A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KOREAN WAR
PACIFIC STARS & STRIPES
[Editor’s Note: The following verbatim, but only partial (June 25, 1950-March 30, 1953),
history of the war in Korea was published in a special edition of Pacific Stars and Stripes. The credit
for the content of "The War in Korea" article goes to that magazine.]
THE WAR IN KOREA - JUNE 25, 1950 TO MARCH 1953
The Korean War, touched off on June 25, 1950, by the sudden, treacherous attack upon the tiny Republic of
Korea by Communist North Korean forces, brought together forces of more than a score of free countries under the
battle flag of the United Nations. For more than two and a half years, these land, sea, and air forces have
fought the Communists on the divided Korean peninsula as part of the United Nations Command.
First United States troops rushed to the battle zone from Japan in early July, 1950, were from the 24th
Infantry Division. "Task Force Smith," commanded by Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith, consisting of elements of
Companies B and C, 21st Infantry Regiment, a battery of 105 howitzers from the 52d Field Artillery Battalion,
plus some mortars, 2.36-inch bazookas, and recoilless rifles, reached Pusan on July 2, 1950, and moved up to
meet the Korean Communist forces pouring down from the north. Overwhelming numbers of well-armed, well-trained
North Korean soldiers, spearheaded by Russian-made T-34 tanks, hit the small U.S. force on the morning of July 5
and forced a withdrawal. By this time, other elements of the 24th had reached Korea and joined "Task Force
Smith" in its efforts to halt the North Korean advance.
The enemy was demonstrating surprising strength by this time. He had plenty of tanks, artillery, and mortars;
his infantry was well-trained, tough, and aggressive, and his tactics were well-planned and executed. In the
face of this superiority in numbers and offensive weapons, U.S. troops fought back valiantly, withdrawing only
when threatened with encirclement and making the enemy pay for every inch of yielded ground.
These delaying tactics gained time for the arrival of other U.S. units in Korea, and while the enemy was not
stopped, he was forced to slow down his timetable, which called for seizure of the entire peninsula within weeks
of his first break across the 38th parallel.
On July 7, 1950, the commanding general of Eighth Army, Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, arrived in Taejon. On July
12, Gen. Walker was named by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as ground commander in Korea, and on July 13,
EUSAK—Eighth United States Army Korea—was established. Before that date, the United States Army Forces in Korea
(USAFIK) was commanded by Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, commander of the 24th Division. On July 24, 1950, Gen.
MacArthur, with the authority vested in him by President Truman in response to a resolution of the United
Nations Security Council, established the United Nations Command with headquarters in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, other U.S. divisions were being dispatched to Korea. By July 15 all combat elements of the 25th
Division were either in or going to Korea. The 1st Cavalry Division landed at Pohang-dong on the east coast of
Korea on July 18, 1950, to join the fighting.
The North Koreans crossed the Kum River despite all efforts to stop them and, on July 20, the key city of
Taejon fell into enemy hands.
Gen. Dean, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his part in this fight, was wounded and taken
prisoner while defending Taejon. U.S. and Republic of Korea forces were able to blast the enemy’s tank
spearheads with the newly-arrived 3.5 inch-bazooka and resist frontal attacks, but the enveloping and
infiltration tactics skillfully employed by the enemy kept compressing the defending troops into a smaller and
The desperate stand by U.S. and R.O.K. units during this period was marked by innumerable acts of individual
heroism and sacrifice. And time was running out for the North Koreans. With each day of battle that passed,
their chances of driving the defenders of freedom into the sea lessened, for reinforcements and new weapons were
on their way to embattled Eighth Army.
Two battalions of the 29th Infantry Regiment arrived in Korea from Okinawa on July 25 and were thrown into
the line against the Reds. Six days later, the 5th Regimental Combat Team came from Hawaii. A full strength,
battle-ready division, the 2d Infantry, was on its way from the ZI, while the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was
also headed for the Korean battlefront.
In order to establish stronger defensive positions, the Eighth Army broke contact with the enemy on the night
of July 31 and withdrew to positions inside the natural defenses offered by the Naktong River. By August 4, the
withdrawal was complete. The 25th Division took up positions on the left south flank of the line in the Masan
area. The 24th Division extended from the Naktong-Nam River junction to the north. The 1st Cavalry was on the
right of the 24th, its right flank west of Taegu. From there the line curved to the north and then east,
anchoring on the coast at Yongdok. The ROK 1st, 6th, 8th, Capitol, and 3d Divisions held the northern sector in
that order. It was on this line, known as the Pusan Perimeter, that Gen. Walker issued his famed "Stand or Die"
The six weeks that the Eighth Army spent inside the Pusan Perimeter was a period of fighting brush fires with
an inadequate number of firemen. The forces under Gen. Walker’s command were too small even to man the defense
lines completely. To offset this situation and to put out the fires along the perimeter, great mobility was
required. This mobility was provided by a rail and road net maintained and operated by U.S. service troops.
The enemy’s main effort against the Pusan Perimeter was made along the Taejon-Taegu axis. A diversionary
attack was ordered toward Chinju to ease the pressure on Taegu and on Aug. 7, "Task Force Kean," led by Maj.
Gen. William H. Kean and composed of elements of his 25th Division; the newly arrived 1st Provisional Marine
Brigade, and the 5th RCT, undertook the first U.S. and ROK offensive of the war. Although hampered by enemy
infiltration, the task force nevertheless pushed the North Koreans back to Chinju by Aug. 11, defeating the
North Korean 6th Division and eliminating a serious threat to the U.N. command.
A series of climatic, fanatic, never quite successful attacks by the North Koreans continued throughout the
entire period as Eighth Army clung desperately to its last toe hold on the Korean peninsula. The enemy forced a
crossing of the Naktong in the 24th Division area but was contained and finally forced back on August 17 by
efforts of the 24th Division, the 9th Regiment of the 2d Division, and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade.
Fierce fighting raged on the north flank as the ROK divisions lost, then regained, Pohang-gong. Taegu was
threatened in mid-August when the North Koreans attempted to storm down the "Bowling Alley," as the straight
stretch of valley from Waegwan to Taegun became known. The 1st Cavalry Division assisted by the 27th Infantry
Regiment, 25th Division, beat back all the furious enemy assaults down the "Bowling Alley" and by Aug. 23 this
threat to Taegu was removed. The British 27th Brigade, which had arrived in Pusan on August 29 from Hong Kong,
went into the line on the left of the 1st Cavalry Division.
This brigade, the 1st Cavalry Division, the 24th Division, and the ROK 1st Division were organized as the
U.S. I Corps. The heaviest attack of all the North Korean efforts to push the U.N. into the sea hit the
perimeter on the night of August 31 and continued during the next week of September. This all-out attempt was
launched in two phases—a drive on the extreme left flank on Aug. 31 and on the extreme right of the Eighth Army
on the night of September 3. The enemy threw everything he had left, but by masterly use of reserves, and by
sheer courage and determination, the U.N. forces withstood the enemy offensiveness. Time ran out for the North
Korean Communists in mid-September.
The U.N. Takes the Offensive
On September 15, 1950, in one of the most successful and certainly the most delicately timed amphibious
operations ever conducted, U.S. Marines of the 1st Marine Division, following in the wake of a terrific naval
bombardment, stormed ashore deep in enemy territory at Inchon. Enemy defenses were no match for the terrific
concentration of naval, air, and infantry power, and within hours the port of Inchon fell. By Sept. 17, the
entire 1st Marine Division was ashore and the 7th Infantry Division was being landed. Under the command of Maj.
Gen. Edward M. Almond, ground elements, now designated X Corps, rapidly consolidated the entire area. On the
morning of Sept. 24, regiments of the 1st Marines and the 7th Division pushed across the Han River against
fierce enemy resistance and forced their way into the streets of Seoul. The battle for Seoul raged until Sept.
26 when Gen. MacArthur announced the fall of the city, formally restoring the battered capital to South Korean
President Rhee on Sept. 29.
A coordinated overland drive by Eighth Army, free now from the Pusan Perimeter, netted thousands of enemy
prisoners. It had a large area to capture, but by Sept. 22 the principal enemy resistance was overcome and all
units began to fan out rapidly. On that date, too, IX Corps became operational, taking over the U.S. 2d and 25th
Divisions. A task force from the 1st Cavalry Division, racing northward through enemy territory, made contact
with elements of the 7th Division from X Corps on the evening of Sept. 26 slightly south of Suwon. This juncture
of forces sealed the fate of North Korean forces to the south and resulted in the breaking of organized enemy
resistance generally south of Seoul.
By the end of September, the enemy had relinquished control of practically all territory south of the 38th
parallel. The retreat of the North Korean army had degenerated gradually into a rout; the U.N. forces by the end
of the month controlled a territory over four times greater than they had held at the time of the Inchon
landing. During the latter part of September, Eighth Army was reinforced by a battalion each of Philippine and
Australian troops, and early in October the U.S. 3d Infantry Division arrived in the Far East Command.
U.N. forces drove north of the 38th Parallel in early October, with the ROK 3d Division crossing on the east
coast on Oct. 1 and the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division penetrating North Korean territory above Kaesong on Oct. 9. A
planned amphibious encirclement to be launched at Wonsan resulted in the withdrawal of X Corps forces from the
ground action in early October, with Eighth Army taking over across the entire peninsula. Advances during
October were so rapid that Pyongyang, the enemy capital, fell on Oct. 19. The day after Pyongyang fell, U.N.
forces made the first paratroop attack of the war, when the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team dropped at
Sukchon and Sumchon, 25 miles north of Pyongyang.
ROK forces advancing up the east coast had made phenomenal gains, capturing the port of Wonsan on Oct. 10 and
taking Hamhung and Hungnam on Oct. 18. These victories changed the planned assault landing at Wonsan to an
administrative-type landing and on Oct. 26, U.S. Marines landed at Wonsan against no resistance. Three days
later the U.S. 7th Division went ashore at Iwon under similar conditions. All units drove inland or northward:
the Marines striking toward the Choshin [sic] reservoir, the 7th Division to the northwest, while the Capitol
and ROK 3d Divisions swept toward the Manchurian border. By the morning of Nov. 21, a small task force of the
17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Division, had reached the Yalu River at Hyesanjin. Three weeks earlier, the 7th
Regiment of the ROK 6th Division had reached the Yalu at Chosan [sic].
Elsewhere in Korea, units of Eighth Army by mid-November had moved northward across the western half of Korea
and were within striking distance of the Yalu. An attack was under preparation for Nov. 24. In the mountainous
and rugged east coast areas, units of X Corps, the 1st U.S. Marine Division, the 7th Division, the newly arrived
3d Division, and ROK divisions were cutting their way toward the northernmost borders of Korea.
The Chinese Attack
During the latter part of October and throughout November, reports had been received of Chinese troops
operating within Korea as "volunteers." It was known that these troops were crossing the Yalu in increasing
numbers, but it was believed that they were merely a token force and that the Chinese Communist forces, known to
be present in Manchuria, would not intervene on a large scale.
The U.N. attack of Nov. 24 forced the Chinese hand. They struck at advancing Eighth Army and X Corps troops
in full force. By Nov. 28, 30 Chinese Communist divisions had slammed into U.N. forces across the entire front.
So great was their numerical strength—literally hundreds of thousands of fresh, well-equipped troops—that U.N.
divisions were forced to fall back to avoid complete encirclement and destruction. On the east coast, X Corps
came under heavy attack by 12 Chinese divisions, compelling it to withdraw all its units into a bridgehead area
around Hamhung and Hungnam. This left Eighth Army’s right flank unprotected and presented the grave danger of
CCF moving around it to cut off all escape routes to the south. It was a new war.
In the face of these developments, Eighth Army withdrew rapidly and broke contact with the new enemy. At 0630
on Dec. 5, the Royal Ulster Rifles Battalion of the United Kingdom 39th Brigade—the last friendly unit to
evacuate Pyongyang—fell back across the Taedong River running through that city and continued rear guard action.
Every effort was made to destroy supplies and equipment north of the Taedong which could not be brought with the
While Eighth Army had been withdrawing, X Corps had been making preparations for evacuation by water from
their precarious positions around Hamhung. The U.S. 1st Marine Division, which had been trapped by large Chinese
forces, made a valiant fighting debauchment during the bitter sub-zero weather of early December. They were
joined by elements of the U.S. 7th Division, also fighting off entrapment. Together these forces fought their
way south through the swarming Chinese to Hamhung.
It was one of the most dramatic actions of the war, provoking the now famous retort of Marines’ commander,
Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, "Retreat, hell! We’re only attacking in another direction."
With the U.S. 3d Division holding the final perimeter, and land and naval gunfire hitting the attacking
enemy, X Corps completed the evacuation of 105,000 military personnel, 91,000 civilian refugees, 17,500 vehicles
and 350,000 tons of equipment by Dec. 24. X Corps was placed under control of Eighth Army upon its debarkation
in South Korea. Final elements of this Corps closed in South Korea on Christmas Day.
Gen. Walker, Eighth Army commander, was killed in a jeep accident on Dec. 23. He was replaced by Lt. Gen.
Matthew B. Ridgway, who arrived in Korea to assume command of Eighth Army on Dec. 26, 1950.
Although Eighth Army had extricated its forces from the threat of envelopment by falling back 150 miles and
had taken up positions across the peninsula south of the 38th parallel, the situation was still dangerous. There
weren’t enough troops to span the peninsula, and the enemy was building up for an all-out attack to smash Eighth
Late on New Year’s eve, the enemy’s long awaited general offensive began with a series of attacks against the
ROK 6th Division south of Yonchon. The enemy gathered momentum and forced the Eighth Army back all along the
front. Seoul fell to the Chinese on Jan. 4. For the rest of the month it was touch and go, with the U.N.
fighting men stiffening their resistance daily and with desperate battles for such key communications centers as
Wonju marking the first weeks of the new year. But Eighth Army held, and the enemy was unable to achieve his
Despite the many tactical reverses they had suffered since the entry of CCF units into the Korean War, the
fighting spirit of U.N. troops never wavered. That spirit was strengthened and increased with each yielded foot
of ground until, by mid-January, 1951, Eighth Army’s men and officers were more determined than ever before to
attack rather than withdraw and to carry the fight to the enemy. The Chinese had suffered enormous casualties;
their supply lines were under constant attack by U.N. air. For them, as for the North Koreans six months before,
time was running out.
Gen. Ridgway, Eighth Army commander, set the stage for the next months of combat operation by his army when
he said, in initiating the first coordinated offensive by forces under his command, "We are not interested in
real estate. We are interested only in inflicting maximum casualties to the enemy with minimum casualties to
ourselves. To do this we must wage a war of maneuver—slashing at the enemy when he withdraws and fighting
delaying action when he attacks."
Eighth Army did just that. And with great success. During the 18 days of this first new offensive until the
Han River line was regained on Feb. 12, Eighth Army inflicted an estimated 70,000 casualties on the enemy. But
casualties notwithstanding, the enemy was still a formidable fighting machine. On Feb. 11, in sub-zero weather,
the Chinese struck hard at the central sector toward Wonju, which was held by the 187th RCT: a battalion of the
17th Infantry, 7th Division; and the ROK 18th Regiment, ROK 3d Division, attempting to force that strong point
and split the U.N. forces down the center. To the west of this point they struck also at Chipyongni, an isolated
pocket manned by the 2d Division’s 23d RCT and the French battalion. Attack after attack against these areas was
beaten back through the heroic efforts of the gallant men of these units. The Air Force gave outstanding aid to
the ground troops by air drops and by night and day tactical support. The key area was held, and Chinese units
in the fight were annihilated.
Taking full advantage of the enemy’s weakened condition after their abortive assault, Gen. Ridgway ordered
his forces forward along the entire front in "Operation Killer." This operation swept the Chinese and North
Koreans back, taking a great toll of their men and equipment. By the end of February, Eighth Army was back on a
line overlooking the Han River and preparing to advance again.
Throughout March, U.N. forces continued to gain ground methodically as the enemy retired in disorder, making
an occasional stand, but losing heavily in men and supply. On Mar. 15, the 15th Regiment of the ROK 1st Division
sent patrols into Seoul and raised the flag of the Republic of Korea over the capitol. The 8th Cavalry Regiment,
1st Cavalry Division, pushed into Chunchon on Mar. 22, and the following day the 187th RCT jumped into the
Munsan area in an attempt to cut off any enemy forces still south of the river. The enemy, scurrying northward,
was becoming hard to find, and by the end of March some U.N. units had again crossed the 38th Parallel.
The absence of enemy contact was taken as an indication that the enemy was merely licking his wounds and that
he was building up for a counter-offensive at the first opening. This obvious build-up in rear areas made it
imperative to keep him off balance by establishing a strong line from which punishing sorties could be made.
Gen. Ridgway, therefore, ordered his troops to move forward to a line running along the commanding terrain just
north of the 38th Parallel. This line, approximately 115 miles long, included 14 miles of tidal area on its left
flank and a 12-mile expanse of the Hwachon Reservoir in the center. The terrain on the right flank was extremely
rugged, practically devoid of roads and difficult for both friend and foe to traverse. This shortened the line
and permitted greater depth for U.N. attack or defense operations.
Once this line was gained, in a series of steady, unspectacular gains with maximum casualties being inflicted
on the Reds, an operation was initiated to continue the Army’s offensive in the west. This operation was
calculated to neutralize the famed "Iron Triangle," an enemy supply and communications center enclosed within a
triangular area formed by the three cities of Chorwon-Pyonggang-Kumhwa. The fight toward Chorwon by Eighth Army
was a foot-by-foot, hand-to-hand struggle. Determined enemy delaying forces were overcome with grenades and
bayonets in close-in fighting as the advance on the "Iron Triangle" continued. In the center of the line, U.N.
forces fought to Hwachon and captured the reservoir. Before withdrawing, the Chinese opened the flood gates in a
fruitless effort to swell the Pukhan River and thereby form a water barrier in the west-central sector.
By April 20, U.N. forces had reached a pre-designated phase line immediately south of the triangle, and
Eighth Army troops in the center and on the east coast began coming up on the line. Enemy supply installations
within the triangle were neutralized and destroyed.
On Apr. 11, Gen. Ridgway had been named Commander in Chief, United Nations Command, taking over from Gen.
MacArthur, and Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet had succeeded him as Eighth army commander. The Korean conflict
continued to be fought with the tactics perfected during the winter months, and U.N. forces continued to move
slowly but relentlessly forward with greatest possible lateral security, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.
But the Reds were far from being whipped.
On Apr. 22, 1951, Gen. VanFleet held his first press conference. In discussing the enemy’s capabilities, he
said, "The enemy is closer and in greater numbers than ever before. We can expect the attack at any minute."
That night the Communists struck with full force. So great was the initial power of the enemy’s attack that a
deep penetration of U.N. lines in the west-central section was achieved in its early stages, forcing Eighth Army
to withdraw as much as 40 miles to maintain maximum security of forces. The enemy was never able to exploit his
gains, however, and, in the face of coldly efficient killing tactics employed by a rejuvenated Eighth Army, each
enemy threat was reduced and overcome. When the enemy attack sputtered out on Apr 29, the U.N. lines formed an
arc just north of Seoul, stretching due east for 20 miles, then northeast to the coast near Yangyang. This
offensive, which the enemy loudly proclaimed as his Fifth Phase offensive, had failed, but Red capabilities were
The Eighth Army had met an attack by a quarter of a million Communist troops, but by a combination of air
support, tank and artillery fire, and infantry tenacity, had inflicted 20,000 enemy casualties and maintained
its lines intact. For the next week, strong patrols roamed 10 to 12 miles in front of U.N. lines, attempting to
contact the enemy, generally with negligible results. By early May, limited offensives were again being
conducted by Eighth Army and steady methodical advances were made against enemy delaying forces who resisted
fanatically one day and vanished the next.
Again, this lack of general enemy contact and the tenor of incoming intelligence reports indicated that the
enemy was still hopeful of driving the U.N. out of Korea with another surge of its Fifth Phase offensive. On May
16, the Chinese made their final play. Five CCF armies struck along the boundary of U.S. X Corps and ROK III
Corps. The impact of the enemy’s blow wedged his troops between these units and created a situation which for
several days was precarious. The penetration along the Corps boundaries subjected the U.S. 2d Division to attack
from two sides, severed the MSR, and established a roadblock behind its 23d and 38th Regiments. The 9th Regiment
of the 2d Division plunged northward to reduce the roadblock, and the two sister regiments with their attached
French and Netherlands Battalions fought southward along the MSR, broke the trap, and organized a defense line
south of Hangye—a line which the enemy was never able to breach. On other sectors of the front, lesser enemy
attacks were contained more easily until the enemy, exhausted, casualty ridden, and in serious supply
difficulties, reduced the pressure of his attack, then began to withdraw. An immediate Eighth Army counterattack
which developed into a pursuit, caught the enemy in his withdrawal, disorganized his forces, and caused him
tremendous losses in personnel. The much-vaunted Fifth Phase offensive ended in a smashing defeat for the
Communists and broke their offensive power for months to come.
By May 27, Inje and Hwachon were again in U.N. hands and the enemy’s main escape route from the area south of
the Hwachon reservoir was severed. But a combination of rain, mud, and enemy delaying action impeded the closing
of many other escape routes and prevented the complete destruction or seizure of the enemy’s supply bases.
Nevertheless, the initiative on the field of battle was now with the Eighth Army and remained there for the
rest of 1951. By the end of May, all ground lost as a result of enemy drives had been retaken and it had been
clearly demonstrated that the Communists did not have the power to defeat the Eighth Army. Nevertheless, the
enemy resisted stubbornly wherever his supply installations or routes were threatened. The Eighth Army was able
to advance with comparative ease, however, in those areas where withdrawal cost the enemy nothing more than
Korean real estate.
On June 13, two tank-infantry task forces, one from the U.S. 3d Division, another from the 25th Division,
advanced from Chorwon and Kumhwa, respectively, and effected a link-up in the city of Pyonggang that afternoon.
Except for a few rounds of mortar fire along the Kumhwa-Pyonggang road, no enemy activity was encountered. It
was evident that the enemy had evacuated his supplies and equipment and, in keeping with his tactical doctrine,
had relinquished the territory to Eighth Army.
Coincidentally with the reversal of Communist fortunes on the field of battle in Korea, came a strong
indication that the enemy was prepared to settle the problem of a unified Korea through negotiation rather than
through fighting. In a radio speech, Russian delegate to U.N., Jacob A. Malik, on June 14, 1951, hinted that the
Soviet Union favored settlement in Korea through arbitration. Since the United Nations was also of the opinion
that solution through conference was immeasurably better, if it could be achieved, than continued waste of human
lives, and since it was hoped there might be some grain of sincerity behind the Communist offer, arrangements
were made for a meeting of representatives of both sides with the mission of settling by arbitration an issue
which one year of bitter combat had failed to resolve.
On July 10, 1951, the first plenary session of delegates from the U.N., headed by Adm. C. Turner Joy,
Commander Naval Forces Far East, and from the Chinese and North Korean Communists, headed by North Korean Gen.
Nam Il, met at the city of Kaesong. Since that date, in the face of all efforts and concessions made by the
United Nations Command, the Communists have succeeded in delaying and stalling on the negotiations until, in the
final analysis, no armistice was possible. Employing every deceitful device in their well-stocked bag of tricks,
the Communist negotiators have falsified, equivocated, propagandized, threatened, pouted, and raged. Not once in
over 100 plenary sessions at Kaesong and later at Panmunjom did they demonstrate the slightest concrete evidence
of good faith in the negotiations or of a real willingness to bring an end of the conflict on any but their own
terms. Certain superficial agreements they made were forced on them or obtained by the U.N. through concession.
When all else failed and it appeared that the pressure of world-wide public opinion might force the Reds to
come to an agreement, they took refuge behind a vociferous refusal to condone the U.N.’s humanitarian policies
with regard to repatriation of prisoners of war, a sandbar in the river of agreement. Belying their loudly
professed regard for the welfare of these prisoners, the Communists until March, 1953, insisted that prisoners
must be forced to return to their control without regard for the individual’s wishes in the matter, a principle
which the U.N. would not tolerate. Their patience stretched to the breaking point, Allied delegates, then headed
by Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison, on Oct. 8, 1952, notified their Communist counterparts that they would attend
no more meetings until the Reds agreed with the U.N. plan calling for prisoner repatriation according to each
POW’s wishes, or until the Communists came up with some other acceptable plan.
During the ensuing deadlock, the Western world’s concern for human misery and individual rights further
manifested itself on Dec. 13, 1952, when the League of Red Cross Societies in Geneva urged both sides in the
conflict to exchange seriously sick and wounded POWs—a move repeatedly requested by the U.N. delegates to the
peace talks in the past. Gen. Mark W. Clark followed up the Red Cross action when he wrote the Red leaders in
Korea on Feb. 22, 1953, that the UNC was prepared to make the suggested exchange. But before Gen. Clark’s letter
was answered, the world’s newspapers were filled with the story of Soviet Premier Josef Stalin’s death and the
subsequent re-arranging of the USSR hierarchy. Then, on Mar. 28, 1953, North Korean Premier Gen. Kim Il Sung and
Chinese Gen. Peng Tch-huai answered Gen. Clark’s letter with one of their own in which they agreed to the
exchange of sick and wounded war prisoners.
They also hinted that the exchange might pave the way to a smooth settlement of the entire POW question.
Communist China’s foreign minister Chou En-lai, just returned from Stalin’s funeral at Moscow, further raised
hope for removing the POW-return roadblock by announcing that China might be willing to compromise on the
forcible repatriation issue. He suggested that those prisoners who did not want to return to their homelands
might be sent to a "neutral" country.
Hope for an early settlement again rose in the opposing armed camps, and the recent bitter fighting for such
terrain promontories as Old Baldy and Vegas Hills subsided again to patrol action. During the period from the
beginning of armistice negotiations in July, 1951, until April, 1953, no major ground offensives were launched
by either side. Both sides, however, initiated limited offensives for key terrain features, resulting in some of
the fiercest and bloodiest battles of modern history. Such actions as Bloody and Heartbreak Ridge, the see-saw
battles for T-Bone, Vegas, Old Baldy, Kelly Hills and dozens of other localized combat operations since July,
1951. Taking advantage of the comparative respite induced by the negotiations, the Communists built up their
depleted ground forces, strengthened their defenses, created vast stocks of supplies, and made great strides in
increasing their artillery and air potentials.
The phenomenal development of the Republic of Korea Army from its not-encouraging beginnings in 1950 to the
remarkably efficient and determined fighting machine it is today is an encouraging sign of things to come.
In December, 1951, action was begun to move to Korea two fresh U.S. divisions, the 40th and the 45th
Divisions, National Guard units which had been training in Japan. The new units were placed in the line by
increment, with the 45th completely replacing the 1st Cavalry Division by Dec. 29, 1951, and the 40th Division
taking over from the 24th Division by Feb. 3, 1952 Both the 1st Cavalry and the 24th were returned to Japan.
Gen. VanFleet relinquished command of his beloved Army to an old comrade-in-arms, Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor,
on February 11, 1953.
The U.N. Fighting Team
Member nations of the United Nations other than the United States furnished troops to the United Nations
Command throughout the campaign.
The British Commonwealth 27th Brigade was the first non-U.S., non-ROK unit to arrive and see action in Korea.
It landed on Aug. 29, 1950, and went into the line on the Naktong River west of Taegu. The 3d Battalion, Royal
Australian Regiment, reached Korea on Sept. 28, 1950, and was attached to the 27th Brigade. The United Kingdom
29th Brigade, which arrived in November, 1950, covered the January, 1951, evacuation of Seoul and
counter-attacked vigorously before being ordered back across the Han. Canada’s 2d Battalion, Princess Patricia’s
Canadian Light Infantry, landed on Dec. 18, 1950, joining the 27th Brigade in February on the west central
front. In May, 1951, additional units from Canada arrived and the Canadian 25th Infantry Brigade Group entered
combat in Korea. Also present from Commonwealth forces was the New Zealand Artillery Battalion, which had
arrived on Dec. 31, 1950. The 28th Infantry Brigade replaced the 27th Brigade in April, 1951. In late July,
1951, all units of the British Commonwealth were united to form the Commonwealth 1st Division.
The Philippine Expeditionary Force—a battalion combat team—reached Korea on Sept. 19, 1950, and is presently
[Editor’s Note: Remember, this history covers only to March, 1953.] attached to the
U.S. 45th Division. The Turkish Brigade was first committed east of Kunu-ri when the Chinese attacked in late
November. The Thailand Battalion landed on Nov. 7, 1950, and on Nov. 24, moved to the Pyongyang area where it
was attached to the 187th RCT and later to the 1st Cavalry Division and U.S. 2d Division. The Netherlands
Battalion arrived on Nov. 23, 1950, and saw its first engagement early in January with the U.S. 38th Regiment at
Wonju. The French Battalion arrived on Nov. 29 and with the U.S. 23d Regiment fought valiantly at Chipyong-ni.
The Greek Battalion landed on Dec. 9, 1950, and went into action on the western front during the first week of
February, 1951, with the 1st Cavalry Division. A battalion from Belgium and Luxembourg arrived on Jan. 31, 1950,
and was attached to the United Kingdom’s 29th Brigade and are now fighting with the U.S. 3d Division. The
Ethiopian Battalion arrived on May 6, 1951, followed a month later by the Colombian Battalion which disembarked
in Korea on June 14, 1951, and both were attached to the 7th Division.
A recapitulation of United Nations forces furnished by member nations of the U.N. other than U.S. or R.O.K.
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
Air Force Units
- Union of South Africa
- New Zealand
- Italy (not U.N. member)
The Navy in the Korean Waters
Prepared by Pacific Stars & Stripes
When the North Korean Communists invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, only a few undermanned warships were
in the Far East. There was one cruiser—the Juneau—and four destroyers—the Mansfield, Dehaven, Collett and
Swenson—in Japanese waters. The Seventh Fleet at that time operating out of the Philippines under the command of
Vice Adm. Arthur D. Struble, consisted of the Essex class carrier Valley Forge, the heavy cruiser Rochester, a
squadron of eight destroyers, three submarines, and some auxiliary vessels. About 10 British Commonwealth ships
were in Japanese ports at the time. In a matter of weeks, however, this force was expanded to about 400 vessels.
A unit of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the Seventh Fleet is assigned to the area commander, at present Gen. Mark
W. Clark. Vice Adm. Robert P. Briscoe, commander of naval forces in the Far East, exercises operational control
of the fleet while the Seventh Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Joseph J. Clark, exercises tactical control. This
control is further broken down by giving on-the-spot tactical control to the task force commanders within the
The major task forces are Task Force 77, the fast carrier force; Task Force 90, the amphibious force; Task
Force 95, the blockading and escort force, and the logistic support force, which includes the tankers and
tenders and other support craft. The support force, which numbers nearly a hundred ships, provides the fuel,
ammunition, food, and the thousands of other items needed to carry a war to the enemy. Fighting ships are
replenished as near the scene of action as possible.
Primary mission of the carrier force is to smash the enemy supply lines and provide close air and naval
gunfire support for the ground forces. Targets for the planes depend largely on the ground fighting. If ground
activity is slack, emphasis is placed on interdiction. Conversely, if the ground forces are under heavy
pressure, Navy planes are used for close air support.
The blockade and escort force prevents the enemy from providing logistical support to his forces by sea, and
furnishes escorts for our own support force ships. The duties of this force are more varied than those of any
other part of the fleet. Its commander has assigned to him escort carriers, cruisers, destroyers, destroyer
escorts, frigates, tenders, and the mine sweepers. Such a force of ships obviously can perform a wide variety of
The amphibious forces with their attack transports, landing ships (some equipped to launch rockets), patrol
craft, and special groups like the naval beach groups, underwater demolition teams, and boat units, have been an
important factor in determining naval strategy. This force at present is commanded by Rear Adm. W.E. Moore.
The Formosa force, which had as its mission the neutralization of Formosa, continues as an effective force
with a revised mission. Navy land-and-sea-based patrol squadrons serve as the eyes of the fleet with almost
daily reconnaissance missions over wide areas of the Far East.
Of vital importance to ship movements along both coasts of Korea have been the incomparable mine sweepers,
the "lightweights" of the fleet. Often close inshore under the muzzles of Red shore batteries, they have slugged
it out with the enemy guns while clearing coastal waters. At Wonsan during the early days of the campaign, one
ship was lost for every 25 mines swept.
Many other ships and men have performed their duties with valor and brilliance. Navy corpsmen have slogged
with the infantry and the hospital ship has truly been a haven for the wounded.
Outstanding Events of the First Year
The first naval punch at the enemy invaders was delivered by the cruiser Juneau against positions near
Samchok on June 28, 1950, only three days after the invasion. A few days later, an Australian air unit and a
British fleet unit joined U.S. and ROK forces in Korea.
Task Force 77 launched its first planes of the war from the carrier Valley Forge on July 3, marking the first
time in history that carrier jet aircraft were used in combat. These first sorties blasted an airfield and its
facilities at the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang and damaged or destroyed a dozen enemy planes. This
force was commanded by Rear Adm. John M. Hoskins, who lost his right leg along with his ship, the carrier
Princeton, off Leyte during World War II.
On July 19, the fleet supported an unopposed landing of the 15th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry
Division, conducted at Pohang-dong—by Task Force 90.
By the end of July, naval forces from Australia, The Netherlands, France, Canada, and New Zealand had joined
those of the U.S., ROK, and the United Kingdom. Colombian, Thailand, and Denmark units were to join later. The
carrier Philippine Sea had joined the Valley Forge by this time, and the carriers, as part of Task Force 77,
joined the surface ships to roam the Korean coasts, slashing supply lines, front-line enemy positions, and
supply build-ups. The steady and methodical pounding of enemy targets by naval elements continued throughout
August and into September.
On September 11, Joint Task Force 7 was formed under the command of Adm. Struble with the task of seizing by
amphibious assault, occupying, and defending a beachhead in the Inchon area. Further, the task force would
transport, land, and support the seizure by X Corps of Inchon, Kimpo airfield, and Seoul.
On September 13, the pre-invasion bombardment force, consisting of the U.S. cruisers Rochester and Toledo,
British cruisers Jamaica and Kenya, plus the U.S. destroyers Mansfield, Dehaven, Gurke, Swenson, Collett, and
Henderson, rendezvoused off Inchon. Shortly after midday, planes of Task Force 77, under the command of Rear
Adm. E.C. Ewen, struck Wolmi-do, a wooded island in the entrance to Inchon harbor. Then the cruisers and
destroyers opened up on the beach. Carrier planes, cruisers, and destroyers hurled shells and bombs into enemy
positions most of the next day.
Then on Sept. 15—after a rendezvous with the attack force commander—with Rear Adm. J.R. Doyle in the
amphibious command ship Mount McKinley brilliantly conducting the amphibious aspects of the operation, the
bombardment group went into Inchon. Douglas MacArthur was aboard the McKinley. The bombardment group opened up
again at 545 a.m. and stopped firing at 628. The first U.S. Marines hit the beach at 632 and by 704 a.m. the
landing was reported successful.
Wolmi-do island was secured by 750 a.m. and Inchon city was attacked throughout the day. The first waves of
Marines hit the main beach at 531 p.m. A little over an hour later, the first landings ad been completed
successfully on all three beaches. There were 261 ships, representing seven U.N. countries, in the landing or in
The six destroyers in the Inchon operation played a vitally important part in making it the great success it
was. Wolmi-do, which blocked the entrance to the harbor, was the key to the operation. Wolmi had to be taken
first "at any cost" the orders said. The destroyers were sent in to feel out Wolmi.
On Sept. 13, the six ships, moving in column, sailed slowly into the narrowing channel leading past Wolmi to
Inchon. Their mission was to try to draw fire from the island. The destroyers were sitting ducks, juicy targets,
all of them less than a mile from the beach. Wolmi, in the brilliant sunshine, looked quiet, verdantly green,
Suddenly the North Koreans made a wonderful blunder. From around the waist of the island came the flash of
enemy guns. The destroyers were quick to answer, exchanging shot for shot as the firing tempo increased. Flashes
came from everywhere in Wolmi. Three of the ships were hit—the Collett, Gurke, and Swenson—but they had saved
They had tempted the enemy to reveal his hidden shore batteries for the bigger Allied guns and the swarms of
planes to hammer. If the guns had not been discovered, it is hard to say what might have happened to the
transports and the little landing craft when they came in for the assault two days later.
One day preceding the assault on Inchon, the 58,000-ton battleship Missouri, the first battleship to enter
the Korean War, joined the gunfire group off the Korean east coast on Sept. 14 and made her first bombardment
against targets at Samchok.
Task Force 95, the U.N. blockading and escort force, was put into effect on Sept. 12, with Rear Adm. Allan E.
Smith as its commander.
Joint Task Force 7 was formed again under Adm. Struble with instructions to conduct mine sweeping operations,
reconnaissance, air and surface bombardment of shore defenses, and to seize control of the Wonsan area by
amphibious assault in order to assist in the destruction of North Korean forces.
Chongjin, an important North Korean industrial city 35 miles south of the Manchurian border, was hit on Oct.
12, 1950, for the first time by the largest east coast naval bombardment since the start of Korean hostilities.
The Missouri, which poured out more than 800,000 pounds of explosives in less than an hour, led the strike on
the city. Other ships in the attack included the carriers Philippine Sea and Valley Forge, the heavy cruisers
Helena, Toledo, and Rochester, as well as the light cruiser Worcester.
Still other vessels active against the enemy during this period included the British carrier Theseus,
cruisers Kenya and Ceylon, and the destroyers Constance, Cockade, Charity, and Concord. The U.S. carriers Boxer
and Leyte were also launching strikes against the Reds.
Then, on Oct. 25, naval forces commenced an unopposed landing of X Corps at Wonsan, the same Army Corps they
had landed at Inchon less than a month before. The landing marked the first time in naval history that an army
with all of its equipment was landed on one coast of a country, picked up again after securing its objective,
and re-landed on the opposite coast of that country within a period of one month.
By Nov. 5, with the entry of the Chinese Red army into the battle, the primary mission of the Seventh Fleet
became the destruction of enemy forces and installations by exerting maximum air pressure. However, on Dec. 12,
when the Chinese poured down the peninsula, its mission changed abruptly to provide close air support and air
cover for forces in embarkation areas around Hungnam on the east coast.
Witb naval guns laying down a steel curtain of fire around the Hungnam beachhead for several days prior to
the evacuation, and Task Force 77 carriers, now under the command of Rear Adm. Ralph A. Ofstie, filling the
skies around the beachhead with dive bombers and jets, the last group of friendly forces, in addition to X
Corps, and most of its equipment, plus some 90,000 North Korean civilians, were evacuated from Hungnam on Dec.
The British Admiralty had announced earlier in the month the evacuation by sea of a force of 7,000 soldiers
and civilians from the Pyongyang area under cover of an Allied naval force. Wonsan had been evacuated by Dec. 9,
after a five-day bombardment of the city.
After the Hungnam pull-out, the mission of Task Force 77 changed on Jan. 7, 1951, to provide air support on
the east coast, to support friendly ground operations, and to interdict enemy supply lines. On Jan. 29, 1951,
the Missouri and elements of the Seventh Fleet were assigned to deliver a pre-invasion bombardment and simulated
amphibious assault on the east coast near Kansong in order to disrupt enemy plans and force re-deployment of
Navy ships and planes, meanwhile, continued to hurt the enemy with surface bombardment and air attacks on
both sides of the peninsula. Bombarding ships along the east coast areas operated in heavily mined waters and
were under heavy fire from shore batteries.
The now historic siege of Wonsan began on Feb. 16, 1951, when the destroyers Lind and Ozbourn steamed into
the harbor and sent their 5-inch shells crashing into the city. It has continued for more than two yeas. More
than 8,000 Reds became casualties in the city during the first few months and rail and highway bridges and vital
buildings were damaged extensively.
During almost the entire campaign, a tight blockade of both Korean coasts had been maintained by patrol
vessels. Enemy supply efforts by sea were halted when the blockade began in early July, 1950. Allied warships,
nosing in and out of North Korea’s bays and inlets, kept a tight stranglehold on the peninsula.
The battleship New Jersey reported to the fleet on May 12, 1951, and became the flagship of Adm. Martin, who
took over the helm of the fleet on Mar 28. The New Jersey fired her first bombardment mission at Kosong on May
20 and later in the day moved up to Wonsan to better than city.
Next day the New Jersey received two hits from an enemy shore battery at Wonsan, which caused minor
structural damage and marked the first hit on a battleship in the Korean War. One crewman was killed and five
The Second Year
Vice Adm. C. Turner Joy, naval leader in the Far East for nearly three years, became senior U.N. delegate to
the military armistice conference in July. He continued to make important high policy decisions affecting the
Navy, but Vice Adm. Ralph A. Ofstie, then Adm. Joy’s chief of staff with the rank of rear admiral, ably handled
all other matters from naval headquarters in Toyko.
For the rest of the year, Navy ships and planes kept up a daily and incessant pounding of North Korea.
Carrier planes from such carriers as the Bon Homme Richard, Boxer, Bataan, Bairoko, Princeton, Essex, Sicily,
Rendova, Antietam, Glory, and Sydney, clawed at entrenched Communists in the frontlines and in the rear areas.
The battleship New Jersey and the cruisers Manchester, Los Angeles, Toledo, Helena, Ceylon, and Belfast sent
their 16-8-and 5-inch projectiles whistling into the Red coastline. Dozens of destroyers added their sting.
Duels with Red shore batteries were frequent and ships and planes belted and mauled the Reds all over North
Korea. The battleship Wisconsin had arrived on Nov. 22, and became the flagship of the Seventh Fleet.
The striking power of naval elements in the Far East increased in 1952. At times, four carriers operated
against enemy targets. Battleships, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and rocket ships pummeled the Reds with
bombs, shells, and rockets. In the first five months of 1952, naval forces slashed more than four times as many
rails as in the previous 12 months.
At the same time, enemy shore batteries became increasingly troublesome. Red shore gunners started to use
bigger guns more frequently and more accurately than ever before. The most common types of enemy guns were the
76-mm. And 122-mm., although some ships encountered larger types.
Wonsan, where U.N. naval casualties have been heavier than anywhere else in the Korean War, remained under
constant aerial and surface attack.
On Mar. 3, 1952, Vice Adm. Robert P. Briscoe became Seventh Fleet commander. He, in turn, was relieved by
Vice Adm. Joseph J. Clark on May 20. Then, on June 4, Adm. Briscoe was moved up to lead all the naval forces in
the Far East.
Previously, on Mar. 31, the Seventh Fleet flag was moved again to the battleship Iowa, which conducted her
first bombardment against the Chaho-Songjin sector on Apr. 7, 1952.
On Apr. 21, a fiery powder blast in one of the cruiser St. Paul’s 8-inch turrets killed 30 seaman while the
ship was shelling the east coast near Kojo. It was the worst naval disaster in 22 months of Korean warfare.
Several hundred planes of Task Force 77 demolished four of North Korea’s huge hydro-electric power complexes
on June 23-24 in conjunction with Marine and Air Force planes. One of the power complexes was Suiho, largest in
the Orient and the world’s fourth biggest.
The Third Year
Navy planes, which had been carrying out almost daily strikes against east coast targets, carried out another
all-out attack in conjunction with Marine, Australian, and British planes against the North Korean capital city
of Pyongyang, a political and communications center, on July 11, 1952.
Another sea disaster on Aug. 6 took the lives of nine Navy men and injured others aboard the carrier Boxer as
roaring flames and explosions swept the hangar deck of the flattop. Some of the men died in gallant attempts to
rescue their shipmates.
Through the spring and summer months, carrier planes swarmed over North Korean coastal areas, flew far inland
to rip supply areas and transportation targets, while surface gunners daily leveled their booming rifles against
port cities and coastal strong points. Although naval elements during this period concentrated their destructive
power against rear areas, sometimes Allied infantrymen would call for Navy planes to come in and relieve enemy
ground pressure with close support missions, or would call in surface ships to blast the enemy. The weight of
bombs, rockets, napalm, and shells loosed on the Communists was considerable and made it difficult and extremely
hazardous for the enemy to move his supplies and equipment.
Carrier planes on Sept. 1, 1952, struck closer to Russian territory than at any other time during the war
when they severely damaged major Communist synthetic oil refineries at Hoem-dong (Aoje). The strike, made by
planes of the carriers Boxer, Essex, and Princeton, penetrated to within 12 miles of the Russian border.
The news broke on Sept. 18 that the carrier Boxer had been using guided missiles against Red targets since
Sept. 1. They were the first guided missiles ever employed against the enemy. During the first two weeks of
October, carrier planes shifted most of their strikes to hit specific targets in front of friendly ground
positions in direct support of the Eighth Army. More sorties were launched against the Communists during this
month than in any previous month of the campaign.
A huge naval amphibious force appeared to make ready on Oct. 15 to send in thousands of troops to take the
enemy-held territory near Kojo on the east coast. Enemy forces, feinted out of positions by the maneuver, were
caught out in the open by planes from six carriers and the big guns of the Iowa, four cruisers, and more than 30
destroyers. The whole coast along a 25-mile stretch had been hammered continuously for three days to make the
enemy believe an invasion was imminent.
Carriers in the operation were the Kearsarge, Bon Homme Richard, Essex, Princeton, Badoeng Strait, and
Sicily. Cruisers were the Juneau, Los Angeles, Helena, and Toledo. Reconnaissance flights the next day showed
the enemy on the beach had received a terrific pounding.
The Navy’s newest carrier, the Oriskany, joined Task Force 77 and launched her planes against the enemy for
the first time on Nov. 2. By the end of 1952, the Navy in Korea had hurled more aviation ordnance at the Reds
than they had thrown at the enemy in World War II. In so doing, 1,033 Navy and Marine planes had been lost, more
than half of them in operational accidents. The Navy lost 242 to enemy action and 310 in operational accidents
while the Marines lost 229 to the enemy and 252 in operational mishaps.
In addition, surface ships fired more than 3.75 million rounds ranging from the one ton 16-inch projectiles
to small arms fire. These shells weighed more than 70,000 tons. Navy and Marine aircraft had flown 210,000
combat sorties with a total of 730,000 runs-on-target. More than 600,000 bombs, with a total tonnage of 145,000,
had been dropped; 250,000 rockets and 61 million rounds of machine gun ammunition had been expended.
This vast amount of explosives had wiped out more than 100,000 Red soldiers, cut more than 4,000 bridges,
destroyed 50,000 buildings, 5,000 gun emplacements, 5,000 rail cars, 50 power plants, and had made 20,000 rail
cuts. Scores of other targets had been shattered by bombs and shells.
Operations as of February 1, 1953, had cost the Navy 364 lives. Eighty-two Navy men were missing in action
and 1,273 wounded. Ships hit by the enemy totaled 70, but only six—four mine sweepers and two tugs—were sunk.
The Valley Forge, first carrier to launch planes against the North Koreans, roared back into action off Korea
on her fourth war cruise on Jan. 3, 1953, with Air Group 5 embarked. She joined the Essex and Kearsarge and the
three flattops sent their planes out to rake Red targets almost daily. The Oriskany, Philippine Sea, Glory, and
Bataan also launched planes against the enemy during this period. Active surface ships included the battleship
Missouri, cruisers Los Angeles, Toledo, Birmingham, Newcastle, Rochester, and dozens of destroyers.
On Feb. 16, 1953, following two years of continuous attacks by naval air and surface elements, Wonsan was a
blackened and charred mass, its inhabitants burrowed under the piles of rubble. The hapless city had been hit by
more than a dozen full-scale attacks and rocked with explosions almost daily. Destroyers, cruisers, and
occasionally a battleship, had heaped explosives on the city. Today, it has probably had more of its land
ravaged than any other city in history. But still the Communists use the shambles for supply build-ups and as a
distribution point for supplies. Road networks from the front lines lead right to the city. Dozens of shore
batteries and antiaircraft guns still ring the port.
The siege of Wonsan, by far the longest sustained naval bombardment in American naval history, has made the
Reds keep 30,000 out of the front lines to guard against the constant threat of amphibious invasion. Thus, three
Red divisions which might otherwise be engaged in the fighting are kept immobilized and on watch to guard the
beach in that one area.
The Air Force Over Korea
Prepared by Public Information Office Hqs., Far East Air Forces
In two years and ten months of aerial warfare against the Communist enemy since South Korea was invaded in
June, 1950, Far East Air Forces aircraft have flown over 700,000 sorties to blast Red aircraft from the sky and
destroy equipment, installations, and troops on the ground.
FEAF aircraft mounted 732,350 sorties through mid-April, 1953, destroying 74,864 vehicles, knocking out 9,898
rail cars, demolishing more than 1,200 tanks and inflicting 180,628 enemy troop casualties. In 34 months of
conflict, FEAF planes sent 819 enemy aircraft to blazing and spinning destruction: 650 being swept-wing,
Russian-built MiG-15 jets. Of the 650 MiG total, 611 fell before U.S. Air Force F-86 Sabre jets. Seventy-nine
Sabres were lost in the air-to-air encounters.
In the early part of the war, close air support of the greatly-outnumbered friendly ground forces was FEAF’s
primary objective, thus affording time for reinforcement of U.N. ground strength. FEAF aircraft were
successfully employed as the bulwark of a protective screen when United Nations forces were backed into the
Pusan Perimeter, in September, 1950. As the strengthened group troops broke out of the perimeter, air power
figured heavily in the offensive into North Korea.
One of the significant aspects of U.N. air superiority has been continued denial to the Reds of air bases in
North Korea. As a result, Communist MiG’s have operated from their sanctuary in Manchuria north of the Yalu
River beyond which U.N. aircraft have not been allowed to go, even when in "hot pursuit" of fleeing Red jets.
Without air bases on the Korean side of the Yalu, the enemy has never been able either to launch effective
air strikes against U.N. troops and installations, or to prevent massive, sustained assaults against his front
line positions, his supply-carrying vehicles and trains, his supply centers, and his many rear installations
which have taken a 34-month pounding from U.N. bombs, rockets, napalm, and machine gun fire.
MiG-15 jet fighters have consistently outnumbered the Sabres which fly protective screen for daily
fighter-bomber strikes, but despite the numerical superiority they have been unable to slow the mounting toll of
Fifth Air Force air victories.
Thirty Sabre jet pilots have qualified as jet aces, by destroying five or more Red jets in air action.
Several Sabre pilots have become "double aces," tallying 10 or more enemy aircraft apiece.
Two of the biggest victory days for the Sabres were July 4 and Sept. 4, 1952. On Independence Day, Sabre
pilots destroyed 13 MiGs, probably destroyed one, and damaged seven others; on Sept. 4, they killed 13 enemy
jets and damaged four.
Early in February, 1953, FEAF disclosed that F-94 all-weather jet interceptors were in active night
operations against the enemy. During the comparatively brief period in which they have seen action, these
radar-equipped fighters have scored one confirmed destruction and three damage tallies against Red night-flying
FEAF aircraft losses in air-to-air combat have been far fewer than to enemy ground fire. Overall losses to
ground guns were 619, compared to 106 air-to-air, as of mid-April, 1953. U.N. ground forces have remained
virtually free from enemy air attack, and installations in South Korea have not been hit by Communist aircraft
since the war’s early days.
During the first phase of the war, major enemy industrial plants were knocked out and have since been kept
neutralized. In the war’s second year, as peace talks proceeded, the need for ground support fell off and FEAF
shifted emphasis to distinctive strikes against Communist rail and vehicular transportation networks. These
interdiction attacks cost the enemy heavily in material, rolling stock, and trucks, restricting his ability to
move supplies to front line troops. He was forced to halt daylight traffic and to attempt an almost wholly
after-dark logistic flow.
As a result, U.N. airplanes often have intercepted long lines of bumper-to-bumper "sitting ducks" on Red
supply routes, at night, to leave burning vehicular wreckage along the highways of North Korea. Equal success
has been enjoyed against locomotives and rail cars by light bombers and fighter-bombers, which have destroyed
enemy rolling stock on rails or bottled it up in tunnels. Several B-26 light bomber pilots have qualified as
locomotive "aces" by knocking out five or more.
One of the heaviest attacks of the war by Fifth Air Force aircraft came during the period May 22-24, 1952,
when a Communist manufacturing, equipment repair, and supply center at Kiyang-ni, southwest of Pyongyang, was
virtually wiped out. The strikes saw 425 buildings destroyed and 150 others damaged. Another outstanding strike
was on May 8, 1952, when U.N. aircraft, in dawn-to-dusk destructive waves, hit a supply center near Suwan. They
leveled 225 supply buildings and damaged 90 more.
On Aug. 29-30, 1952, Fifth Air Force aircraft flew 1,350 sorties, highlighting a day-long, inter-service
attack against military targets at Pyongyang. Total FEAF sorties during that period, including Combat Cargo,
were 1,525 Both of these are record marks for a 24-hour period.
July and August of 1952 saw heavy one-day strikes against targets in the Pyongyang area. On July 11, three
waves of aircraft carried out massive strikes against ordnance and supply targets at the North Korean capital
city, while on Aug. 29 fighter-bombers hit 40 military targets in the area, leaving them in "smoking debris."
In February, 1953, fighter bombers hurled 375 tons of bombs into a Communist tank and infantry school at
These are but a few of the air war highlights. Daily the jets and prop-driven planes have hit supply and
troop areas from the battle line to the Yalu River, have knocked out hand-grenade factories, coal and ore mines,
hydro-electric and pumping plants, oil and gasoline storage areas, military training establishments, munitions
factories, and many other such targets. They have slashed rails and cut roads and knocked out rail and road
In front line attacks, they have blasted bunkers, knocked out gun positions, and destroyed supply buildups
just behind the front. Light bombers in daylight have hit similar targets and after dark have carried Intruder
strikes against supply traffic. The aircraft have also softened up front line positions. In the entire two years
and 10 months of air combat operations, there has never been a day when FEAF aircraft have failed to fly
FEAF Bomber Command
The long range B-29 Superfortress medium bombers have provided FEAF’s "heavy-punch" against the Communists
since the war’s outset. Targets for the mediums have included transportation facilities, marshaling yards,
storage areas, supply and manufacturing centers, troop centers, ore processing plants, repair depots, bridges,
and other varied targets.
First used as a strategic striking force, Bomber command methodically chopped away at its targets, finally
knocking out all factories, mills, and refineries of any tactical value in North Korea, and have since kept them
unserviceable and useless
On Mar. 25, 1952, Bomber Command mounted a 46-plane attack against twin by-pass bridges at Pyongyang. Three
nights later, 47 mediums hit rail bridges at Sinanju. On the night of July 11, 1952, 54 B-29s leveled 600 supply
buildings and damaged 125, in the northwest sector of Pyongyang. In all, 65 Superfortress hit enemy targets that
A new Korean war record was set when 63 Superfortress hit a single target, the Oriental Light Metals Co., at
Yangsi on the Yalu river, July 30, 1952. That night, 68 B-29s hit Korean targets, also a new one-time,
after-dark record. Another outstanding effort was on Sept. 12, 1952, when 50 B-29s struck Red targets, with more
than 35 hitting the Suiho hydro-electric plant on the Yalu deep in northwest Korea.
Other standout targets have included an airfield and repair facility at Sinuiju, and an airfield and
communications center at Uiju—34 Superfortress hit these Yalu River installations in one night; the Namsan-ni
chemical plant, deep in Northwest Korea, 400 yards from the Manchurian border, hit in a 48-aircraft assault; a
major supply and storage concentration area at Sopo near Pyongyang; hydroelectric plants at Chosen; a cement
factory at Hokusen; ore processing plant at Cholson and Tokchon; a chemical plant at Bungham, an ore processing
plant at Choak-tong, and many others. The Superfortress, like other FEAF aircraft, have also consistently bombed
enemy battle line positions.
The 315th Air Division (Combat Cargo), flying C-46s, C-47s, C-54s, C-119 Flying Boxcars, and the huge C-124
Globemasters, is charged with airlifting personnel and supplies between Japan and Korea, and evacuating U.N.
wounded and sick from Korea to Japan. This Korean airlift operation has been an important factor in the air and
U.N. personnel at front line bases not only get fresh foods, but receive life-giving blood plasma, whole
blood, and other emergency medical supplies via Combat Cargo’s transports. U.N. personnel have been airlifted
daily from Korea to Japan on rest leaves.
Aircraft engines and parts, mail, vaccine, everything from earth-moving machines and huge radar vans to tiny
dental drills have made up Combat Cargo’s volume. Outstanding paratroop operations of this command included the
airlifting of 1,500 airborne soldiers in one day, with more than 100 transports making 160 round trips. More
than 4,000 paratroopers were also carried during practice combat maneuvers in South Korea.
Since the beginning of the war, units of the 3d Air Rescue Group, with headquarters in Japan, have helped
save the lives of 8,400 persons, as of Feb. 28, 1953. This included 940 picked up in enemy territory on and at
sea. Most of the others were wounded, evacuated to read area hospitals in Japan.
In Japan and surrounding areas, the 3d ARG has evacuated injured and sick from remote locations and from
stricken ships at sea, has searched for downed aircraft, and helped bring out survivors. Air Force rescue units
in such areas as Okinawa and Guam have also saved both military and civilian personnel in plane accidents, ship
wrecks, storms, and other emergencies.
Supplementing the effort of U.S. Air Force aircraft in the Korean campaign are the fighter bombers and
fighter interceptors of four units attached to Fifth Air Force. In addition to the two-group 1st U.S. Marine Air
Wing, three other nations are represented with air units taking part in the U.N. effort. These are South Africa,
Australia, and the Republic of Korea. British Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force pilots are also
flying with Fifth Air Force, on an exchange basis.
Marine aircraft began Korean operations in September, 1950, when shore-based Corsairs and Tigercats carried
out assaults against the enemy. Since then the 1st Marine Air Wing has added Skyraiders, Panther Jets, Banshees,
and the recently revealed F3d Skyknight, a night fighter in action as escort for night-flying B-29s.
The first South African air participation in Korea came in September, 1950. F-51 Mustangs were flown by the
SAAF pilots until early 1953, when the 2d South African Air Force Squadron started flying F-86 Sabre jets. Royal
Australian Air Force F-51s entered the Korean campaign in June, 1950, but the RAAF 77 Squadron now flies Meteor
jets. ROK Air Force units have been flying F-51 Mustangs against the Communists since October, 1951.