Korean War (8)

Lt. Dan Chandler briefs his "frogmen" before they set out to disarm mines

Lt. Dan Chandler briefs his “frogmen” before they set out to disarm mines

9 October 1950, the Marines began to debark, but each wave of troops was forced to wait for a rising tide. The Eighth Army now crossed the 38th parallel and by the following day, the Marines were headed for Hungnam. The ROKs, some with bleeding feet, continued north. Admiral Doyle criticized General Almond since the United Nations had stated that no non-Koreans troops were to be used in provinces bordering the Soviet Union or Manchuria. ROK troops were already reaching Wonsan by 11 October, making an amphibious landing unnecessary.

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To top things off, the waters off Wonsan were heavily filled with chemical, pressure and electronic mines. Admiral Struble assembled 21 minesweepers, 9 of which were Japanese. (This was against every diplomatic rule.) The clearing flotilla amassed at Sasebo and moved across the Japan Sea. The cruiser Rochester, with 5 destroyers, at first spotted 61 mines and then later discovered more than they could chart. The Missouri fired 163 rounds to detonate them, to no avail. After which, 39 fighter-bombers from the Leyte Gulf and the Philippine Sea dropped 1,000 lb. bombs, but concussion alone would not set off the hidden mines.

USS Merganser w/ USS Conserver off Wonsan, Korea

USS Merganser w/ USS Conserver off Wonsan, Korea

As of 9 October, the Allied forces were in a two-prong attack headed north. The Eighth Army, under General Walker was moving up from Seoul and X Corps, the victors at Inchon, on the eastern coast.

ROK minesweeper blown after hitting a mine

ROK minesweeper blown after hitting a mine

12 October, two Navy sweepers, Pledge & Pirate were blown up. Captain Richard Spofford called in the flying boats to assist the rescue of survivors. The mines seemed to multiply as a Japanese and ROK sweeper both disappeared; each had heavy casualties.

As Walker’s troops crossed over the 38th line, they found the NKPA had reorganized and reinforced their units. Hobart Gay’s 1st Cavalry went up against heavy resistance, but managed to get behind the enemy and capture Kumchon. Then, along with the 24th Division and the ROK 1st Division, they raced to Sariwon – the halfway point in the road to the North Korean capital.

The Argyll 1st Battalion

The Argyll 1st Battalion

The Scottish Argyll 1st Battalion, equipped with Sherman tanks, cleared the way for the 1st Cavalry and an orchard full of North Koreans. As evening came, the situation became confused. The NKPA thought the Argylls were Russian and the Scots believed the enemy were ROKs. Greetings were exchanged until Lieutenant Fairey realized the mistake and heavy fighting ensued. The North Koreans fled north – right into the Australian 3rd Battalion.

US Navy F-4U Corsair waits to take off from the USS Philippine Sea

US Navy F-4U Corsair waits to take off from the USS Philippine Sea

During this time, Moscow and Beijing were having heavy discussions concerning Korea. Mao wanted more Russian involvement and Stalin appeared to be reneging on his promises; Stalin wanted no war with the United States. When 2 Air Force jets strafed a Soviet airfield near Vladivostok on 8 October by mistake, the U.S. State Department offered an apology and compensation, but Stalin chose to ignore the incident altogether. MacArthur relieved the commander of the 49th Fighter-Bomber Group at K-2 in Taegu and ordered two of the pilots court-martialed.

12 October, Stalin sent Kim an invitation to rescue what was left of his North Korean army by crossing into Manchuria or Siberia. If Kim had accepted, the war would have been over then and there, but the following day, Mao confirmed that the Chinese would support the North Koreans. If war was to be fought with the U.S., best it be done on Korean soil was Mao’s ideology. Stalin responded by rescinding his invite to Kim and offered him good luck.

Back in the U.S., Senator Joseph McCarthy was in full swing with his “Communism in American Government” statements and claiming the Democratic party was soft on Communism. Three ex-FBI agents published, “Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television,” which became the infamous Black List of actors, composers, broadcasters, director, etc. The “red threat” and Cold War were in full swing.

Tuman and MacArthur on Wake Island, 15 Oct. 1950

Tuman and MacArthur on Wake Island, 15 Oct. 1950

Truman and MacArthur met on Wake Island 15 October and neither man was thrilled to be there. Their discussion lasted all of 90 minutes and the transcript was stamped TOP SECRET, filed and forgotten, but Colonel Larry Bunker stated that MacArthur expected the war to be over by Thanksgiving. (The Chinese were still not interring at this point.) When the conversation turned to France in Indochina, MacArthur stated, “…the best France has, couldn’t win… not an ounce of aggressiveness.” (The first ten American military advisers were already in Vietnam.) Truman closed the subject with, “You can’t do anything with the French.” Before he left, Truman presented the general with his fifth Distinguished Service Medal.

In his memoirs, MacArthur would write, “The conference on Wake Island made me realize that a curious and sinister change was taking place in Washington… This put me in an especially difficult situation. Up to now I had been engaged in warfare as it had been conducted through the ages – to fight to win. But I could see that the Korean War was developing into something quite different. There seemed to be a deliberate underestimating of the importance of the conflict to which the government had committed – and was expending – the lives of United States fighting men.” The CIA and the Brazilian Foreign Office, after their investigations, came to the same conclusion.

Click on images to enlarge.

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The Face of War

The Face of War

Farewell Salutes –

Vivian Joyner – Racine, WA; U.S. Army nurse

Thomas Verell, Sr. – Alexandria, VA & Naples, FL; U.S. Army Reserves, Korea, 38 year career

Frederick Van Voorhees Bronner – Albany, NY & Jupiter, FL; U.S. Navy, USS Amphitrite (ARL-29), WWII

Henry A. Deppe – Eastchester & Rye, NY – U.S. Army, 1st Lieutenant, WWII

Frank Guimond, Jr. – Springfield, MA; USMC photo interpreter, Korea

********************************** Another obituary of note *********************************

Berthold Beitz – 1913-2013

As a German businessman from a pro-Nazi family, he was sent to work in the Polish town of Boryslaw (now the Ukraine) as an executive for Carpathian Oil Co.. Upon seeing a Jewish mother who was carrying her child shot and killed, he began using his connections to save some 800 Jews from the Nazis. Some were even hidden in his cellar at home, where his wife cared for the. Letters he later received from the survivors were bound in a book. After the war, he became an envoy between East and West during the Cold War.

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Resources: “The Week magazine; National Archives; history.navy.mil; Truman Library; “Korean War” by Stephen Badsey; “The Korean War” by Maurice Isserman; “MacArthur’s War” by Stanley Weintraub; the Palm Beach Post

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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 29, 2013, in Korean War, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. gpcox – fascinating research about the mines and the sweepers. My late husband was a Commander of a Mine Sweeper but was too young for the Korean War. Thank you for sharing their story.

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  2. I had no idea about the close call with the Soviet air field in Vladivostok. Thank God Stalin had no desire to go to war with the U.S. Your blog manages to surprise and inform again.

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  3. You add a very human touch. No cloying sentimentality, no jingoistic “rah-rah” crap; just hard-hitting facts that speak for themselves. Great stuff …

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    • Thank you, Argus, I do my best. Sometimes I find it hard to keep my ideas to myself, but I let the reader know it is my thought. Like you said, the facts speak for themselves and often they do — louder and clearer than I ever could.

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  4. Fascinating story! I have learned a lot from your research and I thank you! Like many of the others have already said, I am glad that you included the comments at the end. I have long thought that our military men and women are not treated very well at all by the very government they have sworn allegiance to, all in the name of politics. God bless those men and women who put their lives on the line every day now and in the past. I have a special place in my heart for them, especially our wounded warriors and the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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  5. Fascinating view into accepted history. I am glad you included the postscript about Berthold Beitz. This helps rebalance our slipshod stereotyping of groups. People are individuals and often, gloriously, rise above their destiny.

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    • There were many more heroes out there than they can make movies of. Mr. Beitz was an important part of history and continued well after the war – he more than deserves recognition. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Hillary.

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  6. The very first sign of weakness shown, which led to Red China jumping into Korea, was that decision to send only ROK soldiers into areas bordering China and the USSR. As you pointed out here, Stalin thought Korea was done and he was having a similar reaction to that strafing incident that he had when Germany first launched Barbarossa…. ignoring it.

    Chairman Mao concluded differently when he realized that ‘Western’ troops were going no where near the Chinese border. He took it for exactly what it was, weakness. That war could have been over in 1950, just as you say and with a unified Korea.

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  7. In common with other commentors I am expressing astonishment at the NKPA/Argyll incident. And MacArthur ‘s words are again timely as we teeter on the brink of another military intervention in Syria.

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  8. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
    Part 8

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  9. Amazing. I was just saying the other day that politicians do not go to war to win anymore. I was thinking it started in Vietnam (rubber bullets in war? Seriously?) but MacArthur’s comment makes me realize it was much earlier. It seems like WWII was the last time this country went to war to win. Don’t get me wrong, I hate war, but if we have to send our military then it should be to get in, win, and get out.

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  10. Murphy’s Law ruled the day. If it wasn’t so dangerous and fatal, it would almost be comic.

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  11. Great pictures! So, how did they get rid of the mines…only by direct hit?

    Last paragraph…WOW…so glad yo included it…we need to stop sweeping the dirt under the rug.

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    • Isn’t that the truth! The mines were tedious (to say the least) but after painstaking work by the minesweepers and ‘frogmen’, they were able to make a fairly safe channel to the shore.

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  12. You share the most amazing stories. Thank you for doing this and honoring those who served. It’s mind boggling reading about what the armies did back then. And then to read about those that have recently passed, makes me wonder how they lived out the rest of their lives.

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  13. Your final paragraph with MacArthur’s observation on the changing strategy of warfare is very eye opening. Thanks

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  14. “The NKPA thought the Argylls were Russian and the Scots believed the enemy were ROKs.”

    Whew! An amazing incident…

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  15. The thought that “expending – the lives of United States fighting men” could be unimportant to anyone is shocking and distressing. That they were unimportant to the very people who sent them there…I struggle to find words to describe how I feel about that.

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    • That’s why I included it. Sometimes I feel some of the research needs to be glossed-over to protect young readers, but other things HAVE to be said. Don’t you think the men of the Vietnam War, etc. would agree with how the government feels about its military?

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  16. Interesting story– especially about the Argylls being confused for Russians.

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