Handgrenade of the Month
The Myth of MacArthur and Inchon
By John T. Kuehn
This will be a short Handgrenade. It was longer until my government computer’s hard drive took an unscheduled “holiday” and so the longer post is being held captive by IT guys right now. No matter, the proposition is simple. Was the Inchon operation in 1950 (CHROMITE) an incredibly risky “gamble”? Indeed. But was it even necessary? And did unintended consequences flow from it, perhaps, as a result?
To the first question, no, in all likelihood the combat power of the North Korea People’s Army (NKPA) was broken already at Pusan and it had culminated with its lines of communications and supply stretched, vulnerable and increasingly untenable as the US built up more naval and air power on the seaward and deep flanks.
Which leads to the second question-- entirely speculative—and as a rule unintended consequences (good and bad) flow from every human event. Assuming Truman had listened to the joint chiefs instead General MacArthur, and Chromite was not approved, what happens then? Increasing seaward pressure on NKPA’s flanks and to its front—as more UN troops to include Smith’s marines flow in—and likely would lead to a much slower, fighting, withdrawal up the peninsula. This happened with the Chinese the following year after their offensive culminated. A hasty line of defense could be established somewhere north of the Naktong river, perhaps along the Han. A slower advance means that settling for a reestablishment of the front along the 38th parallel or in that vicinity much more likely. South Korea’s security assured. Declare victory and hunker down.
The wild optimism generated in actuality by the NKPA defeat-- in part accelerated by CHROMITE’s unwarranted success leading to a rout—is no longer there. A more restrained political environment thus exists and there is more time for everyone to listen to the CIA, which was forecasting Chinese intervention (as the Chinese were saying they would do) if the UN forces pushed north of the Han River and the 38th parallel. With no more glorious victories and only a stalemate, status quo ante bellum, to look forward to, Doug quietly retires and is replaced by Ridgeway (although Walker is still alive, but his assumption of the theater command was always unlikely). And Truman wins in 1952….What say you HG readers, as we approach the June 70th anniversary of that sad year?
All entirely speculative. Have fun.