Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Korean War - Part II
  General Macarthur
On 15 September 1950, General Macarthur launched a daring sea-borne assault on Inchon, a coastal town located on the North Western coast near Seoul, 125 miles behind enemy lines. The military aim was to cut off the supplies and communications to the North Koreans and trap them in between the forces landing there and those located in Busan.

The assault was risky due to the nature of the unpredictable tides and rocky port, which made landing difficult. The waters of the Flying Fish Channel, which the assault would have to pass through, were only accessible for three hours a day at certain times throughout the year, depending on the season. For much of the time while the tide was out there were impenetrable mud flats, which extended three miles out from the headland.

Macarthur was eventually able to convince his superior officers that the assault was viable and preliminary naval gunfire and air bombardment began on 13 September. As Macarthur had predicted, the North Koreans were taken completely by surprise and the 13,000 troops involved in the landings met little resistance. There were few casualties and Inchon was quickly taken.

Troops fighting in Seoul

In contrast, the march towards Seoul was a slow and bloody as troops became engaged in urban warfare. At the same, forces located in Busan launched a push northwards. The North Koreans panicked and fled and on 25 September, Seoul was recaptured. Of the 70,000 north Korean troops who had been engaged in battle at the war front at the Busan Perimeter, over half were captured or killed, whilst the remaining 30,000 retreated back across the 38th Parallel into North Korea.

By 27 September, troops moving southwards from Seoul met those heading North from Busan. Proving the doubters wrong yet again, Macarthur had confirmed his place in history as one of the greatest military strategists to have ever lived.

With South Korea now liberated the Americans chose to continue past the 38th Parallel into North Korea. Their aim was to reunite the peninsula under a pro-western government, whereas the Chinese wanted North Korea to act as a buffer state.

Despite China’s threats to join the war if the UN forces entered North Korea, General Macarthur was confident of victory and believed China would not intervene. On 20 October, the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang, was taken and UN and Republic of Korea forces pushed northwards towards the Yalu River, which marked the border between North Korea and China.

The Allies reached the Yalu River on 24 October. At the same time, the Chinese began to send troops across the river, who engaged in a series of attacks under the name of the People’s Volunteer Army to officially avoid declaring war on US, Britain, France and other members of the UN. Macarthur paid little attention to these attacks, underestimating the strength and numbers of the Chinese soldiers in North Korea, a strategy that would ultimately prove to be costly.