Korean War (12)

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MacArthur’s twice rejected appeal to bring Chiang’s troops in from Taiwan was sent out again. Washington responded that the idea was being considered, but would involve political and diplomatic consequences. The British were calling for a multi-national committee to run the war, but in answer to that, General Omar Bradley retorted that no war could be directed by a committee.

30 November 1950, Truman held a press conference that ultimately turned into a discussion about using the atomic bomb. When asked by Frank Bourgholtzer of NBC, “Does this mean that we would not use the atomic bomb except on a United Nations’ authorization?” Truman replied, “The action against Communist China depends on the action of the UN. The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of weapons, as he always has…” (Truman, forgetting the rules of the Atomic Energy Act, had in fact handed the use of the A-bomb over to MacArthur.) This news immediately shot around the world.

General Marshall knew that Prime Minister Atlee would panic at the subject of the Bomb and sure enough, he was on is way to the U.S. Atlee, who had praised MacArthur on the Inchon invasion was now concerned with protecting British international trade and its colonies. MacArthur only wanted the weapon to be stored on Okinawa in the event it would be imperative to use to withdraw the troops safely out of Korea. (The threat of the Bomb, by the end of December, would come mainly from Washington.)

The Chosin, Nov.-Dec. 1950

The Chosin, Nov.-Dec. 1950

The 10,000 men of the 1st Marine Division, about 2,000 G.I.s and a small unit of the British Royal Marine Commandos were also threatened to be entrapped at their location. The massive battle of the Chosin Reservoir, destined to become the most famous battle of the war, began on 1 December. With the foresight of their commander, General O.P. Smith, having had moved gingerly before the CCF attack, had stockpiled supplies along the route from Hungnam. The Chinese forces were running low on supplies and becoming exhausted. MacArthur felt that General Walker had lost control of his troops; if he had made a stand above Pyongyang, the war would have gone differently.

The British General Mansergh sent a dispatch to London: American soldiers are not interested in the Korean civil war, their morale is bad and they are untrained for defense. They only joined in peacetime so as to receive a G.I. Bill education after discharge.

While leadership was being blamed for any defeat or retreat, a Silver Star sergeant was pulling off his mittens to hurl a hand grenade and got frostbitten fingers for his effort; Navy Lt.Commander Lessenden, running a Marine hospital tent, reported that plasma bottles were freezing and breaking; Corpsman Pfc Win Scott was holding morphine Syrettes in his mouth to keep them from freezing and soldiers were sleeping with their rifles to keep them operational. The Chinese were also dealing with the gruesome weather: Sgt. Ray Davis brought his colonel to see an enemy outpost – all but 2 men were frozen to death.

The Chosin

The Chosin

The long march south from Hagaru to Koto-ri, to be followed by Hungnam, began 6 December. To dispose of surplus ordnance, they shelled the Chinese during the night. Captain Drake and his 31st Tank Company were among the last units out of Hagaru and the town was set on fire as they saw the enemy scrounge the streets in search of food. The rear guard blew the bridge over Changjun River to slow the CCF from following. The road down was still a dangerous trek of icy, twisting turns causing trucks and tanks to slide down. The Chinese still lay in ambush, but the exhausted Allies continued to fight. The CCF blew a 16′ gap in a bridge known as Funchilin Pass, but the American engineers built a steel span from materials dropped by parachute.

MSgt. Thomas Brett, US Army 3rd Division said, “Cold chills still go up my spine as I recall watching Marines, themselves frozen from head to foot, meticulously caring for their wounded and bringing back the dead bodies of their comrades…”

6 December, MacArthur issued the CINCFE (Commander-in-chief, Far East) Plan No. 203 that was 38 pages detailing ‘the orderly withdrawal” of all UN forces and equipment from Korea to Japan. This would also include the ROKs and POWs, “due to pressure from superior forces.”

937th Field Artillery self-propelled 155-mm "Long Tom" guns

937th Field Artillery self-propelled 155-mm “Long Tom” guns

Both General Almond and Walker acted as though everything they destroyed – MacArthur could replace. General O.P. Smith argued the point on the destruction of good materiel and Almond told him, “Don’t worry about your equipment, once you get back we’ll replace it all.” Smith responded, “I’m not going to do that. This is the equipment we fight with.” When Almond flew out, Smith told his operations officer, “This guy is a maniac. He’s nuts. I can’t believe he’s saying these things.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – imagesCAJ7G97J

Nathaniel Young – Fairfax, VA & Tallahassee, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII ETO 8th AF co-pilot, 35 combat missions + D-Day

Kenneth Condit – NYC, NY & Princeton, NJ; US Army, WWII

Frances Stueve – Dyerville, Iowa & Washington DC; survivor of Pearl Harbor

William A. Bennett – Fort Pierce & Gainsville, FL; US Navy, WWII aircraft communications instructor, graduate of Annapolis

Charles F. Milheron – Bangor, ME; US Army, Korean War

John Fallat – Dickson City, PA & Alexandria, VA; US Navy, Korean War

Dennis Reinke – Arlington, VA; US Navy, 26 year veteran, Master Chief Petty Officer

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Resources: armchairgeneral.com; olivedrab.com; “Korean War” by Stephen Badsey; “Warfare of the 20th Century” by Christopher Chant; Army archives; “MacArthur’s War” by Stanley Weintraub & “Hey Mac, Where Ya Been?” by Henry Berry

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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 September 13, 2013, in Korean War and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. gpcox – I never realized that cold weather could be such a threat to the forces in Korea. It made me think of Valley Forge.

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  2. thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  3. I admit to feeling more and more depressed with these posts. So many soldiers tearing each other apart, so many civilians, their lives gone. Casual sentences like ‘…and the town was set on fire…’. Now we watch this nightly on TV from Syria. Like others I am ashamed at how little note I took of the Korean war. I am almost ashamed to belong to the human race, seeing what we did and are still doing to one another.

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  4. Another well-done entry. Thanks for bringing so much to light that we should not forget.

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  5. So easy for the pundits who make war happen, to sit back and deliver their ultimatums, but quite another to face the conditions their decisions have forced other into suffering.

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  6. Like we discussed in the earlier post, if Truman hadn’t been timid earlier and had US troops up front, near the Yalu, the Chinese would not have jumped in. They only did so, because they knew they’d be attacking weaker ROK forces first, and then wade into ours further south with momentum on their side. German Panzers, Soviet Shock troops, Patton’s Third Army, all showed before Korea that lightning momentum is half the victory in any offensive. The CCF offensive, had a lot of similarities to Stalingrad in that the Soviets did not break through German line to encircle the 6th Army, they broke through weaker Romanian, Italian, Hungarian troops which were protecting 6th Army’s flanks.

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  7. My goodness…I shake my head in astonishment. And the poor soldiers and doctors; such cold and terrible conditions they endured.

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  8. Thanks, I admire your words and welcome learning about a war that sometimes is forgotten 🙂

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  9. So many strange happenings behind the scenes. I have to wonder where I was when all of this was taking place that I heard so little about it. Thanks for the enlightenment.

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  10. Easy enough to be such a maniac, no?

    Which is why the guys wanting a war should always be in the front lines, enjoying their lovely war. Front lines, I said …

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  11. More surprising news in this post. Threatening to use the A Bomb again, really? Interesting note by the Brits about the American morale being low and the GIs only signing up because of the GI bill.

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  12. Would be good if some people who are talking war could read your blog. How soon they forget.

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  13. Gen. MacArther is THE hero in my book, as a person who was born and raised in Korea, South Korea that is, and old enough to know he saved us twice, once from the hands of Imperial Japan and again from the communist party up north.. Thanks for the great read!

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  14. “When Almond flew out, Smith told his operations officer, “This guy is a maniac. He’s nuts. I can’t believe he’s saying these things”…Seems this could apply to a number of the leadership on all sides. What appaling conditions for the soldiers. Thanks for reminding us about this terrible struggle.

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  15. I can’t even begin to imagine the Hell these soldiers went through. My opinion of General Almond continues to sink lower and lower.

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  16. Great story thank you for sharing. Ann

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  17. I have less respect for Truman after reading this. Not that I was overly impressed before now.

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  18. How can history forget this war?

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  19. Sometimes we have to look at what we sacrificed to understand who we are. These are the stories of the forgotten heroes who fought for the better good and to further democracy. Do you think MacArthur ever really considered using the A-bomb? What are your thoughts?

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  1. Pingback: KOREAN WAR Was A Sham | ELLIOT LAKE News

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