Marines - Accounts of the Korean War...

 
Close this window
 

The Inchon Landing - Victory over Time and Tide

by Lynn Montross
Historical Division Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
Reprinted from July 1951 issue of The Marine Corps Gazette
Reprinted with permission to The Korean War Educator


There was little to indicate that the Sunday morning of 25 June 1950 was a landmark for thousands of young men all over the United States. As they read their newspapers after breakfast, the pennant chances of the Dodgers probably concerned them more than the outbreak of an intramural war in Korea. It would hardly have occurred to these civilians that it was actually D-Day minus 82 for them. But these young men were Marine reservists, and in less than 12 weeks many of them would be halfway around the earth, making an amphibious landing in a flaming town on an Asiatic peninsula.

The Korean struggle achieved a personal significance for them when the United Nations ordered military sanctions against the Red Korean aggressors. By July 4th, U.S. naval, air, and land forces had been sent to Korea to help enforce those sanctions. It was D-Day minus 73, for an amphibious counterstroke was already being considered by Gen Douglas MacArthur, commander in chief of the UN forces assisting the Republic of Korea.

The strategic importance of the Inchon-Seoul area had been obvious ever since its seizure by North Korean invaders during the early days of the war (obvious in fact since the occasion in 1871 when the Marines first landed near Inchon.) Inchon was the principal port of the west coast; Seoul, the hub of the enemy’s communication lines between North Korea and his troops pushing into the Republic of Korea. Capture of the two cities would simultaneously disrupt the North Korean Army’s rear area and provide the UN forces with a valuable staging and supply point as well as air sites for further offensive operations.

At that time no Marine division was available for the proposed operation, and Gen MacArthur tentatively selected the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division. The Marine Corps was then represented in Japan by Mobile Training Group Able, which had arrived before the outbreak of war to instruct Army occupation troops in basic amphibious techniques. Col. Edward H. Forney, chief of the group, was appointed G-5 for the 1st Cavalry Division to assist with planning. Other members were sent in teams to camps in Japan with a mission of training troops for the landings.

The plan was abandoned on 10 July, owing to the rapid deterioration of the military situation in Korea. Red Korean invaders had sliced so deeply into ROK territory that it became necessary to use the 1st Cav Div to bolster the existing defense.

For thousands of Marine reservists, still going about their civilian occupations, the critical scene changed to the Pentagon. There, on 22 July, the Joint Chiefs of Staff granted Gen MacArthur’s repeated requests (10, 15, and 19 July) for a full-strength Marine division to be employed in Korea. It was now D-Day minus 54, but nothing resembling a full-strength Marine division was in sight. Old timers might have sighed for the days before the Fleet Marine Force when the mounting out of an expeditionary force was a relatively informal procedure. These veterans fondly recalled that an expeditionary force was simply "put together at the gangplank" of Marines hastily assembled from Navy Yards and equipped in the simple fashion of that day.

Although warfare had become more complex in 1950, it appeared that such drastic measures might have to be revived if the 1st Marine Division was to be re-constituted within a month. It had but a single infantry regiment early in July—the 5th Marines, which became the principal element of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and sailed from San Diego on the 14th to take part in the fight to hold the Pusan Perimeter. Including the brigade troops, the division was merely a skeleton organization, on a peacetime T/O, of approximately 8,000 officers and men. For that matter, the active duty Marine Corps of 30 June numbered only 74,279 troops assigned to a wide variety of security, training, and administrative duties.

Even the nostalgic old timers had to admit, however, that the Corps of 1950 had improved in one respect over the past. Although the troops for a full-strength division were not immediately available on a peacetime basis, most of the heavy equipment had been stored "in mothballs" since World War II at Barstow and other California depots. Some 500 civilians had to be employed for several weeks to recondition this equipment and load it on flatcars to be sent to the port of embarkation. The long columns of vehicles were driven over the road, not only to save shipping space but also to check their reconditioning.

Unfortunately, the personnel could not be stored in warehouses for an emergency. In order to build the 1st Marine Division up to a war-strength T/O of approximately 22,000, it would be necessary to call up the minute-men of 1950—those thousands of Reserve Marines still in their civilian jobs. On 19 July, immediately following presidential authorization, organized reserves were alerted by the Commandant for a call to active duty, with the first units reporting 10 days later. And on 7 August, D-Day minus 39, the Commandant began calling the volunteer reserve. Within a few weeks these Marines would have to be sorted out for assignment to the division, for further training, or to replace regulars who were stripped from posts and stations to join the brigade and the 1st Mar Div. Shades of the gangplank expeditionary forces!

By working an administrative miracle, the 1st Mar Div won the first round of its bout with time and tide when, on 15 August, it reached war-strength (less the 7th Marines) only 27 days after commencing its build-up from a peacetime T/O. A new 1st Marines had been formed, third rifle companies for the 5th Marines organized, support and service units put together—all in an integrated effort by reserves from civilian life, by regulars reporting from other stations, and by supply depots at Barstow and San Francisco.

Round two commenced on 17 August when the 7th Marines were activated, D-Day minus 29. Two under-strength battalions of the 6th Marines arrived at Pendleton from Lejeune to be joined by more regulars and reserves and were designated as 7th Marines. A peace-strength battalion, on duty with the Fleet, sailed from the Mediterranean directly to Japan. A third rifle company and third platoons for the other two companies of this battalion were assembled at Pendleton and embarked with the main body of the 7th Regiment on 3 September, D-Day minus 12.

In Japan, meanwhile, high-level planners were putting the cart before the horse by working on the Inchon-Seoul operation before the landing force was fully organized. As a preliminary measure the Tenth Corps had been activated on 16 August with MajGen Edward S. Almond in command. The principal elements were to be the 1st Mar Div and the U.S. Army 7th Infantry Division, the latter being scarcely more than a cadre in Japan at this time.

General MacArthur wished to land at Inchon not later than favoring tides permitted in September. He considered this the latest date when the operation could be launched with good prospects of being finished before cold weather. The time was short, therefore, when the X Corps staff was formed on 16 August with the title Special Planning Staff, Far East Command.

Some of the problems awaiting the planners had already been approached by Gen MacArthur’s staff. As early as July a Joint Army Navy Intelligence Service report on selected Korean beaches had revealed that high tides and mud flats presented major problems in landing along the entire west coast. When the meteorological and hydrographic data were considered, it became evident than an Inchon landing must surmount unusual if not unique obstacles. Low seas were common from May through August, while high seas prevailed from October through March. This left September, a transition period, as the only autumnal month when conditions, though variable, were satisfactory for putting troops ashore.

In all September there were three days when such an operation could be attempted. The tidal range near Inchon is one of the greatest in the world, varying from an average spring tide range of 27.1 feet to an occasional maximum of 33 feet. The extensive mud flats in the harbor area necessitated a tidal height of 23 feet for landing craft, and 29 feet for LSTs. Only from 15 to 18 September were these conditions provided by spring tides, and the next opportunity would not come until the middle of October.

Each of these three days, moreover, offered but a few hours that could be utilized for an amphibious assault. Owing to the tidal currents and narrow channel leading to the objective area, daylight landings were necessary for all but selected small groups. The duration of spring tides above the prescribed minimum averaged three to four hours, and during this interval the maximum in troops and supplies must be put ashore. Every minute counted, because initial landing forces could not be reinforced or supplied until the next high water period.

Time and tide, in short, seemed to have combined to protect Inchon from sea-borne foes. Islands, reefs, and shoals restricted the approach to the outer harbor, so that only a single channel was available for large ships throughout the eight miles. Currents ranging from three to six knots multiplied the chances of confusion in an amphibious operation. And much of the inner harbor was a vast mud flat at low water, penetrated by a single, narrow, dredged channel 12 to 13 feet deep.

As if such difficulties were not enough, a brief general survey of the target area was also discouraging. Two islands, Wolmi-do and Sowolmi-do, located in the commanding position between outer and inner harbors, were linked to each other and to Inchon by a causeway. In advance of intelligence reports, it had to be assumed that Wolmi-do would be honeycombed with harbor defenses. This critical terrain feature must be reduced as a preliminary to any larger landing. For Inchon’s "beaches" were but narrow strips of urban waterfront, protected by a seawall and flanked by Wolmi-do. The height was too great for ramps to be dropped at any stage of the tide, and some method must be found for the assault troops to scale the wall under fire. Once past, there remained the task of seizing a city of 250,000 inhabitants as the initial beachhead.

Even with all these obstacles, Inchon offered the best combination available on Korea’s west coast for favorable landing conditions and proximity to the strategic objective. The greatest unknown in the equation was the resistance to be expected in the target area. Even assuming that most of the North Korean troops would be engaged to the southward, it was conceivable that only a few thousand defenders might turn an Inchon landing into another Tarawa.

These were the broad aspects of the problem remaining to be solved by high-level planners. Both Gen MacArthur and Gen Almond left no doubt from the beginning that Marines were to share in the planning. Shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, Lt Gen Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, conferred in Tokyo with Gen MacArthur concerning the movement of Marine elements to the Far East. Following the formation of the X Corps staff, Col Forney was designated as deputy chief of staff, responsible for all amphibious planning. In addition, Gen Almond wished to have one Marine officer attached to each staff section in a regular capacity along with Army and Navy officers. Marines of Mobile Training Group Able, therefore, were assigned as working members of the X Corps staff.

CG 1st Mar Div was given the responsibility for the detailed planning concerning the employment of his division, the X Corps’ landing force. Gen MacArthur requested early in August that an advance planning group be sent by air from Pendleton to Tokyo. 12 officers and six enlisted men of the 1st Division staff left California on 15 August, and a second group of 11 officers and four enlisted men took off four days later. These groups reached Tokyo on 19 and 22 August and reported to Commander Naval Forces Far East (COMNAVFE) on board the Mount McKinley, flagship of Commander Amphibious Group One (Commander Attack Force).

From the beginning the relationship between the 1st Mar Div as landing force and Phib Group One as attack force was clear and in accordance with USF doctrine. But the command status and responsibilities for the assault landing phase of CG X Corps, Commander Joint Task Force 7, and COMNAVFE remained "vague and confusing." None of these commands ever appeared under well-defined titles which, under existing amphibious doctrine, would have been appropriate to the echelons involved.

Not only were unusual limitations of time and space a factor in 1st Mar Div detailed planning, but also the separation of the planning group from the remainder of the division while the brigade was in action in southern Korea and other elements had not yet departed Pendleton. As an added responsibility, Marines had in part in the amphibious training of the U.S. Army 7th Inf Div. Before being attached to X Corps, this unit had been stripped of troops to strengthen other Army divisions in Korea. Only a skeleton organization remained, with some of the companies being reduced to 50 men. At this stage the members of Mobile Training Group Able were given a two-fold mission—while some of them served on the X Corps planning staff, others had the duty of training 7th Div troops in amphibious techniques. Marine teams visited the camps in Japan, giving instruction while new increments, including 8,000 Korean troops, brought that division up to war strength. A remarkable build-up and training task was accomplished to ready the 7th Div for operations following its D-day-plus-four landings at Inchon.

Meanwhile, planners of X Corps and the 1st Mar Div worked against time. Only about 20 days stretched ahead of them for the preliminary studies, estimates, assumptions, and decisions which were eventually boiled down into an order to "seize by amphibious assault, occupy, and defend a beachhead in the Inchon area; transport, land, and support the follow-up elements of the X Corps, in order to support the seizure by the X Corps of Inchon, Kimpo AF, and Seoul; the blocking of enemy forces south of the line Suwon-Inchon, and the severance of enemy communications in the Seoul area."

Much depended on X Corps intelligence reports when it came to dealing with problems concerning the target area. The question as to the ability of LVTs to traverse the mud flats of Inchon harbor could not be satisfactorily answered. Planning, therefore, went ahead on the assumption that they could not. And aerial photographic coverage revealed that the seawall along the Inchon waterfront averaged 16 feet above low water.

Advance estimates of enemy numbers and installations were based on aerial observation as well as Eighth Army reports and PW interrogations in southeastern Korea. Initial X Corps estimates placed the Red Korean strength in the Inchon area at 1,500 to 2,500 troops. Photographic interpretation showed a formidable array of defensive positions, but most of them appeared to be unoccupied. Daily aerial observation reports during the planning period indicated an almost complete lack of enemy activity.

On the assumption that enemy resistance in the harbor area would be light, X Corps planners accepted the calculated risk which is a distinguishing feature of the Inchon landing. This was the bold decision to seize Wolmi-do Island during the early morning high tide when tanks could be landed, then postpone the main assault at Inchon until late afternoon high tide. This plan gave the enemy a 12-hour warning during which to prepare a warm reception for the main effort.

The alternative of attacking both objectives simultaneously was dismissed as an even greater hazard. In that case the landing craft for the Inchon assault would have to traverse a narrow and torturous channel in the pre-dawn darkness. The troops, moreover, would be exposed to point-blank enfilade fire from Wolmi-do’s batteries.

The planners agreed that this key to the harbor defenses must be seized first. But they did not propose to place too much trust in advance intelligence reports indicating light resistance. This factor could better be determine in advance of D-Day by moving up a few destroyers almost within pistol range to bombard the island, challenging enemy batteries to return fire and disclose their positions.

This bold plan revived in earnest the good old Navy command, "Stand by to repel boarders!" The daring mission of the destroyers involved the risk of grounding on the mud flats and being left high and dry by the receding tide. It was candidly recognized by Navy planners that enemy troops might cross a few hundred yards of mud and try to swarm upon the decks. No cutlasses were provided, but the destroyer crews were issued rifles and tommy guns, just in case.

After the seizure of Wolmi-do, dependence was to be placed on naval gunfire and naval air strikes to beat down enemy opposition before the afternoon landings on the Inchon beaches. Carrier air support was planned until Kimpo Airfield could be seized, at the earliest possible moment, so that planes of Marine Air Wing 1 could support the advance on Seoul.

Calculated audacity was also the spirit of the detailed planning by the 1st Mar Div. Only two regiments were available for the assault, and in 90 minutes of fading daylight they must gain a foothold in an Oriental city as populous as Omaha. The solution adopted was to land one regiment in the most thickly populated area, about a thousand yards from two commanding heights. The other regiment was to land toward the base of the Inchon peninsula and swing around in the rear of the city to bar escape of defenders or arrival of reinforcements.

The problem of high priority supplies and equipment was urgent, since the landing force could hardly wait until the high tide of the following morning. This led to the bold plan of beaching LSTs for that purpose only 30 minutes after H-hour. These unwieldy vessels, of course, would be sitting ducks for enemy fire if the landing troops met with reverses. But that risk was considered preferable to delay.

COMNAVFE VAdm Charles T. Joy, through Commander JTF 7 (VAdm Arthur D. Struble, Commander 7th Fleet) commanded all forces engaged in the amphibious operations until command of operations ashore was passed to Gen Almond, CG X Corps. Control of landing force troops passed from Commander Attack Force (RAdm James H. Doyle, ComPhiGruOne) to Commander Landing Force (CG 1stMarDiv) after the securing of beachheads and notification from MajGen O.P. Smith that he was ready to assume the command. Command of the X Corps troops passed to CG X Corps from Commander JTF 7 after the Corps landed and Gen Almond assured Adm Struble of his readiness to assume command. When directed by Commander JTF 7, the Attack Force was to be dissolved. Adm Doyle would then be Commander Naval Support Force, to operate directly under COMNAVFE.

Much of this plan depended upon closely coordinated air support, to be provided by the Air Support Group of the Attack Force—two Marine squadrons based on the two CVEs of CARDIV-15, as well as Navy aircraft squadrons of a fast carrier group and Tactical Air Command, X Corps. The latter was a provisional Marine organization consisting of a headquarters and Marine Air Group 33 (Reinf), directly under command of CG X Corps for the purpose of providing tactical air support to X Corps. BrigGen Thomas J. Cushman was designated tactical air commander of X Corps under Gen Almond. Command and ground echelons of MAG-33 were to embark with JTF-7 aircraft echelons based in Japan and to be flown into Kimpo Airfield after that objective had been seized and declared operational.

Carrier based squadrons had the duty of providing close and deep air support during the amphibious phase under Attack Force control. Close air support control passed to CG X Corps after he assumed control ashore and when his TAC was prepared to exercise control. Air Force planes would operate in the objective area only when requested by Commander JTF 7 or CG X Corps after he exercised control of air operations.

The main elements of X Corps were the 1st Mar Div (Reinf), the U.S. Army 7th Inf Div (Reinf), X Corps Tactical Air Command, the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (under operational control of Far Eastern Air Force during movement to objective area), a regiment of ROK Marines, and supporting troops.

There had been little time for training the initial landing force elements to reach Japan. The only rehearsals were those conducted by the 3rd Bn, 5th Marines, after it was designated to assault Wolmi-do. More training would have been desirable, but the prize to be gained by reaching the objective area on 15 September outweighed the risks involved in slighting last-minute training.

When the 1st Marines arrived at Kobe, the enemy was launching his greatest offensive in southeastern Korea with elements of 14 battered divisions. The 5th Marines, summoned for the third time in a month to counterattack alongside Army regiments, had a prominent part in defeating this attempt to break the Pusan Perimeter. Even while the issue hung in doubt, Eighth United States Army Korea (EUSAK) G-3 Plans Section was planning a general Eighth Army offensive to be mounted simultaneously with the Inchon landing for the purpose of destroying enemy forces south of the Inchon-Seoul-Utchin line. This offensive was scheduled for 16 September, following the Marines’ Inchon landing and ROK Marines’ amphibious raids elsewhere on both the East and West coasts. As a further diversion, the battleship Missouri was to shell East-coast areas, including the port and rail center of Samchok.

For the reserve Leathernecks, so drastically uprooted from civil life within the recent weeks, the typhoon which welcomed the 1st Marines to Kobe on 3 September probably seemed only a breeze by comparison. Two ships were damaged, but the loss of 24 hours’ working time was more to be deplored. Troops had arrived in mixed-type shipping which had to be unloaded by Japanese labor and combat-loaded into assault type shipping. The LSTs had to sail for Inchon by 10 September, and transports by the morning of the 12th. These tight schedules were observed to the minute. The only serious disruption was cased by the belated arrival at Kobe of a ship loaded with 1,300 tons of ammunition, with the result that the assault shipping sailed with only 20 percent of desired ammunition quantity. Another typhoon threatened from 12 to 14 September without materializing. All ships, including those transporting the brigade from Pusan, arrived at the rendezvous area prior to the scheduled departure of the task force.

While the troop ships were making an uneventful voyage, naval gunfire support ships got in the first licks at Inchon. Preliminary bombardments were laid down on 13 and 14 September by two U.S. heavy cruisers, two British light cruisers, and six U.S. destroyers. The problem of enemy defenses on Wolmi-do was solved, according to plan, on D-day minus two when three destroyers anchored off the island at ranges more suited to throwing forward passes than five-inch shells.

As the tactical equivalent of running interference, this bombardment succeeded brilliantly in its purpose of taking out opposing tacklers. The batteries on Wolmi-do, goaded into replying, hit two of the destroyers. Enemy positions were spotted by hovering aircraft and naval guns silenced all hostile fire. The valiant "cans" were not seriously damaged, and their precautions to repel boarders proved unnecessary.

The next day VMF-214 and VMF-323 squadrons from CVEs Sicily and Badoeng Strait flew air strikes against Wolmi-do defenses. These squadrons had conducted preliminary softening-up and interdiction operations from 6 to 10 September in the objective area. During this period some 5,000 sorties were flown by Air Force, Navy, and Marine planes in an effort to paralyze enemy communications.

The CVEs withdrew to Sasebo for replenishment and returned to the Inchon area in time to join Navy aircraft of the fast carriers for operations on 14 September. Simultaneously, the destroyers treated the harbor area to a second day of close-range bombardments which met with no response from the shore batteries.

Gen MacArthur had asked Gen Shepherd and his party to accompany him on the Mount McKinley. So rapidly had the Inchon operation burgeoned from an idea into a fact that some of the final arrangements for the landings were completed that last night on board the flagship.

D-Day (15 September 1950) dawned with overcast skies and the threat of rain squals. While the cruisers and destroyers pounded Wolmi-do, three LSMRs contributed an intense rocket fire. At L-hour, 0630, the 3rd Bn, 5th Marines, supported by tanks, hit Green Beach with G and H companies in assault and I in reserve. No enemy fire was received from enemy beach positions. Although a NK battalion estimated at 400 to 500 troops occupied Wolmi-do, the Leathernecks moved so fast that they met only light and scattered resistance from small, disorganized groups armed with rifle grenades and automatic weapons. These forces were rapidly overrun by assault troops who swept on to seize the high ground [They broke an American flag over that hill, which Gen MacArthur took as his signal to leave the bridge of the Mount McKinley and go below for coffee.] in the center of the island. An estimated 180 enemy were killed and 136 captured at a cost of 17 wounded Marines. Sowolmi-do Island, connected to Wolmi-do by a causeway, was seized at 1115 by a reinforced squad of G Company supported by a section of tanks. An enemy platoon was destroyed in this action.

Following the seizure of the harbor islands, a patrol could discover no mines along the 1,000-foot concrete causeway from Wolmi-do to Inchon. As planned earlier, preparations were then made to support the advance of Detachment A, 1st Tank Bn, across the causeway on order of CO 5th Marines.

Up to this point the intelligence promise of light resistance had been upheld by results. After the securing of Wolmi-do, however, came the critical lull when the tide fell to leave a vast mud flat between the island and mainland. Even though the enemy might have no more than the estimated maximum of 2,500 troops in the Inchon area, this lull gave him opportunity to rush reinforcements from Kimpo Airfield or even Seoul. To defeat such efforts, Marine and Navy fliers delivered strikes on NK communications within a 25-mile zone around the seaport.

Another devastating naval and air bombardment preceded H-hour at 1730. The two cruisers and five destroyers giving direct support were anchored as closely as possible to shore as the LSTs, LCVPs, and other landing craft churned the water toward the beaches. Enemy resistance at this stage consisted only of sporadic and ineffectual mortar fire directed at the smaller support ships.

Some confusion was caused among the landing craft by tidal currents as well as low visibility resulting from rain squals, smoke from burning buildings, and approaching nightfall. The waterfront area presented an ominous spectacle as flashes and explosions stabbed the premature dusk. This inferno, fortunately, was more deadly in appearance than reality. For only scattered automatic and mortar fire met the Leathernecks of RCT 1 and RCT 5 when the first waves, landing on schedule, hit Blue and Red Beaches respectively.

Preparatory bombardments had done such effective work that NK defensive efforts were dislocated when not paralyzed. On both beaches the seawall proved to be more of an obstacle than the enemy. Not enough scaling ladders could be provided, and delays occurred while some of the Marines scrambled over with the aid of the available equipment. Others made their way through holes blasted by naval gunfire.

After the first troops hit the beaches, following waves had trouble with intermingling of units when currents and low visibility prevented coxswains from landing in assigned areas. Confusion and delays resulted on both beaches, but the leadership of company and noncommissioned officers soon restored order.

The narrow confines of Red Beach, only about 650 yards in width, made it necessary for RCT 5 to land with two battalions abreast, each in column of companies. The initial objective line (O-A) line, about 1,000 yards inland, included the two commanding heights known as Cemetery and Observatory Hills.

Only an hour and a half of daylight remained for the Leathernecks to fight their way through the devious streets and alleys of this Oriental city. But the assault echelons of RCT 5 let no grass grow under their feet. So swift was their advance that A Company reached the top of Cemetery Hill while an LST was still firing on that position. It was no time to go by the book, and the two battalions of RCT 5 forged ahead through the early darkness toward Observatory Hill. The enemy was more conservative, and resistance which had been light ceased altogether at nightfall. The Marines were well-briefed as to streets and houses, so that most of the 1st Bn reached the top of Observatory Hill at 2000 and tied in later with the 2nd Bn on their right. Patrols sent forward about 500 yards from the O-A line encountered no resistance.

Meanwhile RCT 1, after landing south of the causeway, pushed inland through a sparsely settled factory district to seize the high ground of O-1 on the southern outskirts of the city. The first assault waves encountered such desultory small arms fire on Blue Beach that the 2nd Bn had only a single casualty. Here the confusion among following waves led to more serious delays than on Red Beach, but the first troops got off to a flying start. The terrain of this bottomland area consisted of rice paddies as well as warehouses and factories. It was good defensive country, but only a few enemy riflemen disputed an advance which continued after darkness without much regard to flanks. The various battalion objectives along the high ground of O-1 were reached from 2000 to 2200 by troops who dug in for a quiet night.

The daring plan to support the two assault regiments with high priority supplies paid off richly when eight LSTs were beached abreast on Red Beach at H plus 30 without encountering trouble. Cargoes consisted of 100 tons of block cargo, 50 tons of ammunition, 30 tons of rations, 15 tons of water, and five tons of fuel, accompanied by elements of the 2nd Engineer Brigade and their bulldozers. This was the solution to problems of immediate supply until the morning high tide would allow larger quantities to be unloaded with less danger of enemy interference.

Batteries of the 11th Marines began landing on Green Beach at 1845 and by 2150 the 1st and 2nd Bns were occupying positions on Wolmi-do. Owing to the light resistance in Inchon and the smoke overhanging the city, little firing was done that night. On D-day plus one these two battalions landed in Inchon, followed by the remainder of the regiment.

About a third of the city had been secured the first day, and both infantry regiments were in good positions to jump off the next morning. Nor had the cost been excessive, for the landing which might have been another Tarawa had resulted in total D-day casualties of 17 killed, two missing, and 165 wounded.

The accuracy of intelligence as to enemy strength was remarkable. After the event it was estimated that the main NK elements at Wolmi-do and Inchon consisted of about 2,000 men—at least two battalions of the 226th Independent Marine Regiment, supported by companies of the 918th Artillery Regiment and small service units. These troops were for the most part of low quality, consisting of recent recruits with little training.

At 0630 on D plus 1 the two Marine regiments resumed their assault to seize the rest of Inchon and other division objectives. RCT 5 jumped off from the O-A line in a column of battalions, moving through the main east-west streets with the 2nd Bn leading the 1st Bn by 1,000 yards. The 3rd Bn, which had crossed over the causeway from Wolmi-do the night before, was in reserve.

From the O-1 line the 1st Marines began an advance which would take it about 7,000 yards to seal off the Inchon peninsula at its narrowest point. The companies proceeded in platoon columns through hill and paddy country without meeting any effective resistance. One of the largest enemy groups encountered was a platoon of 25 men which a lieutenant surrendered to two squads of G Company after nine of his men were killed in a brief fire fight.

Contact between the two Marine regiments was made at 1000, and at 1335 a coordinated assault was launched to secure the beachhead line. Mopping up of by-passed pockets of enemy resistance in the city was left to the ROK Marines. These recent recruits went about the work with such trigger-happy enthusiasm that the streets were unsafe for all other Koreans, of whatever political persuasian.

The only threat of serious opposition on D plus one came when aerial observers spotted six enemy tanks waddling into the 1st Marine zone. Marine Corsairs pounced on them, and within a few minutes only heaps of crumpled and blazing wreckage remained.

Aside from this ill-timed venture, the quality of NK resistance may be measured by total Marine casualties for the second day, four killed and 21 wounded. The enemy, on the other hand, had suffered an estimated 1,350 casualties and the loss of about 300 prisoners during the first two days.

Logistical problems came much nearer to solution when 17 out of 23 LSTs were successfully beached on the morning high tide to be unloaded by the 1st Shore Party Bn and attached elements of the 2nd Engineer Brigade. General unloading began late that afternoon, when it was concluded that the tidal basin could be made operable without major repairs.

At 1730, just 24 hours after hitting the beaches, the landing phase of the Inchon-Seoul operation ended when Gen Smith established his CP on the outskirts of Inchon, near the secured Force Beachhead Line. First reports from the Pusan Perimeter indicated that the follow-up offensive of the Eighth Army had also got off to a good start. Gains were made all along the front, and the 2nd Div hurled the enemy back across the river in the Naktong Bulge sector.

But there was no time for the Leathernecks at Inchon to dwell upon preliminary successes. The task of the 1st Mar Div had only begun as the assault troops advanced several miles beyond the city on the evening of 16 September, taking positions astride the railroad in readiness to jump off to the eastward the following morning. No other combat elements of X Corps had landed as yet, and it was up to the two [Seventh Regiment would not reach Inchon until D-day plus 7] Marine regiments to seize Kimpo Airfield, cross the river Han, and advance on Seoul.

 

Close this window
 

2002-2014 Korean War Educator. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of material is prohibited.

- Contact Webmaster with questions or comments related to web site layout.
- Contact Lynnita for Korean War questions or similar informational issues.
- Website address: www.koreanwar-educator.org
 

Hit Counter