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Battle of Incheon
Part of the Korean War
Battle of Inchon.png
Four tank landing ships unload men and equipment on Red Beach one day after the amphibious landings in South Korea.
Date September 10 – 19, 1950
Location Inchon, South Korea, Yellow Sea
Result Decisive United Nations victory
Belligerents
 United Nations
 North Korea
Commanders
United States Gen. Douglas MacArthur, UN Commander-in-Chief
United States ViceAdm. Arthur Dewey Struble, US Navy
United States Maj.Gen. Edward M. Almond, US X Corps
United States Maj.Gen. Oliver P. Smith, USMC[1]
South Korea Col. Paik In-Yeop, 17th Infantry Regiment, ROKA
South Korea Col. Shin Hyun-Jun, ROK Marine Regiment, ROKMC
North Korea Premier Kim Il-sung, NK Commander-in-Chief (in Pyongyang)
North Korea Gen. Choi Yong-Kun, NK Field Commander (in Seoul)
North Korea Maj.Gen. Wol Ki Chan, 25th Rifle Brigade (in Seoul)
North KoreaMaj.Gen. Wan Yong, 1st Air Force Division at Kimpo Airport
Strength
Land:
40,000
infantry,
marines,
unknown tanks
Sea:
Engaged Vessels:
unknown cruisers,
~7 destroyers,
1 armed sampan
Unengaged Vessels:
unknown unengaged naval forces
Air:
unknown air forces
Land:
6,500
infantry,
unknown artillery,
1 fortress,
unknown tanks
Sea:
~1 patrol boat
Air:
unknown air forces
Casualties and losses
Land:
222 killed,
~800 wounded
Sea:
1 killed,
6 wounded,
~3 destroyers damaged,
1 armed sampan damaged
Air:
~1 aircraft destroyed
Land:
1,350 killed,
unknown wounded,
unknown captured,
unknown tanks destroyed,
1 fortress damaged,
Sea:
unknown human casualties,
1 patrol boat sunk
Air:
unknown

The Battle of Inchon (Korean: 인천 상륙 작전, Hanja: 仁川上陸作戰, Incheon Sangnyuk Jakjeon; code name: Operation Chromite) was an amphibious invasion and battle of the Korean War that was conducted with a nearly 40 to 1 troop ratio in favor of UN forces and resulted in a decisive victory and strategic reversal in favor of the United Nations (UN).

The battle began on September 15, 1950, and ended around September 17. Through a surprise amphibious assault far from the Pusan Perimeter that UN and South Korean forces were desperately defending, the largely undefended city of Incheon was secured after being bombed by UN forces. The battle ended a string of victories by the invading North Korean People's Army (NKPA). The subsequent UN recapture of nearby Seoul severed the NKPA's supply lines, placing North Korean forces in South Korea in a dangerously untenable situation.

The majority of United Nations ground forces involved were U.S. Marines, commanded by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur was the driving force behind the operation, overcoming the strong misgivings of more cautious generals to a risky assault over extremely unfavorable terrain.

Contents

Background

Planning

The idea to land UN forces at Incheon was suggested by MacArthur after he visited the Korean battlefield on June 29, 1950, four days after the war began. MacArthur thought that the North Korean army would push the South Korean army back far past Seoul.[citation needed] He decided that the battered, demoralized, and under-equipped South Koreans, many of whom did not support the SK government put in power by the US (citation needed), could not hold off the NKPA, who also defeated the American reinforcements. MacArthur felt that he could turn the tide if he made a decisive troop movement behind enemy lines.[citation needed] He hoped that a landing near Incheon would allow him to cut off the NKPA and destroy that army as a useful fighting force, thus winning the war.[citation needed]

Gen. Douglas MacArthur (center), Commander in Chief of U.N. Forces observes the shelling of lightly defended Incheon from the USS Mt. McKinley, September 15, 1950.

In order to accomplish such a large amphibious operation, MacArthur requested the use of United States Marine Corps expeditionary forces, having become familiar with their ability to integrate amphibious operations in the Pacific during World War II. However, the Marines at that point were still recovering from a series of severe program cutbacks instituted by the Truman administration and Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson. Indeed, Johnson had tried to eliminate the Marines entirely and slashed Marine expeditionary forces from a World War II peak of 300,000 men to just over 27,000.[citation needed] Much of the Marines' landing craft and amphibious carriers had been sold off, scrapped, or transferred to the exclusive use of the U.S. Army.

After hastily re-equipping Marine forces with aging World War II landing craft, withdrawing Marine units from the Pusan perimeter, and stripping recruitment depots bare of men, Marine commanders were just able to mount a force capable of undertaking offensive operations against the small NK forces.[2][3]

MacArthur decided to use the Joint Strategic and Operations Group (JSPOG) of his Far East Command (FECOM). The initial plan was met with skepticism by the other generals because Incheon's natural and artificial defenses were formidable.[4] The approaches to Incheon were two restricted passages, Flying Fish and Eastern channels, which could be easily blocked by mines.

The current of the channels was also dangerously quick—three to eight knots. Finally, the anchorage was small and the harbor was surrounded by tall seawalls. Commander Arlie G. Capps noted "We drew up a list of every natural and geographic handicap—and Incheon had 'em all."[citation needed]

These problems, along with the advancing North Korean army, forced MacArthur to abandon his first plan, Operation Bluehearts, which called for an Incheon landing in July 1950.

Despite these obstacles, in September MacArthur issued a revised plan of assault on Incheon: Plan 100-B, codenamed Operation Chromite. A briefing led by Admiral James Doyle concluded "the best that I can say is that Incheon is not impossible."[citation needed] Officers at the briefing spent much of their time asking about alternative landing sites such as Kunsan.[citation needed] MacArthur spent 45 minutes after the briefing explaining his reasons for choosing Incheon.[citation needed]

The beach of Pohang, where U.N. forces landed unopposed in 1950.

He said that because it was so heavily defended, the enemy would not expect an attack there, that victory at Incheon would avoid a brutal winter campaign, and that, by invading a northern strong point, the UN forces could cut off North Korean lines of communication.[citation needed] Incheon was also chosen because of its proximity to Seoul. Admiral Forrest P. Sherman and General J. Lawton Collins returned to Washington, D.C., and had the invasion approved.

The landing at Incheon was not the first large-scale amphibious operation since World War II. That distinction belonged to the July 18, 1950 landing at Pohang. However, that operation was not made in enemy-held territory and was unopposed.[5]

Prelude

Before the main land battle, U.N. forces landed spies in Inchon and bombarded the cities defenses via air and sea.

Incheon Infiltration

Incheon, South Korea, in pink coloring.

Seven days before the main attack on Incheon, a joint Central Intelligence Agencymilitary intelligence reconnaissance, codenamed Trudy Jackson, placed a team of guerrillas in Incheon. The group, led by Navy Lieutenant Eugene Clark, landed at Yonghung-do, an island in the mouth of the harbor. From there, they relayed intelligence back to U.S. forces.

With the help of locals, the guerrillas gathered information about tides, mudflats, seawalls and enemy fortifications. The mission's most important contribution was the restarting of a lighthouse on Palmi-do.[4]

When the North Koreans discovered that the allied agents had entered the peninsula, they sent an attack craft with 16 infantrymen. Eugene Clark mounted a machine gun on a sampan and sank the attack boat. In response, the North Koreans killed up to 50 civilians for helping Clark.[citation needed]

Bombardments of Wolmi-do Fortress and Incheon

A series of drills and tests and raids were conducted elsewhere on the coast of Korea, where conditions were similar to Incheon, before the actual invasion. These drills were used to perfect the timing and performance of the landing craft.[5]

On September 10, 1950, five days before the Incheon landing, 43 American warplanes flew over Wolmi, dropping 93 napalm canisters to “burn out” its eastern slope in an attempt to clear the way for American troops.[6]

USS Lyman K. Swenson, firing a broadside during the Vietnam War, 1969.

As the landing groups neared, cruisers and destroyers from the United States and Canada shelled the fortified Wolmi-do Island and checked for mines in Flying Fish Channel. The first Canadian forces entered the Korean War when HMCS Cayuga, HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Sioux bombarded the coast. The Fast Carrier Force flew fighter cover, interdiction, and ground attack missions. Hundreds of Korean civilians were killed in these attacks on the lightly defended port.

Destroyer Squadron Nine, headed by the USS Mansfield, sailed up Eastern Channel and into Inchon Harbor, where it fired upon enemy gun emplacements at Wolmi-do. The attacks tipped off the North Koreans that a landing might be imminent. The North Korean officer at Wolmi-do assured his superiors that he would throw the enemy back into the sea.[citation needed]

Throughout the naval bombardment, one U.S. sailor was killed and six U.S. others were wounded, the one dead, David H. Swenson from USS Lyman K. Swenson, was later reported by the world media as being the nephew of Captain Lyman Knute Swenson, USS Swenson's namesake, but this was later found to be false. Significant damage was inflicted on three of the attacking warships; USS Swenson which suffered the one dead sailor and another man wounded.

USS Collett

USS Collett, received the most damage, she took nine 75-millimeter hits, one of which disabled her computer and wounded five men. USS Gurke sustained three hits resulting in light damage and no casualties. Over a thousand 5-inch shells were fired by the Canadian-American destroyer force, after inflicting severe damage on Wolmi-do's fortifications for an hour. Canadian casualties are unknown if any.

The destroyers withdrew and allied cruisers proceeded to bombard the North Korean batteries from the south of the island.

Battle

The landing at Incheon.

The flotilla of ships that landed during the battle was commanded by VADM Arthur Dewey Struble, an expert in amphibious warfare. Struble had participated in amphibious operations in World War II, including the Battle of Leyte and the Battle of Normandy.[7]

Green Beach

At 06:30 on September 15, 1950, the lead elements of X Corps hit "Green Beach" on the northern side of Wolmi Island. The landing force consisted of the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and nine M26 Pershing tanks from the 1st Tank Battalion.[citation needed] One tank was equipped with a flamethrower (flame tank) and two others had bulldozer blades.[citation needed] The battle group landed in LSTs designed and built during World War II. The entire island was captured by noon at the cost of just 14 casualties.[8]

North Korean force was outnumbered by more than 6 to 1 by foreign troops. North Korean casualties included over 200 killed and 136 captured, primarily from the 918th Artillery Regiment and the 226th Independent Marine Regiment.[citation needed] The forces on Green Beach had to wait until 19:50 for the tide to rise, allowing another group to land. During this time, extensive shelling and bombing, along with anti-tank mines placed on the only bridge, kept the small North Korean force from launching a significant counterattack.[citation needed] The second wave came ashore at "Red Beach" and "Blue Beach."

The North Korean army had not been expecting an invasion at Incheon.[citation needed] After the storming of Green Beach, the NKPA assumed (probably because of deliberate American disinformation) that the main invasion would happen at Gunsan.[citation needed] As a result, only a small force was diverted to Incheon. Even those forces were too late, and they arrived after the UN forces had taken Blue Beach and Red Beach. The troops already stationed at Incheon had been weakened by Clark's guerrillas, and napalm bombing runs had destroyed key ammunition dumps. In total, 261 ships took part.[citation needed]

Red Beach

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (center) grasps General J. Lawton Collins (the Army Chief of Staff, left) and Admiral Forrest Sherman (the Chief of Naval Operations right). MacArthur used their meeting to convince other military leaders that the assault on Incheon was necessary.

The Red Beach forces, made up of the Regimental Combat Team 5, which included the 3rd Battalion of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC), used ladders to scale the sea walls. After neutralizing North Korean defenses, they opened the causeway to Wolmi-Do, allowing the tanks from Green Beach to enter the battle. Red Beach forces suffered eight dead and 28 wounded.[citation needed]

Blue Beach

Under the command of then-Colonel Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller, the 1st Marine Regiment landing at Blue Beach was significantly south of the other two beaches and reached shore last. As they approached the coast, the combined fire from several NKPA gun emplacements sank one LST. Destroyer fire and bombing runs silenced the North Korean defenses. When they finally arrived, the North Korean forces at Incheon had already surrendered, so the Blue Beach forces suffered few casualties and met little opposition. The 1st Marine Regiment spent much of its time strengthening the beachhead and preparing for the inland invasion.

Aftermath

Beachhead

Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez of the Marine Corps is shown scaling a seawall after landing on Red Beach (September 15). Minutes after this photo was taken, Lopez was killed after smothering a live grenade with his body.[9] He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Immediately after North Korean resistance was extinguished in Incheon, the supply and reinforcement process began. Seabees and Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) that had arrived with the U.S. Marines constructed a pontoon dock on Green Beach and cleared debris from the water. The dock was then used to unload the remainder of the LSTs.

Documents written by Kim Il Sung and recovered by UN troops soon after the landing said, "The original plan was to end the war in a month, we could not stamp out four American divisions...We were taken by surprise when United Nations troops and the American Air Force and Navy moved in."[citation needed]

On September 16, the North Koreans, realizing their blunder,[citation needed] sent six columns of T-34 tanks to the beachhead. In response, two flights from F4U Corsair squadron VMF-214 bombed the attackers. The armored columns suffered extensive damage and the US forces lost one airplane. A quick counter-attack by M26 Pershing tanks destroyed the remainder of the North Korean armored division and cleared the way for the capture of Incheon.

On September 19, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers repaired the local railroad up to eight miles (13 km) inland. The Kimpo airstrip was captured, and transport planes began flying in gasoline and ordnance for the aircraft stationed at Incheon. The Marines continued unloading supplies and reinforcements. By September 22, they had unloaded 6,629 vehicles and 53,882 troops, along with 25,512 tons (23,000 tonnes) of supplies.[citation needed]

Battle of Seoul

U.S. Marines engaged in urban warfare during the battle for Seoul in late September 1950. The American soldiers are carrying M1 Garand semi-automatic rifles and Browning Automatics. On the street are Korean civilians who died in the battle. In the distance are M4 Sherman tanks.

In contrast to the quick victory at Incheon, the advance on Seoul was slow and bloody. The NKPA launched another T-34 attack, which was trapped and destroyed, and a Yak bombing run in Incheon harbor, which did little damage. The NKPA attempted to stall the UN offensive to allow time to reinforce Seoul and withdraw troops from the south.[citation needed] Though warned that the process of taking Seoul would allow remaining NKPA forces in the south to escape, MacArthur felt that he was bound to honor promises given to the South Korean government to retake the capital as soon as possible.[citation needed]

On the second day, vessels carrying the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division arrived in Incheon Harbor. General Almond was eager to get the division into position to block a possible enemy movement from the south of Seoul. On the morning of September 18, the division's 2nd Battalion of the 32nd Infantry Regiment landed at Incheon and the remainder of the regiment went ashore later in the day. The next morning, the 2nd Battalion moved up to relieve an U.S. Marine battalion occupying positions on the right flank south of Seoul. Meanwhile, the 7th Division's 31st Regiment came ashore at Incheon. Responsibility for the zone south of Seoul highway passed to 7th Division at 18:00 on September 19. The 7th Infantry Division then engaged in heavy fighting with North Korean soldiers on the outskirts of Seoul.

Before the battle, North Korea had just one understrength division in the city, with the majority of its forces south of the capital.[10] MacArthur personally oversaw the 1st Marine Regiment as it fought through North Korean positions on the road to Seoul. Control of Operation Chromite was then given to Major General Edward Almond, the X Corps commander. It was Almond's goal to take Seoul on September 25, exactly three months after the beginning of the war.[citation needed] On September 22, the Marines entered Seoul to find it heavily fortified. Casualties mounted as the forces engaged in desperate house-to-house fighting. Anxious to pronounce the conquest of Seoul, Almond declared the city liberated on September 25 despite the fact that Marines were still engaged in house-to-house combat (gunfire and artillery could still be heard in the northern suburbs).

Breakout of Pusan

The M26 Pershing enjoyed domination over T-34 tanks at Incheon. One tank of B Company, 1st Tank Battalion, U.S Marines, landed on Pusan port on August 2, 1950, destroying an unknown but large number of T-34 tanks of the North Korean 42nd Armored Regiment.[11]

The last North Korean troops in South Korea still fighting were defeated when Walker's 8th Army broke out of the Pusan perimeter, joining the Army's X Corps in a coordinated attack on NKPA forces. Of the 70,000 NKPA troops around Pusan, more than half were killed or captured.[citation needed] However, because UN forces had concentrated on taking Seoul rather than cutting off the NKPA's withdrawal north, the remaining 30,000 North Korean soldiers escaped to the north across the Yalu River, where they were soon reconstituted as a cadre for the formation of new NKPA divisions hastily re-equipped by the Soviet Union. The allied assault continued north to the Yalu River until the intervention of the People's Republic of China in the war.

Analysis

The battle is considered one of the most decisive military operations in modern warfare.

However Stolfi (2004) argues that the landing itself was a strategical masterpiece but it was followed by an advance to Seoul in ground battle so slow and measured that it constituted an operational disaster, largely negating the successful landing. He contrasts the US style of war fighting with that of Germany by examining the US military's 1950 Incheon-Seoul operation and the German offensive in the Baltic in 1941. American forces achieved a strategic masterpiece in the Incheon landing in September 1950 and then largely negated it by a slow, tentative, 11-day advance on Seoul, only twenty miles away. By contrast in the Baltic region in 1941 the German forces achieved strategic surprise in the first day of their offensive and then, exhibiting a breakthrough mentality, pushed forward rapidly, seizing key positions and advancing almost two hundred miles in four days. The American advance was characterized by cautious, restrictive orders, concerns about phase lines, limited reconnaissance, and command posts well in the rear, while the Germans positioned their leaders as far forward as possible, relied on oral or short written orders, reorganized combat groups to meet immediate circumstances, and engaged in vigorous reconnaissance. The Germans, Stolfi concludes, were better practitioners of mobile warfare.[12]

Popular culture

The Battle of Incheon was the subject of the 1982 film Inchon, which did poorly at the box office amid controversy over its being partially financed by Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon. Previously, the Battle of Incheon was featured in Joseph H. Lewis's 1952 film for Milton Sperling and Warner Brothers Retreat, Hell!.

The concert band work "Incheon" by Robert W. Smith is about the battle. It begins with a flute solo, and slowly brings in percussion sound effects, such as machine gun and artillery fire and helicopter noise. It also has references to Variations on a Korean Folk Song (measures 61, 62, 65, and 66).

The W. E. B. Griffin novel Under Fire is a fictionalized account of the political and personal maneuvering that occurred during MacArthur's development of the Incheon invasion plan.

Notes

  1. ^ Halberstam The Coldest Winter, p. 302.
  2. ^ Blair, Clay The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950–1953, Naval Institute Press (2003)
  3. ^ Krulak, Victor H. (Lt. Gen.), First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps, Naval Institute Press (1999)
  4. ^ a b Linda Petty. "Incheon invasion a turning point in Korean War". cnn.com. http://archives.cnn.com/2000/US/09/14/inchon.invasion/index.html. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  5. ^ a b "Landings By Sea Not New In Korea", The New York Times: 3, September 15, 1950, http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70B15FA395A1A7B93C7A81782D85F448585F9 
  6. ^ Choe, Sang-Hun (August 3, 2008), "South Korea Says U.S. Killed Hundreds of Civilians", New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/world/asia/03korea.html 
  7. ^ Parrott, Lindesay (September 18, 1950), "United States Marines Headed For Seoul", The New York Times: 1, http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50E11F8395A1A7B93CAA81782D85F448585F9 
  8. ^ Alexander, Joseph H.; Horan, Don (1999), The Battle History of the U.S. Marines: A Fellowship of Valor, New York: HarperCollins, p. v, ISBN 0060931094 
  9. ^ "The Incheon Invasion, September 1950: Overview and Selected Images" from Naval Historical Center and " First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, USMC" from US Marine Corps
  10. ^ Baldwin, Hanson W. (September 27, 1950), "Invasion Gamble Pays", The New York Times: 6, http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70716FE3A5F11738DDDAE0A94D1405B8089F1D3, retrieved June 18, 2006 
  11. ^ Tamiya
  12. ^ Stolfi, Russel H. S. (2004), "A Critique of Pure Success: Incheon Revisited, Revised, and Contrasted", Journal of Military History 68 (2): 505–525, ISSN 0899-3718, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_military_history/v068/68.2stolfi.html 

References

  • The Incheon Invasion, September 1950—Overview and Selected Images. U.S. Department of the Navy/Naval Historical Center.
  • The Landing at Inchon. Canadians in Korea: Valour Remembered. Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • Assault from the Sea: The Amphibious Landing at Incheon. U.S. Department of the Navy/Naval Historical Center.
  • Ballard, John R. "Operation Chromite: Counterattack at Inchon." Joint Forces Quarterly: Spring/Summer 2001.
  • Blair, Clay, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950–1953 Naval Institute Press (2003).
  • Bradford, Jeffrey A. "MacArthur, Inchon and the Art of Battle Command." Military Review 2001 81(2): 83–86. ISSN 0026-4148 Fulltext: in Ebsco. Abstract: MacArthur's understanding and use of battle command were critical for the operation's success. Battle command requires decisionmaking, leadership, and motivation of soldiers and organizations.
  • Clark, Eugene Franklin. The Secrets of Inchon: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Covert Mission of the Korean War: Putnam Pub Group (2002) . ISBN 0-399-14871-X
  • Halberstam, David (2007). The Coldest WInter – America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 978-140130-052-4. 
  • Heefner, Wilson A. "The Inch'on Landing," Military Review 1995 75(2): 65–77. ISSN 0026-4148 fulltext in Ebsco
  • Heinl, Robert D. Jr. The Inchon Landing: A Case Study in Ampibious Planning, Naval War College Review, Spring 1998, Vol. LI, No. 2 online
  • Heinl, Robert Debs (1979). Victory at High Tide: The Inchon-Seoul Campaign. Baltimore, Maryland: The nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America. 
  • Krulak, Victor H. (Lt. Gen.), First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps, Naval Institute Press (1999)
  • Montross, Lynn et al., History of U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950–1953, vol 1. (Washington: Historical Branch, G-3, Headquarters, Marine Corps, 1954)
  • Montross, Lynn. The Inchon Landing—Victory over Time and Tide. The Marine Corps Gazette. July 1951.
  • Rottman, Gordon R. 'Inch'on 1950'; The last great amphibious assault; Osprey Campaign Series #162; Osprey Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1841769614
  • Schnabel, James F. United States Army in the Korean War: Policy and Direction: The First Year (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1972). official US Army history; full text online, ch 8–9
  • Simmons, Edwin H. Over the Seawall: US Marines at Incheon. Part 1 Part 2 (Marines in the Korean War Commemorative Series.) US Marine Corps History Center, 2000. 69 pp.
  • Stolfi, Russel H. S. "A Critique of Pure Success: Inchon Revisited, Revised, and Contrasted." Journal of Military History 2004 68(2): 505–525. ISSN 0899-3718 Fulltext in Project Muse, SwetsWise and Ebsco. Abstract: Contrasts the US style of war fighting with that of Germany by examining the US military's 1950 Inchon-Seoul operation and the German offensive in the Baltic in 1941.

External links

Coordinates: 37°29′N 126°38′E / 37.483°N 126.633°E / 37.483; 126.633 (Inchon)








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