Korean War (3)

tfsmithfirstpg

MacArthur, in his memoirs, stated that he began his plan for Operation Bluehearts (later named Chromite); the amphibious landing above Seoul to cut off the enemy. This was without approval from Washington. General Stratemeyer radioed Earl Partridge, deputy commander of the FEAF, “Take out North Korean airfields immediately. No publicity. MacArthur approves.” The general was counting on official approval after the fact – which he did receive. But, Maggie Higgins, reporter for the NY Herald-Tribune, did report the incident claiming that she had no knowledge of a security blackout. (The media interfered even back then.)

29 June 1950, Truman gave MacArthur the authority to restore order up to the 38th parallel, but Acheson made a broader interpretation of the statement. Russia said openly they would not interfere unless the U.S. crossed outside of North Korea. (They were quite willing to let the Chinese do their fighting for them.) The 24th Division, under MGeneral William, was ordered to make ready. As all occupation forces were, the unit was inexperienced, included few WWII veterans and were using WWII left-over equipment, but their proximity to Korea made them the obvious choice to land at Pusan. The U.S. Navy had its first combat action on this date. The USS Juneau (CL-119), the flagship of RAdmiral John Higgins fired her 5″ guns at shipping and shore targets.

North Korean invasion 25 July - 4 August 1950

North Korean invasion 25 July – 4 August 1950

Knowing that the news of American troops going to Korea would leak out, Truman announced,”This is all very delicate. I don’t want it stated any place that ‘I’ am telling MacArthur what to do. He is not an American general now, he is acting for the United Nations.” (Everyone in the loop knew otherwise, along with General Marshall having a firm hold on Truman’s ear.)

Norway, traditionally a neutral country, no longer held a peaceful attitude after spending 5 years under Nazi control. Wilhelm Munthe de Morgenstierne, the Norwegian ambassador to Washington, went to Acheson personally at the State Department to convey those feelings from Trygve Lie, the First Secretary General of the U.N. to support the international action.

In seeing additional troops enter Korea in piecemeal fashion, General Dean reported to Doyle Hickey, Deputy Chief of Staff to MacArthur, that “I am convinced that the North Korean Army and the North Korean soldier and his status of training and equipment have been underestimated.” He had politely implied that the American troops, equipment and training were highly overrated. The logistics outside Tokyo were primitive, the list of inadequacies huge and maps were non-existent. (Gen. Dean, with no previous combat experience, won the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions and leadership. His medal was awarded to his wife since he became MIA and presumed KIA. Later he was found after being a POW. A very brave and honorable story)

Russian T-34 tank

Russian T-34 tank

30 June, Task Force Smith was formed, (named for Lt. Col. Charles Smith), and included the 21st, 34th and 19th divisions to join the 24th. They also would be using outdated weapons and many of the shells being duds as they landed 5 July. Immediately, they were attacked by the enemy with Russian T-34 tanks and the first American soldier was killed. (his name lost in history). There had already been Air Force casualties. After three days of fighting, 85 men were dead or missing out of a 130-man rifle company. MacArthur radioed the Pentagon that he needed 4 to 5 divisions, an airborne regimental combat team and an armored group; and this was the minimum. The NKPA leadership and tactical skills were rated as “excellent,” as good as any seen in WWII.

Gen. William F. Dean

Gen. William F. Dean

Gen. Dean’s 25th Division deleted the 7th in the attempt to be brought up to strength and embarked for Korea on 9 July. Communications were poor, the radios had short-range and replacement batteries were nowhere to be found. With the ROK forces running south and no way to distinguish the northern and southern troops, the first 4 Royal Australian pilots, on their first mission, sprayed a ROK ammunition train at Pyongtaek. An American pilot, having the same problem, was shot down and taken prisoner. MacArthur ordered ALL ROK vehicles to have a white star painted on top to be visible from above.

Edward R. Murrow in Korea

Edward R. Murrow in Korea

Edward R. Murrow was met by fellow CBS correspondent, Bill Downs, who sported a full beard and was covered with dirt from the front, told Murrow, “Go back! Go back you silly bastard! This ain’t our kind of war. This one is for the birds!” (In the future, Murrow would call this warning, “the best advice he ever ignored.”) Murrow watched as what was left of a black unit from the 24th Infantry return. The highest ranking officer of that regiment, Lt. Col. Forrest Lofton, refused to go to Korea. He remained at Gifu in Honshu. He was a follower of a preacher that held the opinion that it was inappropriate for black soldiers to fight an enemy of “color.”

The communist soldiers who had infiltrated groups of refugees made heroin easily available to the incoming troops and as the 24th debarked at Moji, the military began receiving reports of rape, robbery and desertion. Drugs were now entered as yet another problem in the war. The soldiers were shipped out on freighters, ferries and fertilizer haulers and they regrouped on 13 July in Pusan, boarded trains for Pohang and then onward to Kumchon by truck. There they were ordered to dig in and protect ROK forces on one side and the 27th on the other. The next day, they were under fire.

At Yechon, 20 July, Dean was injured and captured. The next day, the city was temporarily re-occupied by the 24th. Two days after that, when the 1st Cavalry Division relieved them, the 24th retreated 100 miles and had abandoned most of their equipment and had lost 30% KIA. Unashamed of their retreat, the men were heard singing “The Bugout Bogie”:
When the Commie mortars start to chug,
The Ol’ Deuce Four begin to bug…
When you hear the pitter-patter of little feet,
It’s the Ol’ Deuce Four in full retreat.

Washington disliked the term ‘bugout,’ but the press continued to use it.

Lt. Leon A. Gilbert refused a direct order to take his men back into the fight. He was given a chance to change his mind, on the threat of a treason charge, “No,” he said, “I’ll get killed.” Gilbert was tried and given the death sentence, but Truman intervened and cut the sentence down to 20 years. Following his sentencing, mass court-martialing of whole units of the 24th ensued.

The embarrassing facts about the war gradually made their way out even as reporters made their headlines out of the smallest of victories. Truman carefully chose his words to retain public support from here on out. I believe it is becoming clear why many of us learned very little of this war during our school years.

Click photos to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes –

Edward O’Hara – Phoenix, AZ; U.S. Navy, PT boat radioman, WWII

Hugh Sisler – Friendsville, ME; U.S. Navy, WWII Aleutians and Okinawa

Alice Magruder Thompson – born 1914, Washington D.C.; pilot with the Civil Air Patrol & administrative aide Dept. Of Navy

Frederick Walton, Jr. – Maryland; U.S. Air Force, WWII

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Resources: “MacArthur’s War” by Stanley Weintraub; militarymuseum. org; history.army.org; Wikipedia; “Warfare of the 20th Century” by Christopher Chant; history.navy.mil; “Korean War” by Stephen Badsey

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Be sure to tune in for my latest guest post for Greatest Generation Lessons this coming Tuesday, “Rationing Gone Wild” is a step back in time for the home front. See you there.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on August 10, 2013, in Korean War, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 64 Comments.

  1. Interesting article! Please visit and follow my recently created blog at http://publishistory.wordpress.com/ (I’ll follow you back!) It contains history articles on a variety of subjects written by myself and friends from university 🙂

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  2. Clarifying: That “bugout” unit was the 24th Infantry Regiment, which was part of the 25th Division. Thus it was not under Dean, who commanded the 24th Division. Those numbers have confused historians and journalists and memorists for years.

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  3. I remember not learning much about the Korea and nothing at all about Vietnam in high school. It wasn’t until college that anything substantial was taught. Thank you for putting this information together.

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  4. Pierre Lagacé

    I know I have said this many times, but the comment section is so interesting.

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  5. It’s so true. Everyone talks/talked about the First and Second World Wars but you rarely hear anything about Korea. I’m glad you’re writing this.

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    • I didn’t originally plan on it, but it seems more than one reader is enjoying it, so I’m glad I did. I don’t think many of us DID learn much about this war – schools just sort of skimmed passed it.

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  6. Wasn’t there an old saying, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”? So glad you are filling us in on what really happened.

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    • You are more than welcome, Bev. I appreciate you taking your time to be such a loyal reader. I look forward to your comments after each post, a most welcome guest here.

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  7. gpcox – I believe it is becoming clear why many of us learned very little of this war during our school years. – “I think it’s crystal….”

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  8. If only Acheson paid more attention in 1949. Not much evidence to show that he ever considered expanding the Truman doctrine beyond Europe and the Med. sphere.

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  9. I’m fascinated by Lt. Gilbert refusing a direct order, preferring a court marshal and treason charges. What the 24th went through and was being asked to face again must have been truly horrific for treason to seem the better choice. Again, fascinating.

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  10. Thanks for another great post . It’s well researched and written , but it brings up more questions than it answers , doesn’t it ? That’s what make it a great post .

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  11. I wonder what people will learn 50 years from now about our current military actions . . . politicians will likely still be sending troops to fight our “war against terrorism”.

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    • God help the younger generation if that’s true!! Frankly, I don’t think the U.S. can stand to be the “world’s big brother” anymore. The finances, and body count just can’t hold up.

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      • . . . once you act the part of big brother, it’s difficult to walk away from it. Different scale, but I know from experience. Essentially, one’s intervention, good or bad has consequences.

        Worse yet, in some situations we are essentially the only ones who can; that too was a decision which carries consequences; having and maintaining the most powerful military in the world makes it easier for leaders with little vision and even less wisdom to rely on it as if it magically could fix the world’s ills.

        I think we’ll be paying for our current actions for a long time.

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  12. What a great post! It’s really great to have a chance to get some real history that isn’t altered to suit the moment, like so much is. Thanks for all of the work you have put into sharing this!

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  13. The media tactics in Korea are very similar to what is being filtered today in the Middle East.

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  14. Pierre Lagacé

    When the Commie mortars start to chug,
    The Ol’ Deuce Four begin to bug…
    When you hear the pitter-patter of little feet,
    It’s the Ol’ Deuce Four in full retreat.

    I wonder if Truman was also singing along…

    You have to be brave to refuse to get killed for no good reason.

    Great post!

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  15. Pierre Lagacé

    I always skim over your post the first time then I read them a few times after because of all the information.

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  16. Fascinating stuff…what a mess. And, certainly a different attitude from the soldiers of WWII.

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  17. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget.

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  18. We know very little of the war over here too. With the exception of the “Glorious Glosters the most that my generation and that of my parents has been gleaned from that excellent satire, “MASH”.

    Thanks for this article, makes very interesting reading.

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    • MASH was funny, but they also gave you some insight into what was going on. Every time Radar heard a chopper, Hawkeye put a soldier back together by winging it or how young the soldiers were.

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  19. The negligence and short shortsightedness of the post WW2 demobilization and to degree it took place is shocking esp after the Pearl Harbor attack. You would think Pearl Harbor taught the lesson that immediate preparedness would be the rule from then on. A rifle with 8 bullets was inadequate against Chinese mass assault. Military channel did assessments of all tanks and that T-34 comes in first considering many factors and time periods. I have seen several WW2 movies where it is substituted as a German tank with iron cross. I suppose very few catch the inaccuracy.

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  20. I certainly didn’t learn much about this war at school. I always thought it was because we had too much to learn about the Second World War and there wasn’t enough room to fit it in to the syllabus. Maybe that was not the case, even in New Zealand.

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  21. Just as I was reading the last line here, I had the same thought. This is REAL history, not the watered down, semi (or less) truthful crap / propaganda that we learned in public school. At this point I don’t remember the Korean War being taught, but I may have forgotten. Unlike a traditional k-12 history text containing boring facts and over simplistic incidents, your writing is so much more real and authentic. It’s sort of like being on the front lines in history class lol. I really get that authentic, dark war feel from reading this.

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    • I couldn’t ask for a better compliment, thanks a lot! Besides getting interested because of my father, Smitty, back about 1976-77, I was tending bar on Christmas Eve and had one fella sitting real glum. I told him there’d be none of that in here during the holidays. He said he just accompanied a soldier’s body from Korea for burial and don’t let anyone tell you the war ended in ’53. He floored me, I listened to every word he said, realizing just how little we’re told.

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    • Pierre LagacĂ©

      I concur…
      This blog is the real thing.
      Korea is the forgotten war.
      Of course… It’s was a police action.

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  22. Sad events. The paragraph on heroin made me think about other wars and drug use. Marijuana of course was rampant in Vietnam but I had to look up about other wars. Alcohol was a problem with most countries in most wars.

    Here is what I found out about Germany in WWII:

    Drug use in World War II is easily the most institutionalized in recorded history. This was especially true for German military. The drug of choice for the German army was a methamphetamine designed to keep soldiers alert and functional for several hours/days. 35 million tablets of methamphetamine were shipped to the army and air force between just April and July 1940 alone. These methamphetamines were later banned in 1941 under the Opium Law but despite the ban a shipment of over 10 million tablets was sent to soldiers later that year.

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    • Can you imagine purposely making addicts out of your own men? That is a prime example of desperation, isn’t it?

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      • Pierre LagacĂ©

        One day soldiers will get fed up going to war…
        Sorry I had to let this out of my system.

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        • Don’t blame you. I’m tired of our sons getting killed for people who hate us anyway.

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        • I could not agree more with that sentiment, Pierre. I still feel leaders out front, leading their troops into battle would slow the interest in foreign adventures. By leaders, I mean presidents and kings, queens and premiers. Yeah, heads of state!

          It’s no crazier than sending 18- to 20-year-old boys (and girls, now!), really, to die for
          vaguely defined missions that get them into the fire, but haven’t been thought out as to how to end the mission, whatever that ends up to be.

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          • I thought the same thing as a kid. If this president and that emperor have an argument, put them in a ring and let them box it out! Leave us out of it. They sit in a cushy palace of a home while our men were in jungles and deserts.

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          • Pierre LagacĂ©

            You speak the truth… That’s how people use soldiers boys in some African countries and elsewhere.

            Like

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