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A 4.2 inch mortar crew, members of Heavy Weapons Company, 21st Infantry Regiment, fires on the attacking North Korean 4th Division near Chochiwan, 11 July 1950. NK's 4th Division had routed the 3rd Battalion before noon that day, the 3rd's CO was killed and it lost 60 percent of its strength. With the infantry in retreat, these positions were soon also overrun and these mortarmen escaped as best they could, if they could. In fact, the Regiment was so used up that many men, although uninjured, just sat by the side of the road and waited for the NK to take them. From thehuge number of our MIA's who were never accounted for, most or all of them probably soon became NK bayonet practice.
Our troops kept retreating until a fairly stable defense line was formed around the Pusan Perimeter, which was made possible because of the ill-prepared warriors like the 21st being sacrificed in delaying actions.
In this action, 21st IR abandoned enough equipment to supply and arm two rifle battalions, about a thousand men. This was not uncommon, and one of the main reasons the NK could continue attacking when their supply routes were completely interdicted by our total control of the air.
But the sacrifice of these unprepared troops was not in vain. General Walker had time to bring in more battle-ready troops for the perimeter defense, including the 5th Marines who were the core of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade. The Marine Brigade totally crushed the NK 4th Division at the 1st and 2nd Battles of the Naktong, eliminating that division as a fighting force, and re-capturing large quantities of equipment and returning it to the Army. (I'd guess they replaced some of their own worn-out weapons first, before then mounting out for the assault on Inchon ...)
The above is one of Roy E. Appleman's South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu illustrations, a documentary of the first six months of the Korean War.
For Korea, 1950 was a year of brutal invasion and savage fighting, with catastrophic consequences on their people's lives.
Before daylight on Sunday, June 25, 1950, the North Korea People's Army attacked south across the 38th parallel.
Kim Il Sung, the North Korean Premier, had an army 135,000 strong, far superior to that of South Korea: Eight mostly battle-hardened divisions with a large reserve force, spear-headed by 120 Soviet T34 medium tanks, supported by extensive mobile artillery, and an air force of 180 Soviet fighters and bombers.
The Republic of Korea (ROK) Army had only 95,000 men and four combat-ready but lightly-armed infantry divisions, supported by a total of eighty-nine 105-mm howitzers. The ROKs had been given no tanks.
The North Koreans quickly crushed South Korean defenses, and butchered a path down the peninsula until they were stopped by United Nations forces under General Douglas MacArthur at the Pusan Perimeter.
Reinforced by the powerful and resolute 5th Marine Brigade, our embattled forces held at the Perimeter until MacArthur had built up an Air-Ground-Naval force and swept over the beaches of Inchon, far behind North Korean lines. This was arguably the most astonishing amphibious assault of the twentieth century. The enemy was routed, Seoul was recaptured, and the pre-war borders were re-taken.
At this point High Command made a fatal miscalculation. The 38th parallel had been an artificial division between the Koreas. Much more defensible bounderies could have been established for the South. Given the North's demonstrated intent to destroy the South, moving into the North as necessary to establish more formidable border positions would have been reasonable.
However instead of simply readjusting the borders ROK forces, and then Eighth Army, launched a full invasion of the North. Some ROK elements and a few units of X Corps even reached the Yalu.
But we had drastically underestimated China's concerns. In November, they sent their veteran guerilla armies into the war in force. Our armies were ambushed, routed, and driven back deep into South Korea in the longest retreat in the history of the American Army.
Eventually, our forces re-grouped and stopped China's advance.
Throughout all this carnage, huge numbers of desperate civilian refugees of both Koreas were swept back and forth like birds in a forest fire, as went the fortunes of war.
And so entered 1951, with its own full share of violence and tragedy.
Today, as we stand down from Iraq and Afghanistan, we face the same decisions in Leadership and Intelligence that we so tragically failed to solve after WWII.
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