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The Services

Korean War News

Events

 

Marine Corps

Crucible of the Marines

Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   

Marines Galleries

 

Source
Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

For additional information contact:
United States Marine Corps History Division
3078 Upshur Avenue
Quantico, Virginia 22134
Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

 

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Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -47 [depth] => 1 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 363 [p2] => 0 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => History [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => 1 [access] => 1 [href] => node/261 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => active-trail ) ) ) ) [#children] =>
  • History
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  • Testimonials
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[to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Events [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/435 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [1297] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Events Map [#href] => node/952 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Events Map ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 1297 [plid] => 426 [link_path] => node/952 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Events Map [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Events 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Commemoration [#href] => node/1500 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( [2110] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => first [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Heroes Remembered [#href] => node/1500 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2110 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1500 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Heroes Remembered [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -20 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2110 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Heroes Remembered [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1500 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2107] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Letters from Korea [#href] => node/1511 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2107 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1511 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Letters from Korea [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => 0 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 0 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2106 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1513 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Twilight Tattoo [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 0 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2106 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Twilight Tattoo [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1513 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2108] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Marine Corps Parade [#href] => node/1510 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2108 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1510 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Marine Corps Parade [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 20 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2108 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Marine Corps Parade [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1510 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2109] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => last [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Operation Reckless [#href] => node/1501 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2109 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1501 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Operation Reckless [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 30 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2109 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] 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=> 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Heroes Remembered, July 27 Commemoration [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1500 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [1885] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => last [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Pentagon Korean War Exhibit [#href] => node/1486 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 1885 [plid] => 426 [link_path] => node/1486 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Pentagon Korean War Exhibit [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => 30 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 1885 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Pentagon Korean War Exhibit [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1486 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => menu_tree__main_menu ) ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 426 [plid] => 0 [link_path] => node/435 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => KW60 Events [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -45 [depth] => 1 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 0 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => KW60 Events [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 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  • KW60 Events
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  • Resources for Scholars
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  • Apps
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  • Contact Us
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    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   [collapsed title=CLICK FOR MORE CONTENT]

    The Corps was still freshly proud of itself for its victories in the Pacific five years before, as the nation itself was beginning a new life. But the atomic bombs that ended World War II left the American military with a complacency that left it poorly prepared for another conflict. Not only did few people think America would find itself at war again any time soon, but the success of the bombs proved to some that the country didn’t need a huge military to achieve its objective. That mindset made the Corps especially vulnerable, since it was still very small, only barely recognized, and far from safe.

    Not only did Defense Secretary Louis Johnson want to reduce the size of the Corps even more – at 75,000 Marines strong, it was at one of its smallest sizes in modern times – but President Harry Truman, while seeing the value of his amphibious force, had thoughts of combining it with the Army. 

    Such was the Corps’ reputation in Washington when the North Korean People’s Army suddenly invaded South Korea in June 1950.

    But the unexpected invasion and speedy success of the North Koreans’ seven infantry divisions and armored division which took Seoul and most of South Korea in just days was a cold reminder that the United States had to ready itself quickly if it was to combat Communist aggression thousands of miles away.

    Soon after the North Koreans had taken Seoul, the Security Council of the United Nations declared the attack a breach of peace. Five days later, Truman was sending U.S. forces to battle in what would amount to an undeclared war. But who would go?

    In the flurry that ensued after the invasion, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Clifton Cates, quickly began to put together a provisional air-ground brigade to go to Korea from Camp Pendleton. He knew he could show the country what the Corps was really made of.

    Cates sent that provisional brigade to Korea in July 1950 as the first Marine unit to see combat there during the burgeoning conflict, after convincing Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was heading the United Nations Command, to take a look at what the brigade could offer him. It didn’t take long to convince him or the president.

    “I think Truman appreciated the way we responded,” said Gen. Ray Davis, who received a Medal of Honor for bravery in Korea from Truman, ironically enough. Davis, then a lieutenant colonel, arrived at Pendleton in August 1950 to go to war but initially had few men with which to form the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment he would later command during the Chosin Reservoir Campaign.

    According to Davis’ autobiography, The Story of Ray Davis, Davis ordered his senior officers to drive trucks across Pendleton and find enough Marines to form an infantry battalion. Eight hours later, he had 800 Marines ready to go. He still credits reservists for being there when the Corps needed them, since the original core of his battalion were men who had left the war in Japan,  returned to the United States, and joined the reserve.

    Davis, who had led men at Guadalcanal years earlier, said his war experience helped in recruiting enough Marines at Pendleton.

    “I had a nucleus of war-experienced people there that could grab these guys, get them in shape, and put them on a ship and train them to make it work,” he said from his Atlanta home.

    It was the very beginning of the conflict in Korea, but the success of people like Davis and other commanders to get men so ably prepared for war on such short notice made a big impression back home – and helped to seal the future of the Marine Corps for years to come.

    Pusan Perimeter. Inchon. Chosin Reservoir. For 50 years, names like these have been commemorated at veterans’ reunions and remembered by retired Marines from Jacksonville, N.C. to Twentynine Palms, Calif., as they tell war stories on front porches. Today, these names are still held in high regard because of what happened in those places and how they helped to shape the Corps into what it is today. There is no question that the story of Marines in the Korean War is one of sacrifice and glory, but it is also one that Marines say explains how they got to where they are today.

    Sgt. Bill Gerichton, a machine gun section leader with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, said he remembers the early beginnings of the conflict as a squad leader on the heavy cruiser Juneau as she sat, blacked out in the middle of the night, off the coast of  Korea in June 1950.

    It was soon after the North Koreans had invaded South Korea, and Gerichton was aboard the Juneau when she and the destroyer Mansfield navigated through dark waters off the northeast coast of North Korea and launched a small whaleboat filled with the first American forces to land in North Korea. The boat carried five Marines, four enlisted men and one officer, who planted two 60-pound charges in a railroad tunnel that were set off as the next supply train made its way through.

    “They halted the only enemy resupply route for days,” said Gerichton.

    So began a war that would end in stalemate more than three years later, with more than 136,000 Americans dead, missing in action, or wounded. More than 4,500 of those dead would be Marines.

    The first pieces of the newly-formed brigade MacArthur had summoned came ashore at Pusan, in South Korea’s southeastern quarter, on August 2, 1950. During two weeks of intense fighting, the Marines drove the North Koreans back and stabilized the Pusan Perimeter, the first successful campaign Marines led in Korea.

    Meanwhile, though, MacArthur was planning a risky invasion of Inchon, the Korean port on the west coast of the country that would come to represent the downfall of the North Korean army and show the American public how important the concept of amphibious landings – and the Marine Corps – really was. After careful calculations of tides and other factors, Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division, led Marines, U.S. Army units and ROK Marines into Inchon through “Flying Fish Channel,” the muddy flats which dozens of landing ship tanks, or LSTs, had to get through for the successful invasion. First, the Marines took Wolmi-Do, a small island just outside the port, which paved the way for even larger successes at Inchon and then Seoul. A smiling MacArthur, who had masterminded the attack, watched from outside the port as the American flag was raised over Wolmi-Do’s highest point, Radio Hill, only 22 minutes after Marines went ashore.

    And it was there, over a cup of hot coffee, that MacArthur is said to have uttered a line that might have contributed to the reputation with which the Corps emerged from the Korean war: “The Marines and Navy have never shone more brightly than this morning.”

    And so began the most successful invasion of the Korean conflict. Within days, Inchon and the city of Seoul had been taken back from the North Koreans.

    “In my mind, the Inchon landing, which destroyed the North Korean army, was a major thrust forward to prove the Marine Corps’ worth,” Davis said. “It was a continuing, effective application of our division that made it stand apart.”

    "To prevent freezing, I walked up and down the road ... as soon as my feet turned cold to the point of freezing, I got up and walked." Hopkins said later, "All senses were numbed. My mind contracted, and focused only on the immediate. The minute ahead was the only one that mattered."

    After his success at Inchon, MacArthur decided UN forces should lead another attack, on the east coast of Korea at the port of Wonsan. But this campaign would not be nearly as successful and would become a bitter fight between UN forces and the Chinese, who were amassing forces on the other side of the Yalu River at the Manchurian border, and were ready to jump into the war. The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, as it became known, would become a defeat for the Americans but would end in glory for the 1st Marine Division, which could have been crushed altogether by the Chinese but never allowed it to happen.

    Gen. Smith took the 1st Marine Division to Wonsan and then north. From Hungnam, units began a 78-mile hike up a road toward the Chosin Reservoir, the site of a critical hydroelectric facility, and the Marines would then proceed to the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China.

    Despite the fact that intelligence made clear that the Chinese would be a formidable force from the west, the division was ordered to continue northward toward Chosin. Then on November 27, 1950, the Chinese struck and surrounded the 1st Marine Division, including the 5th and 7th Marine regiments, the 1st battalion of the latter led by Davis. Davis would receive a Medal of Honor for helping to relieve a stranded rifle company at Toktong Pass, leading his men through snow drifts and over icy slopes to help them.

    It was the cold that so deadened almost every effort. Capt. William B. Hopkins, commanding officer of H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, and author of the book One Bugle, No Drums, wrote that battling the cold became extremely difficult.

    He wrote that the wind blew so hard that snow came inside his sleeping bag.

    “To prevent freezing, I walked up and down the road ... as soon as my feet turned cold to the point of freezing, I got up and walked.” Hopkins said later, “All senses were numbed. My mind contracted, and focused only on the immediate. The minute ahead was the only one that mattered.”

    But there was also the fear of the unknown, said Gerichton, who was at Chosin later in the war. “It was an eerie feeling to be out there at night and you’re expecting the unexpected,” he said. “But there is always some trepidation about how it was going to work out.”

    At one point during the campaign, when the only option available to the surrounded Marines appeared to one Marine general to be evacuation by airlift, leaving equipment and weapons behind, Smith refused. He said his Marines would come out the right way: “We’ll fight our way out as Marines, bringing all our weapons and gear with us.”

    The Chosin chapter in Korean War history could have spelled complete disaster for those Marines, but a surprise attack on the Chinese gave the Marines a way out. It took several days, but the march to the east coast city of Hungnam was ultimately successful, a “breakout” of military lore still heralded for the bravery and hard-headed determination that allowed it to succeed.

    Ultimately, the Chinese suffered some 37,000 casualties, including about 25,000 dead, according to Alexander’s book, while the Marines took 4,400 casualties with more than 700 dead.

    According to Alexander’s book, Army historian Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall concluded: “No other operation in the American book of war quite compares with this show by the 1st Marine Division in the perfection of tactical concepts precisely executed, in accuracy of estimation of the situation, in leadership at all levels, and in promptness of utilization of all supporting forces.”

    United Nations’ attempts to end the war had begun as early as 1950, and truce talks took place at various points throughout the conflict, but were very much an on-again, off-again affair. At one point, in August 1951, after the Communists had walked out of talks in Kaesong, the 1st Marine Division went back at it to try to take two ridges in what was known as the “Punchbowl,” an area in eastern North Korea above the 38th parallel. 

    The 7th Marines and a Korean Marine regiment conducted a number of hill battles during bitter fighting in which the North Koreans defended the objectives with “tenacity” according to The U.S. Marine Corps Story, by J. Robert Moskin.

    After several successful hill battles in which the Marine Division held the northern rim of the Punchbowl, the 7th Marines set their sights on two objectives. One was called Kanmubong Ridge.

    Logistics were difficult there and supply routes were almost impassable, Moskin wrote. But after waiting for a new reserve of artillery and mortar ammunition, the 7th Marines resumed their offensive to take Hills 673 and 749, which would enable them to take Kanmubong.

    That’s where Sgt. Alfred “Al” Wright, then a corporal, came in. Returning to Korea after a minor wound, he joined Charlie Company, which during Korea was named “Suicide Charlie” for its devil-may-care approach to battle.

    During his senior year in high school, Wright joined the Marine Corps Reserve. Later he was called up to go to Korea at a time when he was still not sure what the future would hold for him anyway.

    “I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life: well, the North Koreans kind of helped me figure that out,” he said.

    Wright was part of a company that helped seize these two intermediate objectives.

    “We knew it was going to be hell,” said Wright, who now lives in Indianapolis, Ind.

    The two-and-a-half day fight for Hill 673 was one of the toughest battles Wright said he remembers fighting during the year he spent in Korea. Col. Herman Nickerson, Jr., who commanded the 7th Marines at the time, sent the 2nd Battalion into the valley between the assault battalions positioned there to trap the North Koreans on 673. The next morning, the battalion surprised them and took the top of the hill. The larger battle cost 22 Marine lives and wounded 245 more. It was just another small hill battle, but Wright and others remember vividly how hard it was there. Afterward, the men who survived were sent back behind the front lines for slightly better work. Wright drove a jeep for an officer and got to sleep on a cot, he said.

    “The guys who survived Hill 673 got some pretty nice jobs,” he said.

    Having seen what the Marines could do during those tough first years of the conflict, Truman had a change of heart about the Corps.  After 177 years, the Corps finally came into its own. In 1952, he signed Public Law 416, which defined the Corps as a separate service within the Navy. That move gave the Corps a minimum of three divisions and three air wings, and, as Alexander wrote in his book, “awarded [it] primacy in amphibious warfare.”

    It was a far cry from the days just two years before when Truman had discounted the Corps as simply the Navy’s “police force,” causing a public uproar for which he later had to apologize to Cates.

    The Marine Corps could no longer be considered a dispensable force, vulnerable to the whims of the politicians in Washington.

    And as much as Korea made the Corps, it also turned the young boys – who left the comforts of post-World War II America to fight in some of the hardest-fought battles in the worst conditions – into adults.

    “We all grew up pretty fast,” Gerichton said. [/collapsed]

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

    Back to Top

     

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>
    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

    Back to Top

     

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    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   [collapsed title=CLICK FOR MORE CONTENT]

    The Corps was still freshly proud of itself for its victories in the Pacific five years before, as the nation itself was beginning a new life. But the atomic bombs that ended World War II left the American military with a complacency that left it poorly prepared for another conflict. Not only did few people think America would find itself at war again any time soon, but the success of the bombs proved to some that the country didn’t need a huge military to achieve its objective. That mindset made the Corps especially vulnerable, since it was still very small, only barely recognized, and far from safe.

    Not only did Defense Secretary Louis Johnson want to reduce the size of the Corps even more – at 75,000 Marines strong, it was at one of its smallest sizes in modern times – but President Harry Truman, while seeing the value of his amphibious force, had thoughts of combining it with the Army. 

    Such was the Corps’ reputation in Washington when the North Korean People’s Army suddenly invaded South Korea in June 1950.

    But the unexpected invasion and speedy success of the North Koreans’ seven infantry divisions and armored division which took Seoul and most of South Korea in just days was a cold reminder that the United States had to ready itself quickly if it was to combat Communist aggression thousands of miles away.

    Soon after the North Koreans had taken Seoul, the Security Council of the United Nations declared the attack a breach of peace. Five days later, Truman was sending U.S. forces to battle in what would amount to an undeclared war. But who would go?

    In the flurry that ensued after the invasion, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Clifton Cates, quickly began to put together a provisional air-ground brigade to go to Korea from Camp Pendleton. He knew he could show the country what the Corps was really made of.

    Cates sent that provisional brigade to Korea in July 1950 as the first Marine unit to see combat there during the burgeoning conflict, after convincing Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was heading the United Nations Command, to take a look at what the brigade could offer him. It didn’t take long to convince him or the president.

    “I think Truman appreciated the way we responded,” said Gen. Ray Davis, who received a Medal of Honor for bravery in Korea from Truman, ironically enough. Davis, then a lieutenant colonel, arrived at Pendleton in August 1950 to go to war but initially had few men with which to form the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment he would later command during the Chosin Reservoir Campaign.

    According to Davis’ autobiography, The Story of Ray Davis, Davis ordered his senior officers to drive trucks across Pendleton and find enough Marines to form an infantry battalion. Eight hours later, he had 800 Marines ready to go. He still credits reservists for being there when the Corps needed them, since the original core of his battalion were men who had left the war in Japan,  returned to the United States, and joined the reserve.

    Davis, who had led men at Guadalcanal years earlier, said his war experience helped in recruiting enough Marines at Pendleton.

    “I had a nucleus of war-experienced people there that could grab these guys, get them in shape, and put them on a ship and train them to make it work,” he said from his Atlanta home.

    It was the very beginning of the conflict in Korea, but the success of people like Davis and other commanders to get men so ably prepared for war on such short notice made a big impression back home – and helped to seal the future of the Marine Corps for years to come.

    Pusan Perimeter. Inchon. Chosin Reservoir. For 50 years, names like these have been commemorated at veterans’ reunions and remembered by retired Marines from Jacksonville, N.C. to Twentynine Palms, Calif., as they tell war stories on front porches. Today, these names are still held in high regard because of what happened in those places and how they helped to shape the Corps into what it is today. There is no question that the story of Marines in the Korean War is one of sacrifice and glory, but it is also one that Marines say explains how they got to where they are today.

    Sgt. Bill Gerichton, a machine gun section leader with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, said he remembers the early beginnings of the conflict as a squad leader on the heavy cruiser Juneau as she sat, blacked out in the middle of the night, off the coast of  Korea in June 1950.

    It was soon after the North Koreans had invaded South Korea, and Gerichton was aboard the Juneau when she and the destroyer Mansfield navigated through dark waters off the northeast coast of North Korea and launched a small whaleboat filled with the first American forces to land in North Korea. The boat carried five Marines, four enlisted men and one officer, who planted two 60-pound charges in a railroad tunnel that were set off as the next supply train made its way through.

    “They halted the only enemy resupply route for days,” said Gerichton.

    So began a war that would end in stalemate more than three years later, with more than 136,000 Americans dead, missing in action, or wounded. More than 4,500 of those dead would be Marines.

    The first pieces of the newly-formed brigade MacArthur had summoned came ashore at Pusan, in South Korea’s southeastern quarter, on August 2, 1950. During two weeks of intense fighting, the Marines drove the North Koreans back and stabilized the Pusan Perimeter, the first successful campaign Marines led in Korea.

    Meanwhile, though, MacArthur was planning a risky invasion of Inchon, the Korean port on the west coast of the country that would come to represent the downfall of the North Korean army and show the American public how important the concept of amphibious landings – and the Marine Corps – really was. After careful calculations of tides and other factors, Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division, led Marines, U.S. Army units and ROK Marines into Inchon through “Flying Fish Channel,” the muddy flats which dozens of landing ship tanks, or LSTs, had to get through for the successful invasion. First, the Marines took Wolmi-Do, a small island just outside the port, which paved the way for even larger successes at Inchon and then Seoul. A smiling MacArthur, who had masterminded the attack, watched from outside the port as the American flag was raised over Wolmi-Do’s highest point, Radio Hill, only 22 minutes after Marines went ashore.

    And it was there, over a cup of hot coffee, that MacArthur is said to have uttered a line that might have contributed to the reputation with which the Corps emerged from the Korean war: “The Marines and Navy have never shone more brightly than this morning.”

    And so began the most successful invasion of the Korean conflict. Within days, Inchon and the city of Seoul had been taken back from the North Koreans.

    “In my mind, the Inchon landing, which destroyed the North Korean army, was a major thrust forward to prove the Marine Corps’ worth,” Davis said. “It was a continuing, effective application of our division that made it stand apart.”

    "To prevent freezing, I walked up and down the road ... as soon as my feet turned cold to the point of freezing, I got up and walked." Hopkins said later, "All senses were numbed. My mind contracted, and focused only on the immediate. The minute ahead was the only one that mattered."

    After his success at Inchon, MacArthur decided UN forces should lead another attack, on the east coast of Korea at the port of Wonsan. But this campaign would not be nearly as successful and would become a bitter fight between UN forces and the Chinese, who were amassing forces on the other side of the Yalu River at the Manchurian border, and were ready to jump into the war. The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, as it became known, would become a defeat for the Americans but would end in glory for the 1st Marine Division, which could have been crushed altogether by the Chinese but never allowed it to happen.

    Gen. Smith took the 1st Marine Division to Wonsan and then north. From Hungnam, units began a 78-mile hike up a road toward the Chosin Reservoir, the site of a critical hydroelectric facility, and the Marines would then proceed to the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China.

    Despite the fact that intelligence made clear that the Chinese would be a formidable force from the west, the division was ordered to continue northward toward Chosin. Then on November 27, 1950, the Chinese struck and surrounded the 1st Marine Division, including the 5th and 7th Marine regiments, the 1st battalion of the latter led by Davis. Davis would receive a Medal of Honor for helping to relieve a stranded rifle company at Toktong Pass, leading his men through snow drifts and over icy slopes to help them.

    It was the cold that so deadened almost every effort. Capt. William B. Hopkins, commanding officer of H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, and author of the book One Bugle, No Drums, wrote that battling the cold became extremely difficult.

    He wrote that the wind blew so hard that snow came inside his sleeping bag.

    “To prevent freezing, I walked up and down the road ... as soon as my feet turned cold to the point of freezing, I got up and walked.” Hopkins said later, “All senses were numbed. My mind contracted, and focused only on the immediate. The minute ahead was the only one that mattered.”

    But there was also the fear of the unknown, said Gerichton, who was at Chosin later in the war. “It was an eerie feeling to be out there at night and you’re expecting the unexpected,” he said. “But there is always some trepidation about how it was going to work out.”

    At one point during the campaign, when the only option available to the surrounded Marines appeared to one Marine general to be evacuation by airlift, leaving equipment and weapons behind, Smith refused. He said his Marines would come out the right way: “We’ll fight our way out as Marines, bringing all our weapons and gear with us.”

    The Chosin chapter in Korean War history could have spelled complete disaster for those Marines, but a surprise attack on the Chinese gave the Marines a way out. It took several days, but the march to the east coast city of Hungnam was ultimately successful, a “breakout” of military lore still heralded for the bravery and hard-headed determination that allowed it to succeed.

    Ultimately, the Chinese suffered some 37,000 casualties, including about 25,000 dead, according to Alexander’s book, while the Marines took 4,400 casualties with more than 700 dead.

    According to Alexander’s book, Army historian Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall concluded: “No other operation in the American book of war quite compares with this show by the 1st Marine Division in the perfection of tactical concepts precisely executed, in accuracy of estimation of the situation, in leadership at all levels, and in promptness of utilization of all supporting forces.”

    United Nations’ attempts to end the war had begun as early as 1950, and truce talks took place at various points throughout the conflict, but were very much an on-again, off-again affair. At one point, in August 1951, after the Communists had walked out of talks in Kaesong, the 1st Marine Division went back at it to try to take two ridges in what was known as the “Punchbowl,” an area in eastern North Korea above the 38th parallel. 

    The 7th Marines and a Korean Marine regiment conducted a number of hill battles during bitter fighting in which the North Koreans defended the objectives with “tenacity” according to The U.S. Marine Corps Story, by J. Robert Moskin.

    After several successful hill battles in which the Marine Division held the northern rim of the Punchbowl, the 7th Marines set their sights on two objectives. One was called Kanmubong Ridge.

    Logistics were difficult there and supply routes were almost impassable, Moskin wrote. But after waiting for a new reserve of artillery and mortar ammunition, the 7th Marines resumed their offensive to take Hills 673 and 749, which would enable them to take Kanmubong.

    That’s where Sgt. Alfred “Al” Wright, then a corporal, came in. Returning to Korea after a minor wound, he joined Charlie Company, which during Korea was named “Suicide Charlie” for its devil-may-care approach to battle.

    During his senior year in high school, Wright joined the Marine Corps Reserve. Later he was called up to go to Korea at a time when he was still not sure what the future would hold for him anyway.

    “I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life: well, the North Koreans kind of helped me figure that out,” he said.

    Wright was part of a company that helped seize these two intermediate objectives.

    “We knew it was going to be hell,” said Wright, who now lives in Indianapolis, Ind.

    The two-and-a-half day fight for Hill 673 was one of the toughest battles Wright said he remembers fighting during the year he spent in Korea. Col. Herman Nickerson, Jr., who commanded the 7th Marines at the time, sent the 2nd Battalion into the valley between the assault battalions positioned there to trap the North Koreans on 673. The next morning, the battalion surprised them and took the top of the hill. The larger battle cost 22 Marine lives and wounded 245 more. It was just another small hill battle, but Wright and others remember vividly how hard it was there. Afterward, the men who survived were sent back behind the front lines for slightly better work. Wright drove a jeep for an officer and got to sleep on a cot, he said.

    “The guys who survived Hill 673 got some pretty nice jobs,” he said.

    Having seen what the Marines could do during those tough first years of the conflict, Truman had a change of heart about the Corps.  After 177 years, the Corps finally came into its own. In 1952, he signed Public Law 416, which defined the Corps as a separate service within the Navy. That move gave the Corps a minimum of three divisions and three air wings, and, as Alexander wrote in his book, “awarded [it] primacy in amphibious warfare.”

    It was a far cry from the days just two years before when Truman had discounted the Corps as simply the Navy’s “police force,” causing a public uproar for which he later had to apologize to Cates.

    The Marine Corps could no longer be considered a dispensable force, vulnerable to the whims of the politicians in Washington.

    And as much as Korea made the Corps, it also turned the young boys – who left the comforts of post-World War II America to fight in some of the hardest-fought battles in the worst conditions – into adults.

    “We all grew up pretty fast,” Gerichton said. [/collapsed]

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

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    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

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    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   [collapsed title=CLICK FOR MORE CONTENT]

    The Corps was still freshly proud of itself for its victories in the Pacific five years before, as the nation itself was beginning a new life. But the atomic bombs that ended World War II left the American military with a complacency that left it poorly prepared for another conflict. Not only did few people think America would find itself at war again any time soon, but the success of the bombs proved to some that the country didn’t need a huge military to achieve its objective. That mindset made the Corps especially vulnerable, since it was still very small, only barely recognized, and far from safe.

    Not only did Defense Secretary Louis Johnson want to reduce the size of the Corps even more – at 75,000 Marines strong, it was at one of its smallest sizes in modern times – but President Harry Truman, while seeing the value of his amphibious force, had thoughts of combining it with the Army. 

    Such was the Corps’ reputation in Washington when the North Korean People’s Army suddenly invaded South Korea in June 1950.

    But the unexpected invasion and speedy success of the North Koreans’ seven infantry divisions and armored division which took Seoul and most of South Korea in just days was a cold reminder that the United States had to ready itself quickly if it was to combat Communist aggression thousands of miles away.

    Soon after the North Koreans had taken Seoul, the Security Council of the United Nations declared the attack a breach of peace. Five days later, Truman was sending U.S. forces to battle in what would amount to an undeclared war. But who would go?

    In the flurry that ensued after the invasion, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Clifton Cates, quickly began to put together a provisional air-ground brigade to go to Korea from Camp Pendleton. He knew he could show the country what the Corps was really made of.

    Cates sent that provisional brigade to Korea in July 1950 as the first Marine unit to see combat there during the burgeoning conflict, after convincing Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was heading the United Nations Command, to take a look at what the brigade could offer him. It didn’t take long to convince him or the president.

    “I think Truman appreciated the way we responded,” said Gen. Ray Davis, who received a Medal of Honor for bravery in Korea from Truman, ironically enough. Davis, then a lieutenant colonel, arrived at Pendleton in August 1950 to go to war but initially had few men with which to form the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment he would later command during the Chosin Reservoir Campaign.

    According to Davis’ autobiography, The Story of Ray Davis, Davis ordered his senior officers to drive trucks across Pendleton and find enough Marines to form an infantry battalion. Eight hours later, he had 800 Marines ready to go. He still credits reservists for being there when the Corps needed them, since the original core of his battalion were men who had left the war in Japan,  returned to the United States, and joined the reserve.

    Davis, who had led men at Guadalcanal years earlier, said his war experience helped in recruiting enough Marines at Pendleton.

    “I had a nucleus of war-experienced people there that could grab these guys, get them in shape, and put them on a ship and train them to make it work,” he said from his Atlanta home.

    It was the very beginning of the conflict in Korea, but the success of people like Davis and other commanders to get men so ably prepared for war on such short notice made a big impression back home – and helped to seal the future of the Marine Corps for years to come.

    Pusan Perimeter. Inchon. Chosin Reservoir. For 50 years, names like these have been commemorated at veterans’ reunions and remembered by retired Marines from Jacksonville, N.C. to Twentynine Palms, Calif., as they tell war stories on front porches. Today, these names are still held in high regard because of what happened in those places and how they helped to shape the Corps into what it is today. There is no question that the story of Marines in the Korean War is one of sacrifice and glory, but it is also one that Marines say explains how they got to where they are today.

    Sgt. Bill Gerichton, a machine gun section leader with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, said he remembers the early beginnings of the conflict as a squad leader on the heavy cruiser Juneau as she sat, blacked out in the middle of the night, off the coast of  Korea in June 1950.

    It was soon after the North Koreans had invaded South Korea, and Gerichton was aboard the Juneau when she and the destroyer Mansfield navigated through dark waters off the northeast coast of North Korea and launched a small whaleboat filled with the first American forces to land in North Korea. The boat carried five Marines, four enlisted men and one officer, who planted two 60-pound charges in a railroad tunnel that were set off as the next supply train made its way through.

    “They halted the only enemy resupply route for days,” said Gerichton.

    So began a war that would end in stalemate more than three years later, with more than 136,000 Americans dead, missing in action, or wounded. More than 4,500 of those dead would be Marines.

    The first pieces of the newly-formed brigade MacArthur had summoned came ashore at Pusan, in South Korea’s southeastern quarter, on August 2, 1950. During two weeks of intense fighting, the Marines drove the North Koreans back and stabilized the Pusan Perimeter, the first successful campaign Marines led in Korea.

    Meanwhile, though, MacArthur was planning a risky invasion of Inchon, the Korean port on the west coast of the country that would come to represent the downfall of the North Korean army and show the American public how important the concept of amphibious landings – and the Marine Corps – really was. After careful calculations of tides and other factors, Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division, led Marines, U.S. Army units and ROK Marines into Inchon through “Flying Fish Channel,” the muddy flats which dozens of landing ship tanks, or LSTs, had to get through for the successful invasion. First, the Marines took Wolmi-Do, a small island just outside the port, which paved the way for even larger successes at Inchon and then Seoul. A smiling MacArthur, who had masterminded the attack, watched from outside the port as the American flag was raised over Wolmi-Do’s highest point, Radio Hill, only 22 minutes after Marines went ashore.

    And it was there, over a cup of hot coffee, that MacArthur is said to have uttered a line that might have contributed to the reputation with which the Corps emerged from the Korean war: “The Marines and Navy have never shone more brightly than this morning.”

    And so began the most successful invasion of the Korean conflict. Within days, Inchon and the city of Seoul had been taken back from the North Koreans.

    “In my mind, the Inchon landing, which destroyed the North Korean army, was a major thrust forward to prove the Marine Corps’ worth,” Davis said. “It was a continuing, effective application of our division that made it stand apart.”

    "To prevent freezing, I walked up and down the road ... as soon as my feet turned cold to the point of freezing, I got up and walked." Hopkins said later, "All senses were numbed. My mind contracted, and focused only on the immediate. The minute ahead was the only one that mattered."

    After his success at Inchon, MacArthur decided UN forces should lead another attack, on the east coast of Korea at the port of Wonsan. But this campaign would not be nearly as successful and would become a bitter fight between UN forces and the Chinese, who were amassing forces on the other side of the Yalu River at the Manchurian border, and were ready to jump into the war. The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, as it became known, would become a defeat for the Americans but would end in glory for the 1st Marine Division, which could have been crushed altogether by the Chinese but never allowed it to happen.

    Gen. Smith took the 1st Marine Division to Wonsan and then north. From Hungnam, units began a 78-mile hike up a road toward the Chosin Reservoir, the site of a critical hydroelectric facility, and the Marines would then proceed to the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China.

    Despite the fact that intelligence made clear that the Chinese would be a formidable force from the west, the division was ordered to continue northward toward Chosin. Then on November 27, 1950, the Chinese struck and surrounded the 1st Marine Division, including the 5th and 7th Marine regiments, the 1st battalion of the latter led by Davis. Davis would receive a Medal of Honor for helping to relieve a stranded rifle company at Toktong Pass, leading his men through snow drifts and over icy slopes to help them.

    It was the cold that so deadened almost every effort. Capt. William B. Hopkins, commanding officer of H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, and author of the book One Bugle, No Drums, wrote that battling the cold became extremely difficult.

    He wrote that the wind blew so hard that snow came inside his sleeping bag.

    “To prevent freezing, I walked up and down the road ... as soon as my feet turned cold to the point of freezing, I got up and walked.” Hopkins said later, “All senses were numbed. My mind contracted, and focused only on the immediate. The minute ahead was the only one that mattered.”

    But there was also the fear of the unknown, said Gerichton, who was at Chosin later in the war. “It was an eerie feeling to be out there at night and you’re expecting the unexpected,” he said. “But there is always some trepidation about how it was going to work out.”

    At one point during the campaign, when the only option available to the surrounded Marines appeared to one Marine general to be evacuation by airlift, leaving equipment and weapons behind, Smith refused. He said his Marines would come out the right way: “We’ll fight our way out as Marines, bringing all our weapons and gear with us.”

    The Chosin chapter in Korean War history could have spelled complete disaster for those Marines, but a surprise attack on the Chinese gave the Marines a way out. It took several days, but the march to the east coast city of Hungnam was ultimately successful, a “breakout” of military lore still heralded for the bravery and hard-headed determination that allowed it to succeed.

    Ultimately, the Chinese suffered some 37,000 casualties, including about 25,000 dead, according to Alexander’s book, while the Marines took 4,400 casualties with more than 700 dead.

    According to Alexander’s book, Army historian Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall concluded: “No other operation in the American book of war quite compares with this show by the 1st Marine Division in the perfection of tactical concepts precisely executed, in accuracy of estimation of the situation, in leadership at all levels, and in promptness of utilization of all supporting forces.”

    United Nations’ attempts to end the war had begun as early as 1950, and truce talks took place at various points throughout the conflict, but were very much an on-again, off-again affair. At one point, in August 1951, after the Communists had walked out of talks in Kaesong, the 1st Marine Division went back at it to try to take two ridges in what was known as the “Punchbowl,” an area in eastern North Korea above the 38th parallel. 

    The 7th Marines and a Korean Marine regiment conducted a number of hill battles during bitter fighting in which the North Koreans defended the objectives with “tenacity” according to The U.S. Marine Corps Story, by J. Robert Moskin.

    After several successful hill battles in which the Marine Division held the northern rim of the Punchbowl, the 7th Marines set their sights on two objectives. One was called Kanmubong Ridge.

    Logistics were difficult there and supply routes were almost impassable, Moskin wrote. But after waiting for a new reserve of artillery and mortar ammunition, the 7th Marines resumed their offensive to take Hills 673 and 749, which would enable them to take Kanmubong.

    That’s where Sgt. Alfred “Al” Wright, then a corporal, came in. Returning to Korea after a minor wound, he joined Charlie Company, which during Korea was named “Suicide Charlie” for its devil-may-care approach to battle.

    During his senior year in high school, Wright joined the Marine Corps Reserve. Later he was called up to go to Korea at a time when he was still not sure what the future would hold for him anyway.

    “I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life: well, the North Koreans kind of helped me figure that out,” he said.

    Wright was part of a company that helped seize these two intermediate objectives.

    “We knew it was going to be hell,” said Wright, who now lives in Indianapolis, Ind.

    The two-and-a-half day fight for Hill 673 was one of the toughest battles Wright said he remembers fighting during the year he spent in Korea. Col. Herman Nickerson, Jr., who commanded the 7th Marines at the time, sent the 2nd Battalion into the valley between the assault battalions positioned there to trap the North Koreans on 673. The next morning, the battalion surprised them and took the top of the hill. The larger battle cost 22 Marine lives and wounded 245 more. It was just another small hill battle, but Wright and others remember vividly how hard it was there. Afterward, the men who survived were sent back behind the front lines for slightly better work. Wright drove a jeep for an officer and got to sleep on a cot, he said.

    “The guys who survived Hill 673 got some pretty nice jobs,” he said.

    Having seen what the Marines could do during those tough first years of the conflict, Truman had a change of heart about the Corps.  After 177 years, the Corps finally came into its own. In 1952, he signed Public Law 416, which defined the Corps as a separate service within the Navy. That move gave the Corps a minimum of three divisions and three air wings, and, as Alexander wrote in his book, “awarded [it] primacy in amphibious warfare.”

    It was a far cry from the days just two years before when Truman had discounted the Corps as simply the Navy’s “police force,” causing a public uproar for which he later had to apologize to Cates.

    The Marine Corps could no longer be considered a dispensable force, vulnerable to the whims of the politicians in Washington.

    And as much as Korea made the Corps, it also turned the young boys – who left the comforts of post-World War II America to fight in some of the hardest-fought battles in the worst conditions – into adults.

    “We all grew up pretty fast,” Gerichton said. [/collapsed]

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

    Back to Top

     

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>
    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

    Back to Top

     

    [safe_summary] => ) ) [#formatter] => text_default [0] => Array ( [#markup] =>
    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

    Back to Top

     

    ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#children] =>
    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

    Back to Top

     

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#sorted] => 1 [#children] =>
    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

    Back to Top

     

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#block] => stdClass Object ( [bid] => 92 [module] => system [delta] => main [theme] => kw60_inq [status] => 1 [weight] => -52 [region] => content [custom] => 0 [visibility] => 0 [pages] => [title] => [cache] => -1 [subject] => ) [#weight] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => block ) [#children] =>
    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

    Back to Top

     

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => region ) [#region] => content [#printed] => 1 [#children] =>
    Crucible of the Marines

    Historians like to argue that the conflict in Korea ended with no victors, a virtual stalemate, no winners and no losers. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s, and even today, Americans had a hard time understanding the Korean War – or even remembering it – because there was no definitive ending, no “Victory-in-Korea” Day parades, no John Wayne-like endings. Unlike other wars, bookstores rarely have a “Korean War” section, and instead generically lump books about the war into a “military history” section. The truce signed in 1953 effectively declared that neither side could claim victory. Although United Nations Command forces pushed North Koreans back out of South Korea, the UNC left Korea much the way it was before the war began. Perhaps the historians are right.

    Yet one group of Americans did emerge from three years of battle with something to show for themselves. The Marine Corps, which was much reduced in size after World War II, came home from Korea standing proud. For Marines and their Corps, the significance of the Korean conflict couldn’t have been more meaningful, because it burnished forever the reputation of the Corps. Only after the conflict did the military begin to see the Corps, already 175 years old, as its new best friend.   

    Marines Galleries

     

    Source
    Lubold, Gordon. Crucible of the Marines

    For additional information contact:
    United States Marine Corps History Division
    3078 Upshur Avenue
    Quantico, Virginia 22134
    Museums Division-National Museum of the Marine Corps website; (703) 784-2606 or 2607
    Marine Corps Education Command website; (703) 784-4685

     

    Back to Top

     

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