington little about what he was going to do. As far as June 1950 contingency plans, I don't know that we had any, frankly. I think I've been through everything that was available when I did my work, which was from the mid-60s to the mid-80s.

What we so desperately need today and what I desperately needed when I wrote is the Chinese point of view. But, more important, I needed the intelligence community, especially CIA and State intelligence people, who knew the records and were free to speak. I still don't know anybody who knows the real story on that. Every once in a while some documents seep out, but, again, it's like pulling teeth. Willoughby, like his boss, was very reluctant to send anything to Washington or very reluctant to allow anyone into his intelligence arena in the Far East. So, to answer you briefly, I don't think any contingency plans of any significance went forward from Tokyo to Washington either preceding the North Korean invasion of June 25 or preceding either the first or second phase of the Chinese attack. If they did, I'm not aware of it.

Q. Mr. Benis Frank. The attitude of Willoughby and MacArthur reminds me of the story told about B. Kittridge, the famous Shakespearean academic at Harvard, who never got a Ph.D or even a Master's Degree. He was rather a rascal. His students gave him a birthday party one day. One of his students deigned to ask, "Mr. Kittridge, how come it is that you never studied for your Ph.D?" Mr. Kittridge answered back, "who is to examine me?" So I think that applies to Willoughby and MacArthur.

A. James. I'm not going to respond.

Q. Dr. Wavne Dzwonchyk. JCS Historical Office. Dr. James, you suggested that perhaps Truman was fishing for something at the Wake Island meeting. Don't you think that MacArthur, making this statement that Chinese intentions and capabilities were a political matter outside of his bailiwick was a form of setting up an excuse for himself in advance, in case something happened?

A. James. Let me ask you something in turn. In 1943 if Eisenhower had been asked, "What is Franco up to? How do we know whether he's going to let German troops come in behind us in Spanish Morocco? What is Sweden up to, sending ore to Nazi Germany?" I think Eisenhower and his intelligence people probably would have said that it is not quite our primary responsibility and that you could look elsewhere. Of course, we didn't have a CIA then; we didn't have really a good State Department intelligence involvement there. I think 50 years from now when the documents are opened and we know what went on in State and CIA intelligence, I think we'll have a better understanding of the 1950 questions. No, I don't think MacArthur was fish-tailing on that. I think that his was a very honest response. I don't know if you can tell me of any theater commander involved in a major war with that kind of political intelligence. Now this has been pictured as not a major war. To me it was. When you've got hundreds of thousands of troops involved on each side, it's getting out of the minor or police-action category. Some day we'll call it what it is; it was a war. I don't know of any major commander of a theater in war, who was given intelligence responsibility on nations that at the time were not belligerents and then held responsible later almost in the category of a scapegoat for not having answered correctly on this matter. How was Willoughby to know these things? I'm not quite certain. Was he to have infiltrated more than his small element of South Koreans into the north before the war? Do you remember who from 1948 onward had responsibility for South Korea? It wasn't MacArthur, and it wasn't the Far East Command. It was the United States Department of State.

Q. Dzwonchvk. By the Wake Island meeting, you've already got operations going on; you've got a lot of indications of Chinese interest. I don't want to get off into something that's very far afield. But, I think that as far as I'm concerned using the Eisenhower Spain example was an unfortunate one, because I happen to have some familiarity with those records and I know they were very concerned about possible Spanish intervention and they drew up contingency plans to deal with them.

A. James. Well, I also know a little about that myself. That's why I used it as an example. I don't think Ike would have tolerated being made a scapegoat if the Germans had moved down through Spain. I don't think he would have bought that as a primary responsibility.

Q. Dzwonchvk. Preliminary steps were taken to deal with it, in case that happened. It wasn't just a question of making an excuse. Plans were made to deal with it in the event that it did take place.

A. James. Well, I'm not going to change your mind on this, and obviously vice versa is not going to occur either. But, I would in this case say that we would do far better to look for MacArthur's main flaws elsewhere than here. Having lived with those records as long as I did, I don't personally blame him on this one.

Q. Dzwonchyk. I agree with your general thrust that there was plenty of blame to go around to all authorities.

A. Marolda. I would just like to reinforce what's been said about this area of intelligence; that in general American intelligence was woefully inadequate in regard to what the Chinese might do; what their capabilities were. MacArthur was always focused on because of his fall later on, but there were others who were in the same boat. They had very little regard for Communist fighting abilities. I found while doing this paper that there was the perception that because they had fought the Nationalists and basically had their way with them throughout the mainland campaign and seemingly took over these offshore islands with little trouble, that they were not faced with an enemy equipped with modern arms. There were those down in the trenches in CIA and naval intelligence and other activities who had a closer look at what the other side could do and had done. I have to say that they were impressed with what they saw. The Hainan operation was a case in point. It was remarkable how they put it together. They had only thirty or forty naval vessels but they put together a 3,000-vessel fleet of junks, and freighters, and things that float. They armed them with small arms, mortars, and small guns. They had a 200,000-man force gathered for this Hainan invasion and they carried it out despite heavy casualties. They practiced their amphibious skills; how to coordinate naval vessels and troops and they overcame the Nationalist opposition, which was, at least initially, fairly stout. So they were no forces to be discounted. Lin Piao's and Chen Yi's troops were veterans and had fought throughout the mainland campaign. I think we just underestimated what they could do. I'm not going to absolve MacArthur in this regard. I think he did not have a good idea of what was on the other side of the Yalu or their ability to carry out an invasion of Taiwan. At one point he stated that if the Communists tried a waterborne invasion, it would be the bloodiest victory for us in Far Eastern history, or words to that effect. That was not, in my opinion, an accurate analysis of the other side's strengths.

Q. Mr. Robert Sherrod. Since I am the only person here who was at Wake Island, I would make one point. The essential plan for the Wake Island conference was the occupation of North Korea; the war was over. MacArthur had assured them that the war was all done, so the military aspect of it really didn't constitute the main thrust. It was more or less an offhand question when Truman said to MacArthur, "suppose the Chinese come in? " And he just said, "my air will take care of it." That's why there were a number of civilians along on the three planes that went out there. To say, "what do we do now with North Korea, now that the war is over?" The military aspect of it wasn't the main purpose of this meeting. Of course, there are those who say that the main purpose was Truman's desire to get some of MacArthur's reflected glory. Remember, after Inchon MacArthur was the greatest hero in history. And for the purpose of politics; the election was coming up in about three weeks. MacArthur complained that this was all a political ploy and there was some truth to that, I think. The military aspect really was secondary at the Wake Island meeting. I asked Truman in Pearl Harbor on the way out. I said, "well, what are you going out for?" He said, "well, I never have met General MacArthur. I want to give him a medal." Margaret Truman has written and a number of people have written since then that Truman really hated MacArthur; He called him Mr. prima donna and all that. I think that's an exaggeration. He had written these things in his diary about MacArthur before then. But, he was perfectly willing to benefit from MacArthur's status as the number one hero in all history. That was one of the purposes of the Wake Island meeting. The military aspect was not the essential thrust of the Wake Island meeting which is something that is always forgotten now, since the military did become the prime factor, of course.

A. James. For those of you who didn't hear who that was, he was Robert Sherrod. Bob wasn't here when I spoke, but I rated Ron Spector and Mike Schaller as good friends of mine who are also MacArthur despisers. Let me introduce you to the dean of MacArthur detractors [laughter]. Bob didn't sound like it in those statements, but if he ever gets out the book that I hope he will, it will make Schaller's look like a Tenderfoot Boy Scout. If you haven't met Bob, be sure to; he's a treat.

Q. Frank. Let me just make one point that gives Willoughby another smashing blow. You will recall the history of MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Command. Of course Bob knows it better than anyone else. Willoughby was the G-2 [intelligence staff officer]. He refused to allow, with MacArthur's concurrence, or perhaps MacArthur with Willoughby's concurrence, refused to allow the OSS into the theater and I don't think they allowed the coast watchers in either. In other words, Willoughby was to be the only intelligence agency source within MacArthur's command. Which I think is a little dangerous in combat. They could manufacture intelligence and I think here's a pretty good source to indicate that he did. Do you agree Bob?

Q. Sherrod. I do agree. Willoughby was a very strange character. I first met him in early 1942 in Australia, when he came out of Corregidor with MacArthur and the 13 others. He had been a good friend of my boss Harry Luce and his wife Clare. So, I had an inside track to Willoughby and had long conversations with him. At that time Willoughby's German accent, by the way, was much stronger than it became later. He was born in Germany, as you know, and his name wasn't Willoughby at all. But, he said, "this is the silliest thing in the world; this Washington policy makes no sense. We should give England to the Germans. Our war is out here." This was his belief all his life, as reflected in his book, which incidentally MacArthur edited.

A. Marolda. I would like to come to the defense of MacArthur in at least one respect. It's a sort of half-hearted defense. But, he is often been made the scapegoat for proposing actions against China that many have contended would have gotten us into World War III and involved us in action with the Chinese on the mainland and with the Soviets. I think that there is some justification with those charges but he is not alone. Others made similar proposals for action in those days of crisis and, let's be candid, panic! Remember, December 1950 and January 1951 were very tough times for U.N. forces. The possibility of U.N. forces being forced off the Korean peninsula was great. I know that at least Admiral Sherman, the Chief of Naval Operations--and I suspect General Vandenberg, the Air Force Chief of Staff was in the same boat--was proposing to mine the ports of China, set up a naval blockade, bomb the industrial facilities in China, and support guerrillas ashore; basically strong activity that he continued to propose throughout early 1951. I think that what happened was once MacArthur was relieved in April 1951--and you had the hearings following right after on the military situation in the Far East--some of the Joints Chiefs started to back-pedal to try to come out on the side of the angels, when in fact they had said many of the same things that got MacArthur in trouble.

Q. Dzwonchvk. I don't want to totally dominate the discussion. But this brings to mind the whole question that you raised in your introductory remarks. That has to do with the influence of the Korean War experience on American policy in Vietnam. It's a whole area that I think deserves a great deal of more exploration and as part of it, maybe the whole construct that you have referred to deserves a second searching look; you know, the conventional wisdom of historical interpretation that all of this was a bad idea that Bradley saying that it was the wrong war in the wrong place. Maybe all that needs to be reevaluated in light of our Vietnam experience. Maybe if the Korean War had been prosecuted to a much greater extent than it was, perhaps there would never have been a Vietnam.

A. Marolda. I'm not sure that I would go along with that interpretation.

Q. Dzwonchyk. Excuse my speculation, but I think it deserves some examination. So far as I know, no one is involved in such an examination.

A. Marolda. My research is leading in the same direction. I started with Vietnam and back-tracked to the Korean War and the Chinese side of things. I wanted to find out how we got the perception that we had of the other side; who we were really fighting. And we made little distinction between the various powers making up the Sino-Soviet bloc. We certainly still have much to learn about the other side in out recent conflicts in the Far East.

SPEAKER'S BIOGRAPHIES

Dr. D. Clayton James has had a. long and distinguished career as a military historian and educator. He earned a BA at Rhodes College a BD degree at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and MA and Ph.D. degrees in history at the University of Texas in Austin. Subsequently, he served on the faculty of the Louisiana State, Mankato State and Mississippi State Universities. Dr. James has taught at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, the Army War College, and the Army Command and General Staff College. He currently holds the John Eiggs Chair of Military History at Virginia Military Institute. His publications include the seminal three-volume series, The Years of MacArthur, another three books, and several hundred bock chapters, articles, abstracts, and book reviews. At present, Dr. James is preparing a work entitled Command and Crisis in Korea: Command Decisions in the War, 1950-1953. His publications have earned him the Harry S. Truman Award and nominations for the Pulitzer Prize and the Parkman Prize.

Dr. Edward J. Marolda completed a BA degree in history at Pennsylvania Military College in 1967. Following service with the Army in Vietnam, he took an MA at Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in American history at the George Washington University. Dr. Marolda currently heads the Naval Historical Center's Contemporary History Branch, which focuses on the U.S. Navy's post-World War experience. He has published A Short History of the United States Navy and the Southeast Asian Conflict 1950-1975, Carrier Operations for Bantam, and From Military Assistance to Combat 1959-1965, Vol. II in the series, The United States Navy and the Vietnam Conflict. He is now preparing Volume IV.

William T. Y'Blood, following graduation from the University of Oregon in 1959, flew E-47 bombers for the Air Force Strategic Air Command. On retirement from the Air Force in 1966 and for the next seventeen years, Mr. Y'Blood piloted DC-9 and 727 airliners far Continental Air Lines. He logged over 11,000 hours of flying time during his career. Since 1966, he has published numerous articles, reviews, and books, including Red Sun Setting, Hunter-Killer, and Little Giants, all of which treat World War II subjects. Presently employed by the Air Force Office of History, he is editing the war diaries of General George E. Stratemeyer, USAF.

Benis M. Frank also has combined scholarship and active military service. As a Marine, he took part in the Peleliu and Okinawa operations of World War II and in Korean War actions. Mr. Frank earned a BA in history from the University of Connecticut in 1949 and then completed graduate work in international relations at Clark University. Since 1961, he has served with the Marine Corps Historical Center, where he currently heads the Oral History Program. His publications include Victory and Occupation, in the official World War II series, A Brief History of the Third Marines, U.S. Marines In Lebanon. 1982-1984, Okinawa: Touchstone to Victory, Halsey, and The Great Island Battle.

___________

Note: The views or opinions expressed or implied are those of the speakers alone and not those of the Department of the Navy or any other agency of the U.S. Government.

[END] 

Published:Fri Feb 03 11:27:30 EST 2017