Lieutenant Ralph Barnes of Arlington, Va., platoon leader,
1st Platoon, Co. C, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division,
throws a hand grenade at Chinese Communist positions, as UN troops
launch an offensive attack against the Chinese near Uijong-Bu. 23 March 1951.
Now that was not high on the tactics training for officers! The high casualty rates of company-grade officers earlier in the war
indicated it was definitely better to give this type of job to a PFC. If he were within effective grenade range, he would have been exposing
himself to direct counter-fire. Every man is important, PFCs included, but losing its Platoon Leader would put the entire unit at risk.
For Korea, 1950 was a year of brutal aggression, bloody counter-attack, entrapment and ended in disarray and tragedy.
Before daylight on Sunday, June 25, 1950, the North Korea People's Army attacked south across the 38th parallel. North Korean Premier Kim Il Sung's eight combat-ready divisions, mostly veterans of WWII and China's Civil War, led by 120 Soviet T34 medium tanks and extensive mobile artillery, crushed the ill-equipped and greatly outnumbered ROK forces.
The United States and United Nations quickly came to South Korea's aid. We stopped North Korea at the Pusan Perimeter, cut them off with General MacArthur's brilliant amphibious assault at Inchon, and drove the enemy back to the Yalu, almost winning the war at a single stroke.
But, in November, China entered the war in force. Our armies were ambushed, routed, and driven back into South Korea.
In early 1951, both sides had savage reverses, the year ending with Talks which dragged on for two years to an inconclusive Cease Fire.
Our major adversary, the Chinese army, was experienced at fluid warfare, opportunistic, disciplined, and very brave. American troops were also brave, but during the first 10 months or so of the war we were not well led at the company and field grade levels, or above.
But we learned.
We re-defined and re-established the leadership requirements of our officer corps. Our combat units again developed into teams, as we had in WWII. We fought the Chinese to a standstill, and then drove them back to about the original national boundaries.
South Korea is free today, because of the valor of men like those in these photos.
As many another young man, I really went to war for the excitement and to test myself. Yet now, as I grow old, I remember with great pride that I was once their comrade in arms.