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Korean War News




Command of the Sea: The Naval Side of the Korean War.

When the Army of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, better known as North Korea) swept across the border along the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950, both the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army and its American allies (in fact only advisors and a small garrison) were taken completely by surprise. The first four days saw the North Korean Army make very rapid progress against inferior forces lacking tanks, armor, and aircraft. By June 27 the government of South Korea under President Syngman Rhee was heading south to Taejon to avoid capture, and soon after a headlong retreat began. The front did not stabilize until a defensive perimeter was established around the port of Pusan, far to the south. 

Navy Train with Locals

To the North Korean army commanders, victory must have seemed a foregone conclusion, but they reckoned without sea power. The Republic of Korea (ROKN) Navy was a negligible collection of some 40 small vessels, too weak to resist the DPRK Navy, itself mustering only 50 ships in all. But the geography of the Korean peninsula made communications particularly vulnerable to pressure from the sea, with road and rail links largely avoiding the mountainous interior, and great reliance was placed on coastal shipping. The United States and its principal allies Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, maintained substantial forces in the region, and the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet had the inestimable advantage of major bases in Japan. Last but not least, the framework of a joint command already existed, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur commanding U.S. Forces in Japan, although all three services still had their own headquarters. Prompt diplomatic and military action by Washington turned the conflict into a United Nations-backed “police action” to halt what was perceived to be an invasion not only supported but instigated by the Soviet Union.

President Truman ordered U.S. sea and air forces to support RoK forces, sending the Seventh Fleet to the Formosa Straits to checkmate any attempt by China to threaten Taiwan. Adm. Arthur W. Radford, C-in-C Pacific Fleet, was ordered to form a new task force in the Western Pacific (TF 77). By July 7, MacArthur was given a second “hat,” C-in-C UN Forces, and a Unified Command came into existence. The British government as early as June 27 had signified its willingness to do everything into its power to support “other UN forces” in preventing aggression against South Korea. In practice the UN made no attempt to direct military operations, handing over responsibility to the U.S. president, his Joint Chiefs of Staff, and MacArthur.


Navy Galleries


Preston, Antony. Command of the Sea: The Naval Side of the Korean War

For additional information contact:
The Navy Department Library
Washington Navy Yard, first floor, Building 44
Washington, DC
(202) 433-4132
Navy History and Heritage Command website

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