Army Reserve in the Korean War
Photo Caption: Battery C of the 780th Field Artillery battalion fires an 8-inch howitzer, helping destroy enemy artillery and automatic weapons positions at Kajon-ni, Korea, near the 38th parallel. The 780th, an Army Reserve battalion from Roanoke, Va., served in Korea from April 1951 until December 1954. test link
The Army Reserve's role in the Korean War can be boiled down to the title of an Army song and a line from it: "When We Were Needed, We Were There" and "It wasn't always easy, it wasn't always fair." All of the U.S. Army, both active and reserve, was unprepared for war in 1950. Despite this, the Army Reserve found itself called upon when the Army needed help, as it had ever since its creation. The call was answered, no matter the difficulties for the Army Reserve as a whole or for the thousands of individuals who had served their country honorably and well in a world war only half a decade earlier.
The Army Reserve Before the Korean War
The Army Reserve began as the Medical Reserve Corps, created on April 23, 1908. This was the nation's first federal reserve force. In 1917, the Medical Reserve Corps became part of the Officers Reserve Corps, which, like the Enlisted Reserve Corps and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), had been created by Congress in 1916. More than 170,000 officer and enlisted reservists, men such as Colonel Theodore Roosevelt Jr., and Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, served in the Army Reserve during World War I. During the Great Depression, members of the Organized Reserve Corps (ORC), as the Army Reserve was called until 1952, ran the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps, a key New Deal program.
As the nation prepared for World War II, it called upon the Organized Reserves to expand the Army. The Army began calling ORC members to active duty in June 1940. The Army Reserve's contribution to the Army during World War II was enormous. Almost one of every four Army officers, more than 200,000 of the 900,000 Army officers during the war, was an Army Reservist. They included Medal of Honor recipients Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle; Lieutenant Colonel Strom Thurmond; Captain Ronald Reagan; and Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder, who led Rudder's Rangers up the Pointe de Hoc cliffs on D-Day. Army Reservists fought in every battle of World War II, from Bataan to Okinawa, from Utah Beach to the Remagen Bridge.
After World War II, Congress, recognizing the importance of the Organized Reserves, authorized retirement and drill pay for the first time in 1948. By the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the ORC consisted of 217,435 officers and 291,182 enlisted members. Of those, 68,785 officers and 117,756 enlisted personnel were participating in paid drills.
North Koreans Invade and the Army is not Ready
The North Korean People's Army launched a massive surprise attack across the 38th parallel into South Korea on June 25, 1950. The Republic of Korea Army was unprepared for the assault. Within days of the attack, U.S. President Harry S. Truman authorized the use of U.S. troops to stop the North Korean invasion.
The closest ground troops were those under General of the Army Douglas MacArthur's command in Japan, the four divisions in his occupation force. They, like the entire U.S. Army, were unprepared for war in 1950.
The U.S. Army that won World War II only five years earlier was woefully unprepared for this conflict; it was a dangerously hollow Army. Cost cutting and an overconfidence in America's nuclear umbrella had seriously deteriorated the Army. Additionally, adequate combat training was rare for MacArthur's forces in Japan. The Army had become an occupation force with little need for schooling in the finer points of combat tactics. Also, the divisions there were filled with teenagers who had been enjoying the soft life of occupation duty. Many believed that the North Koreans would retreat as soon as they met American troops, allowing the Americans to return to Japan in a brief time.
The tough North Koreans, many veterans of World War II and the Chinese Civil War, were not so easily deterred. The first Army ground force that met them, the ill-fated Task Force Smith, was swiftly defeated on July 5, 1950. More disastrous defeats follow for the Americans and South Koreans until only the southeast portion of the Korean peninsula remained in United States and South Korean hands.
The Army was in desperate need of troops to rebuild itself, both in Korea and worldwide. There was real fear at the time that war in Korea was only the first battle of a global communist attack. As weak as the Army was in the Far East, it was in even worse shape in Europe. There was little in the General Reserve, that portion of the U.S. Army, normally located in the continental United States, to reinforce the overseas forces. Half of the understrength combat and support units in the General Reserve was sent to MacArthur. To send more would deplete it. The call went out to the reserve components, the Organized Reserves and the National Guard.
Calling up the Organized Reserves
Congress had authorized President Truman to call up Volunteer and Inactive Reservists on June 30, 1950. Within the first few weeks of the war, the president called up 25,000 individual Organized Reservists to rebuild the Army. More than 10,000 of these were junior officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) whose combat experience was desperately needed. By the end of the first year of the war, another 135,000 Individual Reservists would be called up.
Unlike World War II, the Army did not strip men from organized units as replacements or fillers for other units. They needed time to build up to a wartime footing, as did the active Army. There was also a hesitancy to commit them to Korea when the Korean conflict might only be the start of a global communist attack. This meant that the Inactive Reserves, those who had neither been drilling nor been given drill pay, were sent to Korea first.
There was considerable bitterness among the Inactive Reserves about the inequity of this situation. These were the same men who had won World War II, who had somehow managed to survive Kasserine Pass, Anzio, Peleliu, the Huertgen Forest, Guam and Okinawa, and who had come home to start new lives and new families. They had already saved the world once, now they were being asked to go save a part of the world most had never heard about before June 25, 1950. Not only were they being sent to war before their fellow soldiers in ORC units, there were still millions of men available for military service going about their normal lives.
Despite their complaints, they did go to Korea. Their experience was invaluable in restoring the fighting prowess of the American Army. Army Reservists served in all units of the Army in Korea, from the Pusan Perimeter battles through the cessation of hostilities in 1953.
In all, some 240,000 ORC men and women were called to active duty during the Korean War, serving in Korea and rebuilding the Army at home and in Europe. More than 400 ORC units were called to active duty. Of these, 14 Army Reserve battalions and 40 separate companies went to Korea. Seven Medals of Honor, five posthumously, went to ORC members.
Women in the Army Reserve
There had been no women in the Organized Reserves prior to World War II. Following the war, there was no legal authority for them to join the ORC. This changed in 1947 when Congress authorized members of the Army Nurse Corps and Women's Medical Specialist Corps to serve in the ORC. The Women's Armed Forces Integration Act of 1948 authorized Women's Army Corps (WAC) members to serve in the Regular Army and Organized Reserves.
A restriction of the act was that only prior service women could join the ORC, which meant that WAC ORC members were World War II veterans. This provision was eliminated in May 1950.
Following the outbreak of the Korean War, for the first time, female Organized Reservists were called to active duty. More than 1,200 officer and enlisted WAC reservists were voluntarily placed on active duty; another 50 were involuntarily recalled. Other women reservists in medical specialties were called up for active service.
Female soldiers served worldwide during the Korean War. The number of women in the Far East Command increased from 629 in 1950 to 2,600 in 1951. WAC units in Japan went from two in 1950 to nine by1953. Army nurses served in hospitals close to the front lines in Korea (to include the famous Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, the MASH units). Many female soldiers took the places of male soldiers needed in combat units as they had during World War II. These included occupations not open to women before the war. For example, in military hospitals in Japan, women NCOs became ward masters. Previously, only male NCOs had been the ward masters. Other traditional garrison NCO positions, supply sergeant, motor sergeant, mess sergeant, were newly-assumed by female NCOs.
Although few in number compared to the number of male reservists during the Korean War, the women reservists of the Korean War era answered the Army's call to duty. They performed well, setting the stage for an increased role for women in the Army Reserve. For example, there are more than 50,000 women in today's Army Reserve, 24.5% of the total force.
Among those who received the nation's highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor, during the Korean War were a number of former members of the Organized Reserves. Three of these men were Lieutenant Colonel John U.D. Page, Captain Raymond Harvey and Corporal Hiroshi Miyamura.
Page at Chosin
The story of the 1st Marine Division's battle at the Chosin Reservoir and their fight against thousands of enemy soldiers to reach safety at Hungnam is one of the great epics of Marine Corps history. There were, however, a number of Army troops mixed in with the Marines who fought alongside them. One of these soldiers was a former Army Reservist who received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his courage during the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
Lieutenant Colonel John U.D. Page was the son of a Regular Army officer, born in the Philippines. He was commissioned as a Field Artillery officer in the Organized Reserves in 1926. Called to active duty in 1942, he served as an instructor at Fort Sill, Okla., until he managed a combat assignment to Europe and command of an artillery battalion. After World War II, he received a Regular Army commission.
When the Korean War broke out, he again had to pull strings in order to get overseas. Assigned to X Corps, Page was attached to the 52d Transportation Battalion until a battalion command opened up. On Nov. 29, 1950, Page moved north from X Corps Headquarters in Hamhung to establish checkpoints for regulating traffic along the Main Supply Route (MSR) to the Marines at the Chosin Reservoir. When the Chinese cut the MSR, Page made his way to the Marines surrounded at Koto-ri, at the south end of the reservoir. He organized an ad hoc unit of Army soldiers trapped with the Marines there. Led by Page, this makeshift company fought off Chinese efforts to prevent an Army engineer battalion from completing an airstrip at Koto-ri to evacuate the wounded.
Page fought at Koto-ri until Dec. 9, when he flew out to coordinate artillery support for the Marines' breakout from the Chosin Reservoir. He could have stayed in relative safety at Hungnam. Instead he returned to the cut off Marines and joined the rear guard. He seemed to be everywhere as the Marines and soldiers battled their way to the sea. He was killed the night of Dec. 10 as he led an attack on an enemy blocking position. The Marine Corps awarded Page a posthumous Navy Cross for his heroic actions. A belated Medal of Honor was presented to his widow on April 2, 1957.
Harvey on Hill 1232
Captain Raymond Harvey, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, received the Medal of Honor for his actions near Taemi-Dong, Korea, on March 9, 1951. Harvey, a native of Ford City, Pa., was a highly-decorated World War II combat veteran Serving in the 79th Infantry Division (Organized Reserve), he had received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts for combat in Europe. After the war, Harvey joined the Organized Reserves. Assigned to a quartermaster unit, Harvey longed for infantry duty again. He told this to the Regular Army officer who was his Reserve unit advisor, Captain Reginald Desiderio. Desiderio, like Harvey, was a highly-decorated World War II combat veteran and, again like Harvey, Desiderio received the Medal of Honor in Korea. Unfortunately,Desiderio's was posthumously awarded. Desiderio took care of the paperwork and Harvey was soon voluntarily recalled to active duty in 1948. He went ashore with the 7th Division at Inchon in September 1950. He took command of C Company shortly before the Chinese attacked in November and led the company out of North Korea. When Eighth Army went back on the offensive, C Company soon gained a reputation for aggressiveness.
On March 9, 1951, Harvey's company was the lead unit in the battalion's attack on Hill 1232. When enemy machine guns pinned down the company, Harvey moved forward alone. He killed the crew of one machine gun with grenades. Advancing to a second position, he killed the five of the enemy with his carbine. He had just eliminated a third position when he was shot through the lung. Seriously wounded, he was still able to direct his company, enabling it to destroy the remaining enemy positions. Only when assured the objective had been taken, did Harvey consent to be evacuated. At the aid station, Harvey was met by Lieutenant General Matthew Ridgway, commanding general of Eighth U.S. Army, and the commander of Harvey's own 7th Division. As he was being prepped for surgery, he was presented the Silver Star he had earned five months earlier in North Korea. On July 5, 1951, Harvey was presented the Medal of Honor by President Truman at the White House for his heroic actions on Hill 1232.
Miyamura's "Secret" Medal of Honor
On April 25, 1951, Corporal Hiroshi Miyamura's position near Taejon-ni, Korea, was overrun. Miyamura, reported missing at the time, was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his courage during the night of April 24-25. Miyamura, a native of Gallup, N.M., had been on his way to join the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Italy during World War II when the war ended. He instead joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps, and it was from the Reserves that he entered the active Army early in the Korean War. He became a machine gun squad leader in Company H, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, X Corps. He was on the last ship to leave in late December when X Corps evacuated there after the Chinese intervention in November 1950. By April 1951, Miyamura was near Taejon-ni, south of the Imjin River. The Chinese were on the attack again. His platoon sergeant ordered him to take charge of 15 men, machine gunners, riflemen and ammo carriers, on a nearby hill and hold the position as long as possible. On the night of April 24-25, he did just that. Throughout the night, he repelled determined enemy assaults on his position, either by manning one of the machine guns or in hand-to-hand combat. With ammunition almost exhausted, Miyamura ordered his surviving men to take off while he covered their withdrawal. They made it to safety; he did not. Miyamura killed more than 50 enemy soldiers until he was severely wounded.
Miyamura was captured and held in a Chinese POW camp for more than two years. News of his Medal of Honor was withheld for fear the Chinese might retaliate against him. He was released from captivity on Aug. 23, 1953. At Freedom Village, near Panmunjom, an American general informed him he had been awarded the Medal of Honor. On Oct. 27, 1953, in a ceremony at the White House, Miyamuara, now Staff Sergeant Miyamura, was openly presented his "secret" Medal of Honor by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Korean War was a catalyst for change. The improvised, creeping mobilization, even though geared to a limited war, proved inadequate to support the rapid production of combat-ready units. The decision not to use all Organized Reserve Corps units led to the unplanned, often poor use of the Volunteer and Inactive Reserves. This practice led Congress to mandate that, in the future, Reserve component units would be called up in national emergencies before any levies on the reserve manpower pools.
These and other lessons of the Korean War culminated in the Armed Forces Reserve Act of 1952. The law redefined the reserve components, stating that each service would have a Ready Reserve, a Standby Reserve and a Retired Reserve. The Organized Reserve Corps was renamed the Army Reserve. The Ready Reserve was to have a ceiling of 1.5 million members who could be called to active duty during wartime or any national emergency declared by Congress or the president. Members of the Standby and Ready Reserves could be tapped for active duty in cases of congressional declaration. Other provisions of the act further clarified the status of the Reserve and these provisions played an important role in future conflicts.
Appleman, Roy E. Escaping the Trap: The U.S. Army X Corps in Northeast Korea, 1950(1990).
Appleman, Roy E. Ridgway Duels for Korea (1990).
Blair, Clay. The Forgotten War: America in Korea (1987).
Currie, James T. and Richard B. Crossland. Twice the Citizen: A History of the U.S. Army Reserve, 1908-1995
Department of the Army Pamphlet 140-14 (1997).
Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness (1998).
Kenneth N., Sr. Forgotten Heroes: 131 Men of the Korean War Awarded the Medal of Honor, 1950-1953 (1995).
Murphy, Edward F. Korean War Heroes (1992).
The Korean War: U.S. Army Reserve Units Deployed
21st Transportation Medium Port, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Foreign Unit Award
195th Ordnance Depot Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
306th Engineer Dump Truck Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
313th Engineer Utilities Detachment Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
314th Ordnance Ammunition Group, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Meritorious Unit Commendation
323d Engineer Light Equipment Company Foreign Unit Award
325th Quartermaster Battalion Foreign Unit Award
330th Military Intelligence Service Platoon Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
336th Engineer Utilities Detachment Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
340th Military Intelligence Service Platoon Foreign Unit Award
341st Engineer Panel Bridge Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
351st Transportation Highway Transport Group, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
363d Ordnance Ammunition Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
366th Engineer Aviation Battalion
375th Chemical Smoke Generator Company Foreign Unit Award
376th Engineer Construction Battalion Foreign Unit Award
376th Engineer Utilities Detachment Meritorious Unit Commendation
388th Chemical Smoke Generator Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
388th Engineer Pipeline Company Foreign Unit Award
392d Quartermaster Graves Registration Company Foreign Unit Award
398th Antiaircraft Artillery Weapons Battalion Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
402d Engineer Panel Bridge Company Foreign Unit Award
402d Quartermaster Battalion Foreign Unit Award
403d Signal Construction Company
409th Engineer Brigade, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Foreign Unit Award
417th Engineer Brigade, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Foreign Unit Award
420th Engineer Aviation Topographic Detachment
424th Field Artillery Battalion Distinguished Unit Citation and Foreign Unit Award
425th Transportation Traffic Regulating Group Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
428th Engineer Water Supply Company Foreign Unit Award
430th Engineer Construction Battalion Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
434th Engineer Construction Battalion Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
439th Engineer Construction Battalion Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
443d Quartermaster Base Depot, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Meritorious Unit Commendation
445th Ordnance Ammunition Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
453d Chemical Battalion (Smoke Generator),Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment Meritorious Unit Commendation
453d Engineer Construction Battalion Foreign Unit Award
461st Ordnance Ammunition Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
467th Engineer Fire-Fighting Platoon Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
470th Quartermaster Bakery Company (Mobile) Foreign Unit Award
485th Engineer Dump Truck Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
491st Quartermaster Petroleum Depot Company Foreign Unit Award
615th Quartermaster Subsistence Depot Company Foreign Unit Award
658th Quartermaster Laundry Company Meritorious Unit Commendation
704th Engineer Dump Truck Company Foreign Unit Award
733d Engineer Aviation Supply Point Company
758th Quartermaster Sales Company (Mobile)
780th Field Artillery Battalion (8 inch Howitzer-Towed) Foreign Unit Award
790th Quartermaster Reclamation and Maintenance Company
802d Quartermaster Service Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
819th Quartermaster Bath Company (Semi-mobile) Foreign Unit Award
840th Engineer Aviation Battalion
841st Engineer Aviation Battalion Foreign Unit Award
849th Quartermaster Mobile Petroleum Supply Company Foreign Unit Award
856th Quartermaster Bath Company (Semi-mobile) Meritorious Unit Commendation
872d Quartermaster Bath Company (Semi-mobile)
920th Ordnance Technical Intelligence Detachment Meritorious Unit Commendation
929th Quartermaster Subsistence Depot Company Foreign Unit Award
930th Ordnance Ammunition Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
934th Engineer Aviation Group, Headquarters and Headquarters Company
937th Ordnance Heavy Automotive Maintenance Company Meritorious Unit Commendation and Foreign Unit Award
945th Quartermaster Service Company Foreign Unit Award
958th Ordnance Field Maintenance Company Foreign Unit Award
961st Quartermaster Service Company Foreign Unit Award